Cat Dancers (2007) Poster

(2007)

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8/10
A compelling, tragic story
mswritesalot20 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched this documentary, and found it haunting. Ron Holiday, a former professional dancer, with his wife, Joy, began performing with live big cats back in the late 1960s - an uncommon career choice, to be sure. But the Holidays were uncommon people. Now (in the documentary) coming up on his 70th birthday, Ron tells the story of their lives, which became intertwined with that of fellow performer Chuck Lizza and a number of big cats. It's an unorthodox story of love, showmanship, tragedy and, finally, loneliness.

Having been extremely successful for many years with golden tigers and other big cats, the Cat Dancers realized that rare white tigers were what the crowds really wanted to see. The decision to add a white tiger to their show was, by Ron's admission, made through his urging. The end results of that decision were devastating. I doubt that any caustic or condemning remarks made by others who have viewed or reviewed this film can possibly make this man feel any worse about what happened.

Ron Holiday is a survivor, but he by his own admission has not healed from the tragedies described in Cat Dancers. He states he never will. I believe him. He is a showman, donning a variety of wigs during the documentary, as he steps out to face one audience or another. But he also shows us his true self. He is a risk-taker, revealing truths about the unconventional life he shared with Joy and Chuck, truths that some may find uncomfortable. He is a lone storyteller, chronicling a shared life that certainly had many magical moments that were all too fleeting.

My main complaint with this film is that no expanded explanation was given regarding the euthanasia of the last tigers. Ron stated that he had made a pact with Joy and Chuck that if anything happened to them, the animals would not end up in "a compound." For those unfamiliar with exotic animal rescues, they are compounds. They have to be. They require extensive and expensive confinement and security measures, and even the very best of them cannot give the intensive, one-on-one daily attention the Holiday tigers had known their whole lives. Keeping an animal alive in a miserable situation is not humane, and it is certain that tigers which had been raised in a decidedly pet-like environment would be miserable in a new place without the person who had cared for them all their lives. I feel that the decision to euthanize his cats was a quality of life issue, and perhaps an acknowledgment that Ron, at 70, simply could not provide the quality of life to which the animals had been so long accustomed. Tigers are not house cats, no matter how they have been raised, so finding a facility that would take them isn't an easy task anyway.

I recorded this documentary with the intention of deleting it once I had watched it. Having seen it, I have decided to keep it. And I will hope, for Ron's sake, that he is able to follow through with the plans he describes for his 80th birthday.
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10/10
Compelling and tragic
Artamnesia19 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I'm so glad that I stumbled across this documentary without having seen any of the advertising for it.

At first I was a little put off by the strange appearance and the sexually-charged comments of Ron Holiday, but ultimately they contributed to what makes this story so interesting. This isn't a story about Hollywood-perfect people living scripted lives but very real, very unique people.

I won't give away any spoilers but only say that there is an air of foreboding throughout the film that lets you know all did not end well with the trio of performers who were the Cat Dancers.

The filmmaker and editors did a fabulous job with the old footage. A lot of post production houses only wish they could make video look like that, and the soundtrack was perfect.

I didn't cry until the end credits when the song "I want to be a lion tamer" (I think it was) began.

I hope to see more by this newcomer!
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6/10
Cat Shrink-Wrap
so_cold9 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This film about a wild cat circus act, raises more questions that it does answers. One of the reasons why is because only one third of the triangle, Ron Holiday is present to tell the story. That would be fine, if he was totally honest about events, but I don't think he was. He and his wife Joy were into ballet, then as age crept thought of training cats after getting a leopard. The Duo became a trio after they met Chuck and Ron basically describes them as one big happy family until the "accidents" This is where I start to doubt Ron's story. A couple with two people can have it's ups and downs, so I don't think it was as great as he said it was with three people in the mix. Three separate people, with their own hopes, dreams, ambitions and expectations. I think Joy was dedicated to the animals, but Ron became third on her list when Chuck came along. In tapes, it's explained that when the cats are little, they choose their own caretakers and it seemed like most of the cats chose Joy or chuck.

