The “World’s Ugliest Mutt” Pee Wee Martini was the special guest last Thursday at the opening of Amble Gallery and Books, Northern Liberties’ newest off-beat gallery. And Pee Wee earned the title – he has a natural Mohawk, crooked face, unusual spots, long claw-like nails, no fur and a tongue that just can’t stay in his mouth.
Pee Wee’s owner, Kristin Maszkiewicz, is a born-and-raised Fishtown resident who found her dog at a pet store in Langhorne, Pa.
“When I bought him two-and-a-half years ago, his tongue didn’t stick out and his face wasn’t crooked. He just grew that way,” Maszkiewicz said.
In 2005, a friend suggested that she enter Pee Wee in Regis and Kelly’s “Funniest Looking Dog in America” contest.
“I really didn’t think anything would come of it. I just sent in a picture and sure enough, they called me,” Maszkiewicz said.
In November 2005, Maszkiewicz and Pee Wee made their first national appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly. The following spring, a fellow “ugly dog” owner advised Maszkiewicz to enter Pee Wee in Sonoma-Marin Fair’s Ugliest Dog Contest in Petaluma, Calif.
The contest gained international attention in 2006 when the Sonoma-Marin Fair created an online voting gallery. Nearly 300,000 people voted and international reporters came to Petaluma for the final judging. Animal Planet, People magazine and Fox News covered the event.
The contest has two categories: “Ugliest Pedigree” and “Ugliest Mutt.” The winners of these classes compete against one another and the final winner battles against a ring of past champions. It’s a pretty stiff competition.
Before she left with Pee Wee for California, Maszkiewicz got a martini glass tattoo for good luck.
Pee Wee, a mix of Japanese Chin and Chinese Crested, was a favorite both online and at the fair. He won “Ugliest Mutt” and was featured in People and on CN8 News, Fox News, Don Polec’s World on 6ABC, Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition.
And then Pee Wee became a piece of art.
“Last May, Kristin brought Pee Wee to the 10th anniversary art show [of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society] at Art@Sophi in South Philly. There, member Chris came up with the idea to do a show of interpretations of Pee Wee,” said Jeff Kilpatrick, Temple film school graduate and co-founder of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society.
“It was a fun idea and it actually materialized. I didn’t really think it would happen,” Maszkiewicz said.
Over the summer, Kilpatrick hosted a barbecue at his Fishtown apartment and invited PeeWee so the society members could get familiar with the dog.
“The show is about not judging a book by its cover,” said Scott Derby, member of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society and contributor to the show. “The dog looks scary, but he is actually sweet and awesome.”
The show features 24 artists’ sketches, watercolors, pastels, acrylics, wood carvings, sculpture and mixed media works. When visitors enter the gallery, the first piece they see is Tim Whalen’s wooden sculpture of Pee Wee as Batman, entitled The Bark Night Returns. Other works include Tony Smith’s The Lover, a painting of a chic Pee Wee and Jeff Kilpatrick’s Pugnacious, a pen-and-ink depiction of Pee Wee as a boxer.
Maszkiewicz’s favorite is Kyle Margiotta’s portrait of Pee Wee in grayscale pastels called Portrait of Pee Wee Martini.
The crowd at the gallery opening included grungy-looking young people in ripped jeans and paint-stained T-shirts, preppy twenty-somethings and elderly people in formal attire. The show started at 7 p.m. By 8 p.m., the gallery was full and by 10 p.m., the free Pabst Blue Ribbon was nearly gone.
Matt Naiman attended the show on Thursday with his friend Aaron Levinson. Naiman spends most of his time in Tokyo, Japan, where he owns three nightclubs. However, Naiman knew about Pee Wee before Fishtown native Levinson did.
“I first learned about Pee Wee in Japan,” Naiman said. “Pee Wee is big there. I saw him on a Japanese variety show.”
Last June, Pee Wee ran again at the Sonoma-Marin Fair and came in third. Regardless, he remains an international icon.
“It all started with the ‘Funniest Looking Dog,'” Maszkiewicz said. “I don’t even have words to describe this. I wish Pee Wee knew what was going on.”
Leah Kristie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.