I used to work at the corporate office of a now defunct book retailer. I saw lots of interesting stuff pass through that building. Some of it I even got to take home. In that building, I was introduced to Jason Mraz (awesome), Domo (so cool), and Robin Thicke (I thought he would totally bomb. Boy, was I wrong.). I fell in love with Kid Rock, Good Charlotte, Fearless, and Twilight because of that place.
But one of the strangest things I probably fell in love with was Mr. Winkle.
What is a Mr. Winkle, you ask?
Little do you now, Mr. Winkle has built a retail empire based on the hypothesis of the answer to that question.
The first time I heard of Mr. Winkle, he was a magazine article hanging outside of the cubicle of someone in the calendar buying group. It had a picture of Mr. Winkle with a zipper on his chest, with the headline “Is It A Dog In A Cat Suit or A Cat In A Dog Suit.” (Those calendar folks always were a little off their rockers. I believe it was all the November allocation stress. But that is what made it so much fun to become a part of that department a few years later.) Next, pictures appeared of Mr. Winkle dressed as a bee, a space alien, and his impression of a nasty, mean-old squirrel were hung up on the cubicle as well.
I fell in love with that stupid dog!
When the kind calendar folks learned of my love of all things Winkle, they made sure to save me one of his calendars every year. I sent him an email…
AND HE ANSWERED ME BACK! How great is that for a celebrity whose species is not even equipped with opposable thumbs!
Soon Mr. Winkle was also releasing children’s books. I bought the first one, then the second. I bought his four minute video. (I don’t like to do any obsession part way! See also The Wienermobile.) My peeps at work gave me the hook-up on some Mr. Winkle plush (not available in stores).
Mr. Winkle even appeared on an episode of Sex & The City! (By the way, that is the only episode of that show that I have ever watched.)
But in 2003, a great dream of mine would come true. Mr. Winkle’s handler and photographer, Lara Jo Regan, kept him on a short leash (pun intended). He traveled and did media appearances, but very few. So when I found out that he would be coming to Michigan, it was as if my [stalker] dreams had come true!
Mr. Winkle was going to appear at the Birmingham Borders book store. Now, I am afraid to drive in big cities. I tend to lump all of downtown and the surrounding suburbs into one scary-ass mess known as Detroit. But as my husband went with me, I probably made him drive. My crazy friend went with us too, because her Winkle love also ran deep.
We were some of the first people there. The line became SO LONG behind us. Finally Lara Jo arrived. Mr. Winkle had a little leopard-print dog bed to chill in while he met his fans. He was giving out pawtographs and was available for photos with fans. No one was allowed to hold him or touch him.
It turns out, Mr. Winkle, who looks like a cross between a shaved Pomeranian and a Chihuahua on uranium has the nasty personality of both! By the time it was my turn, I was kind of scared to stoop next to him. He had snarled at quite a few folks. Lara Jo just chastised him. She was obviously used to his breed nastiness. It was still a really awesome day. I have his pawtograph hanging upstairs. I had our picture together displayed in my cubicle, alongside his annual calendars.
I am sad to say that I do not have a complete collection of Mr. Winkle calendars. But I do have his 2014 calendar hanging in my kitchen right now. It features pics from his “Nudes” collection. I am bothered that his website never gets updated. That was acceptable in 2003, not so much in 2014. Everything on the Internet says that he is still alive. He would be like 20 years old by now. I loved him, but I blame continued merchandising on his longevity.
Other weirdly adorable animals have tried to steal Mr. Winkle’s spotlight. [I will most definitely not name their names here.] But I sincerely wanted to write a post about what Mr. Winkle has meant to me, and how he will always be a “Top Dog” in my book, right behind my own dogs.