CLEVELAND – the legend of the Eyewitness Newsreel chicken lives!
Most editions of newsreel ended with a quad-split of Cleveland images and an Eyewitness Newsreel graphic superimposed over the four pictures.
On rare occasions, the one-minute segment ended with a clucking chicken atop a globe.
The newsreel in our video player from March 27, 1981 ends with that clucking bird. I’ll quickly give a synopsis of what’s in the newsreel before explaining how the chicken was filmed and what happened to the feathered-bird after his TV debut.
The four quick hits covered were Akron phosphates, an Akron book, daffodils downtown and kids from France visiting Severance Mall in Cleveland Heights.
And now, to steal from Paul Harvey, the rest of the story.
Bob Woods, the brains behind newsreel, had an idea to spoof the old movie newsreels, some of which used a rooster on a weather vane or eagle on a globe.
He came up with the idea of a chicken on a globe but needed a real living chicken.
Film editor Don Mertens had neighbors who did some farming, those neighbors had some animals and they allowed Don to bring the chicken to our WEWS studios.
The filming was done in the film editing department. a black cloth backdrop behind a globe and just out of frame on either side were filing cabinets to keep the chicken confined. they tried to get the chicken to stand on the globe but the chicken would have none of it.
Woods and Mertens used a broom stick from behind and beneath and out of camera range to nudge the bird on his round perch and after a few takes, success!
Mertens told me amid filming; a young WEWS intern named Tom Yellin came into the edit room and refused to acknowledge the presence of a chicken because he knew nobody would believe him.
As for the chicken, a few days Woods later asked Mertens if returned the chicken and Mertens confirmed the chicken went back.
According to Mertens, Woods asked how the chicken was doing.
“Oh, they ate him,” answered Mertens.
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