Chicken John

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Chicken John
Chicken John at Zombie Mob.jpg
Chicken John participating in a zombie mob after a San Francisco mayoral debate. Frank Chu can be seen in the background.
Born Giovanni Giuseppe Rinaldi
(1968-03-20) March 20, 1968 (age 48)
Nutley, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Showman
Years active 1984–present

"Chicken" John Rinaldi is a musician, showman, activist, and author living in San Francisco, California. He was a one-time San Francisco mayoral candidate, who garnered 8 percent of the city's vote, and is involved with the San Francisco arts community as well as the Burning Man community.

Chicken John is also fond of eccentric hats and can be seen around the city wearing exotic millinery, particularly hats with natural bird feathers.


Rinaldi has played on several punk rock albums, most notably as the original guitarist of GG Allin's band The Murder Junkies. He shared his experiences with the infamously violent singer in the documentary Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies.[1]

Due to an unusual agreement, he was Chris Spedding's only guitar student, and studied with him from 1989 to 1990.[2]


In 1994 Rinaldi conceived, organized, and became the ringmaster of Circus Redickuless, a nationally touring "punk rock circus" which ran for six years. It consisted of many members of the Cacophony Society, as well as Chicken John's pet, "Dammit the Amazing Wonder Dog." The circus was the subject of a 1997 documentary of the same name by Phillip Glau.[3] This film later won Best Documentary at the 1998 New York Underground Film Festival.[4] Rinaldi helped organize many Cacophony events in Los Angeles before moving to San Francisco in 1996, becoming involved in its own Cacophony chapter and the intertwined community of Burning Man.

In 2002 Rinaldi organized the first Bakersfield-to-Fresno handsaw-powered vehicle rally.[5]


In 2000, Rinaldi was hired as the in-store host of Planet Hollywood's Planet TV, which played in all Planet Hollywood restaurant locations and occasionally as paid advertising on cable.

Rinaldi hosted four 1-hour episodes of Powertool Drag Races on The Discovery Channel in 2002, along with co-hosts John Hell and Dr. Hal Robins.[6]


In the summer of 2006, Rinaldi was recruited by noted street artist Swoon to build the propulsion system for a raft made of salvaged scrap that was to travel down the Mississippi River for Swoon's project Miss Rockaway Armada. Rinaldi had previously conceived a design using car engines on a gimbal, with a 'long-tail' drive shaft terminating in a propeller for propulsion. Having seen them used in Thailand, he would spend years experimenting to improve the design.[7][8] They departed from Minneapolis Minnesota and got as far as Andalusia, Illinois.[9] The crew would come back the next year and get as far as Cementland, in northern St. Louis, Missouri.

The Seasteading Institute contacted Rinaldi in 2008 to create water-themed events to promote its message of sovereignty at sea. This led to both Camp Tipsy[10] and Ephemerisle,[11] which continue annually.

Politics and activism[edit]

San Francisco mayoral race[edit]

Rinaldi announced his candidacy in the 2007 San Francisco mayoral election on July 9, 2007, ostensibly challenging incumbent Gavin Newsom.[12] The motto of his campaign was "Nuisance '07", and its stated goal was to elect him for second place, inspired by San Francisco's new system of instant-runoff voting. He garnered 11,912 total votes in total, meaning about 8% of the voters selected him as one of their ranked choices.[13]

Campaign financing[edit]

After submitting the required official declaration of candidacy on August 8, 2007, Rinaldi claimed to have raised $25,000 in campaign donations from San Francisco residents by August 28, thus qualifying him for public matching funds. However, on September 13 he was denied public financing by the San Francisco Ethics Commission on the basis that around $20,000 was donated through e-commerce site Paypal. As it was PayPal's official policy to provide only a shipping address, while keeping billing information confidential, the commission ruled such donations were insufficient proof of residency.[14]

The Chicken For Mayor campaign contacted Paypal and obtained special internal verification that the addresses did indeed match, which was submitted September 19.[14] By October 2 the commission had approved many more contributions, accepted 272 residents for the required 250, but their qualified total of $20,500 still fell short.[15] The following day the campaign's lawyer submitted a request asking the commission to clarify which donations were ineligible, and for which reason, and a date by which to appeal them. Executive Director John St. Croix responded with the pessimistic assertion that simply by requesting an appeal the campaign had lost its right to do so. Twelve days later, on October 15, a meeting of the full commission unanimously overturned this decision.[16] The campaign continued to seek some validation concerning public matching funds even after the election was concluded, and it is still unclear whether it ever should have qualified.

