Bureaucrats ready to fry rubber chicken

May 31, 2004

Rufus the magical rubber chicken will never know how close he came to joining 1.3 million of his real feathered friends that have been killed in the Fraser Valley in an effort to control the spread of the avian flu virus.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency contacted Mike Norden, a magician from Maple Ridge, earlier this month. They had apparently read about the 29-year-old's act with Rufus the 'live' chicken on his website.

At first, Norden said, he thought the official was calling to book a magic show. "I'm thinking, 'oh, this is going to be a job," Norden said Saturday. "Okay, great, it's CFIA, this sounds like a big show."

The conversation took a surreal turn when the official began questioning Norden in detail about Rufus, saying that the agency was concerned about him traveling with the chicken and performing shows where other livestock were present. Norden was told to "cease and desist performing with the chicken" and was asked to inform the agency of all recent shows involving Rufus.

"I said, 'dude, man, the chicken is rubber. Fake. Phony. Not real," Norden said. "He said, 'uh, okay. We don't have to worry about this at all. Have a good day. Goodbye."

Norden has since removed all references to Rufus as a "live chicken" from his website, and said his plastic partner is making a gradual emotional recovery from the trauma of his near-death experience.

In his act, Norden pretends Rufus can talk. There's also a card trick involved and a magical KFC bucket that shoots feathers.

Rufus is also used as a magic wand, but the rubber chicken's true talent is found in his remarkable ability to remain completely still.

"He can play dead really, really well," said Norden. "That's his best trick."

CFIA staff declined to comment on the incident.