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Gidget, former Taco Bell dog, dies at age 15

July 22, 2009 | 12:24 pm

RIP Gidget, the Taco Bell dog

It seems that every time we turn around, another beloved celebrity is passing away. Today, it is with heavy heart that we report yet another celebrity death. Rest in peace Gidget, the Chihuahua who starred in a series of Taco Bell commercials and made famous the phrase "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!"

Gidget died of a stroke Tuesday at the ripe old age of 15, People Pets reports. She'd lived in comfortable semiretirement since the heyday of the Taco Bell advertising campaign, occasionally making cameo appearances (hawking insurance alongside the GEICO gecko in a 2002 commercial and playing the mother of Reese Witherspoon's Chihuahua, Bruiser, in the sequel to "Legally Blonde"). 

In the grand tradition of celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich who went before her, Gidget played against type in the Taco Bell ads, portraying a male dog voiced by Argentine American actor Carlos Alazraqui.  A few years later, Alazraqui landed the role for which he's best known: Deputy James Garcia on Comedy Central's "Reno 911." But others associated with the ad campaign weren't so lucky. Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the creators of the Chihuahua character hadn't been properly compensated for their work, and Taco Bell was ordered to pay $42 million.

Gidget's trainer, Sue Chipperton, described the diminutive dog as a consummate professional on the set in an interview earlier this year with People Pets. But, she said, Gidget had been the victim of typecasting, which limited her career choices (or, rather, Chipperton's choices on her behalf). Although her career waned in recent years, Gidget (and her catchphrase) remained a well-known pop-culture footnote of the 1990s.  "She made so many people happy," Chipperton told People Pets. 

As Horatio put it so memorably, "Now cracks a noble heart." Good night, sweet prince(ss).  We'll miss you and your unerring ability to make us crave fast food.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Associated Press

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