Possibly the internet’s most viral animal star, Grumpy Cat, passed away this week, and fans from all over are mourning the loss of the famous frowning feline.
On the latest episode of PEOPLE Now, Royal Correspondent Imogen Lloyd Webber discussed the epic moment Grumpy Cat visited Broadway to meet the cast of father Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats.
“Some days are grumpier than others.”
That’s how Grumpy Cat’s family announced her death last week on Twitter, where she has 1.5 million followers (@realgrumpycat).
The 7-year-old cat, whose cranky mien inspired hundreds of internet memes, was said to have died peacefully Tuesday due to complications from a urinary tract infection.
That same day, people began noticing tributes popping up on billboards around the Treasure Valley. The signs featured an image of Grumpy with a halo, with the words “This is terrible” and #eternalhappiness.
Grumpy Cat, the internet-famous feline who died last week at age 7, was without a doubt the rock star of the cat community. But she rose to fame because of another, human rock star: Ben Lashes, ex-frontman of the Seattle pop-punk band the Lashes. While his former bandmate, Erik Howk, went on to success as the guitarist of Portugal. The Man, Lashes left the music world behind to become a full-time professional “meme manager” — and as a result, Grumpy went on to make the whole world smile with her famous frown.
“I just helped facilitate. She made herself her own rock star,” Lashes, whom Mashable once called “The Man Who Made Grumpy Cat Rich,” humbly stresses.
“Music is hard,” says Lashes, and as a result, many musicians eventually shift to second-act careers or take side jobs. (“Uber driver, Lyft driver, Postmates driver,” Lashes suggests wryly.) But Lashes may have the most unusual, and certainly one of the most lucrative, career-transition stories. He actually “stumbled into” his Grumpy gig, and he eventually built a reported $100 million kitty empire. But it was the “O.G. internet kitty,” the blue-shirted, piano-playing Keyboard Cat, that made it all possible.
Ben Lashes had spent a decade touring with the Lashes (who released The Stupid Stupid EP on Lookout! Records in 2004 and Get It on Columbia in 2006), and was working a day job at the music distributor CD Baby, when he got a call from a family friend, comedian and artist Charlie Schmidt: “Hey, your dad told me to call you. I made a video called ‘Keyboard Cat.’" The lo-fi ‘80s video, of Schmidt’s striped orange cat Fatso playing a synthesizer, had gone viral after Schmidt uploaded it to YouTube in 2007, and Schmidt didn’t know how to handle the unprecedented situation.