Best in show: How the Pekingese breed earned 'Lion Dog' nickname

Malachy wins best in show

Best in show honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night went to Malachy, a Pekingese who did proud a truly ancient breed. Dating back to the 8th century and the Tang Dynasty, the breed once held court as the lapdog companion of emperors.

Do not be fooled by the teeny tiny dog that rarely hits 15 pounds. The Pekingese breed is actually quite muscular, and its regal bearing and fierce loyalty helped earn it the nickname Lion Dog.

Legend has it that a long, long time ago in "the mists of time," a lion fell in love with a tiny marmoset monkey. But such a love was impossible. The lion begged the deity that ruled the animal kingdom to shrink him down to size so he could marry his true love. But his heart remained its original size, according to Asian History.com, and it is from this union that the Pekingese, or Fu Lin -- Lion Dog -- was born.

PHOTOS: Westminster Kennel Club dog show

In reality, the site says, DNA studies show that the Pekingese breed closely mimics the genetic composition of wolves and is among the purest breeds of dogs on Earth, making it a very ancient  breed indeed.

The dogs' appearance is marked by a long-haired coat and ears that lend a heart-shaped look to their  otherwise wide, flat head. They may look dainty and delicate, but they're surprisingly muscular and stocky, according to the American Kennel Club.

"Pekingese possess a regal dignity, intelligence and self-importance, making them good-natured, opinionated and affectionate family companions," according to the American Kennel Club.

Some other facts about Lion Dogs: They are front heavy. They can be any color. They are difficult to housebreak. They are relatively "inactive," which makes them ideal for indoor or apartment living. They're also prone to developing Small Dog Syndrome, that human-induced disorder that allows small dogs to think they run the joint. And those coats, as you might imagine, need plenty of brushing.

Pekingese get their name from the ancient Chinese city of Peking, now known as Beijing. Chinese art through the centuries -- ink drawings, bronze figures, clay sculptures and the like -- often celebrated the Pekingese. At one point in history, Lion Dogs could be owned only by royalty and were rarely seen outside the emperor's palace. (Stealing such a dog resulted in death.)

That changed when the British invaded in 1860, according to Pedigree UK. Upon entering the Forbidden City, troops found Empress Tzu'Hai dead on the floor after committing suicide rather than submit to invasion of the West. Guarding her body were five Pekingese dogs. When the British returned home, they took the breed with them.

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-- Rene Lynch
twitter.com/renelynch

Photo: Yep, I'm top dog: Malachy poses for photos moments after winning best in show at the Westminster Kennel Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Credit: Michael Nagle / Getty Images


Best in show at Westminster dog show: A pipsqueak, Malachy

Best_in_show_Westminster_Malachy_
Best in show, that most coveted of all honors at the famed Westminster dog show, went to ... how should we describe it? A fallen cloud? A hair ball? A pug stuck inside a pom pom? Let's just call it what it is: a Pekingese named Malachy.

The 4-year-old champion at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show seemed to realize his coronation as the crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City shouted out his name. The Associated Press noted Malachy was reveling in all the attention as his handler held him up while his pink tongue expressed itself amid all that fur, his "eyes sparkling like black diamonds."

It's worth noting that Malachy doesn't really win much -- he gets a silver bowl. There is no prize money. But the allure of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show transcends the notion of ribbons and bows and baubles. Malachy's title puts him into the history books, and perhaps his name will forever be uttered in show dog circles with awe and reverence. And wealth will come in time for Malachy's owners, with all the breeding opportunities afforded the winner.

PHOTOS: Westminster Kennel Club dog show

Malachy beat out dogs big and small Tuesday night to capture the throne, including a Dalmatian, a German shepherd, a Doberman pinscher, an Irish setter, a Kerry blue terrier and a wire-haired dachshund.

Since then, the court of public opinion has weighed in on Malachy, not all of it nice. But because Malachy can't read, we'll tell you: "Cute little dustmop/ Looks very huggable," said one comment on Twitter. "I'm sorry, but the thing that won Westminster is NOT a dog. It's more like an animatronic troll doll with extra hair," said another Twitter comment.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was not without criticism and controversy.

Advocates for mutts and strays and rescue dogs have long decried the focus on pedigrees. They fear it encourages puppy mills when there are already so many dogs in need of a home. "They kill shelter dogs' chances," says PETA, which this year launched several protests surrounding the event. Some members even tried to infiltrate the show itself before they were halted.

Another protest took aim at the man who could be our next president: Mitt Romney. The Republican candidate has riled dog lovers everywhere with his story about traveling with his Irish setter, Seamus, back in 1983 and strapping the dog's crate to the roof rack for a 12-hour drive.

