Challenger a Guest at Obama Inauguration Party
New York Post
By Cindy Adams
(excerpt from original article)
AT HBO’s star-studded concert Sunday, I stood beak to beak with Challenger. Ask not Challenger Who? This bird has just one name like other celebs – Madonna, Roseanne, Beyoncé, Lassie, Secretariat.
Challenger is the 16-year-old American Bald Eagle symbol of the USA whose face is even imprinted on coins, which is something Madonna, Roseanne, Beyoncé and Barack have yet to get. Challenger, who has yellow eyes, made an appearance at the Lincoln Memorial but just flapped his wings. Didn’t fly.
“We can’t fly him today because he didn’t have time to rehearse,” said his handler, Al Cecere, whose gloved hand was Challenger’s perch.
Rehearse? An eagle needs to rehearse? Who’s he think he is – Garth Brooks? Rehearse what?!
“We must find the proper flight path with no obstacles in his way. After locating the path, we take him to the location’s highest point – for instance, at a baseball game he’d take off from the stadium’s topmost tier. We release him, and he flies down. We repeat that in 15-minute sessions until he is comfortable, used to the surroundings, and aware of where he’s to land. They didn’t allow enough time for rehearsal, so Challenger isn’t flying today.”
Challenger has worked the Capitol building, the White House and a few Fiesta Bowls. Knowing I’m from New York, his handler added: “What Challenger really wants is to open the new Yankee Stadium. He’s the most famous Yankee of them all. Could you please ask someone for that to happen?”