Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

Gelb Music in Redwood City is one of the finest of its kind in the country.

I worked there for several years and watched its owner, Kevin Jarvis make the store into what it is today,

In the early days Kevin was always looking for  a ‘hook’ in the ads he ran in various local publications.  Some of them were quite clever but the most memorable was the Great Tiger Shoot.

In those days, Marine World had a park nearby and he found out that you could ‘rent’ one of their more or less ‘tame’ Bengal Tigers for certain purposes that were hopefully agreeable to the tiger.

Kevin thought it would be a neat ideas to have this animal featured in a photo layout centered around our PA department so he lined up a photographer and then called  Marine World.  He made arrangements to have the tiger brought in around eight a.m.  on a nice spring day.  A small number of our friends were invited to view this wonderful event and everyone showed up on time to socialize with the tiger.  Great fun!

Here came the Marine World Van which parked in front of the store.  There was plenty of room to park because of a broad, patio area part of the sidewalk in front of the store.  The driver/handler got out and came into the store.  Upon spying Jessica, the Shepherd/Lab Superdog and store mascot,  he said “The dog has to go.”
“You don’t understand,”  Kevin said, “Jessica is very well trained and won’t bother the tiger.”

“No, you don’t understand.” the man said…”Tigers eat dogs!”
So Jessica was banished to one of the teaching rooms in the far back of the store.

The handler studied the proposed layout and had a few words with the photographer.  He then cautioned us to not make any loud sudden noises  or run in view of  the creature.
…and he went and got him from the truck.
He was magnificent.
He was gorgeous.
He struck abject fear in the hearts of all attending viewers.

The keeper only had a cane and the tiger was wearing a chain collar but it was obvious that anything that went on was purely by agreement between man and cat.  If the tiger decided it would choose to do something, do it he would and there wasn’t a whole lot the man would be able do about it.
All the nature films on TV cannot prepare one for the Sight and Presence of a full grown Bengal all reddish gold and black walking in a room where tigers are not normally found.  They Look and Are Huge!.  His shoulders were as high as our main counter as he majestically went to where we wanted the shoot.  All of the would be ‘tiger petters’ were flattened against the wall not wanting to be noticed by His Highness.  And Highness he was and he knew it.
The tiger went up to one of the huge speaker cabinets we had on display, paused, gave it a sniff as if to say “This’ll do” then backed up to it…
Don’t let him spray…oh, hell, let him do what he wants…” I said
And he did.  Marked his territory as it were…
He then laid down and the photographer started shooting film.
After a while, maybe fifteen or twenty shots there was a “Stop NOW.”  from the keeper.  Just how the tiger may have signaled his displeasure I never knew.
“Just a couple more” said the photographer.
“The Tiger wants you to stop now“. said the handler.
The photographer stopped.

By the time his trainer was to take him back to the truck the traffic noise had increased considerably and, as it turned out, made the tiger nervous.  He refused to leave.
We all took up our positions against the wall as the trainer went to the van, opened the side door and came back and swatted His Highness on his royal rump with the cane whereupon he less than regally hurried out to the van and got in (with a noticeable dip and sag to the van.)

We released Jessica and she very cautiously made a nose search of the place.
Not one of us had petted the animal…in fact we all talked in very hushed tones for a good part of the day….
            Jessica looked worried for a little while… I think she knew a Dog Eater when she smelled one…