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Sedona Arts Center Features
The Chicken Man

by Mindy Mendelsohn

In the city of New Orleans, a Jazz Funeral is considered to be the highest honor that can be given to the dead. In January of 1999, the largest Jazz funeral in the history of New Orleans was given to a man known as the Chicken Man. The funeral made a television travel show and caught the attention of Television veteran and Sedonan Ron Bacon.

Bacon and his wife had met the Chicken Man 11 years earlier in his little Voodoo Shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans. They were actually on a search for candles as Hurricane Florence was heading directly for the city. Most of the shops in New Orleans were closed and the owners were boarding up windows for to prepare for the hurricane.

The Bacons found themselves in a strange looking shop, overhearing a phone conversation . On the phone was a "character" covered with chicken feathers sporting a dread lock hair-do. He was talking to someone from Dallas and explaining that he would be happy to come as soon as the weather improved and the airlines were running again. He hung up the phone and introduced himself as the Chicken Man.

The Chicken Man had been on the phone with the Dallas Police Department who wanted him to come to Dallas to help them find a missing body. Bacon asked him how he could fin a missing body and the Chicken Man replied "Oh that's easy. I talk to My Snake. He tell me and he never wrong."

He went on to say that he was the King of Voodoo and had the power of love. "New Orleans is a place where you might expect to find the unusual," Bacon said. "The city is filled with ghosts and mysteries." Bacon and his wife returned to Los Angeles, but he could not put the events of the day out his mind. He was inspired to write the melody for a song about the Chicken Man, but he never wrote the words. It sat in his files for 10 years until he heard about the funeral.

Bacon is an Emmy award winning television Director who worked for 33 years as a Staff Director for ABC Television in Los Angeles. His resume reads like a who's Who in Hollywood. His resume includes specials for Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds and Bing Crosby . His resume includes credits on ground breaking sitcoms such as All In the Family. He has worked on Award shows such as the Academy Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Emmy Awards, and the People's Choice Awards. Some of the shows that he has credits on are considered historically significant such as the Moon landings and the first Space Shuttle landing. He has contributed to such institutions as American Bandstand and the 1984 Olympics. He spent a large amount of his "spare time" composing and performing music himself.

Additionally, he was presented with a gold record album for his contribution to the making of the band Chicago's comeback album, Chicago 16. Bacon decided that the music in The Chicken Man should be based on the Jazz and blues should that oozes from the cracks in the building in New Orleans. He sees the fictionalized version of the Chicken Man's life as an allegory that everyone can relate to, and hope the audience members will whistle the songs as they leave the Theatre.

The Chicken Man stars Sammy Davis as the Voodoo King. There is an eerie resemblance between Davis and the Chicken Man. When you see photo's of the both of them they almost look like identical twins (that is when you add chicken feathers and dead-locks to Sammy). The resemblance doesn't end there. The real Chicken Man charmed snakes and anyone who has seen Davis perform knows that he can be quite a snake charmer himself. He can mesmerize an audience without batting an eye. Bacon has subtitled the play "It's All About Love", and maybe that's what Davis and the Chicken Man really have in common-it's all about love.

The Chicken Man opens on September 7th and will run through the 24th. Tickets are available by calling Sedona Art Center at 282-3809.

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