Sunday, January 25, 2009

A dog day afternoon for Taco Bell

Shakespeare probably isn't the best starting point for canine thespian training, but my dogs are going to cash in while the market's ripe. Actually, they're more interested in scouring the carpet for unvacuumed treat crumbs. But after reading that Taco Bell has to pay $42 million to the originators of a spokes-dog's gig for Gidget the Chihuahua, I've turned into Joan Crawford. Lindsay Lohan's parents have nothing over me.

In case you were out walking your pooch, here's what happened.

Back in the late 1990s, Taco Bell ran a series of commercials featuring a beret-clad Gidget speaking in a heavily accented male voice. The dog would wax rhapsodically about Taco bell's fare, then conclude with a tagline that became part of the popular lexicon: Yo quiero Taco Bell.

By all accounts, the spot was a huge hit, and Gidget became a pop icon.

But two cartoon makers from Michigan came forward and accused Taco Bell of stealing their idea for a "psycho Chihuahua." In Taco Bell's defense, the dog never seemed that imbalanced to me, if you discount the beret and the fact it spoke.

But a jury and federal judge agreed with the pair of plaintiffs, ordering Taco Bell in 2003 to pay them $42 million in restitution. The fast-food chain countered by saying the award should be footed by the agency that created the Chihuahua commercials, which were reportedly part of a $500-million ad campaign. It sued the agency for the $42 million.

On Friday, a federal appeals court ruled that Taco Bell, not its agency, had to cut the check.

There's no word yet on how much will end up in Gidget's account.

Okay, back to coaching my lazy flea bags on "Richard III." But I fear what they really want is to direct.

No comments: