[monkeywire] Pint-Sized Monkey Featured Star of Rodeo
ahewins at mac.com
Thu Jan 29 22:44:57 EST 2004
Posted on Sat, Jan. 24, 2004
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This pint-sized cowpoke is the star of the rodeo
BY ELLEN TOMSON
Whiplash, a rough-ridin' cowboy monkey from Texas, is here and ready to
Billed as "the world's smallest cowboy," he's a featured star in Dodge
World's Toughest Rodeo this weekend at Xcel Energy Center.
He weighs just 7 pounds, but when it comes to staying in the saddle on
a big, bucking border collie and herding a few sheep, he hangs (on)
In the course of his career, Whiplash has appeared on national
television, performed for the premier of China and for royalty,
including Prince Ranier and Princess Stephanie of Monaco. He's been
sought out for commercial work and invited to appear on late-night talk
shows with Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman. The latest production
began last year for a Hollywood movie starring the monkey.
Sure, those fancy sheep dogs are imported from England, Wales and
Scotland ? and cost thousands ? but Whiplash has outlasted the best of
dogs on the rodeo circuit.
He's performed for 15 years. The dogs perform for maybe four, then
retire to the warm Southwest to do "real" herding.
Whiplash's two latest mounts are Ben and Bud. They alternate
performances. Whip-lash doesn't care which one he rides.
Whiplash has a worldwide fan club (especially strong in Japan and
Australia, a fact Whiplash wastes no time puzzling over) and a Web site
www.whiplashrides.com. The site includes some photos of him in action,
a brief bio and information on how admirers can purchase Whiplash
drinking mugs, mouse pads and T-shirts.
Whiplash is on the road about four months a year, traveling about
30,000 miles. He rides with his trainer, Tommy Lucia, and Lucia's son,
Anthony, 18, in the cab of a big Dodge pickup truck. He gets the second
seat all to himself. Meanwhile, the dogs and a performing horse are
relegated to the 40-foot trailer in tow.
Lucia says he took on the role of Whiplash's surrogate father when the
little guy was just 2 years old. Lucia likely knows him better than
anyone, which is why we asked him to serve as spokesman and translator
when we caught up with Whiplash earlier this week for an interview:
Q. How exactly did you train for your act?
A. Well, first thing, I had to get used to wearing clothes. Then, I had
to work on my attitude ? the mental/emotional thing ? because I wasn't
too sure those border collies were friendly types. They weigh about 60
pounds, you know, and they're strong. It took me about eight months to
learn to ride a dog. And the sheep can be real annoying. They can jump
5 feet ? right over me and the dog ? and they've got a good kick.
You'll hear me screaming at them sometimes when we're performing.
Q. You're 17. That's ancient for a monkey, right? Any thoughts of
A. You gotta be kidding. This act is what keeps me going. My private
doc and the one I visit at the Fort Worth, Texas, zoo told me I'm as
fit as a 4- or 5-year-old. I eat right. I stay active. I like to bang
things around, jump off stuff and whip around my wool blanket. That
trainer I have, he's looking like an old man at 62. I've got a bet
going with him that I'll outlive him.
Q. Is Whiplash just a stage name?
A. It's been my stage name so long I feel like it's my real name. At
home, though, I sometimes go by Zippy or Pistol.
Q. What about those rumors you've got something going with a much
younger Capuchin starlet-gymnast?
A. Nothing to them. I'm totally single. My trainer is divorced and told
me single is the way to go.
Q. You wear some pretty sharp-looking outfits. I've heard they're
custom made, that you've got your own seamstress. Is style important to
A. Do tell you the truth, I like to take it all off. Sometimes, when I
look in a mirror at myself all gussied up, my hair just stands up. I'm
thinking it's got to be another monkey I'm looking at.
Q. If the conditions are right, you've said you would consider an
appearance with ABC's late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. But you always say
no to Letterman. Why?
A. Letterman just has monkeys on his show so he can make jokes about
them, rip them apart. My trainer is like a dad: protective. He doesn't
want to subject me to that. If I'm in New York and I think it would be
a good move for me, I might consider Kimmel's show. But not in a studio
with spotlights. I have to have some dirt and a corral-type atmosphere
for my act to work.
Q. What can you tell us about this movie deal?
A. Well, I play the role of this retired Texas ranger, Waco Willy.
That's all I'm gonna say.
Q. Is this a good career for a monkey? Or is the salary just peanuts?
A. I get more than peanuts: vitamins, bananas (of course) and other
fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ? wholesome grub. I like
sugar, but my personal trainer limits the sweets. My trainer treats me
better than himself. He's always afraid I'll catch a cold or get stung
by an insect or something.
And as far as the career, if a monkey has the patience to learn, great
balance and likes to ride, I'd say go for it. You get to meet new
people, the traveling is good, you get more than half the year off, and
you get a lot of personal attention. My trainer says it's kinda crazy
how people like me so much. He says I'm unpredictable. But I've got him
pretty well figured out.
? What: World's Toughest Rodeo
? Where: Xcel Energy Center
? When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
? Tickets: $12 to $36. With a Winter Carnival button, receive a $5
discount on regular adult prices. Tickets are on sale at the Xcel
Energy Center box office, all Ticketmaster locations, by calling
651-989-5151 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. For group rates, call
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