Friday, March 12, 2010

....Pat Anthony....

...Hamid 1964...

The wild stories of a lion tamer
HAYWARD — Lion tamer Pat Anthony
rolled up his left sleeve and quietly, thoughtfully
described his worst mauling.
It was during the winter of 1970 in Redding.
Pa., and Anthony had 18 big lions and tigers in
a cage on stage.
"it was too many animals for such a small
cage." he said. "The female lion was in heat.
She and her mate both dove on me in seconds.
They almost tore my arm off."
Anthony said he knocked the male off him
and struggled free of the female. There was a
hospital across the street, and he walked to it
in zero-degree weather.
The hospital transferred him to Chicago,
where the show was headed.
"They handed me a form to sign and I asked
what it was. They said it was a consent form
to have my arm amputated. They said I would
die from the gangrene, but I wouldn't sign.
"Then a young doctor said he wanted to try
something that had a chance in a thousand of
working. I said go ahead."
Anthony said the doctor cut the partially
healed wounds open and set up a series of
tubes to drain out the poison.
"I woke up three days later." he said.
A few days later he started sneaking out of
the hospital at night to put on his animal show
with one arm in a cast.
"They caught me on the third night."
Anthony said with an impish grin.
Anthony will be a featured performer when
Circus Vargas opens tomorrow night at the
Hayward City Center, 22292 Foothill Blvd.. for
a five-day run.
Between 1948 and 1953. Anthony appeared in
a variety of films as an animal handler and as
a stand-in for stars in mauling scenes.
He recaptured an escaped tiger in "The
Greatest Show On Earth." wrestled a wild
hyena as a stand-in for Gregory Peck in "The
Snows of Kilimanjaro." and wrestled a mountain-
lion in "River of No Return" as a standin
for Robert Mitchum.
He was in a variety.of other films, including
the Jungle Jim series as a stand-in for Johnny
Weissmuller and as a double for Victor Mature
in "Samson and Delilah."
Inspired by Clyde Beatty as a child in Ohio.
Anthony got his start in both films and animal
training at World Jungle Compound at
Thousand Oaks.
In 1954 he started circus work and has been
at it ever since.
Anthony is a robust man with curly dark
hair and a tough, steady gaze. As you might
expect, he has lots of good stories. Like the
time the tigers got loose in Memphis.
"I was working with 13 female tigers and
they all got into a fight and broke the steel
cage open." he said, with a little laugh. "Two
got out and I chased them around the building.
We caught one in the cloakroom and one in the
"Everybody was all excited. It-was like
being in another world. I collapsed for a month
after that one."
Anthony has been with Circus Vargas for
three or four years, and plans to expand his
act to 17 animals next year.
He says he has an 18-month-old Siberian
tiger named Lasky that weighs 700 pounds, is
13 feet long, and is still growing. He says he is
• training it to balance on a big ball. He says the
training has been steady but slowed somewhat
because the tiger has torn apart two of the big
balls so far.
"What the public doesn't realize is that what
they see in the ring takes years of work." he
said. "It takes a constant repetition of the
same little trick for weeks or months."
Anthony draws a distinction between his
"wild animal act" and what he calls the
"European acts" which have animals that
have been raised as pets by the trainers.
"My animals aren't pets: they aren't pampered,"
Anthony said. "I get them when
they're 18 months or 2 years old. Any John Doe
can raise a pet lion and play with it.
But to take a full-grown animal and teach it
tricks takes a little knowhow."
He says his type of animal act is a "dying
art." and he has advised his five sons to go
into other lines of work.
"My 13-year-old boy is nuts about animals,
and is always hanging around the cats when I
go home to Florida." Anthony said. "I may
give him a lion to play with, but he'll never
make a future out of it."
Anthony. 53. has worked over, 20 years with
lions and tigers, and from his observations has
decided that lions are not "the king of beasts."
For one thing, they snore.
"Lions have a reputation, partly because
they run in packs." ne said. "But tigers are
loners. In a head-to-head battle, I'd bet on the
tiger. The lion has an advantage with that
mane, so you get a mouthful of hair before you
reach his neck, but the tiger is swift and can
think. The lion has a one-track mind."
Anthony says he likes working a tent circus
better than the indoor ones.
"There's a certain atmosphere." he said.
"You don't have all the restrictions on the
animals that you have in a building. It's
something that the kids may not see again.
There aren't many tent shows left."
He says his act is unasual because he mixes
both lions and tigers and males and females in
the same tricks. He says the lions and tigers
don't like each other, and the male lions are
unpredictable when the females are around.
He carries two pistols loaded with blanks
when he's in the cage.
"They're not afraid of me." he said "You
can only push them so far. You have to have
your eyes revolving around all the time
because there's always one waiting to nail you
from behind.
"They can tell just by looking if you're
afraid. Then they've got your number."


Lhekter said...

My dad was one of the best, so was my grandfather, Edwin t Bale. I miss my dad and think it is wonderful to find articals and pictures about him.It is hard to find. Boy did dad know what he was talking about when he said it was a "dying art"!!