Nineteen elderly people and their pets took shots at stardom Tuesday in a North Hollywood dance studio.
Some of the animals growled, some panted, some merely cowered. One or two even tried to perform. A schnauzer danced a single pirouette. A terrier made its master fetch a rubber chick.
It was all as it was meant to be. This wasn't exactly a talent search.
A pet food company is looking for the perfect relationship between pet and an elderly master to spotlight in a national advertising campaign.
Auditions for the ads have already been held in Chicago and New York. The last one will be later this month at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.
In Los Angeles, the company took a room in the Debbie Reynolds Rehearsal Studios, a clean and serious-looking hangout for dancers in the used-tire district of Lankershim Boulevard.
The event began at 10:30. But some of the best action consisted of the posturing and sizing up of the competitors as they gathered on a veranda behind the studio.
Joe Sklar of North Hollywood warmed up his mongrel dogs Bubbles and D'Black in the parking lot with a tennis ball. Then they lapped up a bowl of water.
"So you get your dogs all tired out," said Walter Schneppershoff, who wore a sailor's cap with eyes and a clown nose glued on it. "Now it's too tired out for the show."
Schneppershoff patted a scraggly terrier named Ashley.
"Mine likes Gallo, doesn't he?" Schneppershoff said. Schneppershoff brought roller skates for his shtick but fretted that Ashley was out of his element. "I taught him to windsurf," he said.
Sklar said his dogs can't do tricks. Rather, they walk for the City of Hope. He showed everyone a picture of them in City of Hope T-shirts. D'Black also won $50 in a raffle, he said. He took the check out of his wallet to show that it was endorsed with D'Black's paw print.
"This dog doesn't do a thing," he said, pretending to scold.
"It's the father that does it all," snarled Dagny Kochman, who was sitting nearby in a turquoise jump suit. "It's coming through loud and clear."
Kochman of Beverly Hills said she brought a poem to read to her dog, a Lhasa apso named Princess Tashia Romanoff Kochman.
As promised, Sklar's dogs did no tricks when they were called to open the show.
Host June Lockhart, the mother in the '50s and '60s television series "Lassie," ushered them out gracefully.
Later, Kochman read her poem which went like this:
"The last of a blue-blooded line / When still a mere pup, poor / Tashia was fixed. / Now fixing was good for Tashia / I'm glad it was her and not me."
Sara Margaret Bast of Los Angeles said her tabby cat Valentine loves classical music and will come up and ask her to sing to it. But Valentine clawed into her shoulder with her back to the four judges.
"Don't you want to look at them?" Bast asked. "She's never been this shy."
She sat down but later asked if she could come back because she forgot to sing.
Bast sang sweetly, but after a couple of verses of "Don't you know, I'm falling in love with you," she forgot the words.
"We did it," she told Valentine later. "We made our big debut."
Lockhart, a real trouper as well as lover of animals, often found words to levitate a sagging act.
"That's a good trick," Lockhart said when a Woodland Hills woman held out a treat for her Bichon Frise named Charlie. "Charlie likes to eat."
The woman threw a big pink pacifier on the floor. Charlie ignored it.
"Don't forget your nipple," Lockhart reminded the woman as she exited.
Someone unexpected helped a slender black man in a black suit who led a rambunctious golden retriever named Mike on stage. The man, Roy Motley, who is 78, said the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had given him Mike for telling the best dog story. Then he told a story about the three soprano saxophones he had seen in his life, the third of which he held in his hand.
He offered to play "St. Louis Blues," but said it would sound better with a piano.
"Does anyone here play 'St. Louis Blues'?" Lockhart asked in jest.
"I play 'St. Louis Blues' in one key," a Wagnerian voice called from the rear.
It was Doris Winkler, reporting on the event for Channel 13's "Senior News."
Winkler gave a rousing rendition. Motley played elegantly. Mike panted. Everyone clapped.
"That sounded like old gut bucket whorehouse music," Lockhart said.
Later, Winkler interviewed Lockhart as a fellow senior citizen. She asked if sandy brown is the actress's real hair color and whether her teeth are her own. To prove that the answer to both was yes, Lockhart pulled out her corner of gray and tugged at her teeth.
In the last act, a woman held her dog on its hind legs on a chair while she sang "It's love."
Then the judges announced the winners. In the final analysis, you can't beat talent. Motley and his dog Mike won the prize.
Second place went to a woman in a walker whose dog Lady stood still while she combed her hair.