The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 39: A star makeover from Artist Knox
This is is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered' in a park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the entertainment industry. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Times staff writer Diane Haithman:
Heidi recently celebrated her seventh birthday -- although, as an actress, she plans to continue to lie about her age. I try not to think too hard about the fact that large-breed dogs like Heidi tend to have shorter life spans than those little yappy ones, which seems like a slap in the face from the universe.
But what could be better to help a starlet forget about her age than a good old-fashioned Hollywood makeover?
So, naturally, I was intrigued upon receiving an e-mail about Artist Knox, 27, who was named the top dog groomer last year on the Animal Planet show "Groomer Has It." Knox, a native of South-Central Los Angeles, is now the star of Animal Planet's "Beverly Hills Groomer," a reality show that follows Knox's efforts to open his own salon and school catering to upscale clientele (while also finding time for pro bono grooming for rescue and shelter dogs). The show premieres Saturday at 10 p.m.
Over the weekend, we visited Knox -- named after a grandfather who was so named because his dad always wanted to be an artist -- who performed his magic on Heidi. When it comes to success as a dog actor, "the first step is Artist's grooming," Knox says.
Like Knox, Heidi is from the school of hard knocks, rescued from a Texas storm drain. I figured she could also benefit from a pep talk from Knox, the single parent of a 3-year-old son named Ariel, who believes that anything is possible, even if your clients occasionally bite. True, there's the occasional odd dog parent to deal with, including the woman who insisted that Knox autograph her dog, a Chinese crested, with a nontoxic Sharpie. "You can't disappoint the fans," he says.
As his prize from "Groomer Has It," Knox won $50,000 to help him launch his new business, plus a state-of-the art mobile grooming van worth $84,000, tricked out with a motorized grooming table, vacuum for sucking up stray fur, a bathing sink with shower curtain that can accommodate a 220-pound Great Dane if necessary, refrigerator, TV, sound system, the works. He also plans to open a shop someday.
Heidi got the glamor treatment in Knox's grooming van, where she alternately smiled and whined as she had her nails trimmed, teeth brushed, a bath in tar shampoo, a skin moisturizing treatment, cream rinse and blow dry. But most impressive was the lengthy pre-bath coat brushing, which floated a blizzard of fur through the air, as well as creating a carpet on the grooming table and the floor. Knox says he never quite gets the fur out of his clothes: "There's hair everywhere, in my shoes, in my pockets," he says. (He jokes that he should sell the the surplus hair to Britney Spears for wigs.)
As he worked, Knox suggested that Heidi has been neglecting her Hollywood networking skills. Knox and his constant companion, Bumpy Johnson -- a 4-year-old shi tzu named after Laurence Fishburne's character in the 1997 movie "Hoodlum" -- had just returned from a private dog party in Northridge. The very laid-back Bumpy still had blue paint in his silky hair because guests dogs had been offered the chance to be painted as part of the entertainment, just like the kids you see running around at fairs or after birthday bashes looking as though they'd fallen face down into a colorful frosted cake.
While Heidi is well-socialized by frequent outings to art galleries, shops and restaurants, Knox thought she should hobnob at some dog-centric meet-and-sniff venues such as the SkyBark night club in downtown L.A. which sponsors events for pets and owners. She just might make the right connection, he says.
If Heidi starts working the dog party circuit, however, it's likely she won't be wearing the pink satin ribbon adorned with white silk roses that Knox tied around her neck after the grooming. Although the session definitely made her look, feel and smell like a Hollywood star, she'll always be the kind of girl who prefers a simple bandanna.
-- Diane Haithman
Photos: Dog groomer extraordinaire Artist Knox gives Heidi the works, then poses with the starstruck pooch and his shi tzu, Bumpy Johnson. Credit: Alan Feldstein