R/S: Tell us about Blinky.
JEFFREY VALLANCE: This was done in 1978-79. Here’s the caption for the booklet: “Blinky the Friendly Hen, dedicated to the billions of hens sacrificed each year for our consumption.” It’s sort of like a vegetarian piece, almost.
One day I went to Ralph’s supermarket in Canoga Park, where I normally shopped at, and bought a regular Foster Farms fryer chicken wrapped in a plastic bag. I was trying to determine which one to pick: “This one’s got a nice color, this one’s a good size,” etc. Finally I picked one that I thought was a good-looking chicken, took it home and took photographs of it. I had just taken it out of the plastic bag and there was still blood on it; I put it on a piece of paper to take the photograph, and when I lifted it up there was a perfect impression of a chicken in blood—it was almost like the Shroud of Blinky! (Later, someone bought that for a thousand dollars—Blinky’s shroud! It wasn’t for sale, but they really wanted to have it—it was like this sacred item!)
Then I called up a pet cemetery and told them I had a dead bird that I wanted to bury, and didn’t tell them any more information about it. I took off the plastic bag and then put Blinky in a shoebox, because I’d heard that’s what people normally do when they bring in their dogs or cats—they use a shoebox as a temporary coffin. I drove out there and left Blinky in the car, went into a little bungalow office with lounge chairs in front, and talked to the lady at the desk.
I said I had a dead bird that I wanted to bury. When I did this project I wanted to be “straight” the whole time; I didn’t want to say anything that was false, so I just went along filling out these forms: “What kind of bird is it?” “Hen.” “What breed?” “Ross” (I had done all this research—I had called Foster Farms and found out what breed of chicken they used, how old they were, etc, so I’d know all this background).
Have you ever seen a chicken look at things? They don’t have binocular vision; one eye goes this way and one goes that way, If they’re looking at a bug they look at it cockeyed, moving their head this way and that, looking like they’re blinking. I did research at the pet cemetery too, and all the other animals were named Fluffy and Biffy and Pinky and Winky, so Blinky fit right in there—it made sense that it would be called that.
The best part of the cemetery was the viewing room. A mortician went out to the car and brought the box to the back room; he didn’t really look at it. Later on while I was filling some more forms, this huge “Lurch” [from the Addams Family] sorta guy comes out. He’s totally white and deadly serious and he says [slow measured syllables], “How/did/your/pet/die?” because it was all plucked and cleaned and everything, I wanted to be really truthful, so I just said, “I’m not sure exactly how it died; one day it just died.” (I don’t know how they really kill them at the butcher house.) That was the only question they ever asked.
By that time I was paying for it. I had gone to the bank and gotten all hundred-dollar bills, and as soon as I brought the money out they were very satisfied because I was paying cash! After that they were really careful with what they were saying, because they wanted the money as much as I wanted to do this (it cost like three hundred dollars). Here I was; what were they going to say: “I don’t know if we can bury that or not”? So they were very cordial and formal.
The viewing room was great. I had ordered a powder blue coffin with a pink lining, and they had put a paper towel in the bottom, because Blinky was starting to thaw and beads of moisture were forming on the chicken which would have ruined the satin. There was a little pillow inside, and they had placed it so that if the head were on, it would have been laying on the pillow. But it didn’t have a head, so . . . [laughs] They also had these pallbearers who I think were illegal aliens—they weren’t saying a word, but they looked like they thought this was the craziest thing in the world.
We went out to the grave which was surrounded by astroturf. I guess it must really be terrifying to see dirt when something is being buried, because then you think of the earth and all these terrible implications, so they had astroturf. Then they brought the coffin out and I thought it would have Blinky’s name written on it, but it had my name written on it instead. It was scary, like seeing my own burial! Then they lowered it down into the grave and concluded the ceremony. After we buried Blinky I went to the Howard Johnsons nearby and had the “Chicken Special”!