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All This for 15 Minutes of Fame

Dave Letterman's 'stupid' pet and human tricks lure the silly and bizarre

Silliness has been a cottage industry in television entertainment for a long time. Recently, however, more and more people, some with their pets, are cashing in their unique tricks for a few moments of TV fame.

A taste of such creative silliness will be served again this Friday on the "Stupid Human Tricks" segment of the Late Show with David Letterman. The date for the "Stupid Pet Tricks" is yet to be announced. Auditions, held in Chicago last week and Boston last month, brought in an interesting sample of diversity.

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For young Sam Sieskes of Oconomowoc, Wis., the auditions offered an opportunity to take his kindergarten skills to a wider audience. The five-year-old tucks his ear lobes inside his ears and they don't pop out!

Not all talent is silly, says Tim Reed who auditioned in Boston and who claims to be a legend at his neighborhood pool hall. To prove it he greased his torso with Vaseline and slid his entire six-foot hairy-frame through a triangular billiard-ball rack.

Boston University sophomore Lauren Bologna rolled a quarter back and forth on her navel using her midriff muscles to generate the tilt. It's a skill she perfected in belly-dancing classes, she says, and it's a skill she claims makes her a hit at social events.

While some silly tricks were primarily social events, for Meg Pearson of Hanover, Mass., her "stupid trick" was a private affair. At least until now. For three decades she indulged an unusual pastime: racing on her knees with her legs buckled in a yoga position. She also initiated her two daughters into the rollicking activity.

"I always wanted to be on television," she explains as the reason for getting her talents out of the closet and onto the stage. "In my 30 years of doing this stupid trick I never thought it would come in handy," says Ms. Pearson.

Meanwhile, Chris Mengas didn't have a trick he could rely on until 10 days before the Boston auditions. So he made one up.

"I just wanted to do something lame and be on the show," he says. His trick was to stack six wine glasses in his mouth. He broke a couple of glasses in the process, and blamed the flashes from the photographers' cameras for his unsuccessful effort. "No more cameras," he requested. Then he tried again but with no more success than the first attempt.

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Such creative silliness is increasingly becoming staple for television. For instance, inventor Ernest Primeau, who claims baldness can be cured through the use of melted caramel chocolate, registered with a Reseda, Calif., talk show database registry.

Also registered was the president of UFO Abduction Insurance company, who, for a one-time premium of $9.95, said he would pay $10 million to any policyholder kidnapped by a space alien, and $20 million if a policyholder was eaten by aliens. "It doesn't have to be a great trick to make it to the show," explains Susan Sheehan coordinator of the "Stupid Tricks" event who lays out the criteria for selection. "It has to be appealing and unique."

Here's a sample from earlier episodes: James Brewster Thompson jumped rope with two women and a bass player on his back; Pete Pellard picked up a nickel with a forklift; Ray Macaraeg blew bubbles with a tarantula in his mouth.

Stupid pet tricks by smart pets have to be more entertaining than stupid human tricks.

Rhonna Garoz of Allston, Mass., adopted Ruthie, an abused green iguana. And Ruthie is quick to show her gratitude. "Kiss me. Kiss me," Ms. Garoz coaxed and Ruthie gave her a sloppy kiss. "Scary as they seem to appear," Garoz explains, "iguanas are tender."

Then there was Jacques, the mixed-breed mutt who rode a custom-made bike, while dressed in a sailor's suit with a scarlet scarf. And Abby, a golden retriever, who counts (barks) to three.

Then there was Cubby Cup, a husky and German shepherd mix with an ear for the classics. The once-homeless dog accompanied his master by howling out a dog's rendition of an aria from Verdi's "La Traviata."

"I was rehearsing at home one day and he just started singing along," the owner, Bill Fields, an opera singer says. "Now every time I practice he sings along."

Did Cubby Cup hit the right notes was an unanswered question. Only Jacques and Abbey can tell. But one thing is sure: They had his undivided attention.

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