The Time I Sort Of Won An Oscar, But Not Really


The "Awards Walk" entrance to The Dolby Theatre at Hollywood/Highland.
Photo by Adam Fagen.

The Oscars are coming up this Sunday, which always reminds me of the time I won an Oscar, but it was really a flashlight, and I didn’t really win it, I had bought it, and the theater was empty, but otherwise it was exactly the same.

Bob and I were a couple of security guards schlepping around in the soon-to-open Hollywood/Highland complex during an overnight shift back in 2001. It was all new to us, as our company had just sent us out there, but everything was in the final phase of construction, so it was all kind of a mess. We even had to wear hardhats.

The Kodak Theater was in the center of the complex, and we knew they’d be holding the Academy Awards there after everything was open, so we decided to go take a look. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion had been the venue for quite a few years prior to that, but the Kodak, which they now call The Dolby Theatre, was built from the ground up with the Oscars in mind, from what I understand.

Since clocking-in at 10:00 pm that one night in late October, Bob and I alternated patrols. He went out first, then I went at eleven, and so forth, until it was coming up on about three in the morning and we were getting quite bored. He’d wrapped up his 2:00 am patrol (it took about a half-hour to walk through the whole joint) and, as he came into the make-shift construction shack that was a temporary security office, he made a proposal:

“Say Dave, what do you think about us both going out at three? I’m bored to shit, but I also found an open door over at that Kodak Theater and want to take a peek inside, but I don’t want to wander around in there by myself.”

We were the only two security guys on duty but we knew some crew had been working all night in the Kodak, so the unlocked door he found wasn’t that big of a deal. We were smack-dab in the center of sleazy Hollywood, with Hollywood Boulevard on one side and Highland Avenue on the other, but the whole place was ringed in tighter than a drum with construction fencing.

The 3:00 am patrol was mine anyway, and I welcomed his company. I felt safer and he was an interesting conversationalist, as we had a lot in common. We weren’t necessarily supposed to leave one guy at the security office, we could just lock it up and leave. We'd only been alternating patrols so as not to get too worn out.

We both started out at three and just made small talk until we made our way over to the theater at about twenty after. Bob pointed out the unlocked door and we gently nudged it open, loudly calling out, “HELLO, SECURITY! JUST CHECKING! ANYONE HERE?”

We weren’t really supposed to be in there. We’d been left a memo saying that a crew would be working inside all night, but it didn’t say NOT to go in, so in we went.

The place was brightly lit, so we turned our flashlights off and sheathed them as we took in the splendor of the newly designed theater. It was gorgeous, and much to our surprise, it was finished.

There wasn’t another person in sight and no one had answered us when we shouted out our intentions. Stage lights and house lights were on full, and everything looked entirely finished. Not a bit of plastic sheeting was laying around; no construction tools, loose cable, or anything like that. It looked like it would look ten minutes before they’d open the doors to let an audience in on a show night.

I’d dabbled in theatrical circles before, and I’d even been a house manager of a small performance theater a few years prior to this, so my guess was that we’d walked in on a tech rehearsal for a show that was soon to open, and we had perfect timing because they'd apparently gone to lunch.

There were probably only a few crew members getting lights and things ready for the first show to open the theater. The Acadamy Awards wouldn’t be until early March and, as I recall, the first show was something by Disney. I just don’t remember what it was.

My guess was that if we’d shown up fifteen minutes earlier or later, we’d have been assured that everything was okay and we’d have to leave after a fleeting glimpse of the interior. But as it was, the crew had probably slipped out onto Hollywood Boulevard to one of the numerous all-night pizza joints and diners in the area, and they’d be back very soon.

So of course, Bob and I went up on the stage. I stood in the center, a little toward the front, and gazed out onto the sea of empty red seats, which I could barely see because of the intensity of the stage lighting. The house lights being simultaneously on were the only reason I could see out there at all.

I thought ahead several months, when many fabulously famous Hollywood A-listers would be standing on that spot, nervously stumbling through the narrative on the teleprompter. “The nominees for best documentary/director/screenplay/actor/actress/picture, are as follows..”

I decided to get a taste of it, to nudge my imagination as to what it must be like, so I unsheathed my flashlight and gripped it the same way I’d seen so many lucky recipients grip that little gold dude in the past, and I secretly hoped the crew would extend their lunch by at least another five minutes.

