Lassie: Jim Spellman/

Dalton Ross is baffled over an invitation from Lassie. Plus: More on David Blaine, and a ranking of the dumbest Saturday-morning cartoons ever

September 16, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

The invitation that gave Dalton Ross paws

When you work in the entertainment biz, you receive a lot of random promotional items (last week’s Footballers Wive$ soccer ball being the latest example), as well as publicity pitches. You actually become numb (some would say jaded) to most of it after a while, but every so often something comes across your desk that demands a little extra attention. Which brings us to an e-mail I received last week. I’ll just relay the first couple sentences:

Hi, Dalton

I know it’s a little last minute, but I wanted to extend to you Lassie’s invitation to have a bite to eat with her. She will be at the W Hotel in Union Square from 10am to 5pm tomorrow and can make an appointment with you anytime.

I sat there in stunned silence. Was this an invitation from…a dog? I read on, and when I got to the part bragging about Lassie being ”tinsel town’s most beloved pet of all time,” I concluded that yes, this was, in fact, a dog inviting me out on a date. Yet so many other questions raged on. First off, are dogs really even allowed at the W Hotel? I decided to place a call and find out. I rang the W and asked exactly what the policy on canines was. A very lovely reservation agent named Jean answered and informed me that dogs are allowed to stay at the hotel, but only if they are under 40 pounds, and even then the owners are charged an extra $25 a day plus a one-time $100 cleaning fee (meaning, I suppose, that for a hundred bucks your pooch can poop with impunity wherever it damn pleases — not a bad deal, all things considered).

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about dogs; I’m a cat guy. But I’m guessing that Lassie is not coming in at under 40 pounds. For one thing, she is a collie, and not just any old collie, but some sort of huge mutant collie! Okay, that may be overstating it, but it turns out that all the Lassies were specially bred to be larger so that it was less noticeable when the child actors starring alongside them started growing. (Sneaky.) So, it seems as if Lassie was either crashing the hotel or getting some sort of special celebrity dog treatment.

But there were other questions to consider as well. Seeing as how I enjoy neither kibbles nor bits, would we even be ordering off the same lunch menu? And since I was not so naïve as to believe that I was the only person invited, does that mean that Lassie was engaging in a bit of speed dating? Which brings us to another uncomfortable point: the fact that she is actually a he! That’s right — apparently all the dogs that have played the female Lassie in the movies are male (again, because they are bigger, and also do not shed their coat). Personally, I have nothing against transgenderism in dogs, but let’s face it, the date could get a bit awkward. Also, the e-mail mentioned that Lassie was on ”her cross-country private jet chauffeured 4-month Pet Health Tour” implying that this was, in fact, nothing more than a dine-and-dash. (What, no cuddle time?)

Needless to say, I declined the invite. Besides, I don’t go out on dates with just any old dog. Personally, I’m holding out for Spuds MacKenzie. Now, that dude knows how to party!



I hate to say I told you so… oh, who am I kidding? I love to say I told you so! Last week, I wrote an open letter to David Blaine, in which I pleaded with him to not try to hold his breath underwater for nine minutes. I told him I feared for his life. Well, he didn’t die, but he did have to be pulled from the tank by rescue workers before he could reach his record-setting goal. (I knew that Kirk Krack guy was bad news.) Now, on the surface this would seem to be a pretty big blow against Blaine, but I say, Au contraire, mon frere. This is the most exciting thing to happen to televised illusionists in decades! For years we’ve sat through inane magic specials in which people like Blaine and David Copperfield would be frozen in a block of ice, hang out in a ”tornado of fire,” or make the Statue of Liberty disappear, and frankly, they were all boring as hell — because they all worked. They all went off without a hitch. Not this time. Blaine failed — and I love it. I’m obsessed with the fact that in this case, failure actually was an option. Who knows, maybe if he tries again, I will actually bother watching.



My kids watch next to no television. The reason is simple: I basically spent every Saturday morning of my childhood sitting in front of a TV set taking in inane crap that had nothing to do with anything. And, as a result, it turned me into a moron. A moron, however, who is more than equipped to handle this week’s List of the Top 5 Most Ridiculous Things to Be Turned Into a Saturday Morning Cartoon.

1) Hammerman (1991)
The premise of this ABC cartoon was that MC Hammer had a magic pair of shoes, and when he put them on, he became… Hammerman! (Too bad they didn’t also turn him into a half-decent rapper.) The MC didn’t even bother providing his own voice for Hammerman (Clark Johnson, who has gone on to direct shows like The Wire and The Shield as well as movies like S.W.A.T. and The Sentinel, handled the vocal duties). When it comes to idiotic adaptations, u can’t touch this.
2) Rubik, The Amazing Cube (1983)
I always thought the whole point of the Rubik’s Cube was to flex your brain power — and color coordination skills — by properly matching up six sides of a box-shaped toy, but evidently ABC executives thought differently, adapting the fad-tastic puzzle into a brainless cartoon in which the cube somehow gained magical powers and flew around once its colors were aligned. Acid, anyone?
3) Pac-Man (1982)
Actually, the most amazing thing about this cartoon is that it was only the third worst Pac Man adaptation, the first being the horrible Atari 2600 home version, and the second being the Buckner & Garcia anthem ”Pac Man Fever.” I suppose Ms. Pac Man was kinda hot, though.
4) Lazer Tag Academy (1986)
Apparently, putting guns into the hands of little kids throughout the country was not good enough, so the fine folks behind Lazer Tag tried to indoctrinate young minds through the TV set as well. The show involved some Lazer Tag champion from the future who used her gun to travel through time. Ahhhh, guns — is there anything they can’t do? Yay, let’s all go get guns!!!
5) Mr. T (1983)
It was certainly appropriate for Mr. T to be animated, seeing as how he was kinda already a cartoon figure to begin with. But instead of him playing some sort of boxer or all-around badass, T was relegated to being a… gymnastics coach?!? I pity the fool who came up with that idea. Seriously, gymnastics coach? What, is he gonna unleash a little gymkata on our ass? Weak.



