A 1970s and 80s singer – let’s call him DS – bought a penguin from a bloke at Newport Pagnell motorway services after a particularly heavy night on his band’s reunion tour. The bloke told him the penguin was called Dave and that he could speak. Dave said “barn” and “ghost” and “Japan” from inside a cardboard box in the boot of the bloke’s car. DS handed over £200 plus his watch. The bloke handed over Dave in a box, and then accelerated up the M1 slip road, heading towards Northampton.
DS took his new pet back to the tour bus and showed it to the others with a flourish. He was very upset to discover he’d been lied to. Yes, the box did contain a penguin, but no, it couldn’t talk and it was called Ian, not Dave, according to a luggage tag around its neck.
The bus neared London and the band were already bored with the hopping and the pooping and the feathers everywhere. When DS used the on-board facilities, someone opened the window to let some air in and Ian saw the chance to escape. He jumped onto the table and out through the open window. DS came out of the cubicle in time to see him hopping through oncoming traffic and into the undergrowth of a park outside.
DS ordered the others off the bus and to help look for Ian, but there was no trace of him. Ian had gone. And nobody admitted to opening the window, however many times DS asked them.
The loss of Ian caused a permanent rift in the band, so their manager announced they were splitting due to artistic differences. He didn’t feel right saying it was because DS was cross that the others had let his penguin go, even if it was true.
Over the coming years DS never gave up searching for Ian. He toured the UK extensively, spending all his free time between gigs hunting in parks and zoos and anywhere he thought a missing penguin might be.
During the 80s and 90s, many more lead singers would fall for the scam, with ‘Dave’ being sold variously as Simon, George (twice), Tony, Liam and Mick.
Inspired by “Japan’s Fugitive Penguin Caught”