Wednesday, June 13, 2012




Gunther was inducted into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame in 1995.   Although some may disagree, in my eyes no other individual has had the impact on his profession and industry then did Gunther Gebel Williams have on animal training and the circus.  None.

Gunther Gebel-Williams, Circus Animal Trainer, Dies at 66 - New ...

 Conclusions Drawn
Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gunther Gebel-Williams died ten years ago now, on July 19, 2001. I had forgotten about him, to be honest, until I took my young daughter to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus last week. It was much smaller than the version I remember seeing as a kid in the late 1970s in Washington, D.C. Back then, animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams was the star attraction.

His brief obituary in the New York Times HERE began as follows, "Gunther Gebel-Williams, who taught lions to ride on the backs of skittish horses, leopards to jump through flaming hoops held by the gleaming teeth of tigers, and elephants to take calm, leisurely walks through roaring traffic in the nation's busiest cities, died yesterday at his home in Venice, Fla. He was 66... Mr. Gebel-Williams, who for many years was the unrivaled star of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, had surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor in July 2000."

As a child in the 1970s, Gunther Gebel-Williams seemed almost like a super-hero, perhaps partly because he was so heavily promoted on television commercials when the circus came to town.  As I was watching the circus last week, I was struck by the total absence of any star power. In contrast, Gunther Gebel-Williams once featured in an American Express commercial that you can watch HERE.  Even better (but longer) is THIS 6 minute clip from his appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.  It really gives you a feel for how the German-born performer was part Arnold Schwarzenegger and part Evel Knievel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I missed seeing him by one week. He had retired, not performing. I was just about to start at Riddles and a unit was in Little Rock. I will always regret this as from my childhood I watched him with 15+ tigers,elephants and his leopard on TV in Australia. I got to see Mark Oliver present horses and I guessed it was a small glimpse of his father. Vale Gunther gebel Williams