Director Kareem Tabsch on The World's Fanciest Cat: "Cherry Pop Was the First Cat Meme"

Photos courtesy of Kareem Tabsch
Before there was Grumpy Cat, or Nyan Cat, or Lil Bub, there was Cherry Pop.

A sweet, fluffy purebred Persian cat, Cherry Pop was the apple of her owner's eye. Her owners also happened to be filthy rich and spoiled her rotten. In Cherry Pop: The Story of the World's Fanciest Cat, Kareem Tabsch, co-founder and co-director of O Cinema, brings the story of Cherry Pop and her parents to modern audiences.

The short 10-minute film had its world premiere at the Miami International Film Festival this weekend, and we caught up to Tabsch to get more nitty gritty on the spoiled kitty.

See also: Miami Film Chub Debuts Wednesday at MIFF

Huey and Vi Vanek were an eccentric couple from Fort Lauderdale, and when they decided to start a family, they brought Cherry Pop into their home. Soon, the kitty was competing and winning Best Cat in all sorts of shows, and her popularity skyrocketed.

It has been 19 years since Cherry Pop's passing, and nearly three decades since her heyday, but for Tabsch, his first encounter with Cherry Pop remains a vivid memory. His mother used to publish a popular pet magazine and she was also a cat breeder; therefore, naturally, she ran in the same circles - and cat shows - as Huey and Vi.

"I first encountered Cherry Pop as a child, and I still vividly remember walking into a cat show where there was this crowd of people standing around and in the center was this little mini car - which I now know was a little mini Rolls-Royce - and inside was this little cat just sitting there. Nobody was keeping the cat, everybody was just staring at it; the cat was holding court."

That moment left such an impression on Tabsch that more than 20 years later it still lingers in the back of his mind. He comments on how he first had the idea for a short documentary about Cherry Pop and the Vaneks five years ago, and when he first approached Huey with the idea, he loved it.

"He was really excited about it and really forthcoming about sharing his story and his experiences," said Tabsch. Though the project didn't take off until three years later, Huey was still more than willing to participate. "He was super gracious: opened up his home, shared all of his memories, all of his mementos, and it was because of his support that we were able to make the film."

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