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Show Business: Take A Bowwow, Bowser!

4 minute read
Gerald Clarke

Who is ABC-TV’s most temperamental femme fatale? What movie star can most quickly bring a lump to your throat? Whose acting skills can make you gasp in admiration? Who is the fanciest dude on the screen today? Enough. The questions are too easy, and you already know that the answers are not Cybill Shepherd, William Hurt, Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy.

They of course are:

Bijoux, 2, the snappy (as in “Ouch!” and “Will you stop it!”) brown-and- white Jack Russell terrier who stars with John Ritter in the hit series Hooperman.

Benji, 12, the adorable long-haired mutt whose latest flick, Benji the Hunted, made $22 million last summer.

Mike, 9, the black-and-white border collie who upstaged the hitherto un- upstageable Bette Midler in last year’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills and who is busy making commercials and considering film projects.

Spuds MacKenzie, 3, the (mostly) white ullterrier who has gained a cult following as television spokespooch for Bud Light beer. Spuds’ promoters say he is the “Ayatola Partyola, the Guru of Good Times, the Philosopher of Fun.”

Hollywood has had dog years before. True, Rin Tin Tin kept Warner Bros. from going broke in the ’20s, and Lassie was one of MGM’s biggest money earners in the ’40s. But now, it seems, nearly every movie, TV series or commercial has another of man’s best friends wagging and barking away. Among the other rising dog stars of 1987 are Grendel, the yuppie puppy on ABC’s family drama thirtysomething, and Bo, the German shepherd-husky half-breed of Summer School.

The canines keep coming. In various stages of gestation for 1988, or Year of the Dog II: K-9 (a movie about a cop and his you-know-what partner), The Dog Who Cried Wolf (a film comedy about, yes, a talking dog), The Adventures of Milo and Otis (a Japanese import about a canine and his cat friend) and Cold Dog Soup (a black comedy about a dead dog).

Why so much doggery? Kitty Brown, editor of Animal Entertainment, a New York City trade publication, thinks the answer has a lot to do with the mood of the late ’80s. “Times are tough,” she says, “and we need a little innocence, something that hearkens back to childhood.” Others might say that Hollywood hearkens to money: if one dog movie cashes in, ten imitations sprout up within a year.

But personality, talent and hard work all helped bring the latest crop of & dog talent to the fore. Bijoux, for instance, “looks as if they built her from spare parts,” says Hooperman’s executive producer, Rick Kellard. He adds, “This sounds kind of surrealistic, but the dog can do almost everything.”

Versatile as she is, Bijoux has a personality as distinct and as difficult as Tallulah Bankhead’s. Charm is decidedly not her main attraction. She has been afflicted with flatulence, for example, which bothers everybody but her, and when she nips at Ritter’s hand, she is not necessarily acting.

Benji is also, well, a bitch. Says Writer-Director Joe Camp: “Benji started her first movie when she was eleven months old. She had a whole movie on her back when most dogs are playing with puppy toys.” Making Mike a star was tougher. Says Trainer Clint Rowe: “It took a year of just spending time with him before he got over his shyness.”

The dog that makes no bones about his star status is Beerbarker Spuds, whose muzzle appears on some 200 items, including T shirts, coffee mugs and posters. He has already filmed ten Bud Light commercials and has another upcoming. On Dec. 8 he or she — some claim that Spuds is actually a female whose real name is Evie — will be a guest veejay on MTV and early next year will appear in a supporting role in Robert Downey’s new movie Rented Lips. “He wasn’t playing Hamlet, but Spuds was perfect on the first take every time,” says Film Producer Mort Engelberg. “He didn’t ask for overtime, and there was no sexual misconduct on the set.” Hollywood, in short, seems at last to be barking up the right tree.

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