“I’d like to thank the Academy for this award,” I stammered loudly, to a huge theater occupied (I hoped) only by Bob. “It’s been a long road and I have many to thank, but not a lot of time, so here goes.. God, my mom, my high-school drama teacher, and of course everyone who worked on this film, ‘Night Security,’ including my co-star BOB, who is way more deserving of this flashlight than I am.”

Bob had jumped off the stage and I could barely make out his huge grin from down in front of me, right about front row center. “Okay, you nut!” he said. “The orchestra has kicked in and you are out of time, buddy, we need to get the hell out of here before these guys come back.”

He was right. I kept the flashlight in hand because we’d be out in the darkness again in a few seconds, but I had to linger at the door and take one last look around. I didn’t see the inside of the theater again until the actual live broadcast of the Academy Awards that following March, but I had to watch it on our monitor in the security center while 3.2 billion other people watched it on television worldwide.

I had a new appreciation for those who would stand on that spot and try to get through their lines in front of half the world. I only had Bob watching me that night, and it was still exhilarating, so I’m not one to poke fun at any celebrity who fumbles a name or a line while occupying center stage.

There’s no way it’s an easy affair, no matter how experienced and used to the spotlight a person may be.

The Life In Hollywood Series is ongoing
but, for now, you've reached the end of it.

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Is It Time For Hugh To Hit The Road?

I've been using this guy as an avatar on social media since 2007:

But yesterday, I got a private message from a complete stranger:

Hugh Beaumont is best known as Ward Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver, but sometime in the late fifties he posed for a coffee ad, which is the avatar I've been using.

"CREEPS"? WHAT? Here's a studio publicity portrait of that handsome devil, and it isn't nearly so creepy:

Okay, maybe it's a little creepy.

The thing is, uh.. 2007! That's a LONG TIME! Hugh has sentimental value for me, since he's been with me from the first day I signed onto Facebook AND Twitter, and possibly even MySpace, but who really remembers much from MySpace?

But she may have a point. 

Yes, I said "she." A young she, but not a kid. I had to anonymize her in the screen-cap above for her own privacy, but basically here's someone who doesn't know me from anyone and is just responding to a Facebook comment. "Your profile picture gives me the creeps." She has no idea about the sentimental value, and she probably wouldn't care.

Even closer to home, my own mother-in-law commented a few months ago, saying, "Dave, do you really have to use that guy as an avatar? I grew up with him and HE GIVES ME THE CREEPS."

There's that word again! And this time it's coming from someone who's known me for 25 years, and who knows perfectly well who Hugh Beaumont is (technically "was," since he died in 1982).

I'm not adverse to using my own picture. I too am a handsome devil, and not in the least bit creepy:

Okay, let's try that again:

DANG. One more time:

Okay, that's better. But I'll leave it up to you guys. Should Hugh stay or should he go?

Comment below, or just toss your vote my way via Facebook or Twitter.

JUNE, your vote doesn't count, sweetie. Just stay in the kitchen until this is over.

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The Super Duper Wang

Dorian and I went to Super Duper Burgers in The Castro for lunch.

There are a few tables out front on the sidewalk and it was a nice evening so we took our meal out there. That's when the doped-up dude came along and showed us Mr. Wang.

As he stumbled toward us all I could think was, "No dude, don't talk to us, we're having such a good time and you're just going to fuck it up."

He was about 25 and dirty, with a closely shaved head. He wore a grimy black-leather jacket and pair of loose-fitting jeans, sans any kind of underwear, that found their way down around his ankles as he walked up. He didn't seem to be aware of it at first and smiled like a little kid as he approached and waved at me.

"HI!" he said.

It was disconcerting to have this guy's appendage within about two feet of my wife's cheeseburger. I don't really think that's happened in our twenty-two years of marriage and it's a stretch even for San Francisco. Hell, even for The Castro District. Usually the standard naked guys don't walk up and wave their wangs at people having a meal outside, but as I said, this guy didn't seem to be aware that his pants had fallen down.

He must have seen the expression on my face, which probably looked like I was about to remove his appendage with my knife if he didn't do something about it right quick, so he glanced down and then yanked his jeans up while apologizing. Then he sat opposite us and stared at Dorian.

