Opinion

DIRK ARTHUR’s Big Cats Are Back…And Some Aren’t Happy

UPDATE 8/2/22 – We have received direct communication from Ken Henderson of NOTORIETY that they will not be going forward with this production. 
Unsettling news coming from Las Vegas Review-Journal this week. John Katsilometes reports that embattled magician Dirk Arthur and his big cats are back…and headed to NOTORIETY. This is an excerpt from the LVRJ article dated 7/29/22:

“After a crazy long break from performing due to Covid-19 canceling several jobs, I’m excited for another Vegas engagement,” Arthur said Thursday. I will focus more on education about preserving wildlife than ever before as this has become an all encompassing passion over the years.”

Arthur added that portions of revenue will go to protect animals in the wild. He will take the stage with white and orange tigers, snow leopard, a bobcat, with various ducks, chickens and pigeons.

There is no word yet on when the show will debut, but NOTORIETY‘s proprietor Ken Henderson confirmed in the piece that the should would run four times per week. While new productions are usually an exciting development, Dirk Arthur’s name and reputation border on the notorious.
Through the years, Arthur has been the subject of numerous protests from the public. Several actions have been taken against him by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and government agencies. A comprehensive list of Dirk Arthur’s infractions, covering a period from May 11, 2000, to May 1st, 2017, is available here.
According to PETA, “Arthur’s long history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act ranges from keeping big cats in metal cages with no protection from the scorching sun when temperatures reached 127 degrees to confining a tiger this year to an unsanitary enclosure, where part of the chain-link fence had a buildup of animal waste.”
Westgate Las Vegas, November 2015
Arthur’s 2015/2016 show at Westgate Las Vegas was removed after the resort was the scene of protests. It also received over 15,000 written requests to have the production shut down. Arthur was also greeted by protests during his Riviera Hotel Casino stint in 2014/2015. Prior to that, his productions have been performed at Silverton Casino, Downtown’s Plaza Hotel, Tropicana, the original O’Shea’s, Bally’s, Harrah’s Laughlin, and Reno.
An animal-free version of the Westgate show tanked in April of 2018. Katsilometes had this to say at the time of the shuttering:
“Dirk Arthur Wild Magic”, a show originally conceived as an exotic-animal production, closes April 1 at Westgate Cabaret. This is an unfortunate, yet entirely expected, outcome. Famous for shows featuring exotic cats, Arthur had developed such a production at Westgate with a snow leopard and bobcat and a duck named “Afflack” planned for the stage, But the room was deemed too small for that type of production, and Arthur worked up his own “unplugged” show just in time for a Nov. 15 opening. But the magic-only show never invigorated ticket sales, most likely because Arthur has never headlined in Las Vegas without exotic animals as co-stars. 
Animal acts are now widely recognized as being exploitative and cruel. They were removed from Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey in 2017. A 2014 piece on PETA‘s blog had this to say regarding Arthur’s continued use of animals:
“Magicians Kirby Van Burch and Rick Thomas retired all the big cats they once used in their shows and continue to perform successfully. The Las Vegas MGM Grand dismantled its big-cat display. After hiring Arthur last year, Caesars agreed never to host him again.”
Arthur is acutely aware of the negative response to his type of entertainment. The official Dirk Arthur website addresses the matter in a lengthy passage, which alludes to allegations against him and his efforts to combat animal neglect and abuse:

What is the story about animal rights complaints?

“You may hear about PETA and animal activists groups issuing statements about performing animals. Dirk understands that some may disagree with animals being in a show. However the cats have so much fun doing the show, plus it’s very healthy for them to be mentally and physically active so its actually for the best.”

“Educating people and increasing their awareness and love to preserve animals as well as adding to the numbers of surviving endangered species can’t hurt either! Dirk is in excellent standing with Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada where he sat on an expert advisory panel to help suggest and create new safety regulations and humane animal laws.”

“Dirk was instrumental in assisting in the safe relocation of CJ the chimp after the chimp escaped from its owner’s home in North Las Vegas. Dirk assisted Animal Control and was able to provide temporary housing, a loving environment, food, water and veterinary care for the chimp before she was transferred to a sanctuary out of state. He’s also been known to rescue exotic cats from unsafe environments and provide them lifelong homes.”

“Dirk is a proud member of the Zoological Association of America (ZAA). Dirk has long been a leading advocate for the preservation of endangered species and for the humane and proper care of all animals. During the show, audiences will experience his love for his animals as they are treated with the utmost respect and gentleness.”

“Arthur uses his platform to raise funds for various animal care and conservation programs. In fact, a portion of merchandise sales are donated to organizations that promote awareness and education regarding the importance of wildlife preservation.”

“Dirk also works with many animal sanctuaries and zoos where he has retired some of his tigers who go on to live out their days in beautiful lush tropical lands but also where people can witness their beauty and learn more about the species. Dirk is a strong proponent and enthusiastically supports the great work of the government agencies that regulate his activities such as USDA-APHIS, USFWS, and NDOW.”

A show business insider tells VEGAS 411 that “Dirk is a good guy. It’s clear he truly loves those animals. But without revenue can he care for them properly? I think he puts every dollar into caring for them. They need to be taken from him and put into care that is healthy for them. It’s sad.”
The individual continued “He’s a talented magician on his own, but he’s typecast and he doesn’t know how to reinvent himself. His attempt to go solo was a massive fail. This is a tragedy waiting to happen. Either one of these animals or a guest is going to get hurt. NOTORIETY certainly isn’t prepared for the risk.”
A person with a working knowledge of NOTORIETY‘s backstage operations contacted VEGAS 411 earlier today and had this to say:
“I see what Ken (Henderson) is doing. He needs publicity for the place. So many people don’t know what or where NOTORIETY is. But taking Dirk Arthur? Wow!”
“I have been back in the employee elevators at NOTORIETY, lifting and loading things to set up an event. There is absolutely no room for giant wild animals. I’m disgusted”. 

Author

  • A native of Pitchfork, Oklahoma, I have a unique perspective of the world at large and Las Vegas in particular. A former health care professional and detective, I've hopped genres, genders, and glass ceilings in my desire to see things as nobody else does. Care to look through my viewfinder?

A native of Pitchfork, Oklahoma, I have a unique perspective of the world at large and Las Vegas in particular. A former health care professional and detective, I've hopped genres, genders, and glass ceilings in my desire to see things as nobody else…

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