Eddie deRoos has been famous around here for a while because of his big chicken.
It sits in a nest out by the highway nodding its head and every minute or two it raises its left wing and wags it around. You can't miss it. A twenty foot tall chicken, wagging a wing, is not something you pass without taking notice, and that's the point. It was meant to advertise "The Coop" -- a joint that was known for its fried chicken, fries and home-brewed beer until it burned down last April.
The big hen is all that remains of the place and some folks think it's outlived whatever usefulness it once had. Many of those have always been less than fond of what they called "The Monster Chicken," or "The Big Duck," and agree with the local paper's original review of the thing, which was headlined: "DeRoos-ter lays an egg."
Others think the bird ought to be preserved and they've started a "Save the Chicken" foundation to raise the necessary funds and encourage the County to exercise imminent domain over the property on which the chicken sits, make the hen a landmark, and pay for its upkeep. DeRoos is ambivalent about the idea because he's moved on to other, bigger, things.
I ran into Eddie down at Martha's Koffee Kup the other day and when I slid into the booth across from him I asked what news he had about the chicken and the controversy surrounding it.
DeRoos is a tall, lanky man nearing fifty, with an angular face, bad teeth, and curly blond hair. His long eyelashes flutter over darting eyes, and you'd expect a kind of intensity about a man that looks like that. But Eddie speaks softly and moves like a fellow who has all the time in the world and no place special to go.
"Well, now, Bob," he said, "It sure does have folks up in arms, and I suppose that is one of the things that real art is supposed to do."
I reiterated to Eddie that I had always been fond of the thing and always made a point to take visitors for a drive down the highway so they could appreciate it, even if that meant going out of my way.
DeRoos wondered if "going out of my way" meant I never had any intention of treating my guests to dinner at The Coop, and I had to admit that was the case. "Well, Eddie, fried foods don't sit right with me, you know, and besides -- just between us -- I tried their beer once and found it to be a little bit anemic."
"See, that's the problem," said Eddie. "The whole idea was to get folks into the place to spend some money and use up some of the beer they made there. And from that perspective it was a colossal failure. Why in all my years as a commercial artist I never did have a failure of such proportions."
I held up a hand and caught Martha's eye to let her know I could use some coffee and she got the point right away. "And you, Mister deRoos? More coffee?" She poured me a cup, refilled his and asked if we needed anything else but we told her we were good.
"Actually, though, Bob," Eddie said as he poured the first of three packets of sweetener in his cup, "Maybe the problem wasn't with the big chicken but with the product."
"You think?" I said.
"See, some guy who was a big-time New York advertiser said once that nothing can kill a bad product faster than good advertising. Get everybody to try it by building up their expectations, and if the product don't deliver... Well, they run to the hills and you never see 'em again."
We agreed that the failure of The Coop was not the fault of the Big Chicken, and maybe the fire was the best thing that ever happened to the place.
"Yeah," said Eddie, "I guess it was a blessing in disguise. They didn't have to go belly-up. Blame the old water heater or wiring or whatever it was started that fire."
I asked Eddie if he'd decided to come down one way or the other on the "Save the Chicken" issue, and he replied that it still didn't much matter to him because his mind, these days, was elsewhere. And when I asked him just exactly where his mind was, he reached down under the table and brought up a rolled-up set of plans for his next work of commercial art.
"This, here, is the next big thing," he said, as I moved my coffee cup aside to make room for the plans. "This here is gonna make folks forget about the Big Chicken altogether, if I can get 'er built somehow. 'Cause this here is my opus maximus." He leaned across the table in my direction, "That's Latin for my "biggest work."
It was magnificent. I should say "she" was magnificent. She looked a bit like Wonder Woman but, instead of wearing red, white and blue in a patriotic motif she was dressed in khaki shorts and a t-shirt with a Shell Oil Company logo above her left breast. There was a baseball cap on her head and it featured an identical logo. The way she was drawn she seemed to be waving her right hand and in her left she held a placard reading "V-Power."
