Feline celebs Itchy and Scratchy prove there are second acts for cool cats in Las Vegas
By Matt Kelemen
Las Vegas loves to celebrate its stars. Cher, Celine, Bette, Holly Madison, Chazz Palminteri—all had new life breathed into their careers when they came here to perform, and found themselves embraced by Strip society. The “Pawn Stars” gang might be the most famous of all at this moment on the national level, but among morning news viewers as well as the close-knit Vegas animal community, twin feline sensations Itchy and Scratchy are all the rage. First introduced to the Vegas television viewers by KVVU Fox 5 “Live In Las Vegas” host Jason Feinberg, the cats went on to achieve notoriety on their own terms before excess and the trappings of fame brought them close to losing it all.
They were born to privilege in Palms Springs, Calif., where they were adopted as kittens nearly 18 years ago by budding television personality Feinberg. The cats followed him to cities as far flung as Birmingham, Ala., Albuquerque, N.M., Seattle, L.A. and Austin, Texas, before Fox 5 lured Feinberg to Sin City, where they maintained closely guarded private lives even as Feinberg began bringing them on the show. They helped investigate Santa Claus’ treatment of pets, the effects of fleas and cold weather on fur-clad creatures, credit-card applications for cats and pop-music’s auto-tune phenomenon.
That all began to change in June 2008 when Itchy and Scratchy were thrown a notorious Sweet 16 birthday, the details of which are too graphic to recount in a family publication. A year later, Mayor Oscar Goodman declared June 19 Itchy and Scratchy Day, and from there fame seemed to go to their heads. Motorcycle aficionado Itchy, who lost a fang early in life during a dispute about his beloved Oakland Raiders, was caught on video making a producer an offer he couldn’t refuse while trying to secure all pet-related stories for Feinberg. Scratchy succumbed to carousing, and is still considered one of the most eligible bachelors in Vegas. “I may be fixed, but the desire is still there,” he confided to friends after Feinberg went public with Scratchy’s use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The controversies came to a head when the twins were hired by Southpoint Hotel Casino Spa as “security”—they chased field mice at the property’s equestrian center. But after Southpoint owner Michael Gaughan demanded Itchy and Scratchy submit to employee drug tests, the felines took their $5 checks and hit the town. “I wanted them to donate [their earnings] to the SPCA,” Feinberg told co-host Monica Jackson on-air shortly after the cats walked out. “Apparently they haven’t even cashed the checks but they’ve already, on credit, blown it. We caught some video surveillance. I do know at the Palms a drink is more than $5.”
Scratchy was seen walking the red carpet at the Palms and dancing to the late DJ AM, while Itchy became a terror on wheels and got into numerous scrapes with the law due to his graffiti-tagging habit. No one knows what caused the cats to chill out, but they gradually resumed a slower lifestyle and developed an interest in being on the other side of the camera at Fox 5. Their efforts to rehabilitate themselves did not go unnoticed by the public—at least one pet-owning Fox 5 couple wrote in to say they named their kittens “Itchy” and “Scratchy”—or sometimes co-workers. The cats’ images have been placed on billboards around town this month in honor of their June 10 birthday, and Fox 5 correspondent “Extreme” Amy Carabba arranged for the cats to add “cover model” to their resumes with a special front page of this magazine arranged in their honor.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “There are no second acts in American lives,” but had he been alive to see Itchy and Scratchy overcome their demons and make a spectacular comeback, he might have added “…unless you’re a cool cat.”