L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Heidi Chronicles

The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 52: Stay tuned ...

Heidi blog head shot This is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Diane Haithman. And this is her "head shot": That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.

As of last Friday, I am no longer a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. Ergo, this is the last chapter of "The Heidi Chronicles" for L.A. Unleashed. I'd like to thank the blog for unleashing an obsessed doggie stage mother, and providing a forum for documenting the approximate first year of Heidi's attempt to take Hollywood by storm.

I'd also like to thank Heidi's fans and her entourage of one, Layla the Labrador mix, for sticking by Heidi through thick and thin. However, I visited Layla and her parents, Jim and Irene Dorsey, recently and Layla seem thrilled to enjoy a little quality time without Heidi, just this once. Recently, the patient Layla has been somewhat taxed by the many canine guests at the Dorseys, including small and frequent visitor Kiki Newberg, a Norwich terrier cute enough to get away with murder one.

But I encourage Layla, Kiki Newberg and all of your dogs to be sure to tune in for "Don't Walk on the Grass," the Nov. 1 episode of "Desperate Housewives." Heidi and I are waiting to see whether our background appearance in a restaurant scene made the cut.

And despite my own recent career change, let it be said that Heidi fully intends to continue her pursuit of Hollywood stardom.

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 51: Waiting on Wisteria Lane, Part 2

Heidi Diane and Zach McCall

Last week, you read about our first day on the set of “Desperate Housewives,” cast as background actors, “Neighbor with Dog.”  As happens frequently in the TV biz, some of the extras called that day didn’t get used – but were asked to come back the next day. We learned that, for a background actor, everything is always is subject to change.

This time, instead of getting lost on the way to Wisteria Lane, a van picked us up at the parking lot at Gate 3. I had learned from our van experience the day before that, when nervous, Heidi turns into a very large lap dog -- so this time I was careful to get into the vehicle before the dog to make sure she didn’t once again surprise some other actor with a free lap dance.

We were whisked straight to the costume and makeup-and-hair trailers.  There, we met one of our new friends from the day before –  Lauren Hicks, who had won out over the competition for the “Busty Waitress“ role and had brought along the requested assortment of fancy bras to complement her low-cut white top.

My more conservative outfit – and Heidi’s bandanna – met with approval, but I had to leave Heidi in the care of another actor while I went into the trailer for a hair makeover. I sat one chair away from series star Marcia Cross as hairdressers fluffed her long red locks, and super-glued mine into a chignon that could withstand El Niño.

Then it was back into the van – today not headed to Wisteria Lane, but to a different set, an upscale outdoor cafe.  Apparently, “Neighbor with Dog” was about to become “Restaurant Guest with Dog.”

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 50: Waiting on Wisteria Lane

Heidi with Desperate Housewives chair

On a recent Monday, the dog and I got the call we'd been waiting for: We were to report to Universal Studios on Wednesday afternoon as nonunion background actors to portray "Neighbor with Dog" on an upcoming episode of  "Desperate Housewives." "Background actor" is just a fancy way of saying "extra."

I have no show biz aspirations, but since you can't send a German shepherd to a major studio by herself, I am resigned to doing what I must for the dog. I'm not an actor; I'll just play one on TV. We eagerly agreed.

The process is rather complicated:  Much like citizens on jury duty, background actors are given a special call-in number to check in the night before. A recorded voice details where to report, where to park and what to wear. At about 9 p.m., I learned that the "neighbors"  would be required to look "very conservative, very wealthy, very Republican" -- no black clothing, pastels preferred.  And bring several sets of these very conservative Republican clothes to provide a choice. Those cast as "younger people" (yeah, thanks a lot) could wear somewhat sexier duds, but should still attempt to look like preppie college students home for the summer.

I pawed through my wardrobe for summer suits, and managed to scrape up some suitably Brooks Brothers tops and shoes. But I wondered whether to attempt to tame my very curly hair, which definitely voted for Obama. I decided to sleep on it.

