Friday, April 16, 2010

A Macabre Tale of Love and Violent Death

Since I saw Harris Fishman’s film Cat Dancers on More 4 on Tuesday night I haven’t been able to get it out of my head so I hope you don’t mind my passing it on. Ron Holiday was eleven when he met Joy aged seven, at ballet school in the fifties. Joy was a plain, skinny little girl but gradually under Ron’s influence she bleached her hair white blonde, had breast implants and together they became exotic dancers and eventually married.

Aged 32 Ron decided his dancing days were over and when William Holden offered them a baby leopard as a pet they decided to bring big cats into their act – tigers and jaguars included. Previously they had merely trained poodles. They were a big success in Las Vegas and then in 1980 they took Chuck – a young man into the act.

‘Look what I’ve found,’ Joy told Ron.

They trained Chuck until the three of them were working as equals with the animals. They would get a new cub and with the three of then sitting in chairs see where the cub settled and then he or she would be the ‘parent ‘of the cub. The three were increasingly very close and became a ménage a trois.

Then Ron decided they should get a white Bengal tiger in 1998 to spice up the act. Joy was against it as she said they were inbred and thus dangerous and unpredictable. Ron prevailed and Jupiter entered their lives and chose Chuck as his ‘Dad’.

By now they had an animal farm where they lived with the cats. One day Chuck was tired so went to his room whilst the other two worked with animals. Jupiter sat and refused to move so Chuck was sent for. Work was being done and the place was littered with wires and cages. Chuck – wearing moccasins tripped and fell and Jupiter sank his giant teeth in his throat and killed him.

Throughout the film there was home movie footage which made it seem one was an onlooker as the story was happening. The tragedy had a devastating effect on both husband and wife but whilst Ron said they would get through it together Joy said she just wanted to die. She took to her bed and refused to eat and wouldn’t leave her bed to shower and change.

Ron was told if she didn’t eat she would die so he told her ‘the babies’ were fretting and needed her. In the cage with Jupiter, Ron was glad it was very sandy as he hoped this would make her want to shower. She was very weak and was trembling and Jupiter attacked and killed her as he had done Chuck. It was just 5 weeks since Chuck had been killed. SWAT teams came and Jupiter was shot.

At the beginning of the film Ron was a sad, fit 70 year old man with a selection of wigs. He taught dancing and his remaining animals were housed in an animal park where he visited and fed them. Towards the end of the film he was given a day’s notice to remove his animals and as a result they were put down. Ron said that when he was 80 he would go to Thailand and live with monks where wild animals roamed free. At this point he was overcome with emotion and tears flowed through his hands covering his face.

See photo below.


Pat said...

Sorry all - Blogger has ignored my paragraphs!

lom said...

What a sad story, I was in tears reading this, I would have drown if I had watched it.

Pat said...

LOM: sorry dear.

R. Sherman said...

I'd not heard of this story before.

Personally, I marvel at anyone who works with those big cats, simply because one never knows when they'll turn. I'm afraid I'd have too much fear to even consider it.

Pat said...

Randall: it's frightening that they can mortally wound you without any malice. If you are in their embrace and something spooks them they can rip you with their claws as they flee and you can bleed to death. I believe.

rashbre said...

Its scary just looking at the picture of them with the cat.

I remember looking at the cats (white tigers) of Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage in Vegas and wondering how the two of them could perform with such animals.

Pat said...

Rashbre: I think their love surmounts the fear.

Four Dinners said...

Am I heartless? I've little sympathy.

Animals aren't there for our entertainment.

Shooting Jupiter was just wrong!

Shooting Ron for creating the scenario which resulted in the tragedy would have been just right.

They ain't domestic cats.

I'd cry at Jupiter getting shot. I'd bloody well cheer at the other idiots getting bitten!

So there.

Kim Ayres said...

I wouldn't cheer at anyone getting bitten (or shot), but I find myself largely in agreement with 4D

Eryl Shields said...

I have to say I totally agree with Kim and (partially, therefore) 4D. Wild animals should be left to live their lives. Also, Ron sounds like a scary control freak to me too: Joy bleached her hair and had breast implants under his influence, not to mention went into the cage of a tiger who had just killed someone else whilst weak with grief and hunger because he lied to her, yikes!

Pat said...

Eryl,Kim and Four.D: reporting a story doesn't mean I approve of the circumstances - on the contrary - and one wishes that the others concerned were able to tell their side of the story.
I would imagine that - legally- once an animal has killed two humans it could be mandatory to have it put down.

nursemyra said...

that's a very sad, interesting and strange tale

Pat said...

nursemyra: that's why I wrote about it and it has helped to get it out of my head.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Good Lord...That is a Haunting story...! Horrible, really, in every way.
Tippi Hedren has this Animal Preserve here in Los Angeles---Waaaay out in the country--- called SHAMBALA...And she rescues all sorts of Animals, mostly Cats--Lions, Tigersm Cheetahs, etc---many, were Circus Animals. They live freely, but behind very tall metal fences....You can see them, but no one can go into these areas except trained people---and they just go in to feed, etc.
I have never understood taking Animals out of their Natural Habitat and making them Pets or part of an Animal Act. The Animals at Tippi Hedren's preserve cannot be put back into their natural environment, so she has created as natural an environment as possible, for them.

This story of these three people is really horrible in every respect. Sad for them and sad for these Animals, too.

Pat said...

Naomi: is Tippi Hendren still around?
I remember reading about her years ago and wondered if her daughter would continue her work.
It is a gruesome tale on all sorts of levels.