Opinion: Uno a Hit on Whirlwind Press Tour
Best in show winner quickly becomes America’s new heart throb
By Sandy Robins
updated 8:03 p.m. PT, Wed., Feb. 13, 2008
NEW YORK – First there was Cher and then there was Madonna. And now there’s Uno, America’s newest single-name celebrity and overnight sensation that came howling into the world spotlight after winning best in show at the 132nd annual Westminster Dog Show. He was immediately swept off the green carpet to embark on a junket known as the World Media Tour which instantly turned him into a household name.
6 a.m. — It was raining cats and dogs when a convoy of chauffeur-driven vans rolled up outside the dog’s hotel on Seventh Avenue, New York City, at precisely 6 a.m. Wednesday, a mere seven hours after his spectacular win at Madison Square Gardens that had prompted a round of partying and celebration which had left little time for sleep.
The first stop on this media blitz was the TODAY show in a segment scheduled for 7.38 a.m.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Russella Wilkerson, the wife of Uno’s handsome handler Aaron Wilkerson, as she climbed in along with an entourage that included one of his owners, photographers and publicists for the Westminster Kennel Club. “When we returned to our room, our door was plastered with post-it notes from well wishers and the phone was ringing off the hook.”
From the moment he climbed in the van, Uno looked bright-eyed and bushy tailed despite little sleep, spurred on by some tasty pieces of fillet steak in Aaron Wilkerson’s suit pocket that couldn’t fool this alert scent hound.
“We have a special recipe that we make on a George Forman grill,” confided Wilkerson. “I don’t know how much bait he ends up eating during a show, but it certainly adds up. If it’s not steak, it’s pork loin, which is his other favorite.”
With the rain still lashing down, the vans halted outside the NBC studios and everyone poured out into the welcoming warmth of the green room filled with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and a table decked with tempting bagels and other confectionery.
Uno sniffed with interest. “He’s not allowed any,” explained Russella Wilkerson. “He loves food and is what’s known in the dog show world as ‘an easy keeper’ which means that he easily puts on weight!”
But before he found the food too tempting, he was whisked off along with his handler onto the set to chat with the TODAY show team.
In the meantime, his publicist, Kelly Rubin, was busy plotting a strategy that would have made a U.S. Army general proud as to how to get across town in the snail-paced traffic and the downpour to make it to the “Early Show” on CBS a mere eight minutes later.
8 a.m. — Driver Mario must have been related to race-car speed freak Mario Andretti because once everyone was back on board, he accelerated going from 0 to 60 mph dodging yellows taxis and pedestrians with what was obviously practiced skill.
He made it to the next stop before anyone could blink. Once again, the doors flung open and the entourage was trooping into another building and another green room. It was difficult to walk as people seemed to appear from nowhere crowding round for a pat. Out came cell phones and lights flashed and Uno took it all in stride, howling in delight and working the crowds like a true celebrity.
8.45 a.m. — Off to the Fox Studios and straight on to the set of Mike and Juliet. Within seconds, the hosts were on their knees and playing with their celebrity guest who wagged his tail and talked directly to the cameras, howling on commands and snuggling up to Wilkerson as if conferring with him.
Down some more passages, around corners, down the escalators and on to the set of Fox News. More cell phone cameras recording the event as this press tour rolled on.
9.15 a.m. — Back in the vans and this time, despite the continuous rain, the pace became slightly more leisurely as the convoy swung across town and headed for Martha Stewart’s studios on 26th Street. Everyone in both vans was either making or receiving cell phone calls to such an extent that by the end of the day every phone battery was flat and had to be recharged to keep the lines of communication going.
The show was already in full swing and through the glass doors Martha’s two French bulldogs in black-and-white sweaters were running around on the set barking. Another green room. This time everyone was ready to eat, especially seeing that they were at the kitchen alter of America’s domestic goddess.
“Wow. These are real Martha muffins,” said Eddy Dzuik, one of Uno’s co-owners. “I feel I should put it in the freezer and take it out once a year and eat a crumb rather like one does with wedding cake.”
And boy, were they delicious.
Show time. Aaron, Uno and Westminster Kennel Club’s David Frei went on set. The audience was cued to clap and Martha’s French Bulldogs suddenly turned territorial and were not pleased to have any canine competition.
Uno, the perfect gentlemen, simply looked down his nose as they were scooped off and sent temporarily packing. The show went on and Uno did his doggy routine to perfection and had the audience lapping it up.
10.40 a.m. — It was goodbye Martha and hello Grand Central Station. The entourage made its way for a quick stop at Cipriani restaurant above the main concourse where members of New York’s newest dog club, the Metropolitan Dog Club, were having a function to honor the best in show judge. Everyone ooohed and aahhhed as camera phones once again recorded the event. Once again, the crowds seemed to gather from nowhere.
Next the canine celeb was once again on the trot. This time to another section of the station where TV crews were setting up to do a live satellite feed to about 12 affiliate stations across the country from Chicago to Topeka, Kan.
“Everyone loves him,” explained his adoring handler, stroking his charge’s ears and gently pulling his tail. “He’s a people’s dog. People can relate to him and can picture having such a dog at home on their couch. Also, unlike other breeds that have to be primped and coiffed even if they are not in the show ring, Beagles are a wash-and-go kind of dog and are definitely not high maintenance.”
1 p.m. — After every single member of the Metropolitan Dog Club had filed by and had their photograph taken with Uno, it was back in the vans, with the rain still diluting the day. The next stop was the Dog Fancier’s luncheon at Sardi’s. There were more photographers and journalists on hand, crowding around and asking about his favorite toy (a yellow duck), his birth sign (Pisces) and what the future held for America’s new heart throb.
Then the moment Uno had been waiting for arrived. He was served a medium rare fillet steak on a silver platter. The photographers crowded round, but he wolfed it down in under 10 seconds, forcing every photographer to miss the photo opportunity.
The afternoon pace was the same, but by now everyone was feeling better because they had refueled on salmon and salad at the famous restaurant.
Uno, an all-time perfect talk show guest and celebrity, suddenly had an attack of cute doggie-ness and starting barking and rushing around the restaurant, grabbing someone’s cell phone and trying to run off with it. He had every one rolling on the carpet trying to retrieve it and photographers got the best photo opportunities of the day.
3:15 p.m. — It was still raining, but the show had to go on. It was back in the vans to complete the grueling afternoon schedule that included an interview with Shepherd Smith back at the Fox Studios, followed by a visit to the ABC News studios and finally on to the futuristic Bloomberg Building to wrap up the day with an interview by Charlie Rose.
By now, both handler and hound had red eyes from tiredness, but bravely continued to meet the press that presented their credentials, and the crowds that gathered wherever he went.
“I think I am going to have to get him an apartment in Manhattan so that he can fulfill all the obligations that are going to fill his calendar in the upcoming year,” quipped Frei, looking at the line-up for the following day which included a visit to “The View” and an interview with CNN. Also on the to-do list is an appearance to open the NASDAQ.
“Then will it be over?” asked Aaron Wilkerson, hopeful with ideas of returning home to quiet life in Columbia, S.C.
“No way!” said Frei as Rubin handed him a wad of papers, each one a request from radio stations, newspapers and magazines around the country, all wanting a piece of this happy hound dog. There were requests from photographers to do photo shoots at their home to see where the dog is trained, where he sleeps, where he eats and what he does when he’s just being a dog.
Will it go away?
Not likely. Uno, you are such a package of personality and charisma, the best of the best, a true ambassador of your breed. We’re sure, this is only just the beginning …
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.
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