Animal tamer Captain Jack Bonavita sitting down with some of his cats, at Coney Island in 1904.

In my short novel Circus, lion tamer Carl Ellenbeck affects Bonavita’s sang froid, but is secretly terrified that his big cats will discover how terrified he is of them, at which point he knows they would immediately tear him to pieces.

Bonavita was utterly fearless, and once appeared in a cage with 27 lions.  In 1904, a lion he was performing with attacked him and mangled his arm, which eventually had to be amputated.  He continued performing, however, until he was killed in 1917 by a polar bear he was training.

With thanks to Bryan Castañeda . . .

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