Mention the words disaster, exotic big cats, and show business, the majority of people will jump to the conclusion that you are referring to the 2003 Siegfried and Roy tragedy, where a white tiger attacked and almost killed Roy Horn. Siegfried and Roy may be the best known act that used Big Cats, but they were not the only one, and this documentary explores another tragedy.

Cat Dancers examines the even more tragic set of circumstances that surround Ron and Joy Holiday and their mutual lover Chuck Lizza. Ron and Joy were classically trained dancers, and when a friend gave them a tiger cub, they decided to incorporate it into the show,  not knowing anything about exotic animals they engaged the help of Chuck Lizza, whose back ground was the circus, and the care of big cats.

To increase the popularity of the act a second cat was procured, a Bengal Tiger that they named Jupiter. Jupiter was cut from another cloth, a very independent cat and one that had an air of unpredictability about it.

Disaster stuck in early October 1998, not on the stage, but in the tranquil setting of their collective home known as The Cat Ranch. While moving Jupiter to allow a workman access, Chuck tripped on a chain link fence, startling Jupiter and died instantly. The story does not end there, mere weeks later Joy becomes the next victim.

Using interviews and footage from the period, combined with contemporary commentary Cat Dancers tells this unfortunate story, bringing us to the final chapter in 2006, when Ron who faced eviction had to decide the fate of his cats.

This is a very sad story, you can catch it on HBO at 8pm Monday December 15. It will be shown several times in December, a full schedule, together with additional information is available on the HBO web site.

Simon Barrett

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