PHOENIX (AP) — Thanks to a photo posted on a social-media website that captured the public’s imagination, Grumpy Cat has emerged as a bona fide celebrity. Evidence of the cat’s burgeoning fame could be found recently at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, as more than 800 people waited to get a snapshot with the tiny house pet.
“This is right in line with most rock-star book signings,” said Brandon Stout, director of marketing at the Tempe bookstore. “I guess Grumpy Cat is a rock star in the world of cats.”
Like a lot of celebrities, Grumpy uses a stage name. Her birth name: Tardar Sauce. And like most celebs, the 17-month-old cat knows how to make a stealthy entrance. Her owner sneaked her into the bookstore through a back entrance.
“Everyone wants to hold her,” said her owner, Tabatha Bundesen of Morristown, which is northwest of Phoenix. She keeps close watch over the cat to ensure that doesn’t happen, accompanied by Grumpy’s entourage (i.e. Bundesen’s cousin Mike Adkins and manager Ben Lashes).
Grumpy’s path to fame began last September when Bundesen’s brother posted a picture of the sour-faced feline to the social-news site Reddit. Rather than being a flash in the pan, the Grumpy phenomenon has showed surprising staying power. The bookstore appearance was to promote “Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book,” which hit the New York Times best-seller list this summer. A movie is also in the works, and Grumppuccino, a line of coffee drinks, will hit stores this year.
Perhaps most impressively, Grumpy has landed a deal to be the spokescat for Friskies pet food, meaning she won’t be going away any time soon.
“Everything in pop culture has a different life span,” said the shades-wearing Lashes. “That’s the difference between the Beatles and Herman’s Hermits. I think Grumpy has a little Beatle in her.”
Judging from the reaction Grumpy elicits from fans, Lashes may not be exaggerating. No one fainted, but there was a collective gasp from the crowd as Bundesen walked out with Grumpy on a cat bed.
Fans then got to pose next to Grumpy and Bundesen. You couldn’t touch the cat, but you did get a “paw-tograph” inside your book.
Not to stomp on anyone’s dreams, but a bookstore employee spent a few hours stamping books prior to the event.
To keep people entertained, Adkins donned a cat costume and walked through the store, chatting with fans and posing for pictures. He did drop one family secret, admitting that he is a dog person who owns five pit bull-husky mixes that get on fine with Grumpy Cat.
“She’s really cool and mellow,” he offered.
Indeed, the cat appeared to snooze most of the time, which didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. Cheri Minauri spent more than two hours in line for her chance to pose next to Grumpy. The founder of a cat-rescue organization in Gilbert, she said she enjoyed the entire experience.
“It’s just the camaraderie of being around all these cat people,” she said. “Plus, she’s a celebrity. She’s more fun than Charles Barkley.”
For some people, Grumpy Cat has taken on a deeper meaning. Mesa Community College student Juleah Brewer wore an officially licensed shirt with Grumpy’s image as she waited for her photo opportunity.
“Grumpy Cat has become my spirit animal,” said Brewer, who lives in Tempe. “She helped me out of a serious depression.”
She said seeing images of the annoyed-looking cat and the accompanying captions – a sample: “What doesn’t kill you ... isn’t working” – made her smile through difficult times.
“She taught me that you can look as grumpy as she does on the outside and still be happy inside,” Brewer said.
For the majority of the crowd, the event had a lighter tone. While he waited in line, Bilal Chaudhry practiced the grumpy face he planned to make when he got his moment with the cat.
“She’s just so ... cute,” Chaudhry said. “I won’t be grumpy if I have to wait three hours in line to meet Grumpy Cat.”