The lopsided grin of greatness won't smile on the Philadelphia area when the World's Ugliest Dog Contest takes place Friday in California.

The 2007 champ, Elwood of Sewell, N.J., won't be there trying to regain his crown.

He got nosed out last year by Gus, who lost an eye in a cat fight, lost a leg to cancer, and last November lost his life.

Fishtown's Pee-Wee Martini won last year's online voting and came close in 2006, taking the title of Ugliest Mutt, only to lose the overall crown to Archie, a purebred Chinese Crested.

But Pee-Wee won't be back, either.

Too bad, because each member of this gruesome twosome resembles a cross between Yoda and, well, roadkill.

Pee-Wee's owner, Kristin Maszkiewicz, said she has two new pets - hairless rats.

Named Ghoul and Goblin.

"Their faces are not crooked, and their tongues stay in their mouths, so I guess Pee Wee's uglier still," she said.

But barring a late entry, no contestant will hail from any closer to Philly than Miss Ellie of Tennessee, said Vicki DeArmon, marketing director for the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which stages the annual contest.

(Miss Ellie, says the blurb in the online voting gallery, is "around 15 years old, has only a couple back teeth, cataracts in her eyes, several moles and pimples and limited hair.")

"Must be the economy," DeArmon said. "Many more West Coast dogs this year."

"I don't have the money to go out there," agreed Maszkiewicz, who simply forgot to enter Pee-Wee in this year's online contest.

Her other dog, Eddie, is even uglier, some say.

"He looks like an ugly bat," she said, quickly adding she doesn't actually find Eddie or Pee Wee repulsive.

Elwood's owner, Karen Quigley, said he's simply retired from the contest.

"He has a bigger mission - busy with his schedule helping homeless animals."

At various events, the Chinese crested offers copies of his book, Everyone Loves Elwood, and poses for photographs, while bringing in donations.

Next up: L'Oreal's Paris 6th Annual Because Your Dog Is Worth It Too, on Aug. 15 in Cranbury, N.J.

Tongue-dangling Elwood, whose website is www.everyoneloveselwood.com, even inspired his own line of greeting cards. Like the one whose cover reads, "How about a birthday kiss?"

"What do you mean, no tongue?" the inside asks.

Although Chinese Cresteds have dominated the competition, maybe other breeds have a shot this year, said the fair's DeArmon.

In the running are a boxer, a German shepherd, a shar pei, a Chinese pug and mixed breeds.

More of a concern is how diseased or disabled dogs are included, said Maszkiewicz. Like Gus last year. Or blind Sam, which won his third straight title in 2005 - and died months later.

"If your dog's sick, of course it's going to be ugly," she said.

"Pee Wee's healthy. He's young, and he's ugly," she said.

For more on the contest, or to check out the online voting gallery, go to www.sonoma-marinfair.org/uglydogcontest.shtml.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.