When Romney told the story, many people found it amusing. But animal rights activists didn't laugh about what they say must have been a harrowing, wind-whipped ride for the canine. On Tuesday, they held signs saying "Dogs Aren’t Luggage" and "I Ride Inside."

It's a good bet that Malachy never gets strapped to a roof rack.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Malachy sits in his trophy after being named best in show at the 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press


Can Johnny Cash amp up Nashville? City gets museum to music icon

Johnny CashHe was rediscovered by alternative rockers in the last years of his life, became the subject of a blockbuster biopic, and now the late country music icon Johnny Cash will have his own museum in downtown Nashville.

The plans for the 18,000-square-foot, private museum were unveiled Tuesday by members of the Cash family and Bill Miller, a longtime friend, fan and champion of the Man in Black, according to a report in the Nashville Tennessean.

"My father and mother [the late singer June Carter Cash] had a way through honesty and truth of spirit," said son John Carter Cash. "It's not about the glamour or about making it for Nashville. This is about spreading their spirit."

That spirit will certainly be welcome among Nashville's civic leaders, who have been working diligently in recent years to revitalize a once-moribund downtown, in great part by focusing on Nashville's historic role as America's country music capital. The Ryman Auditorium, once used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts, was renovated in 1994. Seven years later saw the opening of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Like many a downtown revitalization tale, this one involves a group of more or less marginalized artists who blazed a trail and helped the business community recognize its rich trove of homegrown cultural capital. You can find a version of that argument at the website Savingcountrymusic.com, which credits punk-influenced, non-mainstream country musicians such as Joe Buck -- who typically looked backward to more rough-hewn country styles for inspiration -- for breathing life into the old haunts.

"The turnaround story for downtown Nashville doesn't involve acts of government," one of the blog's writers posted in September 2010. "Lower Broadway was revitalized by music, and specifically, the music that was the precursor to the music we listen to, and talk about on this site. Mainstream fans will sometimes put down this music as 'obscure' or irrelevant. Toby Keith and Tim McGraw didn't revitalize the most historic part of Nashville. It was a bunch of punk kids from all around the country, who moved to lower Broadway to walk the same streets Hank Williams walked."

Of course, if there is one country legend to bridge the gap between the wild-man-country-grungy and the conservative-country-slick, it is Cash, who continues to be revered by, and influential to, both camps.

His museum is set to open this summer, according to the Tennessean. Whether the punk kids will fork over the $13 admission remains to be seen.

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Credit: Late country music legend Johnny Cash is at his Hendersonville, Tenn., home in 1999. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press


Empire State Building throws same-sex weddings on Valentine's Day

Same-sex-wedding
The Empire State Building and its sweeping New York City views offered enviable backdrops to two couples who made history this Valentine's Day -- becoming the first same-sex couples to marry atop the landmark.

All weddings are special, of course, and a wedding on Valentine's Day is especially sweet. But only Stephanie Figarelle, 29, and Lela McArthur, 24, two personal trainers from Anchorage, Alaska, can say that they were the first-ever same-sex couple married at the Empire State Building.

They were followed by three other couples, including another same-sex couple, all of whom were  winners of an online contest that played out on Facebook, with fans voting on planning details. Winners had their dream events designed by celebrity event planner Colin Cowie, who makes regular appearances on "The Today Show" and "The Ellen Degeneres Show."

The four couples received wedding rings from DeBeers, gowns from Kleinfeld, hair and makeup by Estee Lauder, a two-night stay at a posh Manhattan hotel, the services of a celebrity photographer and, as the commercials say, that's not all! Each couple has the chance to win $100,000 if they get the most Facebook votes following the nuptials, according to Huffington Post Weddings.

The ceremonies took place in an events area on the 61st floor, and were followed by a photo shoot on the observation deck that looks out on Manhattan's famed skyline from the 86th floor.

"I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you,” Figarelle said to her partner as they exchanged rings, reported the Associated Press. "I will always love you forever, with every beat of my heart,"  McArthur, who is taking her partner's name, was quoted as saying.

Figarelle, who wore a black tuxedo to McArthur's strapless white gown, wanted to travel to New York to get married in part because of all the goodies, but also because same-sex marriage became legal in the Empire State last year. The pair hope Alaska will one day follow suit.

