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It's a jungle in there and in here

Lassie251I had the pleasure of shaking Lassie's paw one time.

And I spent one very nervous, sleepless night in a five-star Beverly Hills hotel in 1997 directly across the hall from the snake about the size of a Buick that played the title role in the schlock-horror flick "Anaconda."

If I had to pick just one favorite movie animal, however, it wouldn't be a live one at all.  I'm drawn to Dumbo, the baby elephant with enormous floppy ears drawn brilliantly by Disney animators "back in the day."

Oddly enough, the classic tale of a ridiculed circus elephant that achieves its full potential by making the most of those big ears when it counts was released on Halloween in 1941.

I don't know how old I was when "Dumbo" first flapped its ears and its movie magic on me, but it remains one of my fondest movie memories.  It's also my first recollection of sharing a movie with my Mom, who loved movies way back then as much as I do now.


If I might slither back to thoughts of that big ol' snake "Anaconda" for a minute, you may be wondering a couple of things:  (1)  What's a snake measuring roughly 20-feet-long doing in a five-star Beverly Hills hotel suite? and (2) How did I end up directly across the hall from it?

Let's begin with No. 2, since that's the one that troubled, puzzled and panicked me the most at the time.  That's an easy question.  The answer is "buzzard luck," which basically means that if anything bad is going to happen, it generally happens to your faithful scribe here.

And secondly, to question No. 1: The movie studios, which invite film critics from across the U.S. and Canada and most of the free world to fly to various locales to see an upcoming movie and interview the stars, occasionally go the extra publicity mile to make those interview opportunities into what they perceive to be "an event."

So some suit in a movie studio carpeted corner office decided it would be a dandy idea to show off an anaconda to the film press during the interview days.  Forty or 50 film critics, entertainment writers and -- I can only hope -- giant snake wranglers showed up for the event.

"The movie studio wants us to remind you to please stop by Suite 1212 to see the snake used in 'Anaconda,'" the polished check-in person chirped.  "Welcome back to the Four Seasons, Mr. Ratliff.  Here's your key.  You're in Suite 1213."

Are you beginning to understand how this "buzzard luck" curse works?

The door to Suite (and sour) 1212 was partially open when I nervously unlocked my door across the hall and threw down my luggage on the bed.  I remember the spot because it's also where I almost threw up about five minutes later.

Being a good movie junket soldier, I crossed the hall and stepped lightly into Suite 1212.  A movie studio rep welcomed me in, and two or three other movie critics were staring into the giant glass case that barely contained the anaconda.

Anaconda350rI am not making this up:  That snake, no, that giant snake locked its eyes on me and never altered its gaze.  Even as other people milled about, the slithery creature -- and maybe I should be flattered by this -- only had eyes for me, tilting and moving its head this way and that as I tried to break the fixation.

I made a quick exit and double-locked my door until it was time to go to see the movie itself

Upon my return to the 12th floor about 10 p.m., there were no movie studio reps in sight and no one milling about.  (Had they all been eaten like unfortunate Jon Voight in the movie?)

As I clumsily fumbled for the credit card key to my room, I looked over my shoulder.  The snake's door was still propped open.  Light filtered out into the hall as if it was partially shielded by giant trees in the forest.  Before I bolted into my room, I had to see for myself that the snake was still contained in that glass case.  So I tip-toed ever so carefully to the open door and peaked in ...

THE SNAKE WAS STARING RIGHT INTO MY EYES AGAIN, as if it was just waiting for my return.

That was the only time I ever felt like a room service meal.

(Lassie photo courtesy:  www.cvfaf.org/"Dumbo" clip courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures/"Anaconda" photo courtesy http://robsmovievault.files.wordpress.com)


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