| Parrot Guy Penn - 8/4/03
Several years ago, in the
introduction to one of our books, I wrote about the concept
of "parrot guys," people who get their personality by
walking around with birds on their shoulders. Well, I don't
like pets at all. I'm really bothered by domesticated
animals for all sorts of reasons; mostly I don't like the
transfer of emotions and the background of eugenics . . . .
but, I've always had a soft spot for birds. I just have.
I don't know. As much as I naturally hate dogs, I kinda
naturally like birds.
The new book I'm writing is Moby Dick with parrots. It's
called "Lucky Dick: . . . . and the Birds Sang Coca-Cola."
It has a lot of bird stuff and I had to do some learning
about birds. I checked some web pages, wrote some emails,
and then started going to pet stores and handling some of
the birds. All the stuff I read said that they bond with
one person and they live 80 years and you have to give them
a lot of attention. Man, I can't really bond with a human
being for more than a couple years, so I didn't want to get
But then I decided to talk to showfolk. I went to the Trop
and saw the parrot show there. I talked with the woman
after and she gave me the email of her husband, Clint.
Clint is the bird guy for Vegas. He has over 100 parrots
and he does all the cruises, and Magic Mountain, and the
mascots for Mandalay Bay. He puts birds with sexy models
and they all free fly around the casino. He was very kind
with his time. I went to the birds' dressing room at the
Trop and we talked for a few hours, with the birds just
screeching in the other room. Man, it was loud.
I told him about my book and we talked. He had that great
carny style of "no one knows anything except me," and the
other carny thing of probably being right about that. I
asked him what was the most swearing bird he ever heard and
he took me into the other room with a beautiful, very
feminine looking cockatoo, and he "got her going." Turns
out this working bird worked in "Abracadabra" in Vegas and
was in the dressing room with all the showgirls. Man, this
bird could swear. All the women swore at the bird to shut
up, and the bird learned it all. It was so funny. And
this bird works in the show. "She doesn't swear in the
I didn't believe they could all fly and he took one out to
the courtyard and just threw it. It flew to the top of the
hotel and sat there. He called it and it came right back
down. This guy knows birds. He talks in a high voice that
is partly cultivated to please the birds. He had no birds
at home, they all live in their dressing rooms. These are
I told him I wanted to be around a bird but I couldn't do
all the bonding and I wasn't sure I wanted one. All his
birds are "rehabilitated." People grow to hate them and
lose control over them and they give them to Clint. He
turns them into birds that anyone can handle and who can
work. He doesn't buy any. He says they have to be part of
a "flock" of humans; they can't bond to one person.
Everyone handles all his birds and they all fly. I said I
wanted a bird for a few months while I'm writing this book.
He introduced me to "Kahuna." Kahuna is a big beautiful
South American blue and gold Macaw. He's from Hawaii but
he was left in a cage with his sibling and no other contact
and got mean and crazy. Clint rehabilitated him, but he
had plucked all his tail feathers out. Macaws have long
beautiful tail feathers, so he looks stupid and injured. He
can't work. Clint said, "Take him while his feathers grow
out. Just treat him rough and play with him and have fun
and I'll put him back to work when his feathers grow out.
It'll be about 3 months."
Well, I had to think about it over night, but I said yes.
Clint said it was stupid to buy a cage, you could always
get used. I talked to Johnny Thompson and he said to call
Lance. And the next thing I knew, Dino and I were loading
shit-covered wire cages into the shop truck from Lance's
warehouse and taking them backstage at Lance's. Lance
moved the doves from this big beautiful cage to the shitty
(literally) little cages and we took the big cage to the
Slammer. I hosed it down a bit, but it took about 2 hours
of serious cleaning. We bought perches and toys and moved
the cage to the kitchen, where the bird would get a lot of
I went to pick Kahuna up at the Trop. I thought there
would be along lecture on how to care for the bird and a
lot of rules. He said I'd get that in email. He had
taught me how to hold him (he said I was slower than a
model at learning), and one of the models there just handed
him to me. I asked Kelli to come with me, and the bird
just sat on her finger and I drove him back to the Slammer.
He screeched like a freak, but he was pretty sweet. We had
one incident where he got a little mean, but this morning,
he's been really sweet. I have a perch right by my desk
where I'm typing this, and he's just sitting and watching
and once in a while he screeches in my ear. We're
listening to Miles Davis as I type and I reach over every
now and again and grab him a bit. I don't know if it's
really a "him," they have to be DNA tested and Clint
doesn't care, so why bother.
I'm making sure that Blaire and everyone says nothing to
him but obscenity and when I left for work I left the
unabridged "Moby Dick" playing on CD to give him some
culture. So, I'm a parrot guy. He doesn't sit on my
shoulder at Starbucks, but we're sitting here together as I
type. I'm not calling him "Kahuna," I just don't like that.
I'm calling him "Parrot Mason." It seems like a better
He's screeching a little less today and he seems happy. I
think it'll be a nice couple of months.
Hey, Penn has a pet. Penn is interacting with another