SHADES OF GREY (CLUB PROMPT – BLACK AND WHITE)

WHEN I WAS YOUNG, THINGS SEEMED VERY SIMPLE. EVERY QUESTION HAD AN ANSWER….IT WAS BLACK OR IT WAS WHITE. I KNEW WHO MY FRIENDS WERE. I KNEW WHAT I LIKED. I KNEW RIGHT FROM WRONG IN THE SIMPLE WORLD OF A CHILD. AS I GET OLDER, I FIND THAT THINGS COME IN MORE THAN ONE SHADE OF GREY…I KEEP HITTING SITUATIONS THAT MAKE ME QUESTION MYSELF AS TO WHAT I BELIEVE IS RIGHT, WHO IS REALLY ON MY SIDE FOR THE LONG HAUL, AND WHAT LOVE REALLY MEANS IN A GIVEN SITUATION. AS MY LIFE CONTINUES, IT SEEMS NOTHING IS BLACK OR WHITE, BUT SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN. I AM CONSTANTLY SURPRISED AT THE ANSWERS I COME TO.

A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THIS IN-BETWEEN AREA COMES IN A STORY I’VE BEEN REVISITING LATELY. I’M NOT REALLY SURE WHY I’VE DREDGED THIS UP IN MY MIND AS I REALLY DIDN’T PAY ATTENTION WHEN IT HAPPENED, BUT I’VE BEEN SPENDING QUITE A LOT OF TIME WATCHING VIDEOS AND READING OLD NEWS STORIES ABOUT IT ONLINE.

HOW MANY OF YOU REMEMBER THE NIGHT OF OCTOBER 3, 2003?

ON THIS NIGHT, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, KNOWN FOR ITS COLOURFUL NEON SIGNS AND BRIGHT LIGHTS DOWN THE STRIP, WOULD LOSE ITS MOST FAMOUS ACT, THE MAGICIANS SIEGFRIED & ROY AND THEIR FAMOUS MENAGERIE OF BLACK AND WHITE TIGERS.

SIEGFRIED AND ROY SHARED EVERY INCH OF THEIR HOME WITH THE 63 TIGERS, 16 LIONS, BLACK PANTHERS, CHEETAHS, LEOPARDS, AND A MYRIAD OF OTHER RARE ANIMALS THAT PERFORMED WITH THEM IN THEIR MAGIC SHOW AT THE MIRAGE HOTEL. FOR OVER 30 YEARS THEY PERFORMED DAILY ON THE LAS VEGAS STRIP WITH THEIR ANIMALS MAKING FOR OVER 20,000 PERFORMANCES WITH NO INCIDENT AT ALL UNTIL THIS NIGHT — OCTOBER 3, 2003.

ON THIS DAY, AS PER THEIR NORM, SIEGFRIED AND ROY LOADED UP THEIR ANIMALS AT HOME AND TOOK THEM TO THE HOTEL TO GET READY FOR THE SHOW. BUT 45 MINUTES INTO THE SHOW WHEN ROY BROUGHT MONTECORE, A 7-YEAR-OLD BLACK AND WHITE TIGER WHO HAD PERFORMED HUNDREDS OF SHOWS WITH HIM, ON THE STAGE SOMETHING CHANGED.

THE FIRST SHADE OF GREY CAME WITH THE INITIAL REPORTS WHICH SAID THAT MONTECORE BECAME DISTRACTED BY SOMEONE IN THE FRONT ROW OF THE AUDIENCE. LATER, IT WAS SAID THAT A WOMAN IN THE FRONT ROW REACHED UP TO TRY AND PET MONTECORE. ANOTHER THEORY WAS THE TIGER HADN’T BEEN FED ON TIME (WHICH WAS UNTRUE) AND WAS OFF RHYTHM BECAUSE OF THAT.

WHATEVER HAPPENED, MONTECORE BROKE ROUTINE AND TURNED TOWARD THE AUDIENCE AND AWAY FROM ROY.

