Bertmania!

updated 12/07/1987 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/07/1987 01:00AM

Tom Selleck and Lily Tomlin jumped at the chance; Simon and Garfunkel didn't. Barbara Walters said no the first time, yes the second. Bette Davis would only do it standing up. Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and Willie Nelson did it, but would prefer the pictures not be made public—a consideration that didn't faze Tina Turner, Michael J. Fox, Jerzy Kosinski, Dr. Ruth, Johnny Carson, Shelley Winters or Slim Whitman.

"It," of course, is posing for a picture with Bert, the four-legged litmus test of hipness.

No doubt an explanation is in order: Bert, 11, is a Jack Russell terrier belonging to Hal Gurnee, director of Late Night with David Letterman. Five years ago Barbara Gaines, Letterman's production coordinator and an amateur photographer, took a picture of a guest on the show, romance novelist Barbara Cartland, holding a picture of Bert. Gurnee liked the resulting photograph and hung it on his office wall. Inspired, Gaines asked other guests to pose holding the portrait of Bert. Gurnee's walls are now lined to the ceiling with more than 100 pictures of Bert and celebrities: Bert and Peter O'Toole; Bert and Muhammad Ali; Bert and Zsa Zsa; Bert and Connie Chung; Bert and Burt (Reynolds). "It's a way of recording the star's visit," says Gurnee. Although Bert has a sister, Vicki, who also lives at Gurnee's Sharon, Conn., home, she has never been in the canine photo gallery. "Bert is more photogenic," says Gurnee. "He has great eyes, he's very animated. Vicki has a gamine look about her."

The rush of celebrity-by-association has not gone to Bert's noble head. Gurnee reports that Bert eats anything ("truffles, steel wool, lint") and that "his hobbies are sitting and staring out the window and"—Peter Rabbit fans, please skip ahead—"looking for something small and furry that he can kill."

Although Gurnee could rest on his laurels—his collection, after all, boasts Bert and Bill Cosby, Bert and Sammy Davis Jr. and Bert and Charo—he is still a man with a dream. "Bert," says Gurnee, a wistful look in his eye, "and the Pope."

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