Later, New Yorkers Phil Fung and Shawn Klein became the second same-sex couple to take the plunge. They wore matching suits and ties, according to the wire service. Two other couples also tied the knot in Valentine's Day ceremonies atop the landmark: Angela Vega and Lubin Masibay of San Francisco and Paula Cubero and Enrique Catter of Greenwich, Conn.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Lela McArthur, left, and Stephanie Figarelle, of Anchorage walk down the aisle after their Valentine's Day wedding ceremony at the Empire State Building. Credit: Richard Drew/Associated Press


Whitney Houston: Plans for private funeral dismay some fans

 

Whitney Houston will be mourned by family and friends in a private service Saturday at the Newark, N.J., church where she first began singing in public, and there will be no public events surrounding the funeral.

The announcement has left some fans crestfallen, especially after early reports indicated that the family was considering a public service for thousands of people at the Prudential Center sports arena in Newark, where Houston was born 48 years ago and where she sang in the choir at the New Hope Baptist Church.

Carolyn Whigham, the owner of the Whigham Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements, disclosed the plans Tuesday. She also said that Houston, who died Saturday, would not be buried in Newark, but she did not say where the pop queen would be laid to rest.

"They have shared her for 30-some years with the city, with the state, with the world. This is their time now for their farewell," Whigham said by way of explaining the family's desire for a private ceremony inside the New Hope Baptist Church, which since early Sunday has been visited by Houston fans leaving flowers, cards and other mementos at the church gate.

One of those who came by Tuesday, and who was disappointed to learn that the public would not be invited to the service, was Calvin Taylor, who said he had skipped work as a forklift driver to pay his respects.

"The public should have an opportunity to give a last goodbye to one of the city's most beloved daughters," he told the Star-Ledger. "She touched so many people, I think it's terrible," he said. "She's got a lot of love here."

Sharon Bailey agreed. "They should have one," Bailey said of the idea for a public memorial. "She's the queen of pop. Her death feels like a loss in my family."

Local media reported that police planned to close the street on which the church is located to keep crowds away, but that if the family agreed to let a camera inside the church, large screens would be erected outside so fans could watch the service.

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-- Tina Susman in New York

Video: Associated Press Television / YouTube

 


'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' winning over Lincoln historians

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" won't be in theaters until June 22. But the horror-meets-history thriller that re-envisions our 16th president as an ax-wielding fang-fighter already has an unexpected fan base: historians.

But that fan base didn't develop overnight. When the experts at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., first heard about the fictional book "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," by Seth Grahame-Smith, they were not exactly pleased. Would it make a mockery of the Great Emancipator? Would it ignore Lincoln's pivotal role in history? Would it portray him as a cartoonish figure in a stovepipe hat?

"There was a lot of skepticism, let's just say that," library spokesman Dave Blanchett told The Times.

But "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" appears to be winning over historians with its attention to fact and detail even as it swings wildly into the fantastic and the fictional.

The trailer for the movie was posted online Monday by 20th Century Fox, timed to coincide with  the official observances of the 203rd anniversary of Lincoln's Feb. 12, 1809, birth.

That trailer was a mere morsel for the masses when compared to the banquet served up Friday night at the library.

Director Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted," "Night Watch") and actor Benjamin Walker, who plays Honest Abe, personally introduced several scenes from the movie to library staff and movie critics who flew in as part of a Hollywood junket. Producer Tim Burton couldn't make it, but he sent the next best thing, Blanchette said: a black-and-white digital message with several Burtonesque touches that seemed to thrill those in attendance.

Continue reading »

Slain boys: Radio host gets death threat for deal with Westboro

The_Bobby_D_Show
Washington state-based radio host Bobby D says his job is pretty simple -- entertain listeners each morning with pop music, celebrity interviews, saucy banter and general zaniness. In other words, he's probably the last person you'd expect to find brokering the deal that kept Westboro Baptist Church protesters away from a funeral Saturday morning for two slain children.

But Bobby D did just that when he agreed to turn over a portion of the Bobby D Show on Monday morning to Fred Phelps Sr., founder of Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist. The church has gained notoriety for its extreme anti-gay views -- views that lead church members to protest outside funerals for U.S. soldiers.

The deejay's efforts earned him a death threat. "Yeah, someone threatened to blow us up," Bobby D told The Times. But many more people hailed him for stepping in and putting a stop to what likely would have become a media circus of protesters, counter-protesters and grief-stricken relatives.

Some of the comments posted on the blog for the Bobby D Show:  "Thank you…It was a gift to be able to celebrate the lives of two beautiful boys without any negativity." "Thank you for proving that good can triumph over evil." "Thank you sir, for displaying what true Christianity looks like."

