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Tastes Like Chicken

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The back cottage on Bartlett, complete with rusting folding chairs on the porch and a Col. Sanders sticker on the door, resembled a frat house more than the headquarters of a nationally distributed magazine. Marla Campbell, (aka Fphatty Lamar), founding member and Tastes Like Chicken housemate, led me past a beautiful red and white 50’s formica kitchen table and under a set of ox horns over the doorway that would wow any Texan. The other members met us in the living room, where the walls were neatly lined with an assortment of original paintings and drawings — a pop art salon that Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas would envy. I settled in between Justin Shady (akaWayne Chinsang) and Erik Rose (aka Night Watchman) on what appeared to be their grandma’s couch. When Shady started recounting the magazine’s history, Milan Zori (aka Vinnie Baggadonuts) groaned, “He’s giving you the long version.” At first, it was a school publication at the Columbus College of Art and Design, where all four members were attending. “We were doing mostly fake news stories and humor,” said Zori. They featured articles such as “Edible Burrito Found in School Cafeteria.” “Our goal was to be The Onion,” Shady explained. The original name, Chicken Head, was taken from a Dennis Leary joke. They found out that the name was already being used, so they had a contest for their readers to re-name the publication. “It was like renaming your two-year-old kid,” said Campbell. After “butting heads” with the school administration, they launched a tabloid-sized newspaper in September 1999 with a citywide circulation. In May 2003, they decided to concentrate on web-exclusive issues. Their magazine format debuted in April of the following year in the form of a “Best of the Online Version” issue. Although she has only done two interviews, Campbell managed to meet with Phyllis Diller. Zori interviewed Saul Williams twice. “The best [interviews] are always the ‘Untapped Talents’ and ‘Everyday People.’ I interviewed my grandfather a while back for the latter because he has some amazing stories. But my absolute favorite interview…was my chat with Jolie Holland, a month or so before she became America’s musical sweetheart. So much went wrong, but it was so much fun…. It felt like talking to a childhood friend. In a sandbox. Usually, the less mainstream people are more interesting, and more interested in having a conversation. They’re still normal human beings.” Shady fondly recalled his interviews with Kermit the Frog/Frank Oz and Ru Paul. The high point of Rose’s career was his interview with comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz. “In junior high, I looked up his phone number in the New York yellow pages and carried it around with me in my wallet — just in case there arose an occasion in which I needed to call him.” “If anything, I guess you could put us under the label of pop culture, because we are fast-paced and off-the-wall,” explained Zori. “We’re alien because we’ve got art rather than just photographs,” said Rose. “Some old geezers have compared us to National Lampoon Magazine.” “Anything goes, as long as it’s not crap,” added Campbell. “It’s a halfway house for artists. We’ll take you in as long as you don’t hurt anyone. Tastes Like Chicken is a vehicle to propel people’s work out there. We wanted to create our own venue to display what people do.” According to a reader survey, people from ages 18 to 70 read the magazine, “if you can look past the language,” said Shady. “Everyone swears,” he continued. “I write how I talk.” Even their parents and relatives “love it,” said Zori, who was surprised they would enjoy a magazine “with dick and fart jokes.” Rose’s mother writes a book column under the pseudonym “Mamma Watchman.” Despite Rose’s goal of world domination, Campbell simply wants to “get more people aware of us.” “There are more people into it than we had thought, which gives us a charge,” said Rose. Tastes Like Chicken members will be appearing on the first Thursday of every month on WMSE 91.7 on Dorrie’s show from 12 to 3 pm. They will be holding their September issue release party at the Art Bar (722 E. Burleigh St.) on September 9. For more information, visit their website: www.tlchicken.com.
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