Saturday, February 7, 2009

Pat Anthony--One of America's Greatest Wild Animal Trainer's

For any of the young European cage act fans who we are pleased to have contributing to this blog how have never heard of this man, his name was Anthony Patrick Vitanza who's stage name was Pat Anthony. He was one of Americas greatest wild animal trainers, and in my opinion was only overshadowed by Clyde Beatty. Pat learned how to train cat's because of what was called the GI Bill. After the war, all American soldiers were given a choice of what they wanted for a job and where they wanted to go to school and the American Government paid for it. Pat wanted to be an animal trainer, and the Government paid for him to go to JungleLand, which was a large zoo/animal training compound in Thousand Oaks California. They trained animals for movies and circus's at Jungle Land and some of America's best animal trainers/animal handlers of that generation worked there.
Pat was a very good friend of mine, who I first met when I was a groom taking care of the animals. He was the only Animal Trainer besides Tony Smaha who treated me with respect and kindness and didn't call me a shit shovler. I have a whip lash that Pat gave me in 1975 before I even knew how to use a whip. He made them himself and they were flat and not round like a normal whip lash. I still have it today and have never used it. I was very proud to have Pat come to the Ringling show as my guest the first year I we opened in Venice. Imagine if you can the thrill and excitement of having Pat Anthony, Gunther Gebel Williams, Charley Bauman, Axel Gautier and Daniel Suskow all watching you on one night!!!!!!!!!

Pat had a lion and tiger barrel roll, a tiger rolling a ball, a lioness named Rita that did a roll over so fast and furious she went from her stomach straight to her stomach without without touching her side. He had some of the best bouncing/ charging lions you would ever see. Mama, the lioness would charge from the left and knock the chair out of his hand and Big Boy a male lion would charge him from the opposite or right side, and he would fight two lions, a male and a female together. He had special pedestals built and the animals stretched instead of sitting like you see in most cage acts. You can see them in the pictures above. His tigers were male tigers and the tiger on the ball above's name was Billy.
If you are interested in a few more pictures of Pat go to Ivan Henry's blog look around and you will find more wonderful Pat Anthony stuff.


Anonymous said...

Wade - what's the go with the bloke inside the cage with him in the Beatty-Cole pic?

Wade G. Burck said...

That is Dave Hoover who Pat sold some of the lions to when he retired. Hawthorn sold Dave some lions that I showed to him before he bought them. I think their names were Mitch, Caesar, and Bongo. I would tell you why Dave was standing in the cage, but the fans like him, and it will start a hey rube. He insisted on the same thing with me.
I'll email you private, mate.

Anonymous said...

For people like me who grew up watching indoor shows in the 1950s Pat Anthony was THE cat act. His act had everything you said and more -- it was exciting. Over the years I got to know him, what a man. Thanks for the memories.

Jules Jacot would make flat braided whip lashes. Jules were longer than Pat's and a bit of challenge to use when I'd give them a try. Pat probably picked up the skill from some of the old school trainers at Jungleland.

Lisa Bale said...

So nice to see all this great stuff about my dad!! He was, in my opinion, the best. He was a great trainer and had a special gift with animals, that my son, his grandson, now posseses. He was also a very kind man.

PK said...

I remember Pat Anthony as a very kind man who was very patient. When I was about 7 yrs old I showed him some silly magic tricks and he pretended astonishment. Then he showed me some baby tigers and it was my turn to be astonished.I never forgot Pat Anthony and his kindness.

GmaJo said...

Thank you for the article on Pat Anthony; he was my brother-in-law and I always thought the world of him. Lisa Bale - I'd like to correspond with you. If you're interested please respond to

Scott Kjeer ( said...

Hi Lisa! I don't know if you remember me but my parents were friends of your parents in Riverview, FL. They were Adrian and Martha Kjeer.
I am sorry to hear of your dad's passing. My dad passed 6 years ago but my mom is doing great.
Wasn't your mom's name Pat (Patricia) as well? I'd like to do some research and see if there are any media available that I can see our dad in action! Take care. By the way, Riverview is bigger than Brandon now, with four ZIP Codes and was named one of the best towns in the country this year.