Members of the Ethics Commission made comments that John Rinaldi's campaign could be seen as a test case, and admitted they themselves weren't very familiar with the city's public funding regulations.[17]

Ballot initiatives[edit]

Renaming a sewage plant after George W. Bush[edit]

He was part of a group that advocated for and collected the appropriate amount of signatures to get a ballot initiative that would name San Francisco's Oceanside Treatment Plant after George W. Bush.[18] The ballot measure, however, failed.[19]

American Apparel[edit]

In 2009, Rinaldi organized against an American Apparel outlet being permitted to open on Valencia Street in the Mission District.[20] Several years before, the city approved a voter initiative requiring a public hearing for such "formula retail" stores to open in certain commercial corridors.[21] Apparently certain of the store's approval, and without notifying the neighborhood, American Apparel's website listed the address of their Mission location as early as November 2008.[22] Due to the get-out-the-word efforts of Rinaldi and many others a huge number spoke in opposition to the proposed store at a city hearing, and the San Francisco Planning Department unanimously rejected the permit.

Dolores Park food vendors[edit]

In 2010 and 2011 Chicken John helped organize opposition to food vendors inside the city's popular Dolores Park. Among the issues raised were flawed permitting procedures, poor communication from SF's Recreation and Parks Department (especially a lack of public notice), and plans to use gas-powered generators.[23]

In a last-minute agreement, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener and the one remaining vendor La Cocina settled on moving the trailer onto the street, just outside the park boundary. Arrangements were made and the trailer was successfully moved out of the park in October 2011.[24]


In 2011, Rinaldi self-published his first book, The Book of the IS: Fail... To WIN!, Essays in engineered disperfection.[25][26] His second book is currently in production, titled Book the UN: Friends of Smiley, Dissertations in Dystopia.


  1. ^ " Artist Info". Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  2. ^ Bright, Kimberly (2006). Reluctant Guitar Hero (Biography). iUniverse, Inc. p. 433. 
  3. ^ "Austin Chronicle review of Circus Redickuless". Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  4. ^ "IMDB entry for 1998New York Underground Film Festival". Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  5. ^ "Strangest race I ever 'saw'". Sacramento Bee. 21 March 2002. 
  6. ^ Power tool drag races
  7. ^ David Carr (2006). "New York Times: Art Down the Mississippi. At Least, That's the Plan.". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  8. ^ "Miss Rockaway Armada: Boat". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  9. ^ "Miss Rockaway Armada blog post: Red Wind in Our Sails". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  10. ^ Interview about Camp Tipsy in Huffington Post
  11. ^ Reason Magazine article on Ephemerisle
  12. ^ In Re-election Bid, a Mayor Versus a Cast of Characters
  13. ^ "San Francisco Department of Elections Results - Election Results 2007". Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  14. ^ a b "SFGate Article - "City to Chicken John: 'Pay your own way, pal'"". Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  15. ^ "SFWeekly Article - "Chicken John Pissed At Ethics Commission"". Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  16. ^ "SFWeekly Article - "Chicken John Campaign's Net Worth: A Timeline"". Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  17. ^ "SFWeekly Article: Ed Jew Opens for Chicken John at Ethics Commission Nov. 30 -- Is That Kosher?". Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  18. ^ "Movement to Rename Sewage Plant After Bush Gains Steam in San Francisco". Fox News. June 26, 2008. 
  19. ^ Vanessa Grigoriadis, "Barging In to Venice," New York magazine June 7, 2009.
  20. ^ Interview with Mother Jones
  21. ^ "Proposition G - Limitations on Formula Retail Stores". Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  22. ^ "Storefronting: American Apparel on Valencia?!". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  23. ^ Reyhan Harmanci (2010). "New York Times: Dolores Park Groups Are Upset Over Vendors". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  24. ^ Kevin Montgomery (2011). "Uptown Almanac: La Cocina to Look Into Moving Out of Dolores Park". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  25. ^ Nevius on Chicken John Rinaldi Satire
  26. ^ Rinaldi, John (2011). Book of the Is, Fail... to Win!: Essays in Engineered Disperfection. Oakland, CA: Last Gasp Books. p. 96. 

External links[edit]