"Please don't join us," she said. "You weren't invited."

"Oh I'm sorry, I was just waiting for a friend!" His eyes grew big as if he'd just been scolded by his grandmother, then he looked at me and smiled again.

"I'm really, really sorry," he stammered. "But you look like Jesus." Then he turned back to Dorian. "So you must be.. MRS JESUS!"

Then a door opened next to our little sidewalk table and a guy came out. No doubt this was his dealer, because he certainly needed to get MORE of whatever he was on. "There you are!" he said to our guest. "Come on up."

They went through the door and headed upstairs, with Mr. black-leather dude glancing back a couple of times while continuing to smile as he tried to convince his friend that Mr and Mrs Jesus were sitting there eating cheeseburgers right by the front door.

In LA we once had a homeless guy come up and act like a dog. He begged for a bite of my burrito and then lifted his leg and peed on the bush beside me. In San Diego I once had a bum give me change, saying that I looked like I needed it more than him.

At Disney World, Dorian was stalked by an autograph hound who thought she was Shelley Duval, and while in a restaurant in Medford Oregon one evening, someone sent a bottle of wine to our table because they thought she was Alanis Morrisette.

But only in San Francisco have we been flashed and then mistaken for Mr and Mrs Jesus.

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I stopped in my local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for a drink this morning.

My local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf happens to be in a supermarket, so I sit and watch the checkers check, while the baggers bag and the customers cuss.

I was sipping on my mocha ice blended when the little Italian man, Guirmo, or Guillimo, or something, came into work and stopped by my table for a chat.

He couldn’t be a day under seventy or an inch over five feet tall, and his English isn’t so great, which is okay because my Italian consists of buongiorno, arrivederci and Mama Mia! He was sporting his brown ski cap as always, and it was lopsided as always, and he grinned a lopsided grin when I said, “Buongiorno!”

After he returned the greeting, he proceeded to tell me something about the exciting day he had yesterday.

At least I think that’s what it was about, because I recognized the word “yesterday,” even though he said it kind of like “yisserdi” and followed it with a tightly strung together stream of mostly vowels that I struggled (in vain) to follow.

“Eeesa notta soo gud whens deyles you doo whassis dey do wissa dey! Eeesa monees dat deysa payyo doosti da fimilee unsa listee deys”, said Guillermo, or Gonmollo, or something, with his hands waving wildly as he adamantly exclaimed all of this to me.

I nodded in total agreement as he went on.. “Eeesa dat deysa ar notta yooo butta unda leesa weeeshi doos unda yoooo butta, soo yoosa don dis, no?”

He laughed, so I laughed too. Then he asked me a question.

“Gossa yooo den da mees? Yoosa don evuh don dees?”

I gave him the most thoughtful, contemplative expression that I could muster while under such linguistic duress. After a few seconds I nodded and said, “Si!”

He laughed and pointed at me. I suspect I’d just copped to being a bed-wetter or something, and I blushed accordingly.

Then he glanced at the clock and got even more excited, which I wouldn’t have thought possible, before excusing himself to go punch in and begin his shift. “Issa go too workkay now, arrivederci! arrivederci!”

He bounced off and tossed a wave back at me, which I returned.

I sure hope he doesn’t spend the day telling all the checkers, baggers and customers my dirty little secret, whatever it is.

Get a copy of Italian For Dummies!

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Bless Yer Beautiful Hide

Saturday is VALENTINE'S DAY, so I have a really romantic song to dedicate to my valentine of 25 years, DORIAN.

This song and video are from the 1954 MGM film Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, starring Howard Keel as hunky woodsman Adam Pontipee. The setting is 1850 in the "Oregon territory," and Adam goes down into town one day a'searchin' for a wife.

He ended up with Jane Powell, but I ended up with Dorian in the 1989 version where I wandered around Dinuba, California one day on my own a'wifen expedition, and wandered into the video store where Dorian happened to work.

