NEW YORK — Here’s Manhattan’s second-best known gossipeuse, wearing a mink hat dyed terror-alert orange at the Park Avenue Regency, shoving a gourmet dog treat into her own mouth, gnawing it up into smaller chunks and spitting it back out onto room-service china for an ambivalent seven-pound Yorkie. Reporter watches, mildly horrified. Pooch is unimpressed, sniffs around corners of hotel room, looking for a spot to whiz. Lady, age seventyish, begs: “Jazzy, don’t you even want to try this, after I chewed it up for you?”
Only in New Y —
Oh, can it. The toy dog revolution goes way beyond New York, but this city has never been short on Madame de Pompadours and a sense of entitlement. There has never been a better time and place to be a widdle biddy dog.
These are the Nokia phones of the canine world — getting smaller all the time, wildly popular, irresistibly cute, continually set to yip or vibrate, and people are taking them into restaurants, where, it seems, everyone else is okay with that.
Life has become a rococo painting rendered on flat multimedia plasma screens, with the symbolic little dog just nearby, companionably tucked under an arm, along for the ride. “This one gets chicken from Le Cirque,” Cindy Adams says about Jazzy, in the kind of mock disgust that can only signal true love. “Don’t you, sir? Donchyou? Donchyou?”
It’s not just the Jennifer Lopezes and Milla Jovoviches with their toy dogs, nor is it just your step-grandmother with her couple-three furry lapbabies, nor is it just Cindy Adams, the New York Post columnist who has a whole book out about her dog. (“The Gift of Jazzy,” kiddies, released last month and “already on the bestseller list,” she crows. She’s also helped launch a new line of dog items named after Jazzy for sale at Macy’s.)
High school kids in Rockville are carting toy breeds — Pekingeses, pugs, bichons frisees -- around in book bags. Dogs are making the scene at nightclubs and concerts in Los Angeles. The meanest rock stars who sing songs about rejection and nightmares (um, Courtney Love) are carrying around the little panting puffballs. The little dogs of the Osbourne household run roughshod over Ozzy and brood. Starbucks looks the other way at covert pups peeking out from inside their owners’ overcoats (dog itself is clothed in a little Burberry plaid raincoat, or reasonable knockoff). You sneak them into movies the same as an illicit Chipotle burrito. And how about champion bicyclist Lance Armstrong (gossip item: headed for divorce?!), doting on — get this — a tee-ninesy white teacup Maltese named Boone?
For now, let’s just stick to the love story between this lady and this dog:
It was late 1999 when Cindy lost Joey Adams, her husband of 40 years. She had cared for Joey, the comedian, for nearly a decade as he faded away. The couple had no children. A few days after Joey died, “this, this thing” showed up in her life. Movie producer Michael Viner sent it, by limousine. “I didn’t know what to do with it,” she huffs. “So I called Joan Rivers. She said, ‘Give him some water in a bowl.’ I couldn’t even find a bowl.”
Tired of hearing this story all over again, Jazzy lifts a leg toward the wall.
“I kissed Jazzy the other day on ‘The View,’” Adams says. “I kiss him all the time. So I hear afterward that all these people are calling the show, irate, talking about how unsanitary it is. What?! Unsan— ?! I mean, two gays kiss one another and nobody cares now. Two Cubans in heat would pass more microbes when they kiss. So they’re talking about this the next day on ‘The View’ about Cindy Adams kissing her dog on the mouth and Mira Sorvino is on the show and they ask her what she thinks, and here’s what Mira says: ‘I don’t think I should say anything that upsets Cindy.’”
Item: The dog stays.
It’s a Little Dog-Gone World
Maybe it’s the crocodile tote bag. These are the dogs that give off a fey, unbearable aura of entitlement. These were the dogs people used to dream of using to kick the extra point after a touchdown. (“And it’s good!”) These were the kind of dogs that wound up inheriting $27.3 million in some nutjob’s will. These dogs have furs, as in coats, like the sable Jazzy wears around town.
Little dogs were once the Anti-dog, the ratdogs, li’l demons with sharp teeth and bows in their hair. Ancient vermin hunters, they’ve been with us longer than cats, who couldn’t be bothered to hang out with us until we domesticated ourselves into urban clusters.
Tiny dogs first started showing up in paintings 250 or 300 years ago, the first dogs to symbolize something other than war, doom or territorial machismo. The woman portrayed with her dog is making a statement about comfort, security, an ambivalence about what she considers lesser humans, out there. It’s about the preciousness of her immediate world, which is why the toy breeds have been both loved and reviled. They were always supposed to be the first dogs to get the special Marie Antoinette neck massage, come the People’s Uprising.
Now they are the revolution, and we are not here to disparage them.
“Are we?” Cindy Adams babytawks. “Are we? Are we?”
