“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!!!”
— WKRP in Cincinnati
Station Manager, Arthur Carlson (played by Gordon Jump), arranged to have live turkeys dropped from a helicopter as an advertising stunt. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a serious miscalculation. The poor birds plunged to earth, never even having a chance. Their tragic “last flight” was relayed to WKRP listeners by reporter Les Nessman, played by Richard Sanders:”It’s a helicopter, and it’s coming this way. It’s flying something behind it, I can’t quite make it out, it’s a large banner and it says, uh – Happy… Thaaaaanksss… giving! … From … W … K … R… P!! No parachutes yet. Can’t be skydivers… I can’t tell just yet what they are, but – Oh my God, Johnny, they’re turkeys!! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they’re plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this!”
Listen: Click Here for a short clip of audio highlights in RealAudio.
Watch it: Click Here to view a short video clip of the scene.
Based on Reality
Oddly enough, this famous WKRP episode was loosely based on a real event! Back in 1946 (some sources say 1945), Yellville, Arkansas inaugurated the “Turkey Trot Festival” which included a wild turkey calling contest, a turkey target shoot, a Miss Drumsticks Pageant and oh yeah: a live turkey release from the roof of the courthouse.
After a few years, someone thought it might be fun to actually toss the poor gobblers out of a low-flying airplane for the event. This repeated for a number of years until 1989 when a national animal-rights protest cast the event in a bad light and the “National Enquirer” splashed a photo of the event across the nation forcing promoters to abandon the turkey drop.