Friday, July 27, 2007

"Doggie Star"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

If anyone in my family ever gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which isn’t so far-fetched because the entertainment industry is going to the dogs, it will be my dog, Lizzie. As her star-struck daddy, I am proud and excited to report that Lizzie recently was a winner in the Petco Stars Search for America’s Most Talented Pet contest.

This national event, sponsored by Petco, the pet supply and product chain, had regional competitions at stores across the country. Videos of the winners, including Lizzie, are being posted on YouTube. A panel of judges will select 12 finalists. From Aug. 6 to Aug. 18, visitors to the chain’s Web site,, can vote for the grand prize winner. The grand prize, by the way, is a trip to Hollywood.

This was a great incentive for Lizzie, who enjoyed a Hollywood moment last year when she met Lassie in New York City, where the canine legend (Lizzie, I mean, although Lassie is famous, too) spent an afternoon with the popular collie, who was promoting her latest movie.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a poster for the talent contest at the Petco store in Selden, N.Y., where I had brought Lizzie for a spa treatment, which she will have on a regular basis if she goes to Hollywood. As visions of fame, fortune and poolside cocktails danced in my head, I signed her up.

Lizzie’s competitors were Daisy, a Bichon Frise who stood on her hind legs to beg for treats, and Bella, a singing Pomeranian. The field wasn’t large, but it was extremely competitive.

Lizzie, a multitalented mutt, blew them both away.

She was introduced to the small but enthusiastic crowd of onlookers (and now, I must say, fans) by Derek Gerardi, an assistant manager at the store. The distinguished judges were Rose Sofia, director of the Paw House, an animal rescue organization on Long Island; Susan Ennis, a field representative for Eukanuba dog food; and Nicole Ciardulli, a small-animal specialist at Petco.

For Lizzie’s first trick, she played me in a game of blackjack. "Cut the cards," I told her. Lizzie tapped the deck with her paw. Then I dealt her two cards and gave two to myself. Lizzie had a 9 and a 3. "Stay?" I asked her. "Or hit?" When I said "hit," Lizzie gave me her paw. I dealt her a 6. "You have 18," I told her. "Stay or hit?" She thought about it. "Stay?" I said again. This time, she gave me her paw. I had a 10 and a 5, so I dealt myself another card. It was a queen. I busted. Lizzie won. The crowd went wild. "Lizzie is playing with a full deck," I said. "I’m not." Everyone agreed.

For her next trick, she did math. I put one dog treat on top of another and showed them to her. Then I blocked them from Lizzie’s view and added two more treats to the pile. "How many treats did I add?" I asked Lizzie. She gave me her paw twice. The crowd gasped. "Next year," I said, "I am going to have Lizzie do my taxes."

Then I knelt next to Lizzie and barked while she just sat there. "Lizzie," I announced, "is a ventriloquist." Huge applause. "And I’m her dummy," I added. Several people nodded.

Next I told the judges to listen carefully to Lizzie. She didn’t say anything. "Lizzie’s also a mime," I said. By this time, the crowd was delirious.

Finally, I said that Lizzie had won the blue ribbon in the Pooch Who Can Smooch competition a couple of years ago at Puttin’ on the Dog, the annual Adopt-A-Dog fund-raiser in Greenwich, Conn. Lizzie proved it by smothering me in kisses. With that, we both took a bow and received a standing ovation, probably because there were no chairs.

Nobody was surprised when Lizzie won. And the judges were effusive in their praise.

"Lizzie seems very intelligent," said Ciardulli, who didn’t say the same about me.

"She dispelled the old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks," said Ennis, who immediately apologized for calling Lizzie old. "Sorry, I should have called her a senior dog." Lizzie, who is 12, accepted the apology by licking Ennis’ knee.

Sofia summed it up when she said, "Lizzie is amazing."

Now we’ll see if she’s amazing enough to win a trip to Hollywood. As Lizzie said, "Woof, woof, woof!" (Translation: "Move over, Lassie!")

Copyright 2007 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, July 13, 2007

"Pie Fight"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

As a sensitive modern man with only the most sophisticated tastes, I have never had any pie-in-the-sky illusions about the Three Stooges. As a lifelong Stooges fan, however, I have always had pie-in-the-face aspirations. That’s because I have long dreamed of being in a social situation where I could emulate Moe, Larry and Curly by actually hitting someone in the face with a pie.

I am happy and totally unashamed to say that I recently got my chance. Not only did I hit a high-ranking corporate executive right in the kisser with a plate of whipped dessert topping, but I allowed him to return the favor. And, unlike the Stooges, who often started pie fights at swanky parties where the cream of society ended up with faces full of cream, neither one of us had to run away because somebody called the cops.

In fact, it was all officially sanctioned and held for a good cause.

The company for which I work sponsored an event called Field Day, which was appropriately named because employees were invited to spend the day in a field on company grounds. In addition to plenty of food and nonalcoholic beverages, which were served under a large tent, there was a softball game for which I, microphone in hand so I could be heard by everyone, including all the big bosses, was the announcer. As of this writing, I still have a job.

Other activities included pool dunking and, of course, pie throwing. The only requirement was that participants had to make a contribution to the United Way.

Throughout my life I have been guided by one shining principle: What would Moe do? In this case, the answer was easy: He’d hit someone in the face with a pie. So, because I am a proud member of the Amalgamated Association of Morons, I immediately signed up.

Although this was my first chance to participate in the ultimate Stooge activity, I have had plenty of Stooge-related experiences. In 1990, I was the runner-up in the National Curly Sound-Alike Contest. Participants had to call a 900 number and do Curly imitations over the phone. I worked up a routine in which I barked like a dog and uttered such famous phrases as "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk," "Woo, woo, woo" and "Soitenly!" The contest drew thousands of entries. About a month later, I got a phone call informing me that I was the runner-up. I never found out who won (he was probably an inmate somewhere), but I did receive $100 and some Stooge paraphernalia.

In the mid-’90s, I attended a couple of Three Stooges conventions in Trevose, Pa., at which I met various members of the Stooges’ families, including Moe’s daughter, who, at my request, poked me in the eyes. My only disappointment was losing the Curly Shuffle Contest to a 4-year-old girl.

I was thus well-armed with Stooge experience to use my arm well in the pie toss. Rob Rosenthal, my executive target, told me that he also is a Three Stooges fan. As he sat in a chair with a plastic poncho protecting his clothes, one of the people running the event handed me a plastic pie plate filled with whipped cream.

"Are you ready?" I asked Rob. He responded, and I quote, "Woo, woo, woo!"

I took three steps back, cocked my arm and let the pie fly. I scored a direct hit! The cream splattered upon impact and covered Rob’s face. As soon as he wiped it off with a towel, I hit him with another pie. "Now I know how Curly felt," Rob said, gagging slightly.

Then it was his turn. I donned a plastic poncho and sat down. "The rules just changed," I told Rob. "You have to stand on the other side of the parking lot." The words were no sooner out of my mouth than a huge gob of whipped cream was in it. Rob had scored a direct hit, too, covering my face with cream and sending some into my eyes and up my nose. I had officially been christened an honorary Stooge.

Was the experience all I had dreamed it would be? In the immortal words of Curly: Soitenly! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

Copyright 2007 by Jerry Zezima