P  u  b  l  i  c     E  n  e  m  y   #  1

by Christina Apeles

Anything can happen in Hollywood.

I'm going to share a story with you and you'll probably be as skeptical as I was when I first heard it, but locals that lived here at the time, including my father, will affirm its validity.

One afternoon in the late sixties, a truck "laden" with chickens was en route southbound to a chicken farm hours away. And how do you get chickens from one point to another in California? The freeway of course— in this case, the 101 Hollywood Freeway. As it goes on the freeways of Los Angeles, accidents happen. Somewhere between the Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue exits, the chicken driver swerved and hit another car, the truck ending up on its side. Fortunately there were no fatalities, but there were escapees— all thirty-plus chicken passengers. According to reports, they took off in all directions, leaving only their feathers behind, scattered across the highway. Nobody had a second thought about it: the chickens were left to live in Hollywood like vagabonds.

No one could have anticipated that this minor accident, which gave the hens and roosters freedom, could cause such a commotion years and years later. Drivers were used to seeing skunks, opossums, coyotes, and dogs on the 101— though, often as roadkill— but the last thing you expected to spot was a chicken crossing the road in your rearview mirror. Then the sight wasn't so unusual. My father said that every day at work, someone (including himself) had a chicken sighting to share. The bunch of chickens that escaped in the late sixties had produced quite a significant population by the seventies, running wild on and off the Hollywood freeway.

For a while, commuters enjoyed the phenomenon, amused by the city's newest celebrities. But the chickens steadily became a nuisance, and not only to motorists. Residents of homes and apartments around the highway started complaining to city officials about noises that didn't belong in Los Angeles; namely, the chorus of "cock-a-doodle-doo" in the early morning hours— an alarm clock no one paid for, nor desired.

It is important to note that one small part of the city population wasn't griping. Bums weren't going hungry. Local papers started featuring stories of transients seen chasing chickens in the neighboring vicinity of the 101. My father even claims he saw some smoke and rustling in the bushes off the freeway on his morning commute, and it wasn't a car fire.

Nonetheless, complaints kept rolling in. Finally the City of Los Angeles went public with the problem. The Los Angeles Times announced action would be taken against those who were no longer to be called our "feathered friends". The Department of Transportation was in charge of catching the wild chickens and, after a few weeks, my father and his fellow co-workers were part of the local contingent that confessed, "I miss them— driving in LA will never be the same."

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