Chocolate at the Four Seasons is a wonderful children’s book by Betty Paraskevas, based on a story by Hollywood casting agent Bonnie Timmermann. Chocolate, the hero of the story, is an adorable Chihuahua who is too timid to bark. When his owner Papa joins a traveling theater group he leaves Chocolate with his friend Bonnie Timmermann at the Four Seasons. Everyone at the hotel welcomes Chocolate with open arms. He finds himself constantly showered with affection, and the love of all his new friends helps him find his courage and his voice. Betty Paraskevas’ son Michael brings the story to life with his imaginative illustrations.
Animal Fair’s Wendy Diamond caught up with mega movie producer and casting agent Bonnie Timmermann to the unwrap the pieces of Chocolate’s sweet story.
WD: Tell me more about your relationship with Chocolate.
BT: Chocolate has been the most amazing experience for me because I never had a dog like him before!
WD: Was Chocolate the first canine in your life?
BT: Actually he was my second dog I had in my life. I had a Beagle a long time ago.
And I love dogs but because I have so much on my plate in terms of travel, making movies, casting movies, running to the theater, my days and nights are so very full that I don’t have enough quality time to give.
WD: How did Chocolate become your leading man?
BT: I went over to the home of a friend and there were boxes of his belongings everywhere. He was packing to move into a smaller apartment. He had one dog in his arms that was fat, cute and adorable. Suddenly I noticed there was this little brown adorable thing in the corner and I asked my friend to tell me more about this little creature. Chocolate’s back was to me and his little face was turned around. My friend said, “Well that’s Chocolate.” With that the dog just jumped onto my lap and grabbed onto my waist. My friend said you should take the dog. I thought this is crazy. I’m walking in to be with my friend and I’m walking out with a dog attached to my waist.
WD: Why was this yummy dog named Chocolate?
BT: Because he was chocolate brown. Beautiful, very rich brown.
WD: Which famous people has Chocolate gone snout-to-snout?
BT: I’d have to say Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Jerry Bruckheimer.
WD: What about regular guests who stayed at the Four Seasons?
BT: Mr. & Mrs. Cohn who own the hotel. They were always with the dog and no dogs were usually allowed at the pool except for Chocolate. Chocolate would always hang out with Mr. Cohn who would be working on the plants around the pool. Nastassja Kinski and Scarlett Johansson were others.
WD: Where was Chocolate’s favorite place to roam at the hotel?
BT: Probably my lap! There was a gorgeous couch in this living room area of the hotel and because we were not really allowed in the bar, we would just sit on the couch. Even when I read Chocolate would be sitting on my lap right next to the beautiful roaring fire. The Four Seasons hotel has the most comfortable beds and he loved sleeping on the bed whenever he got a chance. Chocolate loved to run outside and play in the garden.
WD: Anything more you would like to add involving the book?
BT: In real life, I went back with Chocolate to the original owner who told me that Chocolate’s sister dog was so sad without him. I told the owner that if Chocolate didn’t want to stay, I would take him back home with me. But, when Chocolate and his sister saw each other, they just licked each other from head to toe. You needed an umbrella! There is a moral to this story. It’s about unconditional love. Chocolate chose the love of his family over the exciting glamorous life at the hotel with the down pillows, cars, drivers, casting calls, travel, the restaurants and the movie stars. And I think that the love that was given to him by the hotel made him realize that he didn’t have to be number one. He simply loved his family and wanted to be with them. That is really a big part of the story, love conquers all! The Four Seasons loved the book so much that they want to have the story in every one of their hotels. So it would be Chocolate in Japan or Chocolate in China or Tahiti.