Can NBC and USA make the Beverly Hills Dog Show an Easter viewing tradition?
Sandy Blount’s Afghan Hounds Yanni, 4, and Levon, 6, hang out.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Jean Gauchat Hargis and her Keeshond, Skyline Summerwind Order in the Court, competes.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Handler Robert D’Alterio and his Australian Terrier, Christhill General Dwight David, compete.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
A Bichon Frise named Blade during the Second Annual Beverly Hills Dog Show.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Rocket the Golden Retriever gets the star treatment from groomers Alex Chauarria, left, and Alan Gunther during the second annual Beverly Hills Dog Show at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., where more than 1,000 competed for Best in Show.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Caroline Hoffman with her Toy Fox Terrier named Ultra Quest Fire In The Sky.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Susie Olivera with her Bearded Collie in the grooming area.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Jean Gauchat Hargis, a professional dog breeder, gets a kiss from her 15-month-old Afghan Hound named Oscar.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Shawn Barnes with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Johnnie.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Bullitt, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, jumps for a toy in the diving competition.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Handler Robert D’Alterio and Australian Terrier Christhill General Dwight David compete.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Troy Frye admires his English Cocker Spaniel, Linus, while he sits on the grooming table in Hall 6.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Toy Poodles Prince, left, and his mother, Sharbelle(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Dog breeder Alan Gunther grooms his Golden Retrievers Ruckus, Player, Everly, Ophelia and Tawney for competition before making their grand entrance into the ring.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Conor McFadden competes with his Vizsla named Remy in the show ring.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Bo Derek, who was on hand to sell her own pet-care line, poses with Ann Farley and her 5-month-old Golden Retriever named Alibi.(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Patti Avid looks at Nelson, an American Cocker-spaniel. The green wraps around the ears are used while grooming the dogs to help keep the hair flat.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Nelson, an American Cocker-Spaniel, competes during the breed competition.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Adam, a Manchester Terrier, licks ice cream off of his owner, Dianna Texter’s, spoon.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Summit Clear Copy, a Toy Poodle, has his jaw checked by his handler.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Handler Paula Radin and her Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Kolohe It’s Raining Sunshine, compete.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
So Shiny Samson, a Parti Colored Cocker Spaniel, sits on the grooming table being prepared for the ring.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Bruce Schultz and his bloodhound, Quiet Creek’s Dance With Me, competes.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Brando, a Miniature Poodle, gets his hair knotted at the grooming station in Hall 6.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Dream Hi’s Don’t Hate the Player Hate the Game, a Brittany, and his handler competes in the sporting group.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Handler Kathleen Sepulveda and her Japanese Chin, Kalor Surfin Safari At Rivendell, competes.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Emma, a 3-year-old Labrador Retriever, jumps for a toy thrown by her handler, Bill Oesterlein, in the diving competition.(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)
Maria Menounos is rolling on the red carpet, curling around a beefy celebrity while onlookers eagerly snap photos.
“I love you so much,” the television host murmurs, running her fingers across Maverick’s immaculate coat and down his legs. “Look at those paws!”
Maverick, officially Grand Champion Bronze R Pyr Lone Star Gambler, a 5-year-old, 100-pound Great Pyrenees from Pismo Beach, is one of 1,251 irresistibly cuddly and impeccably groomed dogs representing 185 breeds at the Beverly Hills Dog Show. Now in its second year, the televised event aims to be the most star-studded and glamorous of its kind. It’s just not your usual Rodeo Drive kind of glamour.
When the cameras stop rolling, Menounos, the show’s host and red carpet interviewer, delicately plucks a stray dog hair from her lip gloss, a job hazard unique to this gig. Not to worry, she, like each of her four-footed interview subjects, is attended by a personal groomer — only she calls hers a makeup artist, he wears Gucci, and he doesn’t keep dog biscuits in his kit.
In preparation for an Easter Sunday broadcast, the USA Network and NBC Sports in early March filmed highlights of the all-breed American Kennel Club competition hosted by the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills at the Fairplex in Pomona. It is the only dog show west of the Mississippi to be nationally televised, thanks to a multi-year agreement with the Beverly Hills kennel club and sponsor Purina.
“There are very few big media events left,” says Daniel Henke-Cilenti, a Purina brand director. “There’s the Oscars and the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show. For us, it’s about pets in general and the pleasure they bring to our lives.”