I'd been newly hired to work at the town's radio station, but I had the day off and I was in a marryin' mood, so I left the station and wandered down Alta Vista Avenue. As I started to whistle the first few notes of this song, I heard the orchestra kick in and, well, I couldn't help but sing, and I sounded exactly like Howard Keel!
"Bless yer beautiful hide, wherever you may be. We ain't met yet but I'm-a willin' to bet; yer the gal fer me!"
Just a few buildings down from the radio station there was a laundromat, and a woman inside folding a load of clothes that she'd just taken from the dryer. She wasn't too bad lookin', so I stepped up to her and said, "Mornin' Ma'am!"

She started to reply but just then a little kid ran into the laundromat and said, "Mom, dad's over at the liquor store and says he's a dollar short." She gave me a wistful shrug, so I continued on my way and kept right on singing:
"Bless yer beautiful hide, yer just as good as lost. I don't know yer name but I'm-a staking my claim, lest yer eyes is crossed."
Next door to the laundromat was the liquor store, and next door to that was a dress shop with a mannequin standing right outside the door, and it was wearing a really hot dress. I think it was Versace or something, but what do I know?

It was one of those realistic mannequins, not those fakey kind without heads and stuff, so I walked right up to that thing and was all ready to propose marriage to it when I noticed that it's eyes was crossed!


So, I continued on down the sidewalk and kept on a'singin':
"Well I'd swap my gun and I'd swap my mule, tho whoever took 'em would be one big fool. Or pay yer way through cookin' school, if'n you would say I do."
Coming down the sidewalk was a total hottie, and she wasn't even a mannequin this time! There were no little kids in sight, so I'm sure you understand when I tell you I walked right up to that gal and said, "Mornin' Ma'am!"

She stopped and sized me up, then she replied, "Uh yeah, hey."

I followed up with, "Nice day fer marryin'!"

But wouldn't you know it, that's when this burly fellow stepped up next to her and said something about if I like my nuts I'd keep walkin' or else he'd firmly plant a boot in them, so I kept walkin', and of course, singin':
"Bless yer beautiful hide, prepare to bend your knee, and take that vow 'cause I'm-a tellin' you now, yer the gal fer me."
Turned out that Dinuba, California was full of smoking hotties in 1989 so, as I walked by a bunch of them, I sang out my observations of each one as I passed:
"Pretty and trim but kinda slim, heavenly eyes, but oh that size; she's gotta be right, to be the bride fer meeeeeee..."
I leaned wistfully on a mailbox outside a video store.
"Bless yer beautiful hide, where ever you may be."
Then, I heard it. A cadence in time with the music playing all around me. I spun around to see an absolute angel inside the video store, scanning VHS movies that had just been returned. Each time she scanned one, she slapped it down on the counter and the slaps were in perfect time with the music. It was surely a sign!

I watched her with a bemused expression as the video store manager came up to her and said, "Hey what are you doin'? There's a dozen customers in here trying to find copies of Driving Miss Daisy and here you are, scanning returns!"

She rolled her eyes and said, "I'm coming!"

As she flung VHS tapes aside and pushed her way through the crowd over to the whiny customers, I sang:
"Pretty and trim, but not too slim; heavenly eyes, and just the right size. Simple and sweet.."
Just then a guy came up to her and started to complain that his copy of Rain Man hadn't been properly rewound, so she shoved him into a rack of documentaries and stormed off.
I spun around and leaned against the mailbox again, with a big ol' smile, because I'd just had an epiphany. I sang:
"Well bless her beautiful hide, yes she's the girl fer ME!"
So here's the video where Howard Keel does all of that in 1850 Oregon Territory, but really, it's pretty much what I did in 1989 Dinuba. And it worked, because Dorian and I have been a'married for goin' on 25 years now.

I think it was my offer to pay her way through cookin' school that cinched it.

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The Galloping Goose Rides Again!

Does anyone here remember CB radio? I am reluctantly raising my own hand as I stand here at the podium.


A typical CB Radio, with a lollipop mic much like "The Great
White Father" used in the 1970s. Photo from Wikipedia.
For the uninitiated, meaning those who are too young to know what I’m talking about, the CB in “CB Radio” stands for “Citizen’s Band,” while the “Radio” part is just that; it’s a radio, but you can talk to other people on it.

The FCC here in the United States -- that’s the “Federal Communications Commission” -- set aside a group of radio frequencies, otherwise known as a “band,” which is not to be confused with a group that plays music, and they said that these frequencies can be used by anyone to talk about anything without having to get a license.

