Ready for the spotlight
By Jeanne Millsap For The Herald-News May 24, 2012 12:22PM
Kelli Walker, formerly of Morris, poses with her dog, Butler Blue, who will be featured in a performance of "Legally Blonde" in Skokie. | submitted photo
Updated: July 3, 2012 8:42AM
Many in the area know Kelli Walker, the former executive director of Grundy County United Way, but this summer it will be her English bulldog, Blue, who will be in the spotlight. Literally.
Blue has been cast as part of the ensemble of the musical “Legally Blonde,” which runs June 15- 24 at the Devonshire Cultural Art Center in Skokie. She plays the role of Rufus, Paulette the manicurist’s dog, with two scenes.
“I know I’m going to have to be a stage mom,” Walker said. “I hope I can keep Blue calm. She is pretty relaxed and low key, but sometimes she thinks she should be the only dog.”
Blue will share the stage, although not in the same scenes, with Chihuahua Evita, who plays Bruiser, the little purse dog of the lead actress. Blue will most likely think she’s the star, though, harking back to her years as the mascot of Butler University.
Blue, whose full name is Butler Blue, was the first official mascot of Butler University, the Indianapolis college. The school’s sports moniker is the Butler Bulldogs. Walker, an alumnus of the university, was employed as a fundraiser there in 2000 when she got the idea for a real, live mascot.
“We needed to get a real dog,” she said. “I did about a year of research, then we found some donors to buy an 8-week-old puppy from a breeder.”
Blue had an official contract, with the university as her owner and Walker as her caretaker. Walker’s life became a whirlwind of activities with Blue, with appearances at basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, and other games, university concerts, theater events, television interviews, and other events.
“My social calendar was so full,” she said.
Butler retired in 2004, as Walker accepted a job out of state. The university allowed her to take the bulldog with her, as they were so attached by that time, and Blue II was brought in as mascot. The university is now on Blue III.
Walker’s Blue spent a few years relaxing in peaceful Morris, then she and her owner moved to Chicago, where Walker now works for Feeding America, a hunger relief agency. Walker, who has been involved as a theater actress since growing up in Morris, has had several roles in Chicago-area theater and learned about the English bulldog role in “Legally Blonde” through a friend. Blue auditioned and got the part.
She’s taken quite well to the role, Walker said, and the cast loves her.
“I’ve gotten to share her with so many people during her life,” Walker said. “She has put a smile on so many people’s faces. I hope that Blue senses the joy people feel. She’s getting older, and this will be a great way for her to finish up her career.”