Hollywood's new Ginger and her fancy footwork
I interviewed a Hollywood starlet named Ginger the other day who was exactly what the public has been taught to expect - huge brown eyes, pleasant disposition, trim figure, naturally curly hair.
Ginger is practically the only female in her first picture, where she is almost constantly surrounded by members of the opposite sex. The production company that owns her contract has her insured for so much money it's embarrassing.
But I saw Ginger act, and she's a dog! In fact, she's believed to be the only soccer-playing dachshund in the world.
Her co-stars in ''A Minor Miracle'' are Anthony Quinn and soccer great Pele. And after seeing how well she controls a soccer ball with her nose and body, the internationally famous Pele insisted that her part in the film be expanded.
Ginger is a member of the household of Holland-born Frits Rosenveldt, who runs a soccer supply store and once coached the sport at Chaffee College near here. His wife and two children are also involved in the game, the kids as players.
Since 1967, Frits has helped to establish youth soccer leagues in seven communitie in his area, teaching the sport to an estimated 15,000 boys and girls. However, his 20-year-old daughter, Michele, is the canine's trainer.
''Ginger was given to us by our landlady when she was maybe three-months-old, '' Michele recalled. ''We're the kind of family that always seems to have a lot of sports equipment around the house, including tennis balls. Ginger began playing with these balls almost immediately. . . .''
''You know how it is with people and dogs sometimes,'' Michele continued. ''This led to a game where we would throw the tennis ball to Ginger and she'd catch it in her mouth. Then her instincts suddenly took over, I guess, because she began throwing the tennis ball back to us with a toss of her head.''
The dog's interest in a larger ball stemmed from Michele, who was playing in a soccer league at the time. She took Ginger to practice and her father took the canine to some of his team's games at Chaffee College.
''At first Ginger was kind of frustrated when she couldn't get the bigger soccer ball in her mouth,'' Michele said. ''But the first thing we knew she started imitating the players by pushing and dribbling the ball all over the field with her nose.''
''Possibly nothing would have come of this if everyone who saw her do it hadn't reacted by either talking or pointing at her,'' her trainer continued. ''I mean she's the kind of dog that doesn't miss much and when she realized what was happening, she turned into a ham overnight.''
Ginger's movie role came as the result of a family friend, Alan Meeder (who runs a series of soccer camps and knew about the dog) being named technical director of the film. The movie needed a stunt dog that maybe somebody could teach to play soccer. Mr. Meeder already had a candidate in the Rosenveldts' family pet.
''In July we got a telephone call from Tom Moyer Productions to bring Ginger to a studio in the Burbank area for taping and a screen test,'' Michele said. ''I don't know if they had tested any other dogs or not, but Ginger was the only one there.''
''We went to a soccer field, I gave her the ball, and the way she performed I have to think she knew what was going on,'' her trainer continued.
''Usually you have to spend some time with her and coax her a lot to get her to shoot the ball into the goal. But this time she gave the ball a push with her nose, stood there while it rolled into the net, and then looked back at us.'' Ginger makes $60 a day when she works and when she gets fed on the set it's often steak. In fact, the first time that happened, it took Michele three days to get her back on dog food.
The story line for ''A Minor Miracle'' deals with an American orphanage jammed with kids from all over the world who aren't happy and also aren't getting along very well together.
Thinking that maybe a competitive sports team that these kids can play on might solve the problem, the orphanage looks into football and is overwhelmed by the cost of uniforms and equipment. Next idea: soccer, where only a ball is required.
Ginger, a stray who shows up at the orphanage, helps earn her keep by practicing with this rag-tag team where two left feet are the rule rather than the exception.
Eventually, through watching her control a soccer ball, the kids also learn how. Ginger's dramatic scene comes in the big game when she races onto the field to help snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Michele had Ginger perform for me with a soccer ball in her father's store where the aisles are about the same width as a supermarket, but not nearly as long.
Although I didn't have a stopwatch, Ginger easily broke the 55 miles-per-hour speed limit. And in ''A Minor Miracle,'' I'm sure she'll also break a few hearts!