This is not to be confused with “HAM RADIO.” I have no idea if “HAM” is an acronym for something. I suppose I can look it up since I’m sitting here at a computer and Google is only a click away, but I don’t care that much.

HAM operators are different in several ways; most of them have these huge antennae arrays that rival NASA deep space listening dishes along with rooms full of whirring, humming equipment that they’ve invested thousands of dollars in. Also, whereas your average citizen’s band radio user, known as a “CBer,” would have a “handle” like “Taco Bender,” “Big Duke,” or Little Willy,” your local HAM operator went by something like “KS4GN.”


These guys didn’t like us CBers. They’d invest big bucks in their gear, learn morse code, take difficult tests to get licensed and you’d often find them tweaking a huge dial on their receiver as they called out, “DX, DX, this is KAY ESS FOUR GEE EN, for any Australian users, copy?” Then once they made contact they’d talk about the weather and their equipment.

Us CBers would buy a fifty dollar Cobra or Uniden radio from Radio Shack, install it in about ten minutes and call out, “How ’bout that Hotlips Harry, you got your ears on, Harry?” Then once we made contact we’d talk about the weather and our equipment.

HAM Radio still has its place in the world, whereas CB has all but disappeared. Truckers still use it to gab back and forth out there on the nation’s highways and I suppose there are rural users, but the days are long past where you’d get interference on your TV set because your neighbor bought a huge CB base station and is yakking away with the members of his local CB club.

My folks had a base station in the house and a mobile unit mounted in our four-wheel-drive Bronco when I was in high school, because we lived in the foothills of Northern California and, believe it or not, didn’t have a phone. My dad had moved us so far up into the hills that the phone company said it’d cost thirty thousand dollars to string line all they way out there, so he passed on it and bought a couple of CB radios.

My “handle,” which is the user-name you go by on the air, was “The Galloping Goose.”

My old pal Bryan, who got abducted by aliens with me, went by “Little Foot” and we’d gallivant around the county, Dukes Of Hazzard style, right after I got my driver’s license, calling each other on our CB radios. We actually even went to some of those meetings where people would show up wearing these denim vests with badges and patches all over them and bring “pot luck,” and talk about how they talked to someone in Idaho the other night when “the skip was running good.”

I’ll never forget “Great White Father,” who was this older, retired gentleman living down in Placerville. He had a deep, booming voice, and when “Great White Father” was on the air, everyone else would shut the hell up and listen to what he had to say.

One of the reasons that I’ll never forget him was that he actually called me once on the CB radio "just to talk." I was a skinny seventeen year old kid and here my radio was booming, “How about that Galloping Goose, you got your ears on? This is your Great White Father calling!”

I was enthralled. He invited Bryan and I “out to the place for a spell,” so we went and marveled at his gleaming lollipop microphone, huge antennae on the roof and secret boosting equipment that ran his radio output about a hundred times over the legal limit. It rivaled a decent HAM setup, and he could have gotten busted and fined for that, but he didn’t care. They wouldn’t dare fine the Great White Father.

His wife -- Mrs. Great White Father -- served us coffee and cookies while they told us tales of the old days, kind of like I’m doing for you right now. I remember that visit pretty well after all these years, so it must have had some kind of impact on me.

Things have changed quite a bit since that time. We have very few CB radios these days and I haven’t personally talked on one in twenty five years, but I talk to people in Idaho, Australia and Europe on a daily basis now on the Internet. I’ve been going by “Rhodester” online but I got to thinking about “The Galloping Goose” the other day and I’d like to see him enjoy a bit of a revival, so he may pop up in a series of stories that are just hanging out right now in my head.

If that happens, now you’ll know where the name came from.

When Bryan found me on the Internet a couple of years ago, after we hadn't spoken for a couple of decades, he shot me an email. So I shot him one back with my phone number, and then he called. As soon as I answered the phone he said, “Hey GOOSE, how ya been?”

HAHA! “Goose”.. I haven’t heard that in a long time. I think I’m long overdue to bring The Galloping Goose out of retirement, saddle him up and go riding off into the sunset over Golden Pond.

“Roger, over and out.”

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Rufus Meets Bob Newhart


Bob Newhart
Yesterday was a Bob Newhart kind of day around here, which was actually a little more exciting than it sounds.