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 49: Video of Heidi as the 'Mean Dog'

In a previous chapter, you read about Heidi's first "webisode" role as the "Mean Dog" for the Web series "Sir Glen of Glenwood" -- starring Glen Poehlman as a middle-aged man who thinks he's a brave knight living in the Middle Ages, doing good deeds in the 'hood -- for Performing Arts Studio West, which trains and manages the careers of actors with developmental disabilities. The series will launch on the PASW website this fall (Heidi will keep you posted). 

In this chapter, the dog and I are excited to present not one but two "Sir Glen" videos: The first (above) features Heidi in her brief but moving role in the series' opening credits. The second (watch it on the next page) is a special video PASW created for its first dog star: "Behind the Scenes With Heidi the Dog."

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 48: 'Desperate Housedog' does the Westside gallery scene

IMG_0215 Like most actors, Heidi is always waiting by the phone -- these days, for a callback  from "Desperate Housewives."  She was invited to be an extra on the TV series, but we happened to get that call the day before I was getting on a plane for the East Coast  for the Labor Day weekend.  We were assured by the production staff that we can still work it out for another date -- but in the meantime, the shepherd remains a desperate (and unemployed) housedog.

However, the plucky Heidi has been using her time well by networking on the Westside art gallery scene; famous Hollywood actors tend to collect art, even if they don't like it.

 Along with serving as Heidi's showbiz representative, I have a somewhat more promising job as an arts staff writer for Calendar, and recently had the pleasure of interviewing Venice artist Billy Al Bengston about his 1971 artwork "Lumberjack Luncheon," a meal made entirely of wood. The fiber-filled lunch was created as a tongue-in-cheek response to a request from an L.A. Times food writer that Bengston be part of an article on local celebrities who were also good cooks.

With the story, we ran a photo (below)  of Bengston's wife, Wendy Al, and Wendy's dog Foxy, posed as if sitting down to eat the "Lumberjack Luncheon" when it was on display at Samuel Freeman Gallery at Santa Monica's very hip Bergamot Station. Wendy and I exchanged a few dog-related e-mails, which resulted in Heidi and I wangling an invitation to the gallery to meet Wendy, Foxy and Billy Al. 

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 47: The dogs of 'Legally Blonde'

Heidi Head Shot This is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Diane Haithman. And this is her "head shot": That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.

Even though Heidi was allowed to set paw onstage at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre in January for her first stage role, in a touring production of "Annie," dogs are apparently not permitted to sit in the audience to watch the show at either the Kodak or the nearby Pantages Theatre, where the touring production of Broadway's very dog-friendly "Legally Blonde, the Musical" continues through Sept. 6.

Personally, I don't see the problem --  it's not like this is a production of "Cats." Still, Heidi and I are law- abiding citizens, so I went with friends instead of the dog.

The cast includes two very fetching canines, Bruiser the Chihuahua (portrayed by Frankie) and Rufus the roly-poly bulldog (played by a female, Nellie). The two even have understudies: Roxie for Frankie and Lewis for Nellie. There really is no line between actor and actress when it comes to dogs.

And even though Heidi didn't see "Legally Blonde, the Musical" (we'll have to rent her the movie), I was delighted to find that Heidi's theater friend and advisor from the Kodak, Broadway animal trainer Bill Berloni, was listed in the program as the official trainer.

No, I'm not bothered at all by the fact that I have no working relationship with any of the distinguished cast and crew of the show, but my dog does.

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 46: What is Heidi doing right now?

Heidi Head Shot This is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Diane Haithman. And this is her "head shot": That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.

One of the best things about dogs is that they don’t Twitter (and if they do, please, please don’t tell me).  In fact, I would hesitate to even say the word “tweet” in front of Heidi lest she think a biscuit or a nice piece of cheese is headed her way.

She also doesn’t text, has no Facebook page and I will not get her a BlackBerry no matter how good she thinks they taste.

But since this dog has a blog – and we haven’t weighed in for several weeks – even without the benefit of Twitter, here are a few Heidi "updates" for those who wonder what she’s doing right now.  “Woofs,” if you will.

 As with most tweets, all self-promotional exaggerations and embellishments are cheerfully included.

 Heidi's "woofs" are longer than the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter because Heidi can’t count – she’s a dog.

