Recent Work By Steven Church

pointy-fence

 

Over the weekend of June 25, 2016 at the Bronx zoo, two separate individuals were arrested for trespassing after they crossed posted boundaries and entered two exhibits separately—the  snow leopard and red panda. One of them, a reporter for the New York Post, was just trying to get some good pictures for a story. On May 28, not even a month earlier, a four-year-old boy slipped away from his mother and fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati zoo, and the tragic ending to this story suddenly made everyone in America an expert on parenting, gorilla behavior, and zoo design.

While troubling and often shocking, these stories are hardly new. Instead, they partake in a long history of sublime and violent encounters between humans and zoo animals, a history that resists easy explanations and online punditry, a history that repeats itself.

Beastmaster

A few years ago, over the Grapevine mountain range, down at Disneyland, I caught sight of the Beastmaster waiting in line for the Mad Hatter’s teacup ride. And by that, of course, I mean I saw Marc Singer, the actor who played the sword-swinging, animal-loving barbarian, Dar, in the 1982 fantasy film, Beastmaster.[1] I saw the actor, not the character, though it was, admittedly, a little tough for me to keep them apart in my mind.

I’d come to the Land of Disney with my former wife and our son. We’d driven four-plus hours to visit some friends in Hollywood and to escape the murderous San Joaquin Valley heat; and there we all were, nestled into the ample bosom of the happiest place on earth, queuing up for the Mad Hatter’s ride, when I spotted him.

Across the winding maze of happy people, I caught a quick glimpse of the Beastmaster. Brief at first, my gaze shifted away, but I kept glancing back, subtly collecting the confirming details—angular face, aquiline nose, overly large nostrils, broad shoulders and blondish hair. It took a minute or two for me to register Singer’s face and place him in the films I knew; but when I did, I felt that strange satisfying heat of nostalgia settle into my gut, and I wanted to roll around it in a like a dog rolls in dead stuff.