This is because Bob complimented my dog one day a few years ago, and I was reminded of it yesterday when they had a “Newhart” marathon playing on one of the cable channels.

I kept it on while I worked, but it was very distracting because of those lovable woodsmen Larry, Darrel and Darrel, and those precocious scamps Michael and Stephanie.

I thought it was the funniest show on television back in ’85. I remember the first show too, from the seventies, which my dad loved. He never missed an episode.

There was an attempt at a show in the early nineties which fell flat, but we watched it, that Dorian and I. We were married by then and she knew I was a Bob Newhart fan, so she supported me in that effort.

So, I went through about five episodes of the old Newhart show yesterday and then Bob showed up for an interview on a late-night talk show. He looked good for being almost eighty, and although he’s slowed down a bit he was still funny. He was asked if he ever gets mistaken for someone else (jokingly, because WHO looks like that, huh?) and I thought he was going to tell about meeting my dog. He didn’t. Oh well.

Rufus was a solid black Keeshond with a curly rooster tail. He stood about yay high, and he was a sweetheart. Everybody loved him because he didn’t have a mean bone in his little body. I’d never seen him snap or snarl at anyone. He was always ready for a little love when he could get it, but otherwise he’d just mind his own business.

He’d been a Christmas gift to my mom from us, and she kept him for the first four years of his life until she had to leave everything behind one day all of a sudden, so we took Rufus in. He stayed with us for about the next ten years.

During my Hollywood period, when I was doing work in TV and film as an extra, I got booked on Reese Witherspoon’s “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde,” which wasn’t the greatest movie ever made but it’s the only one that has Rufus in it because he got booked too.

He’s not actually in it, because it turns out that photography directors in movies don’t like things that are solid black, such as dogs, clothes or cars, because they sort of disappear into a void on film, so they didn’t really put ol’ Rufus in any good shots, but he ended up on the DVD in a “making of” segment for just a scant few seconds.

A screencap from the "making of" segment of the DVD, showing Rufus
wearing a blue visor. I put it on him with the hope that it'd provide
a little color for the DAP (Director Of Photography) and he might
make the final cut of the film, but no such luck.

We were all out at Exposition Park in Los Angeles that day filming a scene depicting a “million dog march” on Washington. There were hundreds of dogs and their owners milling around, including Chuck and Grace, who I’d met on a previous gig. They had their two huskies, and we were hanging out near a catering truck while the crew set up the next big scene they were going to shoot.

Grace asked if she could get us anything because she was going to walk over to the catering truck, so we placed our orders. She returned about ten minutes later, shaking her head and kind of embarrassed. “OH MY GOD,” she said. “I think I’ve just insulted Bob Newhart!”

She told of walking up to the truck but not seeing any bananas. This was crazy, because they always have bananas at these trucks, and she really wanted one. So she asked the older gentleman standing next to her if he had any bananas today and he stammered, “I, uh.. I.. don’t, uh.. I don’t.. well.. work here. I’m actually, uh.. I’m IN the movie.”

It was Bob Newhart, who was also there to get a banana. His outfit led her to believe he was a caterer, when actually he was in costume for his character. We had no idea he was even in the movie.

She profusely apologized and he accepted, telling her it was okay because "it happens to me all the time," so she grabbed a few items and rejoined us. She was telling us the story when he came up behind her, eating a banana.

“Hey, uh.. they.. they have bananas.. they were hiding behind the cereal boxes. I brought you one.”

Yes, he stammers like that in real life. It’s not just an act after all!

He handed Grace a banana and then gave our dogs a look. “Nice dogs,” he said, with a slight grin. He’d overheard Grace telling us about meeting him and I’m sure he thought it was pretty amusing.

We thanked him and he went on his way to get ready for whatever it was he had to do.

I remember that whenever I see him, and I saw him a lot yesterday, so today I thought I’d write about it. Rufus is long gone, and although it’s not a big story or a hysterical one, to me it’s just one of those weird times when worlds collide because I think of my beloved little pal Rufus every time I see Bob Newhart, because Bob said he was “a nice dog.”

He was, Bob. He was the best.

Rufus, enjoying his retirement after Hollywood, circa 2006.

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