July 22nd, 2009
05:23 PM ET

Taco Bell's famous talking dog dies

Sad news this week in the world of talking animals... Peoplepets.com is reporting that Gidget, the cute, little chatty Chihuahua from the Taco Bell ads, died from a stroke Tuesday at the age of 15.

Gidget captivated millions in the late 1990s when she first uttered "Yo quiero Taco Bell" ("I want some Taco Bell") in the fast food chain's now famous ad campaign.  From there, she donned the cap of a Mexican revolutionary and exclaimed "Viva Gorditas" from a balcony in front of thousands.

However, Taco Bell commercials weren't the canine's only gig... according to Peoplepets.com, Gidget also did a commercial for Trivial Pursuit, and starred opposite Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon in "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde."  The Chihuahua also had her own line of dolls and toys.

But, like any celebrity, Gidget's career was not without a little controversy.  Hispanic watchdog groups (excuse the pun) accused Taco Bell of promoting stereotypes in the ads and asked that they be taken off the air.

Do you have a favorite Gidget commercial?  Where do you think she ranks within the legacy of famous dogs?

July 22nd, 2009
11:15 AM ET

This little "Orphan" has a big secret

I'm not a horror film fan, especially ones with creepy kids... but I realize that in this business, one cannot escape the occasional thrasher.  So when my name was called upon to watch and do the cast interviews for "Orphan," I calmly accepted without protest.

In an effort not to irk the publicity department at Warner Bros. (the studio behind "Orphan," and CNN's sister company), I'll keep the plot summary short.  A troubled married couple (played by Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga) with two kids is traumatized when their third child is stillborn.  In order to ease their pain from the terrible experience, the pair adopts a nine-year-old girl named Esther.  The audience soon finds out that behind the cute pigtails and frilly dresses, Esther is a terror... and the horror ensues.  And one more thing: little Esther's got a big secret (but I obviously can't reveal that).

Last weekend, I got the chance to interview Isabelle Fuhrman, the nice young actress who portrays the horrible, violent Esther.  I found this a little unsettling, at first - unable to shake the image of a creepy, psychotic killer from my head.  But as soon as I sat down, Fuhrman opened right up, and no signs of Esther emerged, except when she paused a few times to give me Esther's blank, empty look (you may have seen it on "Orphan" movie posters).  Esther's creepiness quickly faded from my mind as the 12-year-old actress chatted away about her first movie experience, her co-stars, and her favorite scary movie - she says she usually doesn't watch them, but did see "The Good Son" (which, appropriately, also centers on a disturbed child, played by Macaulay Culkin). Fuhrman had this to say about her her deeply, deeply troubled character:

"She feels like she's a victim.  She doesn't feel like she's evil at all.  She feels like she's a victim in a world that just doesn't understand her and she really just wants to be understood, and if not, it doesn't end well."

Indeed.  Those who see the film when it opens this weekend can witness for themselves just how things end.  And Esther's big secret?  Fuhrman's not going to tell... at least not on tape.

July 16th, 2009
01:52 PM ET

ESPY Awards: The thrill of victory, the agony of the teleprompter

The ESPY awards… the annual event where Hollywood celebrities and sports figures collide, and big names like Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Phelps trade in their uniforms (or in Michael's case, Speedos) for suits, sunglasses and lots of bling for a walk down the red carpet.

ESPY

The ESPY awards is the annual event where Hollywood celebrities and sports figures collide. More photos »

There were those familiar with the glitzy setting: Terrell Owens has never met a camera he didn't like; Serena Williams and Danica Patrick know how to strike a pose; and Lakers star Kobe Bryant is no stranger to the Hollywood spotlight. 

But then there are those who genuinely seemed bewildered by the whole scene, as if out of their element, but in an endearing way.

Matthew Stafford, this year's number one overall NFL draft pick, was attending his first ESPY awards.  The 21-year-old quarterback admitted that despite playing in front of thousands at the University of Georgia, the setting outside the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday was not something he’s used to. 
photo Check out photos from the red carpet »

Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips had a “you really want to talk to me???” look on his face when I wrangled him for an interview.  But to his credit, he successfully skirted media questions about his star quarterback Tony Romo’s personal life… well played, coach, well played.

And then there was the taping of show itself.  The production was a little shaky at the beginning.  Host Samuel L. Jackson had to improvise when the teleprompter stopped working not once, but twice.  But Samuel L. kept his cool and took a few stabs at audience members during his opening monologue where no one was off limits.  Just ask Phelps (remember the photo of him apparently using drug paraphernalia?), whom Jackson said is glad to be back in the pool where nobody can give him a hard time “when you smoke the competition.”

And by the way, Phelps DID smoke the competition at the ESPYS: the Olympic swimmer won five trophies.  However, that’s three less than the total of gold medals he won in Beijing last summer, so overall a disappointing night… but you wouldn’t know it by watching his mother Debbie, who’s perfected the “so proud” facial expression.

Despite a few production delays and prompter hiccups, the show taping was completed in less than three hours.  That's one thing Hollywood award ceremonies, which tend to drag on for hours, can learn from the ESPYs – shorter acceptance speeches.  We’re all familiar with long, dramatic monologues from a sometimes frantic actor or actress after a big win as they thank countless  people you’ve never heard of.  Often times, even the theme music that’s played as a sign to wrap it up isn’t enough to get them off the stage.

But there was no need for a maestro at the ESPYs.  Take Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback Matt Ryan’s speech after winning the best breakthrough performance award:

"All right, wow.  Well, thank you to the fans for uh, for voting for this, um, congratulations to the other contestants also, Derek (Rose), Evan (Longoria), and Shawn (Johnson), you guys are all deserving of it.  Uh, thanks to my teammates, without you none of this is possible, um and thanks to my family for their support through everything so, thank you and have a fun night and hopefully we can do it again next year, thank you."

Dignified, simple, non-controversial and most importantly, less than thirty seconds.  With the Emmy Awards approaching, a few in TV land might want to take notes.

The ESPY Awards air this Sunday on ESPN.

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