Here's how events unfolded: 

Josh Powell horrified Washington, and indeed all of America, on Feb. 5 when he took an axe to his children -- Charles, 7, and Braden, 5 -- and then killed all three of them in a gasoline-fueled inferno in Graham, Wash. The deaths were the culmination of a disturbing family drama that dated back to the 2009 disappearance of the boys' mother, Susan Powell, when the family lived in Utah.

While this tragedy was playing out in headlines, Washington state legislators were on their way to approving same-sex marriage legislation that Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law Monday.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church connected the dots between these two seemingly unrelated events. They laid the blame for the deaths on Gregoire and announced that they would protest outside the boys' funeral to remind everyone that the boys died because of the country's increasingly permissive attitude toward gays and lesbians.

That led counter-protesters to promise to be a buffer between Westboro members and grieving relatives. The boys' maternal grandparents, meanwhile, pleaded with everyone to stay away so the family could grieve in peace.

Bobby D said he was watching the events unfold much like any other Washington state resident -- it had nothing to do with him. Then, he came across an article that noted that Westboro congregants have increasingly been employing a new strategy: They agree to call off protests in exchange for radio time, which they believe gives them a broader audience.

"I thought, 'Hey, maybe I could do something here,' " Bobby D said. He knew the deal probably wouldn't gain him new listeners and would no doubt offend many. But he said he remembered an especially dark time during high school when he lost his mother, and then his best friend. He said he couldn't imagine how painful it would be to have Westboro congregants -- or anyone else -- causing a ruckus outside those funerals.

"On one hand, I didn't want to give these guys a venue to spew their hate," he said. "On the other, I thought, 'Man, I can stop these people from doing this.' "

Bobby D contacted Westboro, and church members agreed to halt the protest in exchange for air time. Bobby D interviewed Phelps on Friday and promised to air the conversation Monday morning, but only if Westboro steered clear of the funeral. Both sides kept the bargain, and the interview was broadcast as planned.

(Bobby D. also told Phelps that, during the interview,  he could not use the F-word -- referring not to the four-letter F-word, but the three letter F-word used as a pejorative for gays.)

You can listen to the interview here, as well as read more about Bobby D's decision.

The interview was difficult, Bobby D said. He had genuine questions for Phelps but also had to rein in his outrage at some of Phelps' answers. Bobby D said he didn't want to antagonize Phelps and trigger congregants to relaunch their protest plans.

Not everyone agreed with Bobby D's move, as evidenced by other comments left on his blog: "You’ve turned extortion into a business deal." "Bobby, you've been played." And "Trading air time for protests saves Westboro money in travel expenses and gives them a much wider outreach."

But Bobby D said he has no regrets. "I’d rather people be mad at me and hate my show than have these people ruin a day that was already going to be so horrible," he said.

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Photo: Bobby D at work. Photo credit: The Bobby D Show


Whitney Houston memorials spring up at N.J. school, church

Whitney houston church
Outside the Whitney E. Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, the flag flew at half-staff in the icy wind as Principal Henry W. Hamilton remembered the gangly 15-year-old who lived up the road, and who excitedly showed off her modeling portfolio one afternoon in 1978.

Back then, before the red brick school had been renamed for the future pop queen, Hamilton didn’t expect Whitney Houston to become a star.

 Houston died Saturday in Beverly Hills of undetermined causes. 

“She was in the choir and the chorus. She used to sing at church. But I didn’t expect she’d become a great singer –- the greatest singer in the world,” said Hamilton, who acknowledges he missed the explosive talent that developed in the young girl as she made her way through the halls of this school in suburban New Jersey, where her first classroom, No. 6, is just to the right of the main entrance.

Hamilton isn’t usually at school on Sunday. But after his phone began ringing on Saturday evening with news of Houston’s death, he knew this would not be a normal day for anyone who knew Houston as a child, or who had seen her sing at the New Hope Baptist Church in neighboring Newark.

“Her start was a beautiful, innocent thing,” said Hassan Munford, who attended the school now named for Houston and who grew up in the same neighborhood.

“I remember when she first made it, she brought a red drop-top and drove it down Dodd Street,” Munford said with a smile as he left flowers outside the school.

“You always have your controversies,” he said of Houston’s well-publicized struggle with drugs and her turbulent relationship with ex-husband Bobby Brown. “But at the end of the day, the influence she had on the community –- on the kids and aspiring musicians and singers –- far outweighs the controversy.”

Throughout the day, fans came bearing flowers, candles and heart-shaped balloons to the school and the church, which shares a nondescript street with an auto shop and a tavern and which, on this frigid February morning, was the only building with any hint of life or color.