I can't help but think that Ron might of resented them for that, among other things. For example, who went on talk shows to talk about Cat dancers with the media? Who did Ron's cash cow idea choose to care for it? Who did Joy get so depressed over, she rapidly went downhill? All those questions have the same answer: Chuck. I don't think Ron was as pleased to have him around as much as he said he was. He worked with Joy for over twenty years to get cat dancers up and running, only to be upstaged, by a tall young man who his wife found attractive. In her youth, Joy had a great body and wore bikinis and revealing show outfits. I'm sorry to say that when she aged, her wardrobe didn't change and in my opinion, it's not that pleasant to see.

Their apparent love triangle is disturbing for many reasons. Some of those are that I think Chuck was taken advantage of by both of them. The married couple, Ron and Joy could have been friends with him and looked out for him, but I think they manipulated him slightly. They did give him a job, and a place to stay, but it was for a price and I think they pushed him into a corner. Secondly Ron and Joy Holiday were old enough to be his parents. Chuck in the tapes seemed quite innocent and childlike, so the fact that this couple saw him as "fresh meat" was quite disturbing. The accident that happened to him could have been prevented, a view spoken by his mother who was contacted by phone, and is heard on the show. There was so much going on with the builders and their equipment, it was bad judgement to take the cats out, especially Jupiter, Ron's cash cow idea, who chose Chuck to be it's carer. Ron knew that Jupiter was stubborn and had a mean streak so why didn't he leave him caged?

After Chuck's accident, it was clear that Joy had changed, but as for Ron, a few weeks after, he acting like he's walking on air. Filming the tigers after the accident, Joy's voice is toneless and her hands are shaking, more than ever when she scans over Jupiter. It was Ron's idea to get Jupiter, a white tiger that Joy didn't want to have because she said they were mostly all inbred, but in Ron's words he "pushed it, and pushed it" Jupiter was Ron's idea, but Jupiter picked Chuck to look after him. He and Joy were married, but Joy chose Chuck to be her lover. Ron seems to be getting pushed out, yet in tapes that show them training, you can always hear his voice, it's louder than anyone else's.

Joy's accident shouldn't have happened as well. The doctors were planning to take her to hospital the next day, so it seems strange that Ron would take his frail, tired wife into an enclosure with wild cats who don't know their own strength. Ron also mentioned that she was twice over the legal limit with alcohol, but he didn't see her drink. Yet he said, he went in her room with a fan to get rid of the smells, because she never washed, but he couldn't smell any alcohol. Things don't add up, but he's not called out on it. Chuck and Joy can't say, "Well this really happened" or "Ron's talking crap" which is a shame, because Ron paints their romance as rosy and perfect when some people know that's never the case in any relationship. It doesn't seem like Ron's talking about how events really were, in some parts it seems like he reveals how'd he'd like things to have happened.

Ron was pushed to the side in "cat dancers" merely seen as a helper, a viewer to see Chuck the young friendly man the cats loved and Joy the presenter and only "girl" of the group bond with the cats as they worked their magic. But when the bond ended, the cats were stuck with Ron and now he gets the solo attention, sympathy and spotlight that he's always wanted. But other people who watch this may have very different views. A unique story that will intrigue viewers.
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6/10
Disappointing, jarring ending
Texshan18 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I happened to catch this documentary this morning while I was getting ready to go to work. The archival footage isn't of the greatest quality, but as most of it is home movies, that's to be expected. I love cats of all sizes, so I really enjoyed seeing the video of the cats performing as well as hanging out at home.

As anyone watching this will figure out long before the end, two of the three main characters in this documentary are no longer with us. That leaves just one to tell their story. It's interesting, but I found myself so distracted by Mr. Holiday's hair and plastic surgery that I couldn't really pay attention to what he was saying some of the time.

