Dominic and Brennan Latkovski are entertainers at heart. The brothers are the brains behind BirdZerk! and ZOOperstars!, both popular traveling sports entertainment shows that perform at venues across the United States and the world. So it was no surprise that they decided to make their afternoon at Wrigley Field one to remember a few years ago.
The duo, in town for a performance that night, was excited about watching a Cubs-White Sox game. Since they were at Wrigley Field, they brought a costume that fans of the Friendly Confines would truly appreciate. ZOOperstars! features a troupe of characters named after famous sports figures. On this day, Dominic went into a bathroom and changed into Harry Canary, a tall and portly singing bird adorned with Coke bottle glasses and cotton-white hair.
As Harry Canary, Dominic took his seat next to Brennan along the right field line, to the delight of fans throughout the ballpark. Cheers soon turned into boos when security guards led Dominic away in handcuffs after they told him no costumes were allowed inside Wrigley Field. A flustered Dominic was held in a holding tank beneath the center field stands until he was released, instructed never to return. Brennan was shown the exit gate as well.
It was the only time Dominic can recall that Harry Canary, or any of the multitude of characters that compose the ZOOperstars! and BirdZerk! shows, were not warmly embraced by those who encountered them.
BirdZerk! – an act that includes the feathery namesake character and his sidekicks, the inflatable Zerk! Jr., BallZerk! and BabyZerk! – performs about 60 shows a year. ZOOperstars – which feature 32 inflatable characters with amusing names like Tiger Woodschuck, Whale Gretzky, Mia Hammster, Shaquille O’Seal and Clammy Sosa – make more than 200 appearances annually. They perform at Major League and Minor League baseball parks, NBA and minor league basketball games, NHL and minor league hockey matches and an assortment of college sports among other events.
Long before the entrepreneurial brothers were building the nation’s most popular sports entertainment company, they developed an interest in performing as mascots. Dominic was his high school’s mascot before attending Bellarmine University, where he played soccer and attended a tryout for Billy Bird, the mascot of the Triple-A Louisville Redbirds.
“I wasn’t their first choice,” said Dominic, who was 19 at the time. He is now 36. “I was second, but the guy who was the top choice backed out, and I gladly accepted the opportunity.”
Dominic performed as Billy Bird while continuing his studies at Bellarmine. A class project spurred the idea for the venture that would later become BirdZerk!
“Our assignment was to create a business plan, and I had three ideas in mind. One was a ticket brokerage (Dominic supplemented his income in high school and college by purchasing and selling tickets to concerts and sporting events), and another was a home energy efficiency testing system. The third, of course, was a business idea based on Billy Bird.”
Heeding his professor’s advice, Dominic pursued the Billy Bird idea, which involved performing at minor league baseball games with Billy Bird and his sidekicks. Interestingly, Billy Bird’s uniform was designed by the mother of Ted Giannoulas, who portrayed The Chicken, one of the traveling sports entertainment shows (along with Captain Dynamite, Morganna the Kissing Bandit and Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball) that interested Dominic as a child. Billy Bird & Company was born, with Dominic serving as Billy Bird and Brennan filling the role of a sidekick. Brennan, who is 35, played soccer at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. He had performed as a radio station moose and the Kentucky State Fair Bear.