Lions and tigers and bears - oh really!

February 2, 2020
Written by Kate Johnson

Randy Miller is a man’s man all the way through. Foregoing most human creature comforts he lived in a trailer above Tippi Hedren’s exotic animal estate. Outside his door he had his own menagerie which included Zircon, a huge tiger, later to be featured in the film “Gladiator”. Along with this magnificent cat were lions, white tigers, a brown bear, lynxes, jaguars, and tiger cubs. On one visit I held a lynx in my arms, his front paws wrapped around my neck as he chuffed through my hair.
Each animal loved Randy and he loved all of them in return. He raised them with a firm but loving hand and he believed deeply that without people like him there would be no future for these magnificent beings.
In his youth he had created the New York Seltzer Company. I remember I practically lived on them throughout high school and college. For the ads he would do his own stunts applying his skills as a race car driver and leaping from the top story of a hotel. He discovered exotic felines with his newfound money creating a habitat for a jaguar I believe in his Hollywood hills home. Later he gave up the company, the fancy house and invested in saving cats.
He had met a magician eager to team up with him in an act. We came along to shoot the act in exchange for a day with Randy and his menagerie. The act was what was to be expected: disappearing cats, card tricks, one liners. Randy didn’t stay long.
On one shoot we were at a McMansion somewhere in the valley. The brown bear was brought out by the truck and as we stood around waiting to set up we began to hear a sound like a motor grumbling away. I turned to see what was causing the noise and with surprise realized it was the bear! I never knew bears purred! I was then handed a tiger cub to take care of. I was given his leash and we walked out together across the grounds. The cub had decided that he was hungry and wasn’t going anywhere. As I tried to cajole and walk with him he stood his ground. As cubs, tigers are square, strong and solid and seem to know that they are the kings. He wanted what he wanted period. As I knelt down to pick him up he instead lightly clamped onto my forearm. It was then that he was no longer a cute little cat to me. I instantly respected the power of this little being. All romantic notions of “wouldn’t it be cool to have an exotic feline” left me. He squared up, looked me in the eye, and growled. I gave in. He was king and I wanted my arm.
A few months later we had an office on the second floor of a Melrose Ave. building. In our front edit bay with windows looking out over the fashion shoppers, a couple of people had rented it to work on their film. Suddenly from our back door Randy appeared with two carriers each one occupied by a baby tiger. We hadn’t seen him in a while and we were thrilled. We soon opened the doors, got water for the cats and began talking. One of the cats was particularly friendly and the other adventurous. As we sat together we realized that one of the cats was gone. In slow motion we all looked up just in time to see the tail of the tiny tiger whip into the front edit bay. Before we could get up we heard the growl quickly followed by a scream after which the tiger came running out at full speed. With equal speed the man and woman grabbed their things, dashed into the hallway, looked at us shocked and ran out the door. They never paid us and we never heard from them again. I wish I had been a fly on the wall to have seen their faces! I’ve always wondered what their side of the story was…