THE WHITE HOUSE SHOWBIZ TURKEY
A bird must be image conscious, media ready and brand friendly to be a White House Thanksgiving turkey. This year, it has come down to a pair of Minnesota gobblers named Caramel and Popcorn; there’s a public poll to name the winner, to be revealed Wednesday with all the pomp and circumstance befitting the turkeys in all their plumage. They have their own Twitter handles and fan bases. President Obama will pardon the winner and his alternate, an event to be showcased live on C-SPAN at 1:15 p.m. Both birds have been drilled in pardoning protocols and the inevitable noise and distraction of a photo-op in the nation’s capital.
The press office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., meanwhile, has seen to the show biz needs of their feathered charges as well, providing much appealing personal information, including audio snippets of their gobbles.
Both weigh about 38 pounds, both are male, and both were born July 8 of this year. But from then on out, it’s every turkey for himself. Popcorn has a “proud strut” and a garbled gobble, while Caramel is known for his “steady and deliberate walk” and “quick, clear and frequent” communications. The first sounds like a politician, the second like a PR guy. But no matter. Popcorn favors corn to eat and Beyonce tunes to listen to, while Caramel relishes soybean meal and the strains of Lady Gaga.
But there is evidence that the turkey ritual has evolved over the years. Farmers have been showing up at the White House since 1873 bearing the gift of their finest birds; a “receiving ceremony” did not appear until 1947. The fate of the bird weighed heavy on presidents of the modern era, however.
President Kennedy sent his turkey back to the farm while President Nixon donated several to a local petting zoo. President George H.W. Bush was the first to inaugurate an official exoneration of the Thanksgiving main course in 1989. The gobbler, Mr. Bush told the press, had “been granted a presidential pardon, as of right now.”