Heidi Limo 1

A PREMIERE MOMENT:  Heidi wanted to post this photo of herself arriving at a glamorous Hollywood premiere by limo... Well, actually, she’s arriving at doggie day care, and it’s a Town Car, and the only reason her hairy self was allowed into this very nice vehicle at all is that she’s being dropped off for boarding as her dad commutes to the airport.  But she looks a lot cuter in any car (and on the next page, getting out of one)  than Paris Hilton ever did.
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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 45: Heidi lands a 'webisode'

Heidi webisode 1

In the previous Heidi Chronicles, Heidi the aspiring actor had gone to an open call audition -- here, girl! -- for a TV reality show in development, intended to give rescue dogs like Heidi a shot at a Hollywood career.  Even though the project may never see the light of day, we were happy to wait in line behind small, hairless pooches wearing itty-bitty sweaters in order to be part of the process.

But yo, dogs -- just as Heidi was recovering from the excitement of being part of a showbiz cattle -- or is it canine? -- call, the shepherd got offered a real part: playing the "mean dog" in the first webisode of a new web series called "Sir Glen of Glenwood" for Performing Arts Studio West  (PASW) of Inglewood, which offers career training and management for actors with developmental disabilities. 

Heidi was already a friend of the studio.  She was the first dog -- in fact, so far, the only dog -- to participate in a studio improv class, thus putting the PAWS in PASW (sorry).  I'm told that one of the younger actors, Christy Chew, fondly refers to Heidi as the dog "with the substantial tail."

Studio founder/director John Paizis -- pictured (left) with Heidi and Chardell Brown, director of photography for "Sir Glen" -- told me that Heidi's job would be to bark at actor Glen Poehlman, who stars as the knight in shining armor, then chase him through an alley and a park.  A speaking part!  We immediately started rehearsing.

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 44: A dog "in development"

Heidi money bandanna This is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Diane Haithman. And this is her "head shot": That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.

Since signing up with Central Casting in early June -- seeking extra roles that include a talented German Shepherd -- Heidi and I have gotten no nibbles whatsoever from Hollywood.

But our East Coast colleague Lorraine Goodman, who writes a column on animals and show biz for Examiner.com, tipped us off to an open casting call being held in Burbank for a TV reality show involving dogs.  (By the way, congrats to Lorraine's terrier mix, Tiger, who has landed a gig on a shoe commercial. Read her column here). 

As is the case with many open casting calls for projects in development, no details were provided; dogs and unemployed actors don't ask questions; they come when called. The audition was not geographically desirable for Tiger, but Lorraine thought we might be intrigued. I applaud the professional courtesy I am observing in the working dog community.

Whether Heidi can act is still an open question --  but no one could argue with the fact that she is real dog. Plus, the producers were particularly interested in rescue dogs like Heidi. We responded to the e-mail with photos and a recounting of the heart-tugging story of Heidi's rescue from a Texas storm drain. Almost immediately, we got an e-mail asking us to set up an audition appointment. 

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The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 43: A visit to Central Casting

Heidi Head Shot This is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into the business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Diane Haithman. And this is her "head shot": That longing look was achieved by placing a biscuit just out of reach.

Heidi may not yet have found fame, but her large, luscious ears seem likely to become the most notable showbiz twins since the Olsens thanks to animal photographer Andy Sheng of Otis & Lucy Photography, who volunteered to shoot Heidi awhile back and hung a black-and-white shot of The Ears at a promotional event last week.

Heidi attended the party at Grateful Dogs Clubhouse in El Segundo with her proud dad, Alan Feldstein, who shot Sheng's display (see below). If there's a market for dog body-part models, she's all ears. 

Dog Party 016

But, in the ongoing effort to get the whole dog working in Hollywood, I recently grabbed another photo of Heidi -- full body shot -- and headed off to the Burbank offices of Central Casting. 

As detailed in an earlier chapter, I had signed up with an online resource for non-union extras, Extras Access, in hopes that I might get a call for an extra-with-dog.  Unfortunately, none of the wide range of extra calls I've received since then require a canine (although I think any of the low-budget vampire flicks that have seemed unnervingly interested in my profile could break out by including an undead shepherd with a taste for O-negative). 

 I thought we might have better luck with Central Casting, since I had read online that Central Casting will allow applicants to add a pet photo to their files. I will not work without the dog.

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