Jazzy is not listening to Mommy or anyone. Adams mushes up nose-to-nose with her boy, reminding him she’s only written “a whole damn book about you, mister.”
“The Gift of Jazzy”: It seems like a book about the dog, but by the time you’re 30 pages into it, you realize it’s really about the lady. It’s about the husband who wasted away before her eyes, and having to slowly walk him into “friendly restaurants” that “understood how nervous I was about even going out in public with him,” even when “his appearance was not quite how I would have liked.”
These are the same restaurants that now let Adams bring her Yorkie, and she admits, for all her brashness, she’s still a little nervous about causing a scene. “I have to learn to be more confident about taking my dog everywhere, like some of my friends have been doing for years.”
“The Gift of Jazzy” is about living in a world where all your friends happen to be celebrities, even infamous (Imelda Marcos shares a Quarter-Pounder With Cheese with Adams on a lonely Christmas night). Not very many pages in, the glitter and tiny dog shtick gives way to a sense of ongoing emotional loss, and how Adams grabbed tight to the only warm thing she could find, the only thing that loved her back. The only thing that will reliably pee on people’s really expensive furniture.
“This dog has a personal trainer. I spent $8,000 training this dog and he still doesn’t listen,” she says.
Jazzy doesn’t seem to listen to anybody, really. That is the point of little dogs who rule the earth. Jazzy is wearing a custom-made red sweater with snowflakes on it, because Mommy thought it was going to snow today. Jazzy is sick of having his picture taken. Jazzy is a little out of sorts, truth be told: Mommy went to the Westminster dog show the week prior and brought home 2 1/2-pound Juicy, another Yorkie puppy, a female she purchased from a well-known Connecticut breeder.
All she wanted was a playmate for Jazzy, but now the dogs are fighting. “It’s war in my house,” she says.
She’d rather do this interview at her Park Avenue apartment (the one where Doris Duke used to live, kiddies), but it’s being renovated by workmen who have a way of stepping on tiny dogs. Nor can we go to the Four Seasons for tea (no dogs, sniffs a hostess). Circo’s restaurant on West 55th would have been happy to have Cindy and Jazzy — they are regular customers — but schedules clashed with the dog’s whirlwind press tour and a late lunch was canceled. (“Can you believe how many people want to write about me and this dog?” Adams says. “I’ve got Eskimos writing my name in yellow snow at this point.” To listen to her ramble is to realize: Joey lives, one punch line at a time.)
Now the Regency has backed out of serving us breakfast in the restaurant, choosing instead to stick us upstairs and send room service.
Lady ain’t havin’ it. She gets on the phone and calls “my friend,” Jonathan M. Tisch, the CEO of Loews Hotels. She gets his secretary, and is then transferred to a manager. She wants to know why Jazzy and entourage — lady included — can’t have breakfast downstairs. “Kick everyone out of your damn restaurant if there’s a problem, so we can have breakfast,” she says, and hangs up.
“It’s supposed to be a dog-friendly hotel.”
Canines and Their Celebs
It’s supposed to be a dog-friendly world, and it’s up to the rich to once again assert the rights of their little sweeties.
Seeking the exact hodgepodge of New York infamy and glitter that Adams has celebrated in her column for 21 years, the lady’s publicity people decide to throw a party in the Cellar housewares department at Macy’s on West 34th, attempting to pack the place with celebrities and their dogs on a recent Thursday evening.
Lady shows up with two Yorkies and her housekeeper, Nazalene, and is supposed to sign books and open the Jazzy-themed boutique. About a jillion TV camera crews and paparazzi show up, too, crowding for a position. Everyone else is just hapless victim, caught up in the jostle, as celebrities start emerging from a VIP curtain near the men’s underwear department — a whole cartload of overexposed, oversurgeoned Page Six types:
Liza Minnelli and her husband, David Gest, are carrying their dogs Emmalina and Sgyuggles. Lizzie Grubman — who could count on Cindy Adams’s loyalty and favorable gossip mentions when no one else loved her after she backed her Mercedes into a crowd of people in the Hamptons, and did jail time — shows up with two Yorkies and a Shih Tzu: Peanut, Crunch and Xuxa.
There’s toothy actress Illeana Douglas, ’80s lit-lite novelist Tama Janowitz, soapstress Susan Lucci, clothes designer Oleg Cassini (with his miniature poodle, Rambo), the widow Gotti, Bryant Gumbel and his wife, Hillary, with their mini-Maltese, Cujo; Judge Judy with her Shih Tzu, Lulu. Skeletal Mary Tyler Moore with her schnauzer, Shayna; the writer Amy Tan, with two small dogs — Bubba and Lilli.
When Henry Kissinger shows up, it’s almost too unnerving, too sad to look at. (Kissinger soberly informs the press his wife has duh dog out at duh farm.)
