In This Chapter
- Meeting Chihuahua actors, performers, and “authors”
- Catching up with an inspiring Chihuahua
- Discovering dog stars and stars’ dogs
Thanks to television and movies, most of today’s pop culture enthusiasts admire, or at least are amused by, famous Chihuahuas. Yet, artists and entertainers adored this bright breed long before television was invented and movies made over 100 million dollars in a weekend. In this chapter, I tell you about diminutive dog stars and celebrity Chi owners. But choosing only ten of them is just too hard, so I cheat a little and stuff several human stars and their Chihuahua companions under one heading!
Hotel heiress Paris Hilton has Tinkerbell, a Chihuahua that shares plane rides and goes to restaurants and interviews with her. Tinkerbell was a familiar character on the old reality show The Simple Life, and has even “written” a book, The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries: My Life Tailing Paris Hilton (Grand Central Publishing), as told to D. Resin.
In the movie Legally Blonde, Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, attends Harvard University with her plucky Chihuahua Bruiser (whose real name is Moonie). Bruiser/Moonie also is featured in Legally Blonde 2, where he’s present in the courtroom while his mistress pleads cases!
The subject of two best-selling children’s books (including How Willy Got His Wings [Doral], by Deborah Turner), Wheely Willy is a real-life paraplegic Chihuahua that gets around via a canine “wheelchair,” which allows him to move freely on his front legs while wheels roll on behind him. Originally found abandoned in a box with a cut throat and spinal injuries, Willy was eventually adopted by pet groomer (and author!) Deborah Turner. She tried to rig something that would give Willie the gift of autonomous movement, but she failed until she saw an ad for the K-9 Cart. Now Willy’s can-do attitude inspires others as he visits hospitals and institutions around the globe and participates in local events (he’Technical Stuff from Long Beach, California), such as the Los Angeles Marathon and the Cystic Fibrosis Fun Walk. Willy has also made several appearances on the Animal Planet television network!
Gidget, Taco Bell’s talking dog star, retired from the advertising business in 2000 after a long and successful career as chief spokesdog for the fast-food chain. But it seems like only yesterday!
She played a cool-guy role and did her own stunt work, which included riding on Godzilla’s tail, running up a fire escape, riding a skateboard, and jumping on a taxi cab. She loved riding in limos, and she had her own line of drinking cups, T-shirts, and talking toys. She even had two male stand-ins! But despite all her fame, this diva was easily pleased and willingly worked for chicken and steak bits. Ay Chihuahua!
Gidget was born December 8, 1994, and is owned by animal trainer Sue Chipperton, who acquired Gidget as a pup and trained her for stardom. Her expressive face appeared in a print campaign for The Limited, and she had a “carry on” role in the movie The Fan with Robert De Niro before becoming the hottest commercial canine since Spuds McKenzie. Following her Taco Bell adventures, Gidget appeared in another movie. She played Bruiser’s mother in Legally Blonde 2!
Perhaps you’ve seen the gutsy Chihuahua called Mojo in the action movie Transformers. His name is Chester in real life, and he’s quite the spark plug. One of his several scenes included him lifting his leg and relieving himself on an evil transformer’s foot!
Xavier Cugat’s Dogs
Xavier Cugat, a popular Latin American band leader during the 1930s and ’40s, liked to take his Chihuahuas on stage with him. He often held a Chi in one hand while conducting his band with the other. According to a popular (and possibly true) story, he once dressed a Chi like a baby, complete with a bonnet, so he could smuggle it into his hotel room.
Owen Wister, author of The Virginian (Scribner), owned Chihuahuas. One of his dogs was named Caranza, the Chihuahua breed’s first sire of renown. Two lines of top-winning Chihuahuas, Perrito and Meron, trace their roots to Caranza.
Paula Abdul, of American Idol and pop singing fame, owns three Chihuahuas; named Thumbelina, Tinkerbell (yes, another one), and Tulip. Just before the sixth season finale of American Idol, in May of 2007, Abdul tore cartilage in her nose, fractured her toe, and suffered multiple bruises when she took a bad tumble while trying to avoid stepping on Tulip. The dog wasn’t hurt, and Abdul, although sore, finished the season. In the process, Tulip became famous!
The Midget of the AKC corral
The first Chihuahua registered with the American Kennel Club was a red-coated Chi named Midget, owned by a Texan from El Paso. That was in 1904. The Chihuahua Club of America was founded in 1923 and has thrived ever since. Mexico, however, took longer to acknowledge its own breed. It didn’t register the Chihuahua breed until 1942.
Do you like to read novels about the mob? If so, would you like to read some that are suspenseful and hilarious at the same time and, best yet, have a Chihuahua as one of the characters? Then look for books by Laurence Shames. But don’t expect the Chihuahua in the books to be bright, bold, or endearing. That isn’t Shames’s style.
The Chi, Don Giovanni, has traits undesirable in a Chihuahua. Fragile, frightened, and a veritable canine hypochondriac, he spends most of his waking seconds quivering in the arms of Bert the Shirt, an ex-Mafioso who’s his elderly owner. But the Shirt has enough character for both of them, and his relationship with his ancient dog makes for funny and heartwarming reading. Alive with zany characters, packed with action, and set in colorful Key West, Florida, Shames’s novels are among my favorites. Two of them, Florida Straits (Dell) and Sunburn (Backinprint.com), feature Don Giovanni on the cover.
Other Chihuahuas Associated with Celebrities
Many other Chis have mingled with the stars and deserve recognition, too:
– Pop singer Britney Spears had two Chihuahuas, Bit Bit and Lucky, but she placed Lucky with an assistant after the dog attacked the ankles of her then-husband, Kevin Federline.
– Actress Marilyn Monroe adopted a Chihuahua she named Choo Choo in 1948.
– Victorious Mexican General Santa Ana had his Chihuahuas with him at the Alamo. In 1836, when he was finally captured, several Chihuahuas were found in his camp.
– Actress Jayne Mansfield owned Chihuahuas; one of her dogs died with her during a tragic car crash in 1967.
– Tennis great Martina Navratilova is a Chihuahua owner, and so was former Yale football coach Herman Hickman. He had two exceptionally small dogs named Killer and Slugger.
– Sharon Osbourne, wife of musician Ozzy Osbourne and reality TV maven, has a Chihuahua named Martini.
– Other famous names linked with Chihuahuas include Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Lupe Velez, Billie Holiday, Vincent Price, Gertrude Stein, Mickey Rourke, Anne Heche, Christine Ebersole, and Charo.
Finally, try visualizing California Governor (as of press time) Arnold Schwarzenegger walking his Chihuahua. How about that for attractive opposites!
by Jacqueline O’Neil