Everybody here LOves Bingo. See for yourself. That gray-haired man carrying his newspaper: “Hi! Bingo.” Those three cool rocker girls with their cell phones out: “Hey, Bingo!” That cute N.Y.-looking couple wearing blazers and holding hands, they’re all crazy for Bingo.
“He has definitely helped business,” says 30-year-old bleached blond Sarah Dale, owner of Silver Lake’s Pull My Daisy boutique and Bingo, the 12-pound dachshund.
“He’s a pied piper,” she says, eyeing Bingo, who sits in the doorway looking out. “He brings in all kinds of people.
“Dachshunds were bred for badger hunting. They’re perimeter dogs, they burrow and patrol, and he definitely likes to patrol. He guards his turf. Every morning the first thing he does is walk up and down the block and check in at all the stores. He doesn’t like skateboarders or anyone running.”
Bingo’s beat is Sunset Boulevard between Sanborn and Lucille avenues, i.e. the heart of Silver Lake. His block, which includes Casbah café, Eat Well, Flea’s Silverlake Conservatory of Music, the Cheese Store of Silver Lake and Gilly flowers, has such a small-town feel that the shop owners refer to it as “Mayberry L.A.”
Bingo takes his neighborhood so seriously he seems to have lost all interest in normal dog activities.
“We used to go to the dog park or go on hikes,” says Dale, a former Eat Well waitress, who bought her business four years ago, essentially on her credit cards.
“Now he’s sort of over dogs. He’d rather socialize and hang out around people. On my days off I’ll just drop him off at the store. That’s the way he likes it.”
Dale, who is currently single and lives in the apartment above her store, estimates that 90 percent of the people she meets out at night are acquaintances who ask her about Bingo.
“He’s way more popular than I am,” says Dale, walking out onto the sidewalk to smoke a cigarette.
Like something out of a punk rock Moss Hart script, Bingo’s impact on the neighborhood didn’t become completely clear until he got sick a few years back.
“He couldn’t be in the store for 10 days,” recalls Dale, watching a man reach down to pat Bingo on the head. “It actually got annoying. ‘Where’s Bingo?’ ‘How’s Bingo?’ People made cards; people offered to pay his medical bills. I think maybe a hundred people came in. He got so skinny in the hospital we started calling him Perry Farrell. He was very ‘comin’ down the mountain.’“
Bingo, who was named after the dog on the Cracker Jack box, isn’t actually related to the famous Jane’s Addiction singer, though there is a faint resemblance. He does in fact have a litter of rock-star pals, including Marilyn Manson, the guys from NOFX, the girls from Sleater-Kinney, drag star Jackie Beat, and Brett and Tim from the band Rancid.
“Tim Armstrong from Rancid used to have a dachshund growing up. He always comes by and says, ‘Bingo reminds me of Shatzi.’”
Does Bingo know Flea?
“No. He hasn’t met Flea yet, but the kids from the school come down all the time.”
Bingo also seems to have some sort of Lindsay Lohan/Hilary Duff–style feud going with Mr. Winkle, that weird wind-up-teddy-bear-like dog that has been on Sex and the City and the daytime-TV circuit.
“Bingo and Mr. Winkle came up together in the dog park,” explains Dale.
“We used to go there every morning. Before we had the store. Before Bingo was Bingo. Before Mr. Winkle was Mr. Winkle. They’re both small dogs; they got along very well. Winkle’s owner [Lara Regan] was like, ‘I’m gonna make a book of my dog, ’cause he’s a hootsy-flootsy alien man,’” says Dale, snidely referring to Regan’s claim that her dog, who now has a popular calendar and book line, might have come from another planet to heal this world.
“I mean, we always thought Winkle was great,” Dale continues, putting out her cigarette and going back inside.
“I mean, he’s so weird looking. But I was shocked to see how popular he became. And I was worried that Bingo might be jealous. But Bingo is a dog of the people. He’s here every day. He is in the trenches. I think Winkle has gone to a whole new level.”
Are you implying Winkle is lost?
“I think Winkle sold out, if that’s what you mean. I think we know who’s still in Silver Lake. Who’s the real indie-rock dog and who sold out to the merchandising gods.”
That said, Bingo does have his own T-shirt line, which features the announcement: “My name is Bingo and I like Bacon!” Which he does. As well as pork patties, hot dogs and, strangely, those small to-go creamers, especially from McDonald’s.
Dale claims all the money goes directly to Bingo’s vet bills and other expenses. “Basically, whatever Bingo wants Bingo gets.”
They’ve sold a thousand shirts in three years (that’s a lot of bacon), and recently Bingo fans have taken to wearing the shirts in vacation photos, which Dale posts in the back of the store. There are people wearing Bingo shirts at the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower and even beside coconut-clad Polynesian dancers at a Hawaiian luau.
Dale won’t go so far as to say her Bingo shares any of Mr. Winkle’s purported healing powers, but she will admit that he seems to make people happy.
“I think for a lot of people who can’t have a dog, Bingo has become their unofficial dog. There’s a girl up the street who was studying for her finals, and she would come here every day just to see Bingo. She said it calmed her down. I feel he is a real credit to his breed.”
How do you feel about Chihuahuas?
“You know what I love? What they call Cha-Weiners. A mix between a dachshund and a Chihuahua. It’s a great-looking combo.”
Do you think Chihuahuas are out?
“Chihuahuas have been out since Yo Quiero Taco Bell.”
Any other Bingo stories?
“Well, I told you they burrow . . . It was the winter, so it was extra cold. I woke up and he had burrowed into my pajama pants. I was like, What? What? I couldn’t get him out. I was, like, to my ex-husband, ‘Derek, the dog's in my pants.’”