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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Turkeys Away! WKRP’s Fowl Promotion Dropped In 1978

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly…”

Those words were first spoken on TV 37 years ago today after “WKRP in Cincinnati” dropped live turkeys, which hit the “ground like sacks of wet cement,” at a shopping mall parking lot in a Thanksgiving promotion gone horribly, hilariously wrong on this date in TV Kiese history, Oct. 30, 1978.

“They’re crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes!” says WKRP newsman Les Nessman  in this clip below from the most memorable episode of “WKRP” (1978-82).

“One just went through the windshield of a parked car! This is terrible! ... The crowd is running for their lives!”

Oh, the humanity!

In “Turkeys Away,” just the seventh episode of the new CBS fall sitcom, station manager Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson (Dayton native Gordon Jump) seeks to regain influence at the station after programmer Andy Travis (Gary Sandy, also born in Dayton) switched to rock ’n’ roll music.

Carlson sent Nessman (Richard Sanders) to Pinedale Shopping Mall for live reports on the turkeys being dropped from a helicopter. 

When it was all over, the Big Guy uttered those unforgettable words: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

For years Sanders re-created the stunt for radio stations, dropping gift certificates or other items from a chopper, including once at old Forest Fair Mall in 1990.

I’ve read conflicting reports about how “WKRP” creator Hugh Wilson, a former Atlanta advertising writer, got the idea. Some say an Atlanta radio manager had once dropped turkeys from a helicopter in Dallas or Atlanta.  Others say an Atlanta station dropped turkeys from the back of a truck.

In the “WKRP” script, Carlson boasts that he is “going to make radio history…. (It’s) the greatest promotional idea of all time.”

It's definitely one of the greatest sitcom episodes of all time, as God is my witness.

John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.