Parishioners and fans, bundled up in fur coats, down jackets or flimsy sweaters too thin to block the cold, began arriving at the church before dawn for a morning memorial and kept coming throughout the day for additional services.

“Our hearts are very heavy today,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson as he headed into the church to address the third and last service of the day. “The suddenness of it all … we’re just traumatized.”

Every seat was filled inside the 112-year-old church, where Houston sang as a teenager and where her mother, Cissy Houston, and cousin Dionne Warwick also were regulars in the choir.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Houston “a true New Jersey treasure.” 

Hamilton has been principal of the Whitney E. Houston school for 40 years, since the days when it was called the Franklin School. It was renamed for Houston in 1997.

His office is decorated with pictures that include photographs of him and Houston over the decades.

When his phone rang Saturday night and a nephew told him Houston had died, Hamilton initially did not believe it. But it’s never easy to accept when one of your pupils dies, he said.

“It’s hurtful. Sometimes we say, ‘Is there something we could have done to save that youngster?’ ” said Hamilton, admitting that there is only so much the school can do once pupils move on.

"Once she left here, we felt she was on the right path,” he said. “The things that happened later ... that’s show biz. Unfortunately, some survive and some don’t.”

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--Tina Susman in East Orange, N.J. 

Photo:  At New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where Whitney Houston began her career as a child, a memorial to the singer grew. She died Saturday in Beverly Hills. Credit:  John W. Ferguson / Getty Images 

 

 


Love and empathy for Whitney Houston in Newark

New Hope Baptist Church

As an icy wind sliced the air outside the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., Donna Thorn stuffed another bouquet of flowers between the iron bars of the church gate.

On the surface, Thorn, a short woman in sweatpants and a wool cap, didn't appear to have much in common with Whitney Houston, who as a child sang gospel in the red brick church. On Saturday, Houston was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel room. Thorn's eyes filled with tears and her voice shook as she described her own struggle with drugs and the empathy she had for the dead pop star, who went through the same thing.

The cause of Houston's death has not been determined and an autopsy is planned.

PHOTOS: Stars react

"If you was never an addict you don't know what it's like to struggle and stay clean ... to hit rock-bottom," said Thorn, recalling her own battle to get off drugs as she grew up on the gritty streets of Newark, where Houston was born 48 years ago.

It was "that fast-track life in L.A." that surely did not help Houston, said Thorn, who echoed other parishioners and fans Sunday as they lamented the premature loss of a Newark native who achieved stardom but whose roots remained deeply planted in the area.

"It's a big loss for us here," said Thorn, noting that the city has been "cleaned up" but still battles high crime and depressed neighborhoods. "She came from my hometown, she made it out of Newark, and she was on top of the world."

PHOTOS: Whitney Houston, 1963-2012

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was among those who attended the Sunday service at the church. "Our hearts are heavy today," he said before going in. "The suddenness of it all. ... We're just traumatized."

Continue reading »

Victim of O.J. Simpson Vegas robbery accused of shoplifting

Oj simpson robbery victim
One of the sports memorabilia dealers whom O.J. Simpson was convicted of robbing in a down-market Las Vegas hotel is now fighting his own court battle.

Bruce Fromong, who testified against Simpson in the 2008 armed robbery trial, is accused of shoplifting from the Nellis Air Force Base Exchange near Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.  He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Authorities say that in October, Fromong swiped a Madden football PlayStation game from its package and a Case Logic briefcase; and that in November he removed another Madden disc from its package, taped up the box and put it back on the shelf.

In 2007, Fromong and Alfred Beardsley had gone to the Palace Station hotel expecting to sell Simpson collectibles to a wealthy buyer. The meeting was a ruse. Simpson and a ragtag band of men –- two of them armed -– stormed into Room 1203 and scooped up dozens of items. Simpson claimed he was merely trying to get back memorabilia stolen from him. 

Fromong made for a particularly interesting witness. He and Simpson had been such close friends, he said, that the football star used to sing "Happy Birthday" to Fromong's mother over the phone. But defense attorneys attacked him as a leech hoping to cash in on Simpson’s infamy. A recording captured Fromong telling someone minutes after the robbery: “I'll have 'Inside Edition' down here for us tomorrow. I told them I want big money.”

Jurors quickly convicted Simpson, who had been acquitted years before in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. A Las Vegas judge sentenced the former football star to between nine and 33 years in prison.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
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Photo: Then-Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger, left, questions Bruce Fromong during O.J. Simpson's robbery trial in 2008. Credit: Daniel Gluskoter / EPA


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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