You could swear it was an episode of the popular TV show, but no, this love connection really happened. Bernie Kopell, “Doc,” gave his heart to a homeless dog when filming The Love Boat, and then, with the help of other cast members, smuggled the pooch back home.
It was the summer of 1985, and The Love Boat was on a Mediterranean cruise. The ship, the Vista Fjord, had just docked in Malaga, Spain, and the cast was about to be whisked off to a gigantic press reception in nearby Marbella. This was their eighth season and they were still enjoying enormous popularity.
As members of the cast stepped off the gangplank onto the dock, they were greeted by a loud roar from the assembled crowd that had been waiting for hours. Bands were playing, people were shouting, paparazzi photographers were snapping away, and drivers were calling out, attempting to guide them through the crowds to the awaiting limos. It was mass confusion and the air was full of excitement. Bernie Kopell, who played Adam Bricker (“Doc”), the ship’s doctor on the show, vividly remembers that day and the first time he saw Lucky.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I just happened to notice a little puppy off by himself, with one paw up, begging for food. Nobody was looking at him. They all came to see us. Swept up in the pandemonium, we hopped into our limos and zoomed off to the reception.”
“Hours later, we were delivered back to the ship. The dock was deserted, but this little doggy was still there. A lady wandered by, gave him a piece of bologna and left. The bright-eyed dog was small, scrawny and filthy, predominantly grayish, with rust-colored ears and a rust colored spot over his left eye.”
“We (Judy and Audrey Landers, Gavin and Patti McLeod and Yolanda, my ex-wife) decided on the spot to make this doggy a stowaway on the ship. It was the most insane idea … but we did it! As the Landers sisters distracted the guards — the girls were very voluptuous – we wrapped the dog in a coat and, giggling and singing, snuck him up the gangplank. We got to our cabin, looked left and right (nobody was coming), surreptitiously opened the door, and quickly shut it behind us. We bathed him and then got his ticks off. He looked a little puzzled but clearly loved the attention.”
“The next morning, I awoke and thought to myself, ‘What the hell have we done? This is totally illegal.’ Not being used to criminal activity, we were burdened with guilt, but at the same time were determined to protect this little life.”
“One day this little doggy was begging for scraps. The next day he’s big (but secret) news on the ship. When the crew found out about him they began to secretly bring pieces of filet mignon to our cabin. We decided to call him Lucky for obvious reasons.”
“It was finally time to get him off the ship. We had to figure out how to get him past the guards coming down. Gavin and I had this scene to do way, way up on the 12th deck. It was a light comedy scene, but our hearts were in our mouths. Straight down, we had a perfect view of the gangplank (Lucky’s escape route.) We’d rehearsed his exit again and again with the Landers sisters, Yolanda and Patti. Now we just waited for the performance. This time Lucky was to be bundled up in a shopping bag as our accomplices did their dance down the gangplank. Finally, they began working their way down, singing, dancing and overacting their brains out. The guards were amused. We watched and saw that they were almost down. Sure enough, they smuggled him off the boat.”
“We flew him off with us to the Hotel de Paris in Monaco – and he marched in,looked around that gorgeous Belle Epoch lobby and knew he’d arrived.”
“Afterward, he returned home with me to the US, where he remained spoiled and fussed over for years to come.”