Monday, December 5, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Chris Grabenstein and Fred!

Fred and Chris
I've had quite a few "firsts" on Fido and Friend in Five. Gareth and Jack were my first duo from another country. Jeff Crosby was the first author/illustrator I had in the spotlight. And Kate Morgan Jackson was the first editor. Today's spotlight brings yet another first for Fido and Friend in Five: a dog who was a Broadway star! And not only was Fred the dog a stage actor, but his person, Chris, was once an improvisational comedian!

Neither of this duo graces the stage any longer, but that doesn't mean that don't appear in the spotlight (other than this one) from time to time. Chris spent nearly twenty years writing commercials for ad agencies. Some of his commercial spots include 7-Up, KFC, Dr. Pepper, Miller Lite, and others. It was while writing ads that Chris's writing talent was discovered by none other than James Patterson! At that time, Patterson was Chris's Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising.

Chris's writing career expanded to writing screenplays. He co-wrote the screenplay for the CBS-TV movie THE CHRISTMAS GIFT, starring John Denver. He also wrote scripts for "The Muppets." He has gone on to write award-winning mysteries for both adults and middle grade readers. The Black Heart  Crypt, his latest middle grade mystery, caught my eye and led me to Chris's website where I saw his picture with the most handsome Fred!

Broadway Star!
Fred's story is every bit as amazing as Chris's. Fred was an abandoned puppy trying to survive on the streets in the Bronx when he was taken to a "kill shelter." Fortunately for all of us, Fred was rescued by Hollywood dog trainer, Bill Berloni. Fred was trained to star in the Broadway production of "Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang." When the production closed, Fred moved up to Berloni's Connecticut home and lived with the trainer's other 15 dogs, all of whom have starred on stage and screen and were shelter rescues. We'll find out in our chat with Fred and Chris how Fred came to live in Manhattan with Chris, his wife and two cats. That doesn't mean, though, that Fred has avoided the spotlight. The New York Daily News ran an article about Fred in 2010, and he has his own book, Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars, by William Berloni and James Hanrahan.

Fred in his office
So let's meet this most interesting duo in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

1. How did you and Fred find each other? Thanks to a friend who works in animal rescue with my wife, we were put in touch with famed Broadway animal trainer, Bill Berloni, who volunteers at the New York Humane Society. Fred had just completed a run on stage in the Broadway musical, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" with six other dogs, and wanted his own forever home. We feel very lucky to have a star licking our faces.

Fred & Bernadette Peters
2. What makes Fred's tail wag?  People! Fred loves meeting folks. We call him the mayor of 81st Street.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I love the story about the dog who waited for his human friend at the train station in Japan every night for years after the man had passed away. (Hachiko: A Dog Story)

4. If Fred could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  He would change my face into a rump roast.

Best Buds Forever
5. Tell us in five words what Fred means to you:  Joyful friend who's always happy.

Many thanks to these two amazing guys for visiting with us on
Fido and Friend in Five! Watch for Chris's new book, RILEY MACK

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