Before Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, and even before Nyan Cat, there was Cherry Pop, a redheaded Persian that became the standard for cat glamour in the 1980s and ’90s. The pampered glamour-puss will be famous again when the timely documentary “Cherry Pop: The Story of the World’s Fanciest Cat” is released online by O Cinema co-founder Kareem Tabsch.
As Tabsch got older, he realized all of the doting over Cherry Pop by those in the cat-show circuit would be presented in a completely different way were she alive during today’s 21st-century obsession with memes, specifically cat memes. Tabsch tells Miami New Times, “Both Cherry Pop and her human owners were very unique. The way the cat lived very high on the hog? It was very clearly something you don’t encounter every day.”
In order to be deemed the world’s fanciest cat, you must eat from solid-gold dishes, own a custom mini version of your owners’ Rolls-Royce Corniche, and be constantly surrounded by pictures of yourself in various acts of glamour. Cherry Pop’s room was designated “The Royal Suite,” and had a 6-foot television screen, which she could watch from a director’s chair with her name on the back – just in case Cherry Pop was confused as to which room was hers. Vi Vanek and her husband, Huey, Cherry Pop’s owners, loved doting on she and her brother, Leo Not Lion. In 1985, the height of Cherry Pop’s popularity, Vi told the SunSentinel, “We think of them as beautiful children.”
The Vaneks used to travel first-class from their home in Florida to about 25 cat shows annually around the country. Eventually, Cherry Pop gathered enough points at the shows to become one of the United States’ best premiers (neutered cat). Tabsch’s mom bred Persian and Himalayan cats, and also founded the popular pet magazine The Pet Tribune, so he frequented many of the same cat shows as the Vaneks while growing up.
Tabsch and his mom thought the Vaneks were as warm as their kitty. Over time, he and his mother started getting to know them, so making this film was also personal. “The strongest memory I have as a kid is the first time I met Cherry Pop,” Tabsch says. “She was not only in local papers, like [The] Miami Herald, but in [The] New York Times and Time Magazine. She was on television shows like ‘Sally Jesse Raphael’ and ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
Fortunately, Huey did a great job amassing Cherry Pop’s history. Myriad photos, newspaper clippings, and VHS tapes were shared with Tabsch, which made for a lot of well-spent research time. Cherry Pop died at 14 in 1995, but Tabsch will bring her story to life again online within the next few months.