Parakeet Baron


Natural plumage or artificial? Can YOU tell?

Fact:  At any given moment in the U.S.A., there are at least three gangs struggling for control over the lucrative parakeet trade.  Fact:  If you trace the provenance of any given parakeet in the nation, you will find periods of unaccounted for time, aka: evidence of illegal smuggling.  Fact:  Not a single parakeet has been born in the U.S.A. since 1943– the year when the first parakeet sterilization facilities were established along the border with Mexico.  Fact:  All of this is thanks to me.

Like most enterprises, it all started very simply, very small, and as the result of a wager.  It was between me, James Cagney, and movie producer David Sebastian.  We were all out to win Carmen Miranda’s heart.  I was sure I would win.  After all, I’m a fair sight better looking than those two mutts Cagney and Sebatian were.  And as often as I’ve wooed man and woman alike with nothing more than the seductive removal of my lion’s mane jacket to reveal my lion’s teeth neckpiece, I knew that I’d have to go the extra 100 yards for Miranda.  After all, this was Cagney, James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy James Cagney.  He was the whole damn country squeezed into a pair of pants.  Who could resist the man?

I thought long and hard about what the lovely Miss Miranda liked before I realized– hats.  The woman was wild for hats.  I had to find the most incredible hat available.  I pounded the pavement of New York and Milan, Paris and Tashkent, visiting the world’s finest milliners and haberdashers.  But nothing could compare to the ineffable hat I imagined must exist out there, waiting to perch on Miranda’s head.  It was then that it dawned on me… perch.  Like a bird.  Like a flock of parakeets. Who wants a hat that simply lies there, when the possibility exists for it to flap its wings?  I would sew (or glue… I wasn’t sure which yet) a flock of parakeets to a hat for Carmen Miranda.  I leapt from my seat and took off running, so eager was I to begin.  I happened to be on a ferry at the time, and was so excited that I leapt from the deck and began swimming.  This was the day that I swam half the English Channel.

What followed was months of trial and error.  I recognize that the first hat I made was crude.  The hot glue was visible from all angles, and most of the parakeets perished in the box on Ms. Miranda’s front porch, unaware was I that she was filming on location in the Rockies.  It really put a crimp in my plans when I was brought into police custody for questioning; Miranda had called the authorities, thinking that perhaps the Brazilian mob had sent her a message, or that she had a stalker.  Me, a stalker?  Ha ha, I would have known she was away had I been stalking her.  But I did learn my lesson from this incident, and sacrificed the services of one of my butlers in order to have him trail her day in and day out.  It was a rough few months, as he was the only one who could properly polish the pewter bedpan set.  But what could I do?  I felt Cagney’s Doodle-y visage taunting me by day, and he troubled my dreams at night.  I would best the Yank.

In addition, I was experimenting so extensively with the parakeets that I’d nearly exhausted the native flocks of the U.S.A.  I began importing.  I soon realized that I was competing for birds with a number of pet shop owners and carrier bird companies.  By default, I built a parakeet empire from my headquarters in south-central Arizona.

After about eight months, I’d finally created it– a six-foot tall hat, resplendent with living parakeets in all colors of the parakeet.  In truth, they were all albino parakeets that I had taken the time to paint by hand so that they would represent the most ideal possible plumage variations of the species.  I invited Cagney, Sebastian and Miranda to a grand gala at the Cocoanut Grove, fully expecting Miranda to fall into my arms when she laid eyes upon the gift I’d wrought with my own two hands, and the help of the 30 hat-makers I’d employed.  Unfortunately, things did not go quite as planned.  As it turns out, Sebastian had all but won the challenge already– he’d taken a much more effective, yet inelegant path– he’d been plying Miranda with booze.  They later married.  It was Cagney, instead, who fell into my arms.  He’d been charmed when he first saw me remove my lion’s mane coat, but was gone when he imagined me in that hat.  And thus began our four year long affair, which would have bordered somewhat on the bestial if you removed the tap shoes.


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