Tic Tac Toe Chicken

Chinatown, New York, New York, USA

Retired 2002

The Disappointed Tourist: Tic Tac Toe Chicken, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

As a connoisseur of cheap entertainments, I was drawn to the forlorn chicken in its box because, while it was also supposed to seem somehow mechanical among the other mechanical games, really it was a holdover from Medieval Fairgrounds, a chicken Mechanical Turk. And it reminded me of automats, which were also meant to seem mechanical but really had a person behind the doors putting in a new slice of pie when you bought one. I used to watch for their hands darting in after my purchase. The Automat was the main thing I wanted to see as a child on my first visit to NYC. Jane D.

The Tic Tac Toe Chicken was an amusement in New York’s Chinatown Fair amusement arcade. The first chicken, named Clarabelle, started playing in the 1950s. The reward for beating the chicken was a bag of fortune cookies. The last chicken, named Lillie, retired in 2002, leaving only the Japanese street fighter games for which the arcade was also known. The arcade closed briefly and was renovated in 2012 but reopened without any chickens. The painting is based on a photograph by Michael Yamashita.