[Vision2020] Keyboard Cat has shelter buds’ backs

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Tue Feb 9 04:01:31 PST 2016

Courtesy of today's (February 9, 2016) Spokesman-Review.


Doug Clark: Keyboard Cat has shelter buds’ backs
The “true story” of Bento, a hopeless Spokane waif who gains global fame after being adopted, is coming to a TV, computer, radio and billboard near you.

Cue that jaunty earworm:

“Doot-doot-doot doo …”

Bento, of course, is the feline Internet sensation Keyboard Cat.

The orange tabby is featured in “Start A Story. Adopt,” a new public service advertising campaign designed to promote animal shelters as the go-to place for getting a pet.

It’s a wonderful cause.

But as a heartwarming bonus, the video filmed for the PSA gives Charlie Schmidt, the mastermind behind the improbable pianist, some well-deserved and overdue recognition. 

“It’s a sincere validation,” said Charlie, as he’s known to friends and fans. “Totally special.”

I’m biased on this subject.

Charlie’s been one of my best pals for decades.

I’ve tagged along with him to destinations like Tokyo and Istanbul, where he performed his singular “dancing nose” routine before wildly enthusiastic TV audiences. 

Charlie played drums in my band. If that’s not enough, my son, Ben, is the agent who brokers all the deals for Keyboard Cat, like toys, endorsements and public appearances.

But setting aside the personal stuff, Charlie is an extraordinary talent who sadly is more appreciated outside Spokane than within the city limits.

I could fill three columns dissecting the Charlie Schmidt resume, how he’s performed all over the planet, appeared twice on the “Tonight Show” and even starred in a long-running British candy bar commercial.

And that’s all thanks to his rubbery nose.

In the bit, he manipulates his malleable schnozzola in rhythmic time against a clean sheet of glass while miming “It’s Not Unusual” a la Tom Jones.

The glass is invisible on TV. So it looks like Charlie’s nose is twirling and gyrating due to supernatural forces.

Silly and simple as it may be, the dancing nose has made this man hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

Ah, but nothing lasts forever except cockroaches and Spokane potholes.

Charlie noted that his showbiz career “had taken a nosedive” until Keyboard Cat blew up.

Charlie videotaped his cat, Fatso, playing a portable keyboard way back in the 1980s. As with his glass trick, you never see Charlie gently manipulating the paws of his sweater-clad cat.

Nothing came of this until 2009, when an Internet surfer snatched it off YouTube and placed it at the end of a stupid video that he posted.

It wasn’t too long until just about every World Wide Webber – from Ashton Kutcher to the band Green Day – began doing the same.

The Keyboard Cat meme was born.

The other day I dropped in on Charlie. He showed me that his original cat video had amassed 49 million plays. Several of his Keyboard Cat sequels had passed the million-play mark as well.

And now Spokane’s furry star will reveal his cage-to-stage past in the PSA campaign.

We’re talking about Keyboard Cat 2.0, of course. Fatso, the original, went on to Catnip Glory long ago.

When my son started bringing in offers for TV commercials, Charlie asked what he should do.

“Get another cat,” advised Ben.

Charlie did just that, prowling the animal shelters until he found a lookalike with an easygoing attitude.

“Must’ve looked at a hundred shelter cats before I found the right one,” he said. “Ben told me to get a cat, he didn’t say where I should get one.”

As an acknowledgment, Charlie graciously named him after my kid.

He laughed. Learning Bento’s a shelter cat “is like finding out that Mick Jagger was adopted.”

The new PSA is a joint venture of Maddie’s Fund, The Humane Society of the United States and the Ad Council.

Keyboard Cat shares the spotlight with two Instagram faves: Hamilton Pug and Toast, a spaniel with a dangling boa-sized tongue.

“Millions of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats enter shelters across America each year and are just waiting for a special home,” said Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society’s president and CEO.

“Unfortunately, many of those animals never find one. We hope Toast, Keyboard Cat and Hamilton Pug inspire people to support their local animal shelters and start their own stories by adopting a pet in need of a home.”

In the Keyboard Cat spot, Charlie is shown padding through the halls at home and making art with Bento right by his side.

“I adopted Bento in 2010 from a shelter – as it turns out we have very similar personalities,” Charlie says in the video.

“And this cat makes me make art because he’s always motivating me to take pictures of him, to draw pictures of him. He just is motivating artistically, it’s just that simple.”

The best moment comes when Charlie gives Bento an affectionate kiss.

“Well, he’s my best friend and a lot of people know him as Keyboard Cat.”

How cute is that?

“It’s come full circle,” said Charlie, calling the PSA the most important “thing we’ve ever done.”

Plus it shows that “Keyboard Cat is one of the Good Guys,” he added. “That’s what people will say.”


Dan Schmidt's Keyboard Cat



Shelter Pet Adoption (video)



Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares"
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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