The fervor in February over the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Fox and the 30 million viewers who watch the 16-year-old National Dog Show on Thanksgiving on NBC are evidence enough that Americans can agree on one thing — dogs. With a pet in nearly 70% of U.S. households, we’re clearly a nation that will freely lavish attention, affection and cash on our furry family members — nearly $70 billion according to the American Pet Products Assn. And though cat lovers will protest, dogs are the most popular.
Like a puppy bred of a champion, the Beverly Hills Dog Show is learning how to take its best-in-show appeal to become an Easter viewing tradition. The show traces its lineage to John O’Hurley, a veteran host of the National Dog Show, and NBC Sports executive Jon Miller. Together, they built upon O’Hurley’s dog show and Hollywood bona fides (he was “Seinfeld’s” J. Peterman) and Miller’s programming expertise — plus, importantly, his love of the spoof documentary “Best in Show.”
“We put together a version of our own dog show,” says O’Hurley, who sketched the show’s look on a bar napkin for Miller at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel and Conference Center. There are stately golden dog statues, reminiscent of the Oscar statuette, velvet ropes, spotlights, TV cameras and busy producers in headsets.
Though miles from the 90210 ZIP Code, on show day the Fairplex is stuffed with acres of red carpet and pricey, dog-friendly motor homes. Celebrities who crowd the VIP room risk being entirely upstaged by anything that wags a tail. (Sorry about that, Marcc Rose, but your baby bulldog makes us forget that you star in “Unsolved: The Murder of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.” on USA.)
Bo Derek, who sells her signature pet grooming products at the show, brings sparkle to the front row. Thousand Oaks veterinarian and People magazine’s “Sexiest Beast Charmer Alive” Evan Antin adds heat to the step-and-repeat. And Brandy the Pug, the surfing, snowboarding Instagram sensation, snarfs crumbs from the VIP room floor.
For dogs as (mostly) sophisticated as these, only designer accessories will do. In a booth at the show, the pet boutique and official apparel sponsor Only in Beverly Hills offers a Beverly Hills Hotel-inspired palm leaf-print dog bed, along with must-have $20 plush toys that riff on designer names — Chewnel purses and Hairmes orange boxes.
For the owners, there are $60 sweatshirts that read, “I’d rather be in Beverly Hills,” a sentiment that resonated with O’Hurley when planning the show.
“I wanted the idea of a fashion runway and red carpets,” says O’Hurley, who co-hosts the Beverly Hills show with analyst David Frei, long of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “It’s strut your stuff. That’s what Beverly Hills is all about.”
And just as Beverly Hills lays claim to the most hair salons per capita, Hall 6 at the Fairplex boasts more dog groomers than anywhere on the planet this day. As blow dryers whir, groomers covered in water- and fur-proof aprons brush, comb and clean with a tool kit unique to their trade: cornstarch to prevent hair clumps; glittery capes to drape on just-groomed fur; tape to wind around floppy ears that could otherwise sweep the ground of dirt and dust.
As the dogs make their way to Hall 4 for the competitions, groomers follow along, brushes and anti-fritz sprays tucked into carryalls. Until seconds before their clients head into the ring, the groomers carefully keep every lock of fur in place.
Inside the competition hall, it’s nothing short of amazing to witness the vast range of dog characteristics as handlers circle their charges around the show rings. There’s the loping gait of the hulking St. Bernard, the determined trot of the tiny terriers and the floating-on-air ease of the silky Pekingese. It’s a lesson in dog biodiversity and history, amplified by the running show commentary of Frei and O’Hurley.
Even ardent dog lovers might not know the difference between a Cardigan Welsh corgi and a Pembroke Welsh corgi; a Brittany and a Lagotto Romagnolo; or a German wirehaired pointer and the newly recognized breed, the Nederlandse kooikerhondje, a duck-hunting sporting dog with a feathery tail and an orange-red-parti-colored coat.
The lights, camera and behind-the-scenes action are as highly choreographed and dramatic as any entertainment spectacle. Like the Olympics, physical perfection and performance are rewarded. Like the Oscars, handlers, breeders, owners and dog fans are abuzz with nerves and excitement as the field of winners narrows.
But unlike the Oscars, every four-legged participant is happy with the outcome. After their turn in the ring, tails wag, treats are bestowed and petting of their perfectly groomed bodies is encouraged.
“This is the happiest place to be,” Derek says as she surveyed the scene. “Sorry, Disneyland.”
“Beverly Hills Dog Show”
Where: USA Network
When: 6 p.m., April 1 with rebroadcast set for at 10 a.m., April 8 on NBC.
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