WITH NO BARRIER BETWEEN MONTECORE AND THE ONLOOKERS, ROY QUICKLY MOVED BETWEEN THEM. THIS WAS ANOTHER BREAK IN THE ROUTINE. ROY GAVE MONTECORE A COMMAND TO LIE DOWN, BUT MONTECORE INSTEAD LOOKED AT ROY AND GRIPPED HIS WRIST IN HIS MOUTH WHICH IN TURN CAUSED ROY TO DROP THE LEAD FOR THE CHAIN THAT WAS AROUND MONTECORE’S NECK. AT THIS POINT, ROY LIGHTLY TAPPED MONTECORE ON THE NOSE WITH HIS MICROPHONE TRYING TO REESTABLISH HIS CONTROL AND MAKE HIM LAY DOWN. BUT AS HE DID THIS, ROY STEPPED BACKWARD AND FELL.

HERE IS ANOTHER SHADE OF GREY….IT WAS INITIALLY REPORTED THAT ROY STEPPED BACKWARD NOT REALIZING THAT MONTECORE’S PAW WAS BEHIND HIM. SIEGFRIED IN THE FOLLOWING DAYS, SAID THIS WAS NOT TRUE AND THAT ROY PASSED OUT. ROY LATER SAID THAT HE SUFFERED A MINI-STROKE ON STAGE AT THIS POINT. IN ANY EVENT, ROY FELL AND MONTECORE MOVED TO PICK ROY UP BY THE NECK AND CALMLY CARRY HIM OFFSTAGE HANGING FROM HIS JAWS LIKE A RAGDOLL.

BACKSTAGE, ROY WAS LOSING BLOOD QUICKLY. WHEN MONTECORE CLAMPED ONTO ROY’S NECK HE HAD TORN HIS JUGULAR VEIN AND CRUSHED HIS WINDPIPE. UPON ARRIVING AT HOSPITAL AND GOING STRAIGHT INTO SURGERY, ROY FLATLINED 3 TIMES DURING THE OPERATION AND NEXT DAY SUFFERED A SEVERE STROKE ALMOST COMPLETELY PARALYZING HIM ON THE LEFT SIDE. NO ONE EXPECTED HE WOULD SURVIVE MORE THAN A FEW HOURS. EVEN IF HE DID, DOCTORS SAID HE WOULD NEVER WALK AND NEVER TALK AGAIN. THE PROGNOSIS WAS GRIM.

ANIMAL RIGHTS PEOPLE, NOT HEARD FROM IN ALL THE YEARS OF THE SHOW, CAME OUT OF THE WOODWORK AS NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES, RADIO, AND TELEVISION ALL CARRIED REPORTS OF ROY BEING “MAULED” AND “ATTACKED” BY ONE OF HIS TIGERS. EVERYONE HAD AN OPINION ABOUT WHY THIS HAD HAPPENED AND ANIMAL GROUPS PUSHED THEIR TAKE ON IT SAYING THAT THESE ANIMALS SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP BY SIEGFRIED AND ROY. THEY CALLED IT AN ABOMINATION OF THE ANIMALS’ RIGHTS AND SAID ROY BROUGHT IT ALL ON HIMSELF BY PLACING HIMSELF IN SUCH A PRECARIOUS POSITION.

BUT VERY QUIETLY IN THE BACKGROUND OF ALL THE CHAOS AND BLAME-THROWING WERE THE PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN UP CLOSE FOR YEARS AND WHO KNEW ROY HAD SHOWN A SPECIAL GIFT WITH ANIMALS AND HAD DONE SINCE HE WAS A CHILD. THESE WERE THE PEOPLE THAT HAD SEEN HIM BOTTLE-FEEDING THE CUBS, SLEEPING WITH THESE CUBS IN HIS OWN BED UNTIL THEY WERE A YEAR OLD, SITTING WITH THEM WHEN THEY GAVE BIRTH, PLAYING WITH THEM EVERY DAY, SWIMMING WITH THEM, CALLING THEM HIS CHILDREN, AND MAKING SURE EVERY THING ABOUT THEIR LIFE WAS TOTALLY AND ABSOLUTELY AS PERFECT AS HE COULD MAKE IT FOR THEM. THESE PEOPLE KNEW THE STORY OF WHEN MONTECORE WAS BORN AND WASN’T BREATHING AND HOW IT WAS ROY THAT PICKED HIM UP, CUT THE UMBILICAL CORD, AND BREATHED LIFE BACK INTO HIM.

