IT'S A STORY AS OLD AS SHOW BUSINESS: Some little nobody is plucked from obscurity, has a moment of stardom, then fades...to be remembered again only in death. But who would have thought it could happen to Spuds MacKenzie?

Four years after being retired as the beloved but controversial emblem of Bud Light beer, Spuds, 10, died quietly of kidney failure last spring (the death wasn't revealed until this month). Spuds' last years were spent in the North Riverside, Ill., home of owners Stan and Jackie Oles, who had known Spuds as a female bull terrier named Evie—full name Honey Tree Evil Eye. In 1987, Spuds debuted on national TV during the Super Bowl and for the next two years, masquerading as a nattily dressed male and bearing the title of "senior party consultant," became America's party animal nonpareil. "Spuds," eulogized Bob Lachky, Bud Light's marketing director, "was one of the most powerful advertising ideas in the last 25 years."

Brewery representatives took great pains to hide Spuds' true gender, even shielding the canine from cameras with their coats when she was answering a call of nature. Ultimately, Spuds' success generated a backlash from such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Although Bud Light's parent company, Anheuser-Busch, denied it was using Spuds to sell suds to kids, the dog had had his (or her) day. "We felt, creatively, we needed to move on," says Lachky. Spuds went home to North Riverside, rarely appearing in character except on Halloween. In retirement, neighbors say, Spuds never put on airs. "Spuds was kind to everyone," says Priscilla Jasso, 13. "He never barked at us."

Saint Peter, this Spuds for you."