Celebrity Animal Lovers Including Todd Oldham, Tippi Hedren, Ed Asner and Sesame Street’s “Big Bird” Judge Bird Gifted to Owner by Johnny Carson “America’s Most Offbeat Avian Talent”
NEW YORK, NY, January 23, 2007 – Not only can he roll over, play dead and fetch a ball like a well-trained dog, but he can sink a putt like Tiger Woods, dunk a basketball like Michael Jordan and even water-ski. For these and many other outlandish physical and verbal antics, 17-year old Bradenton, Florida parakeet “A.J.” has been crowned victor in “Mag Rack TV’s Most Outrageous Bird Video Contest.”
In September 2006, Mag Rack TV network and its show, The Pet Shop with Marc Marrone, launched a viral video contest to give America’s most outrageous birds and their owners the chance to showcase their boldest achievements on the web. Since this contest was all about “star-quality,” Mag Rack enlisted a quorum of 13 celebrity animal lovers to help pick the winner, including designer Todd Oldham, actresses Tippi Hedren and Rue McClanahan, actors Ed Asner, Dom DeLuise and Ed Begley Jr. and, of course, Carol Spinney, the thespian best-known to the world as Sesame Street’s “Big Bird.” A second prize was created for the bird who received the most votes from web-surfers who visited the contest site showcasing the best entries, www.magrack.com/bird.
Now, the votes are in and Floridian David Cota and A.J., his 17-year Indian Ringneck Parakeet, can bask in glory knowing they created the “Celebrities’ Choice” entry in Mag Rack’s offbeat talent search. “Talking Tongo,” a 13 year-old Congo African Grey with a 400-word vocabulary owned by Debbie Kalstein of Southhampton, PA., has earned the “Peoples’ Choice” award.
Interestingly, A.J. came to Cota as a result of a bizarre tragedy in 1990, when his former performing parakeet “Axl,” named in honor of Guns-N-Roses singer Axl Rose, was accidentally suffocated by Cota’s traveling companion the evening before his scheduled appearance on The Tonight Show! When legendary host Johnny Carson heard about the unfortunate incident, he decided to do something to soften the blow. Carson hosted an on-air memorial service for Axel during his scheduled appearance, complete with black arm bands worn by Carson and sidekick Ed McMahon, and a performance of “Taps” by trumpet-toting bandleader Doc Severinsen! Carson gifted Cota with a replacement bird that the appreciative owner named A.J. in honor of Axl and Johnny. He also offered Cota the opportunity to return to the show with his new bird when he learned the old one’s tricks. Cota and A.J. did just this in 1992.
The video that wowed the celebrity judges (viewable at www.magrack.com/bird) shows this veritable birdie decathlete at his best – playing dead, rolling over, flipping on his head, climbing a ladder to repeatedly dunk a basketball, then taking to a toy golf green, placing a putter in his beak and sinking a few lengthy shots. According to Cota, A.J. has recently mastered some remarkable new tricks that are not featured in his entry video, including the ability to water-ski behind a remote-controlled miniature speed boat.
“All I really wanted to do with Axel, and now A.J., is demonstrate that birds can do anything dogs can,” states Cota, a 37 year-old real estate and retail entrepreneur based in suburban Tampa. “A.J. has really exceeded my wildest expectations and continues to add to his bag of tricks everyday. I’m very grateful to Mag Rack for giving us the opportunity to show the world what A.J. and other birds can do.”
Currently, Cota is employing A.J. to motivate children to better themselves. The duo is increasingly making appearances at schools and children’s hospitals in Florida and beyond to motivate youngsters to excel in their studies and manage their battles against serious illnesses.
“For all the offbeat things A.J. can do,” adds Cota, “it’s most rewarding that he can be used as a vehicle to teach young people that they can achieve even the most far-fetched goals. After they see him pick up the putter and sink a shot, I can say – ‘If this bird can learn to golf, you can certainly crack your books and ace a test!'”
Mag Rack’s “Peoples’ Choice” winner “Talking Tongo” was an abused animal adopted 12 years ago by Debbie Kalstein, a resident of the suburban Philadelphia community of Southampton, PA. In his contest tape, Tongo demonstrates both his astonishing vocabulary and a penchant for telling his owners, their children and other pets in the household what to do. In his tape, Tongo says “bless you” when his owner sneezes, tells the dog Rexi to “go fetch the paper” and instructs the Kalstein’s children when it’s either “time to go to bed” or “sit down and control yourselves!” Tongo shows his musical side by performing the self-penned tune, “Got the Beak!” Tongo began singing this appropriate variation one day after hearing The Go-Gos’ hit, “We’ve Got the Beat,” on the radio.
According to Kalstein, Tongo took a keen interest in the competition. “Every week, we would return to the Mag Rack contest website and check out the new entries,” she adds. “One day, I said to him: ‘Tongo’s a big star.’ This is now his favorite phrase!”
Cota and Kalstein have each earned a $1,000 prize for winning their respective titles in the Mag Rack search. Their winning entries can be viewed at www.magrack.com/bird
About Mag Rack
Mag Rack ignites viewers’ interests and establishes On Demand television as an entertainment destination. The premier On Demand television network, Mag Rack helps viewers get into the things they love–from cars to guitars, motorcycles to fitness, kids shows to video games, relationships to pets–by showcasing expert on-air personalities and dynamic programs that inspire them to go even further. Mag Rack is the first television network to produce original entertainment created exclusively for on-demand. With shows such as Katie Brown @ H-2-ome, 24seven gamer, Guitar Xpress, The Pet Shop with Marc Morrone and John Lithgow’s Paloozaville, Mag Rack’s “TV for Whatever Turns You On” puts the viewer in control of their own potential by providing 24/7 “always on” programming that is truly exciting and that cannot be found elsewhere on television. For more information, visit www.magrack.com.
About Rainbow Media Holdings LLC
Rainbow Media Holdings LLC is a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC). Rainbow Media creates and manages some of the country’s most compelling and dynamic entertainment brands including popular national and regional television channels AMC, fuse, The Independent Film Channel (IFC), WE tv, and two FSN affiliated regional sports networks managed by Rainbow Sports Networks. The company also manages Mag Rack and SPORTSKOOL, two original on-demand networks; VOOM HD Networks, the largest and most diverse suite of high definition channels available anywhere; IFC Entertainment, its film distribution, production and exhibition division; Rainbow Advertising Sales Corporation, its advertising sales division; and Rainbow Network Communications, its full service network programming origination and distribution company.