INDEED, MANY WILDLIFE EXPERTS SAID NOT ONLY HAD SIEGFRIED AND ROY SAVED AN ENTIRE SPECIES FROM EXTINCTION THROUGH THEIR EFFORTS WITH THE WHITE LIONS AND BLACK AND WHITE TIGERS, BUT ALSO HAD USED THEIR MILLIONS TO CREATE THE MOST PERFECT ENVIRONMENT ON EARTH FOR THEIR ANIMALS AND ANY ANIMAL WAS LUCKY TO BE CARED FOR BY THEM. THE EXPERTS ALSO POINTED OUT THAT A TIGER LIVING WITH SIEGFRIED & ROY LIVED TO BE 18-25 YEARS OLD WHEN IN THE WILD A TIGER LIVES 8-10 YEARS. THEY INSISTED THAT WHAT HAPPENED ON STAGE THAT NIGHT WAS NOT AN ATTACK, BUT INSTEAD WAS AN ACT OF A TIGER’S PATERNAL INSTINCT….PICKING ROY UP BY THE NECK WHEN HE FELL AND CARRYING HIM OFF TO A QUIETER AND SAFER PLACE THAN WHERE HE WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STAGE WITH THE LIGHTS AND THE CROWD.

THESE PEOPLE SAID WHAT SIEGFRIED AND ROY EVENTUALLY SAID TO THE PUBLIC, “IF A TIGER ATTACKS YOU, YOU’RE FINISHED.” THEY POINTED OUT THAT THERE WERE NONE OF THE INDICATORS OF A TIGER ATTACK IN WHAT HAPPENED TO ROY. AUDIENCE MEMBERS THAT NIGHT STATED THAT MONTECORE FIRST “BIT” ROY’S ARM, BUT ROY’S LONG-SLEEVED TUNIC THAT NIGHT HAD NO PUNCTURES FROM TIGER TEETH AND INDEED NO MARK OR SMUDGE AT ALL. MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE SAID THAT MONTECORE “JUMPED” ON ROY AND “ATTACKED” HIM WHEN HE FELL. ROY SAYS HE BELIEVES HE SUFFERED A MINI-STROKE ON STAGE AND MONTECORE COULD SENSE THIS HAPPENING AS ANIMALS SOMETIMES CAN AND WAS TRYING TO HELP HIM.

INDEED, EVEN THE MOST CYNICAL EYEWITNESSES STATE THAT MONTECORE APPROACHED ROY AND PICKED HIM UP VERY GENTLY BY THE NECK (AS A TIGER DOES WITH A CUB) AND CALMLY CARRIED HIM 30 FEET OFF THE STAGE USING THE EXACT SAME BLOCKING PATTERN HE HAD DONE EVERY NIGHT IN EVERY SHOW HE HAD EVER DONE WITH ROY. ONCE BACKSTAGE, MONTECORE PROCEEDED DIRECTLY TO HIS CAGE AS HE ALWAYS DID, ONLY THIS TIME HE HAD ROY’S NECK CLAMPED IN HIS TEETH AND DRAGGED HIM ALONG WITH HIM. THERE WERE NONE OF THE HALLMARKS OF A TIGER ATTACK LIKE TWISTING ROY FROM SIDE TO SIDE AND TRYING TO BREAK HIS NECK OR JUMPING ON HIS BODY ON THE FLOOR OR EVEN MULTIPLE BITE OR CLAW MARKS IN VARIOUS AREAS ON ROY, ONLY THE LONE PUNCTURES IN HIS NECK FROM WHERE MONTECORE LATCHED ON TO CARRY HIM OFF STAGE.

TO MY MIND, ANYWAY, IT REALLY DOES SEEM THAT MONTECORE, A YOUNG, STRONG, NON-DECLAWED, 385-POUND TIGER, COULD CERTAINLY HAVE DONE BETTER DAMAGE IF HE’D BEEN INTENT ON THAT. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE ONLY PROBLEM CAME BECAUSE ROY ACTUALLY WASN’T A TIGER, BUT INSTEAD A MORE FRAGILE HUMAN WITHOUT A TIGER’S USUAL SCRUFF AROUND THE NECK.

