Young Actor’s Just a Saint : It’s a Tough Life but He Laps It Up

Times Staff Writer

Even for a talented son of a bitch with wavy hair and brown eyes, Hollywood is one tough town.

They put him to work when he was a year old. They changed his name. When he finally got his big break out of TV commercials, he had to play second fiddle to a performer whose stature was, frankly, inferior to his own. He turned down one starring film role that would have ruined his “nice-guy” image.

And now, in one hectic weekend, he’s dragged from a TV appearance to a radio talk show, then to get his hair styled, and spent all of Saturday posing for photos with giggling fans, promoting a mineral water he doesn’t even drink.


His real ambition, of course, is to play the Broadway stage--as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel in “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.”

But here he was, showing his profile to a photographer at a Convention Center ski show--Moose, the Saint Bernard, who never even saw snow until a couple of weeks ago, when a few flakes drifted past his kennel up in Acton.

Moose is an actor, a dog star, and a star’s business is to be seen. In truth, he is hard to miss, a lumbering 6-year-old who terrified new U.S. citizens Friday as he ambled on pancake-sized paws into the Convention Center, where 6,600 immigrants were being sworn in.

On Saturday, Moose returned to the ski show, where he gamely smiled for the cameras, kissed babies and spoke on cue like any true lover of the limelight.

For public relations purposes, the firm that hired him for this celebrity gig called him Bernard and slung around his neck a ceramic keg to remind the public of the brandy-filled casks carried by Saint Bernards in the Alps.

Moose snubbed the mineral water, and conscious of Hollywood’s new “sober” image, passed up the brandy. And as for “Bernard,” it is a moniker he bore with grace, something stars have always had to put up with. Even Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach.

Discovered Young

Like Shirley Temple, Moose was discovered young. His personal agent, animal trainer Ray Berwick (who, like many Hollywood agents, owns his clients) says he saw the star quality when Moose was only 4 months old--that charm, that wonderful disposition, that quick ability to learn a part and, rarest of all in a Saint Bernard, very little drooling.


Since then, there have been dog food commercials galore, in “action” roles like pulling kids in a wagon. And when he was only a year old, he got his big dramatic break in the Ronald Reagan-type role as the hero’s best friend in the TV series “Here’s Boomer.” (The mixed-mutt Boomer is a close friend and kennel-mate of Moose, but in all honesty, as a performer, just not of Moose’s breed.)

Then came roles in feature films, as the tag-along dog in the adventure-pics “Explorers” and “Gremlins”--always with his own portable dressing-room, the wooden one he takes along on all his shoots.

But there was one role that Moose’s agents advised him to turn down--the baby-eating, berserk Saint Bernard in “Cujo.” Moose’s public, they felt, simply wouldn’t accept him turning from nice guy to killer.

Not a Morning Dog

He doesn’t resent the “good-dog” type-casting, although he is between parts just now. This personal appearance bit began with sitting in front of a microphone at a morning radio show Friday, and Moose is just not a morning dog, except when he’s due at the studio.

But by midday, in a far-ranging interview--as his personal handler Marylyn Corcoran toweled off his muzzle--he allowed as how he was sorry that he has never been nominated for a Patsy, the animal equivalent of the Oscars, but there are so many really wonderful, wonderful performers out there who are so deserving.

“I have a feeling he will get one,” Berwick confided, out of Moose’s hearing. “We’re looking for something he can do that’s important.”


Moose is close-mouthed about a possible Hollywood-arranged marriage, like the one that took his co-star Boomer to Niagara Falls, where the mayor “married” Boomer and his bride.

Waxes Nostalgic

But he waxed nostalgic about the great roles he would like to have played from the Golden Age of movies: a musical-comedy part as bandleader Xavier Cugat’s Chihuahua, the tragically rabid canine, “Old Yeller” or even a guest spot on TV’s “Rin Tin Tin.”

Still, there is room in Hollywood for a new breed like Moose. He is “a real ham,” praised Berwick, “a real pro” who knows all the camera shutter sounds, who will work for cut-up wieners, and who can even relieve himself on cue.