The main problem I had with this documentary isn't its style or quality -- it is the actions of Mr. Holiday. At the end, a screen card comes up saying that the place where he boarded his last two tigers evicted everyone, so rather than turn them over to a refuge or investigate other boarding places, he had them put to sleep. These were older animals, yes, but they appeared to be in good health. After listening to Holiday talk for an hour about how much he supposedly loved the cats, I found it horrible that he chose this option for them. Animals should never be put to sleep unless they are a danger to others or are very sick. That wasn't the case with these two. I found it jarring and unexplainable, and immediately lost any sympathy I might have felt for Holiday.
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9/10
Only one of the greatest films of all-time...
saguirre-25 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
We happened to stumble upon this film a few evenings ago and I have been haunted by Ron Holiday's hair ever since. While this film is in many ways sad and poignant, it's greatest asset is that it is an unintentional comedic masterpiece. Had the credits rolled and I saw that it was directed by Christopher Guest I wouldn't have been surprised. Cod pieces, extended ass-shots, and the precursors to Sigfried and Roy--Will Ferrell couldn't have done a better job himself.

"Excuse me..." "No you're not excused" will go down in the history books (for the uninformed that is the line that snowballed into the greatest menage a trois of all time.)
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6/10
An oddball's version of *SPOILER ALERT* 2 tiger attacks
raffhall22 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The HBO film Cat Dancers is less documentary than it is home movies & propaganda by Ron Holiday (real name Ron Guay). It's hard to believe his wife Joy Holiday (real name Doris Gagnon) was drunk (twice the legal limit) after not eating for weeks and walked out to visit the cats despite being suicidal. It is also odd that the younger member of the polygamists threesome was passed out asleep and didn't get dressed to help move the tigers. Director Harris Fishman does not bother getting any interviews with police, coroner, friends or witnesses. We only have a weird blow hard playing victim with hyperbole and denials. I find it disgusting to force wild animals into cages and perform silly acts such as jumping on a disco ball on hind legs or being ridden by the old woman who was killed by a tiger Ron later claimed he didn't know was inbred. He also put down 2 of the cats when he was evicted which puts his claim of loving the animal into question. Surely he could have found a refuge for them. We can't know because we only hear a phone call to the estranged mother of Chuck Lizza, who hasn't seen her son in years (according to Ron) & seems suspicious. The story is interesting for the creepy factor more than informative. Worth watching for the freak show and outrage than quality film making.
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Bizarre People ...
vram2220 January 2009
The title and previews to this documentary made it seem a bit haunting and eerie. It's about a man-wife dance team (over a 30 year span) who decided to add cats (tigers, jaguars, leopards, etc.) to their act. It's billed as a tragedy as well as a weird love/sex-triangle, so that offbeat oddness drew my curiosity.

Overall, the show felt a bit voyeuristic - I felt that I was peering in on the personal lives of some odd show-biz people. The grainy, old film clips of them just added to that imagery. There were ultimately 3 of them (a young fellow later joined them) and their lives were centered around entertaining, caring for their exotic cats and living with each other.

Besides the feeling of voyeurism, I'm not sure what I ultimately got out of the show - besides the obvious idea that dealing with wild cats is dangerous ... and that the ménage à trois lifestyle was alive and well with these people. It was interesting, but felt a little too long (too many unnecessary details) for the story that they were telling.
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Must see
fritzbatton20 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This doc is worth seeing just because of the man dude. He is 100% off his rocker. His multiple wigs are so wildly hysterical. Some of the things that come out of his mouth are priceless. I felt bad for the guy, but he brought it all on himself. Classic story of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" He says how is life was perfect, yet he forces his partners in a different direction, causing a horrifically tragic end. If this was a movie, it would seem too far-fetched. I can see the other guy's death, but how strange was the woman's? She was loaded at the time of death, she told her husband she wanted to die, and it was the day before the doctors were going to hospitalize her. It really makes you think that maybe she committed "death by tiger".
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