The bold type lacks boldness, the exclamation points wilt. The housekeeper had to take poor, trembling Juicy away. There is a distinct smell of celebrity melt.
The Jazzy boutique turns out to be a kiosk, with items cheaply adorned with tabloid-motif puns: “Breed all about it” totes and “The Latest Poop” doggie bowls; glittery T-shirts (for owners) that say “New Yorkie” and “Pupparazzi.” Over at a special, fenced-in, AstroTurfed dog play area constructed for the event, none of the celebrities is really willing to let the dogs play with one another. There’s some growling, the occasional bark. A freelance photographer of dubious credentials starts crying actual tears because the security guards won’t let him near Liza or her little dog.
Poor Leo Changed It All
Twenty-three crucial New York blocks north of the Jazzy mayhem at Macy’s, on the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue, there’s a whole other kind of dog boutique, for even more special shnoogumsies with owners who have more money to burn — this one with window views of Central Park.
Travels With Tiger, featuring $650 dog bowls and $5,000 crocodile totes for tiny dogs, opened last fall. It was started by Cece Cord, ex-wife of fashion designer Barry Cord and master of Tiger, another semi-celeb Yorkie. Cord designs and oversees the production of her exclusive $200-$400 doggie sweaters, or a $500 mackintosh with matching rain hat. She reportedly bakes the gourmet dog biscuits herself. Each item carries a tag with a poem “by Tiger,” which was written by Cord:
I’ve barked at wapati
dozed in Tahiti,
visited pyramids in Gaza,
roamed the spice shops of Taza,
Crown princes adore me,
maitre d’s bring treats for me.
And mile after mile,
I only travel in style.
Bon voyage! Tiger Here you have the essential ontology of little dogs, a third kind of existence: not human, not quite, but certainly not beast.
Let us now recall the road-rager in San Jose who, after a fender-bender on a rainy night three years ago, reached into the other driver’s car and threw a tiny little dog into oncoming traffic, killing it. Remember the portrait of the deceased, from happier times, head cocked to the side so cute? The whole world remembers that little dog: Leo, the bichon frisee.
Leo changed everything for little dogs.
Leo died for their sins.
Still imprisoned, Leo’s killer, Andrew Burnett, has sued the dog’s owner, for post-traumatic stress.
Maybe there was a time when someone might have understood, but not now. On the seventh floor of Bergdorf’s, salesclerks stand by to clean up incredibly beloved piddle.
A Warm Body to Love
The next morning, Lady admits the Macy’s dog party was out of control, but thinks the dogs helped calm everyone down. She sold a few books and the cameras got what they wanted. Lady has a theory: Strong people — especially strong women — need these tiny dogs. More than they need the love of a man.
“Look at Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky. She goes nowhere without her little maltese, Sugar. Sugar has spent more time in her bed than any of the men she has had in her whole life. Eight husbands and one dog. Or Leona Helmsley. You don’t have go much further for Miss Congeniality. Who’s she got to love? The banker. But she has this little beauty, Trouble. . . . [And] Joan Rivers? With her mouth? She’s an old friend and I came up to visit her and there was her dog, she has several, but the one we all know her for, Spike, this aging Yorkie, he was lying on her mink coat in front of the fireplace. . . . There is a vulnerability in strong women that you don’t often see or they may be afraid to show or doesn’t work, it’s not apparent, the love you can get, you have to have someone, something, a warm body to love.
“You can be loved, but that’s only half of it, you have to have some creature to love, otherwise you’re dead.”
That’s what it is about little dogs — they’re owned by people who might otherwise forget what love is. The rich and famous (and people who merely feel rich and famous) are the Otherwise Dead. Cindy Adams frets from high above Park Avenue, looking out over her version of what the world is, and seeing nothing connect to, no Joey, no reason to get up, nothing besides those gossip columns to type up and feed into a six-day-a-week maw.
So she takes a dog to Le Cirque, who cares?
The New York Times wrote about that, and all kinds of people called the next day and demanded to bring their dogs to Le Cirque, and were declined. Owner Sirio Maccionni had to tell them “they can’t have dogs because of health codes,” Adams says. “And people said, ‘Well, Cindy Adams brought her dog in,’ and he said, ‘It’s Cindy Adams, what can I do?’”
This story, true or almost true, overheard or overhyped, set in the permanent boldface type of the lady’s mind, brings her particular pleasure.
“Where’s Jazzy?” she suddenly asks, snapping to, gathering up her fur and getting ready to go. He has a way of sneaking out. He’s a dickens, he’s a word you can’t print, he’s a spoiled brat. He’s all she’s got, and here he is. Here he is, here he is, here he is. Lady scoops him up and puts him in his bag and heads out into a coldhearted town.