Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Page 2 / NEWS, TRENDS, STYLE AND BUZZ

Partners Under the Big Top

August 09, 2000|GINA FERAZZI

Thirty minutes before show time, they begin their routine, these two best friends. Attendant Sonny Ridley, 58, and Karen the elephant, have been together for 31 years, believed to be the longest relationship between human and animal in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus recently closed in Long Beach and opens today at the San Diego Sports Arena.

In a quiet ring, Ridley brushes Karen and speaks to her in a voice so low that only she can hear. She blows air out of her trunk and groans like an out-of-tune trumpet. Karen, at 8,200 pounds, likes to lean gently against Ridley. The two have been best friends since Karen joined the circus from Asia when she was less than a year old. Ridley had joined the circus a few years earlier. The shy, soft-spoken Michigan native had always wanted to work with animals. For fun, he and Karen go on walks and play tag.

Before their grand circus entrance, in a procession of elephants and attendants, Ridley puts on a tuxedo and throws a flashy blanket over Karen. "The Star Spangled Banner" plays. A black curtain opens. Spotlights shine. Stroking her eyelids, Ridley whispers in Karen's ear: "Are you excited?"

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|