A bunch of e-mails this week regarding my list of Top 5 Movies of All Time. A lot of love being shown for Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Here are a few others from the mailbag.

I loved the top 5 movie picks. My husband and I have often joked about Luke Skywalker’s whiny tantrum about the ”power converter at Tosche Station.” Also, he is right about Caddyshack‘s Ted Knight not always getting the credit he deserves for such gems as ”I’ll give you asthma!” And as for Evil Dead II being on the list… of course it is! And please don’t take this the wrong way or as an insult, but when I saw Dalton’s picture at the top right corner of his page (before I even read his article) I had to do a double take because I thought he WAS Bruce Campbell! I mean, no offense, because Bruce is a good-looking guy, really. — Sue Ann

Thanks… I think. Funny story to go with that, Sue Ann. About two years ago I met up with Bruce in Fredonia, N.Y. (basically, the middle of nowhere), to do a filmography for EW. He was speaking at a college there. In any event, I walked in with him to the auditorium and all these students started accosting me, assuming we were related. (It took me a while to assure them I was an absolute nobody related to no one in the least bit important.) I guess it’s all in the protruding chin. Anyway, he’s a great guy, and a great writer, as anyone who has seen his work as a guest critic in this week’s EW will tell you.

Dalton, please explain — what is the deal with guys and Caddyshack? There are loads of films that are considered ”guy flicks” that I thoroughly enjoy, but while I find Caddyshack funny, to me it’s not the be all and end all. Walk into a room full of guys, say a line from Caddyshack, and the entire room will proceed to act out the scene. Could you possibly be a representative for your sex and explain this phenomenom to a confused woman? — Alison Elliott

Once — and only once — my wife agreed to watch Caddyshack with me. I could tell her eyes were glazing over, so when she went to kitchen to grab something, I switched the DVD language track to French. When she came back, I put it back on and kept waiting for her to comment about it. Nothing. Finally, after 10 minutes, I said, ”Have you detected anything odd about this movie recently?” She was like, ”No.” I proceeded to explain that we had been watching en français, and she said she honestly hadn’t noticed. I guess that pretty much sums it all up right there. Hardly any women I know like — or pay any attention to — this movie. Hell, I shouldn’t even like it — I don’t play golf and am not a frat guy in the least. But it is just so ridiculous (night scenes blatantly shot during the day, lines of dialogue that come out of nowhere, and all the characters seemingly coked up out of their minds), that you have to revel in it. Ted Knight is a genius.

I knew it. I’ve known for some time, but you’ve just confirmed it. The Empire Strikes Back as your top movie? You are clearly the most perfect male who has ever lived, and to mark that standing I think we should marry. I know it’s soon, but how’s June 3rd? I’ll take care of the AT-ATs if you take care of the mechanical respirator chamber. ? Annie Kelly

Okay, I admit it. I’m just posting this letter in the hopes that my wife will somehow stumble upon this column, see she has a little competition, and not force me to clean out the attic this weekend. I will do anything to get out of household chores.

Dalton, what are your thoughts on the Sign o’ the Times album? Are you among the legion who feel this is his best work? — Roe Luv

First off, Roe Luv, you have what has to be the coolest name ever. I don’t care if you made it up — it’s perfect. Much better then my former punk-rock stage name, Spindly Gordon. In any event, you’re obviously referring to my Top 5 Price Songs of All Time list from a few weeks back. Sign o’ the Times is the sexy pick for best Prince album, but I’ll stick with the predictable Purple Rain, which is a bit tighter (it’s a single album, as opposed to a double). Sign is still a very close No. 2. A more interesting question would be, What is the worst Prince album? I’ll start the discussion by nominating Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic.

In my English class yesterday we were discussing the cultural obsession with Disney World, and I brought up your comment about the ”cast members” and how they’re pretty creepy. My teacher totally loved this idea, and I definitely took credit for it (although I did give you the credit in my head). Just thought you’d appreciate knowing your work inspires intellectual discussion in institutions of higher education. — Katie Nowak

Katie, I’m honored and more than a little bit frightened. Feel free to steal any ideas you deem worthy. But be warned: Keep it up and you may receive a marriage proposal from Annie Kelly. She’s relentless!

Questions, comments, and quibbles are always welcome. Just e-mail them to, or fill out the form below.

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