The little brown Chihuahua-with-attitude named Gidget made “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” a familiar phrase across the land. Some people thought she was a boy dog, but actually a male voice was dubbed. [cough]
The commercials were amusing and charming. In one she chided an expensive restaurant for not having a Taco Bell value menu. In another she was trying to lure Godzilla into a box using tacos. In another, wearing a little beret, she shouted, “Viva Gorditas” as the crowd cheered.
Gidget’s image spread to bobble head dogs, posters, and T-shirts, as she became an important figure in American pop culture.
The commercials ran from 1997 to 2000; then suddenly in the middle of her popularity, she was gone from the airwaves. Rumors flew that she had died or gone into rehab for a cocaine addiction and dissolute living. Another rumor was that she offended Mexican activists. (I’m not even going there.)
However, nothing had happened to her and even if it had, animals are easily replaceable in TV and films. Several look-alike understudies could have stepped in.
We all noticed when Darren on “Bewitched” and Roseanne’s daughter were suddenly replaced by different humans. But few noticed when Eddie on “Frazier” was replaced by a younger Jack Russell. And don’t even get me started on the generations of male dogs playing Lassie since the 1940’s.
According to the Taco Bell corporation, as cute and popular as she was, the little dog wasn’t selling tacos so they bounced her as a spokesdog—a corporate decision.
However it seems there was more to it than that…
A lawsuit, filed in 1998 by Joseph Shields and Thomas Rinks, charged the Taco Bell corporation with failing to pay for use of a Chihuahua character they created. They claimed that Taco Bell had failed to pay on a contract after they worked with the chain for a year to develop the talking Chihuahua.
And a jury agreed with them. In 2002, a federal jury awarded Shields and Rinks more than $30 million.
(Bad, Taco Bell! Bad!)
Gidget still got work after the Taco Bell gig (like dogs care about that). She appeared in a Geico commercial seeking employment (but the talking gecko got the part) and she played Bruiser’s mother in Legally Blonde 2.
Even though it’s been years since her stardom, Gidget still has a lot of fans. I have a T-shirt that has an outsize picture of her face on the front with “Here, lizard, lizard, lizard.” And on the back she has a small box to catch Godzilla, “I think I need a bigger box.”
Whenever I wear it I hear people laughing behind my back.
At least I think that’s what they’re laughing about.