My dog, Marley, is capable of many things, most of them having to do withthe systematic destruction of our laundry room.
But I never thought I would see him end up in a feature-length film.
But there on the shelf at Blockbuster last week was the movie, anadolescent baseball fantasy called The Last Home Run, which was filmed in LakeWorth. And there in the credit lines, beneath all the actors and actresses ofthe two-legged variety, was our mental mutt: ``Marley the Dog as himself.''
When we took Marley to the audition in 1995, director Bob Gosse, of the NewYork studio The Shooting Gallery, said, ``We're looking for a big, dumb, loopydog to play the family pet.''
From the first moment Marley crashed onto the set, knocking over aproduction assistant and galloping off with her checkbook, there was noquestion he was right for the part. It also didn't hurt that he was the onlydog to try out.
So our 90-pound loopy lab was in, playing himself, panting and peeing andstealing crackers off the cast buffet table.
``The dog's a little nutty,'' Gosse announced on Day 1. ``But unless hecompletely overpowers the scene, we're not going to cut. Just keep itrolling.''
Lights, cameras, mayhem!
And roll they did. In one scene, actress Danielle Comerford, a student atthe Palm Beach County School of the Arts, was talking on the phone in theforeground, while behind her Marley was locked in mortal combat with hisleash.
I was certain we wouldn't be invited back. But the next morning, Gosse wasebullient. The previous day's footage, he declared, was ``hilarious, justhilarious.''
Yeah, that was our Marley.
This was a low-budget shoot, and you can probably guess who the only unpaidcast member was. But Marley didn't care. He was just happy to have new anklesto sniff.
I must admit, stardom was intoxicating.
On Day 3 of shooting, I showed up as instructed at the Gulf Stream Hotel indowntown Lake Worth. But the police had the streets barricaded and waved usaway.
``We're with the cast,'' I called out the window. ``This is Marley theDog.''
The cop blew his whistle and shouted: ``It's Marley the Dog! Let themthrough!''
It started to go to my head.
During a break in shooting, I was talking on a pay phone in the hotellobby, with Marley nearby. A concierge mistook the star for a stray and triedshooing him out the door.
``Excuse me?'' I said, covering the mouthpiece. ``Do you have any idea whoyou're talking to?'' Stardom was going to Marley's head, too.
I left him on the set for a couple hours and when I returned I found himsprawled out like King Tut, happily accepting a belly rub from the crew'sbeautiful makeup artist.
Shooting ended without Marley eating a single $30,000 camera, though he didchew through a couple of leashes and swallowed someone's sock. Months passedand the last we heard the company was still searching for a nationaldistributor for the film.
Then last week, we heard that the movie, like so many dashed efforts beforeit, had gone straight to video. We rushed down to Blockbuster and, lucky us,not a single copy was checked out.
All told, Marley was on the screen for about 90 seconds. But they werecertainly some of the livelier moments in this flop of a film.
``Look, boy, that's you!'' I yelled when Marley came on. He just yawned andcurled up under the coffee table.
My wife, who faithfully brushed Marley's teeth each morning during filming,was more enthusiastic. This was just the beginning, she figured. Maybe nexttime our desperately happy pooch would land a barking part.