Here's my "All Over the Map" from this week's Arkansas Weekly:
I recently spent an evening watching some of the delightful movies from the `70s and `80s that starred the adorable little mutt, Benji. My good friend, Sasquatch, came up with the idea of watching the movies. It seems he was driving down the road one recent afternoon and came across a dog that looked like the Hollywood canine.
“Hey,” he said to me in a phone call, “I’m drivin’ to Newport, and I swear I just saw Benji walking down the highway.”
“The dog from the movies?” I asked.
“Right on, that cute little sucker. Man, I loved those movies when I was a kid.”
“They were fantastic films, weren’t they?”
“Hey,” Sasquatch said, “how about I rent some of those DVDs tonight, and we grill some steaks, drink some beer and watch some damn Benji movies at your place!”
“Right on, brother!” I said. I held my fist to the phone. “Hey, I’m fist bumping you right now for comin’ up with this idea! Gimme some love back.”
“Got my fist to the phone as I speak, bro! We’re bumping cellular!”
The Benjifest at my place began with the landmark original film, Benji. Then we became enthralled with the thrilling international spy escapade, For the Love of Benji. We wrapped up the fun by grilling some steaks on my patio as “I Feel Love,” the theme to Benji as performed by the legendary Charlie Rich, played on my outside stereo.
“Man, when Benji knocked that gun out of that spy dude’s hand, that was bad ass,” Sasquatch said. He took a gulp of some Bud Light. “Benji is the man. Benji is the man.” He held up his fist.
“He’s legit,” I said, bumping Sasquatch’s knuckles with mine. “Say, I wonder why Benji doesn’t make more movies. You don’t hear much from him anymore.”
Sasquatch took a drag on his Marlboro Light 100 and considered my comments.
“That’s a good question,” he finally said. “Damn good question. Where is he? You know he could make a million dollars right now. People love Benji! I’d see a new Benji movie!”
“Well, what’s the problem? Somebody needs to make a new Benji movie! Get Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, some dude like that to direct, and get Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, or somebody to star with him, and BAM! Box office hit! Benji back on top!”
“That could be the name of the movie!” I said. “Benji – Back on Top!”
“Hell yeah,” Sasquatch said. He held up his fist.
I held up mine.
“Gimme a bump for Benji,” he said.
“Hey,” I said. “I have an idea. Let’s google Benji. See what he’s up to.”
“Bring it,” Sasquatch said.
I grabbed my laptop and searched for the latest news on the lovable pooch. The first article, from TMZ, popped up on my screen.
“Ooohh,” I said. “This ain’t good, bro.”
“Tell me,” he said. “I got on my big boy underwear.”
“Seems after the release of Benji’s last film, Benji Goes to Hell – ”
“I remember that,” Sasquatch said. “They should’ve stayed away from the horror genre. Benji ain’t no horror movie star.”
“…Benji suffered setbacks both professionally and personally,” I continued. “This story says after he broke off his relationship with Lassie, he split from Joe Camp, the director that discovered him, and Benji then became friends with Charlie Sheen and a number of adult film stars. He started making movies that lacked the quality of his earlier output with Camp, and he soon developed an addiction to sniffing jock itch medicinal powder which caused his cuddly appearance to take a drastic turn.”
I then came across this picture of Benji that was recently taken near Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles by a TMZ photographer. The ravages of addition were more than apparent.
|Former Hollywood superstar, Benji, was recently captured in this photo by a TMZ photographer near L.A.'s infamous Skid Row.|
Sasquatch looked at the image and slowly put down his beer. He covered his eyes with his hand and started to sob.
“Damn Hollywood!” he said. “Look at how it corrupted poor Benji! He looks so bad…like a damn crackhead!”
I put my hand on Sasquatch’s back.
“It’s okay to cry, bro,” I said. “Let it all out. Then, when you go to bed tonight, you say a little prayer for Benji. It’s gonna be okay. Benji’s gonna make it. He always pulls through. Remember how he recovered from that infected paw in Benji and Ernest Go to Sturgis? Well, by golly, Benji is going to overcome this addiction, he’s gonna get help, and soon, he’s going to be another Hollywood comeback story. Benji…is gonna be…back on top!”
Sasquatch took his hand from his eyes and moved it to my shoulder. He looked at me and slowly smiled.
“Back on top,” he said. “Benji gonna be back on top!” He brought his other hand up and made a fist.
“Bring it in for a little love for Benji,” he said. “Benji – back on top!”
“Back on top,” I said, as I brought it in for Benji.
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