"My goodness," I said, "And what exactly is 'V-Power?'"
Eddie said he wasn't quite sure, but thought it had something to do with a kind of gasoline, and it didn't matter anyway because the whole Shell Oil Company thing was just an example of the possibilities for Big Betty.
"And you call her 'Big Betty' because why?"
"Well she's big, of course, forty-two feet tall, and the 'Betty' is just for the alliteration. 'Big Betty.' I think it has a kind of ring to it."
It did have a ring to it and it sounded a lot less comical than "Big Chicken." Yes, this was a serious work and I could see why deRoos considered it his opus maximus. "So," I asked, "Do you have a commission for this? Have you shown it to Shell?"
Eddie said, no, while it had been his original intention to approach the Shell Oil Company he had not been able to get in the door there nor at their advertising agency and he had pretty much decided on a different approach this time around. "She's gonna be for rent, like a standard billboard. See, I plan to build her and install her down the highway near where the Big Chicken is by the Christmas tree farm. I talked with Daryl about that already and he's good to go, for a piece of the business."
Daryl had been a schoolmate of Eddie and a few years ago he had inherited the family's nursery and turned it into a Christmas tree farm and, in the fall, a pumpkin patch. He had always been a promoter and was good at dreaming up ways of attracting attention to his various business ventures. Some pumpkin patches, for example, offered pony rides to kids, but Daryl did not think that was sufficiently imaginative. So he bought out a failing circus and moved the exotic animals to the nursery and offered the kiddies a chance to ride a camel or a llama or an elephant. Daryl was one of the prime movers behind the "Save the Chicken" organization, not because he was a connoisseur of chickens or commercial art but because he thought the attraction was good for business.
"See, Betty's clothes can come off and you can dress her up any way you want to." Eddie flipped the plans to the next page and there was Betty dressed up like a United Airlines flight attendant holding a plane ticket in her left hand.
When I nodded and said, "United..." Eddie turned the page and there she was outfitted like a FedEx delivery person holding up that company's familiar overnight envelope.
"Now, her right hand," Eddie explained, "that's always waving, nice and friendly. But you can put whatever you want in the left one. And, like I said, her clothes come off."
I told Eddie that was something I'd pay money to see, as Betty was quite the looker and very healthy around the chest.
"That's what I'm countin' on," said Eddie. "See, she's gonna attract a lot of attention when she's all decked out like a service station attendant or a FedEx gal or whatever." He noted that, while it wasn't apparent from the drawings, she also winked her right eye in a slow, seductive kind of way, "But the real publicity comes when we change her clothes."
Eddie figured every teevee station and newspaper would send a photographer out to grab a shot of Betty whenever she was getting changed. "Being as she is a perfect woman, anatomically speaking, I figure her tits are gonna be flashed on every teevee screen and splashed on the front page of every feature section whenever we strip her down and give her a new identity."
I thought about that for a moment and it did seem to be a likely scenario, but I had to ask, "Well, now, Eddie, if she is as you say 'anatomically perfect' there is another part of that anatomy that might not be too apropos for a family newspaper or the six o'clock news. So, might that work against you? Just a bit?"
Eddie grinned and, vigorously shaking his head, he flipped to the last page of his plans. There was Betty, standing as before but naked from the waist up. Her breasts were something to behold; perfectly formed and as pretty as a pair of three-foot diameter breasts could ever be. And in front of her, hiding whatever there was below her waist, was an enormous three-paneled Victorian dressing room screen decorated with pink cherubs and iris blossoms. Betty's feet could be seen below the screen and surrounding them, laying on the ground, was an enormous pair of bright red lace panties.
"You see, Bob," said Eddie, "Sometimes it's better to leave things to the imagination."
"Yes," I said as I finished my coffee and slid out of the booth, "The imagination is a wonderful thing."
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Eddie deRoos has been famous around here for a while because of his big chicken.