IN THE END, THOUGH, THESE SHADES OF GREY ABOUT WHAT DID OR DIDN’T HAPPEN REALLY DON’T MATTER AT ALL. NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW WHAT WENT ON THAT NIGHT THAT MADE IT END UP AS IT DID. PERHAPS WHAT I’M COMING TO IN ALL THIS WITH THIS STORY AND IN MY OWN MIND IS THAT AS WE AGE THOUGH THE HEART OF THE MATTER MIGHT SEEM TO BE IN THE SUBTLE SHADES OF GREY OF THE DETAILS, CONTROVERSIES, AND QUAGMIRE OF RIGHTNESS OR JUSTICE IN LIFE, THE TRULY IMPORTANT THINGS ARE MUCH MORE BASIC AND VERY MUCH BLACK AND WHITE.

BLACK AND WHITE ARE THE COLOURS OF THE TIGER NAMED MONTECORE THAT FOREVER ALTERED THE DESTINY OF SIEGFRIED & ROY. I BELIEVE THAT FOR MONTECORE, HIS DECISION WAS BLACK AND WHITE – ROY WAS IN TROUBLE AND NEEDED TO BE TAKEN TO SAFETY.

FOR SIEGFRIED, HEARTBREAKING AS IT WAS FOR HIM TO LOSE HIS BELOVED PROFESSION, HIS DECISION WAS ALSO BLACK AND WHITE….THERE WAS NO SIEGFRIED & ROY WITHOUT ROY – THE SHOW WOULD NOT GO ON. HIS PARTNER AND BEST FRIEND OF 45 YEARS WAS HURT AND SO HIS LIFE TOO WAS COMPLETELY ALTERED TO CARE FOR ROY AND TO MAKE A NEW LIFE FOR HIM AND WITH HIM AND THEIR ANIMALS.

TO ROY, HIS CONCERN WAS BLACK AND WHITE. EVEN BLEEDING PROFUSELY AND NEAR TO DEATH, HIS ONLY DISTRESS WAS FOR MONTECORE. PEOPLE BACKSTAGE AND IN THE AMBULANCE WITH ROY ALL REPORT THAT HE DEMANDED WITH WHAT WAS LEFT OF HIS VOICE OVER AND OVER, “DON’T HURT THE TIGER! DON’T SHOOT MONTECORE!” EVEN 10 YEARS AFTER THE INCIDENT OCCURRED AND STILL PARTIALLY PARALYZED, ROY WAS SHOWN ON CAMERA HAND-FEEDING MONTECORE, STILL SHOWING HIS DEVOTION TO HIS TIGER SAYING THAT MONTECORE WAS HIS BROTHER, AND PRAISING HIM FOR ‘SAVING’ HIS LIFE THAT NIGHT. INDEED, ANY FORGIVENESS REQUIRED ON ROY’S PART WAS TOTAL BECAUSE 6 YEARS AFTER THE INCIDENT, SIEGFRIED & ROY RETURNED FOR A FINAL PERFORMANCE, BOTH OF THEM SHARING THE STAGE WITH MONTECORE FOR ONE LAST TIME.

IN THIS STORY, THE PRINCIPLES OF FRIENDSHIP, OF LOVE, AND FORGIVENESS CAN ALL BE SEEN IN VIVID BLACK AND WHITE WITH NO SHADES OF GREY AT ALL. NOT ALL OF US HAVE TO TRAVEL SUCH A DIFFICULT ROAD AS DID SIEGFRIED & ROY, BUT I KNOW EVEN AT THE DARKEST MOMENTS, THE LOVE, CONCERN, AND FRIENDSHIPS THAT ARE THE TRUE MAGIC IN OUR LIVES WILL STILL BE BOLDLY THERE PROCLAIMING THEMSELVES IN MAGNIFICENT BLACK AND WHITE FOR ALL TO SEE.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s