Pat Clark: Go you chicken fat, go – no, seriously, just go

06/12/2014 12:00 AM

06/12/2014 11:05 AM

Heard the latest commercial for Apple’s iPhone 5S? The one that boasts the smartphone as a fitness aid accompanied by the ever-so-charming song “Chicken Fat”?

Talk about post-traumatic flashback.

I was minding my own household-chore business last week when I heard that long-forgotten – read: repressed – song playing on what had been background TV noise.

With that, I had visions of marching in place, doing jumping jacks and hitting the ground for the oh-so-dreaded push-ups while my chest burned with the intense heat of a propane fire. (OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad.)

“Chicken Fat”?!

I hadn’t heard that tune in decades, but I had a sudden urge to drop my laundry basket and fall to the hardwood on my back for a set of bicycles. (“Pump, pump, pump, pump”)

For those who don’t recall it, “Chicken Fat” was the the song that teachers would play on occasion during P.E. time in the 1960s and ’70s. As soon as you heard those first blaring stanzas, you knew you were in for it.

Oh, sure, the song had its humorous side – I suppose. Its charms lasted, as I recall, about one run-through for me. But, then again, I wasn’t exactly the athletic type. Short, scrawny and uncoordinated, I was that girl still standing near the end as teams were being picked for whatever humiliating sport was being played that day.

I didn’t take offense, actually. Nor did I feel it particularly reflected on my popularity. I knew I stunk at sports, so who could blame team captains for avoiding me? Anyone who shut her eyes and ducked when pretty much any type of ball was coming her way had to have some sort of internal realization, no matter her age.

(Except those big red, rubber dodgeballs that you were actually supposed to duck. I was hecka good at dodgeball. Avoiding things always has been a forte.)

Besides, I usually was chosen before the kids with disgusting habits like … um … exploring their nasal cavities with their fingers, so at least I had that going for me.

“Chicken Fat” seemed to add insult to injury, though.

Listening now, I realize the chorus of “go, you chicken fat, go” was an admonition for actual fat to melt away as we exercised. As a child, however, I thought we were all being tagged with the nickname Chicken Fat and were being told to go away if we couldn’t keep up with the grueling 61/2-minute set of exercises that the song ran us through.

Since I generally felt like my lungs were coming up through my throat by the end of the song, I took particular offense.

As a kid, I didn’t know the origin of “Chicken Fat,” only that its fast-paced exercises were obnoxious. But an online search last week revealed that the song was part of President John F. Kennedy’s fitness program. It was recorded in 1962 by actor Robert Preston and sent to schools around the country to play during physical education.

If you are of a certain age, you likely recognize the song from your childhood. My husband, though, insists he’s never heard it. Whatever. He grew up in Berkeley in the 1960s and ’70s, so maybe it was too establishment for the schools there.

I read one online comment suggesting the commercial foolishly plays into the hands of competitor Samsung, whose own marketing strategy suggests Apple is for the aging parental set rather than their youthful, hipster kids.

That’s ridiculous. Those youthful hipsters have never heard “Chicken Fat,” so they don’t know how old it is, just that it’s kind of retro-goofy and catchy. Plus, the visuals are of young, athletic types using modern apps for their sport and fitness regimens.

So, while it plays the nostalgia card to baby boomers, it also plays to the fit-minded millennials. It’s actually rather brilliant.

Traumatizing, but brilliant.

Last week, I wrote about summer TV shows. Right after the section went to press, a wire story moved announcing a new summer series – “Top Chef Duels.”

How does a “Top Chef” megafan not know this was coming? Mea culpa, folks, mea culpa.

The show pits 18 former “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters” contestants against one another in weekly battles, leading up to a finale showdown. The nine-week show, premièring Aug. 6, will be hosted by Curtis Stone, which explains why there was nothing to be found about the usual summer franchise offering of “Masters.”

Stone hosted “Top Chef Masters,” so that spinoff either is on hold or dead. The latter fate would be a shame – it was a great show. But at least there’s a franchise replacement. Plus, it’s always fun to see past contestants back in battle.

And, most important, the mother ship returns this fall, with “Top Chef,” season 12, hailing from Boston.

Any chicken fat there will be all good.

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