It was the 1970’s and you couldn’t flip between the 3 networks we had without hitting a cop, detective or private investigator show. One season was a lineup to remember: Baretta, Charlie’s Angels and Starsky & Hutch, in that order.
My childhood friend Chris and I, man, we loved those shows. Baretta was a standout private eye series because of a great theme song by Sammy Davis Jr. and an unlikely co-star: A sulfur crested white Cockatoo named Fred who stole the show everytime he appeared. Chris and I always talked about wanting to own one. I mean, come on, it’s a parrot, got to be fun to own one, right? Closest I got was a Cockatiel I named Samson who could do a wolf whistle and sound just like my nephew when he cried. The latter kept my mother and sister running to check on him as a baby.
But Chris was the one who actually carried through on our plans and bought a Cockatoo some years ago. Of course, he named it Fred. Some facts about these birds are in order here.
- They are BIG, much bigger than you might think.
- They are messy, as in, you don’t want that on your windshield.
- They are LOUD! When not talking they are squawking which, in a zoo setting, doesn’t seem all that much but it’s a hell of a shriek in a small house.
- Oh, and they can live to be 75 years old, meaning the bird could outlive Chris.
Fred was smart and talented as expected and Chris taught him tricks. Yes, he could talk, and talk he did. But the incessant squawking became annoying as the years passed. It got to the point that Chris would yell, from across the house, “Fred! Shut the fuck up!” and Fred would go quiet, at least for a while.
One night, Fred was up to his usual volume, making noises you might hear on a jungle cruise, when Chris bellowed out “FRED!” and before he could finish, Fred yelled back (in Chris’ perfectly mimicked voice) “…SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
Chris yelled back “RIGHT!” End of conversation.
Fred didn’t make it 75 years, he only made it about 15. But in his short life, he left behind one of the best stories I get to repeat.