February 14, 2011  
The Chicken Dance

In January 1996 our son Adam announced that he’d be marrying his fiancée, Nikole, in June. “Congratulations and Mazel Tov”; we glowed at the thought of now having a daughter as well as a son, and of course perhaps more grandchildren. The wedding ceremony would be held on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, so that my mom, Grandma Yetta, now in her nineties, could be present. We’d celebrate in a beachfront hotel with very close family and some friends. It would be a three day, 24/7, celebration starting on Friday and ending on Sunday. In a few weeks we’d continue the celebration with a huge wedding party at the Huntington Town House on Long Island , New York. Adam still lived on Long Island and we had left lots of good friends and family behind when we moved to Florida. Nu, why shouldn’t we celebrate? Our family was about to grow.

“Pops, we hired a DJ and there’ll be plenty of music and dancing but I want to tell you upfront there will be no Chicken Dance”, Adam proclaimed.

“What! Adam, you’re having a wedding and you’re not including the Chicken Dance? I don’t know if I can handle that; it’s my favorite wedding dance. What will people say when they find out there’s no Chicken Dance? I have never been to a wedding where they didn’t play the Chicken Dance. What would our family think? Don’t do the Hokey Pokey, the Bunny Hop, the Electric Slide or Achey Breaky Heart, but do the Chicken Dance.”

I laughed to myself as I said that. It must have been important for Adam and Nikole to exclude the Chicken Dance or they would not have made a point of it. But why just the Chicken Dance?

One thing about Adam is that he’s a shtickmeister like his Father. As a child we never knew what to expect from him. He was nine years old and we were dining at our favorite diner when Adam turned to his brother Lewis and said, “Look- a clown.” As his brother turned around to look, Adam would remove some french fries from his plate. He’d do it time and time again and Lew could not understand why he was given a smaller portion of fries than Adam. Of course scolding rarely got Adam to change his ways. We would always have a bowl filled with apples and assorted fruit on the kitchen counter. Adam would take a bite from an apple and turn it around and place it back in the basket so that we could not see that it had a bite taken out. Of course when I’d reach for an apple I’d be shocked to see a bite taken out as I brought the apple towards my mouth. So when Adam talked about definitely not having the Chicken Dance at his wedding party, a light bulb went off in my head. I was determined to begin a campaign that would end all campaigns. Adam never expected that it was payback time and that I, the master shtickmeister, was readying for this shtick that he’d talk about for the rest of his life.

Speaking of chickens, did you hear the story of Jack who took his brother Herb to a psychiatrist because Herb thought he was a chicken? “He’s been acting this way for a year.” When the psychiatrist asked him, “Why didn’t you seek help sooner?” He replied by saying, “We needed the eggs.”

I called up Ken, Adam’s father in-law to be, chatted with him and told him stories about Adam when he was young and all the pranks he liked to pull. Ken got very excited and said that his daughter also enjoyed pulling pranks and shared some war stories of her shenanigans. Hmmm, birds of a feather flock together. We both agreed that the wedding would offer us a perfect opportunity for us to be shtickmeisters.

The Friday of the wedding we gathered at the hotel for a fun filled weekend. We were instructed to wear a tuxedo for the wedding photos. Ken and I agreed that we should wear black shorts with black socks and a tuxedo top for the photograph. We’d create a moment for all to remember. The bride and groom called our rooms to tell us it was time for the family photos. Arlene and Christa (Ken’s wife) entered the room before us and we followed. Both Adam and Nikole’s jaws dropped when they saw what we were wearing. We both had left our pants in our rooms. The photographer’s eyes began rolling in his head, surprised and shocked expressions filled the faces of the happy couple.

“Surprise, surprise, isn’t payback wonderful?”

Without blinking an eye Adam said, “We’ll take their photos from the waist up”. I always knew he was a good sport and he accepted our actions with laughter. We didn’t have to go up to our rooms to change and family photos were taken on the beach with us all dressed up.

I asked Adam if he was going to play the Chicken Dance because there was an undercurrent of conversation from the guests saying that they were disappointed that it was not going to be played.

“Stop it Dad. No one is disappointed, and no one cares if we play the Chicken Dance. Dad, you’re making the whole thing up--- no Chicken Dance.”

I was in charge of the informal videotaping and asked each person in attendance for well wishes for the bride and groom. Of course I instructed each person to express their disappointment that there was no Chicken Dance. The responses were hilarious as family members of all ages expressed their well wishes and their disappointment.

A week later I received a call from Adam, “Dad, did you encourage everyone to ask about the Chicken Dance?”

“Who me? Why would I do that? They wanted the Chicken Dance.”

“Well pops-- no Chicken Dance,-- period.”

Then there’s the story of Dr. Frankenstein's invention for cooking breakfast. He crossed a chicken with an electric organ to make Hammond eggs. (Oy Vey..please stop with the chicken jokes.)

I picked up our rental car at the airport in New York and drove to a costume and magic store. I had arranged to rent a chicken outfit for the weekend. My friend Tyndall was asked to bring a stuffed animal chicken which he sold at trade shows to the wedding party, and to make a special presentation of it to the bride and groom during the wedding. A day before the wedding some family and friends who came from out of town were invited to Adam’s home for a pre-wedding barbeque.

I walked out of the hotel that day in full garb dressed as a chicken. I’ll remove the head when I get behind the wheel, I thought. I wanted to get a feel for the costume and practice my walk. Chicken head in car, I sat behind the wheel waiting for our son Lew and his wife. “Pops, you’re not going to believe what people are talking about in the hotel. Some guy is walking around dressed as a chicken…oh (Pause) it’s you.”

In full costume I knocked on Adam’s front door and waited for Adam to appear. A surprised look came to his face..

“What, no Chicken Dance,” said I, “Every wedding has the Chicken Dance”.

“You’re really playing this, aren’t you Dad. You’ve been going to some expense; but sorry, dad,- no Chicken Dance. Hey guys, look who just arrived. It’s my father trying to sell me Kentucky Fried Chicken.” He then turned to me and repeated again, “No Chicken Dance Pops”.

Adam and Nikole had prepared a special musical gift for their guests. They both wrote some original music and together with Lew they entertained all of us. Adam played guitar, Lew the drums and Nikole all decked out in her wedding gown, was on the saxophone; wow what fun. The wedding ceremony from Fort Lauderdale was being shown on a large TV.

When they finished their musical presentation Tyndall approached Adam and asked if he could make a special gift presentation. Adam agreed and Tyndall presented him with a beautifully wrapped gift. Tyndall asked “Y’all gonna open it now?” When it was opened it revealed the toy chicken. “Ya see, ya’ll put the chicken on the floor and everyone will clap their hands.” Immediately the chicken began dancing the Chicken Dance. Soon everyone was applauding, cheering and laughing, and the chicken kept right on dancing. Adam called the DJ over and whispered something in his ear and then approached me and said “I can’t take it anymore, --you win. If we don’t have the Chicken Dance you’ll be doing this shtick to me for years.” He held the microphone in his hand as he announced the Chicken Dance. People rushed from their tables to the dance floor. I sat there quietly. Adam approached me. “Dad, why aren’t you dancing”… “Son, I don’t know if I ever told you… I can’t stand the Chicken Dance”, bada bing, bada boom.

It’s been 14 years and each year for Adam’s anniversary and birthday he’s received a chicken as a gag gift. Rubber chickens, chicken hat, chicken gloves, chicken mugs, chicken jokes, etc. He was right; I would never let him forget, even though they did the Chicken Dance.

Stay warm, eat kosher and remember to eat your chicken soup in the bowl.
Mel (the fat guy)

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