I didn't originally intend to see Cat Dancers, which was described to me as being about a couple who trained tigers for their Vegas act, until some friends persuaded me that it was well worth seeing, and then other unrelated friends also recommended the documentary. Cat Dancers turned out to be a pleasant surprise -- a fascinating and touching look into the lives of Ron and Joy Holiday and Chuck Lizza, a trio who formed the long-running "Cat Dancers" exotic-animal act before anyone had heard of Siegfried and Roy. Actor and filmmaker Harris Fishman spent seven years working on this film, and it shows -- I would not have guessed that this was his directorial debut.
The film opens with an introduction to Ron Holiday, now a dance instructor in his 70s, and lets him tell the story of his life in his own words. Any voice-over narration is provided by interviews with Ron. He tells us about his secret childhood dance ambitions, meeting and marrying Joy, and pursuing a career in ballet and other dance. They taught dance in Florida, met Tennessee Williams, and eventually realized their dream of performing in Radio City Music Hall. And just as they were felt they were becoming too old for full-time dancing, Ron conceived the idea of having a wild animal in the act, and actor William Holden presented them with their first "big cat" -- a black leopard cub. From there, Ron and Joy developed an exotic animal act with leopards and tigers that became immensely popular, and eventually hired Chuck to join them.