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Monday, November 12, 2012

Radio City: Animal Orientation

As you may or may not know, the camels are the real stars of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. I'm talking real live camels, people! They travel to Bethlehem in the Nativity scene at the conclusion of the show.

Don't ask why I'm making that face.

The camels are not alone, however. The show also stars sheep and a donkey.

Since these animals are not exactly house pets, their handlers introduce them to the cast at Animal Orientation. Here are the things I have learned at Animal Orientation:
     * Sheep behave like dogs.
     * Donkeys like to eat French toast.
     * Camels' hips are way up on their backs, so they can kick you if you're standing anywhere in a six-foot radius.

The camels take a daily constitutional around the block.
Some very lucky (or unlucky, depending how you look at it) dancers play shepherds and get to stand with a sheep in Bethlehem, which earns them Animal Pay in their weekly paycheck. This is a real thing. Simply for standing there with leash in hand, they get extra dough. So in addition to learning animal facts and cautionary tales at Animal Orientation, they also get up close and personal with their sheep.

Even though we rehearse for at least four weeks, the animals only arrive the day of our final dress rehearsal. Why? They're pros. Ted the Camel has been doing the show for years. And loves it. I swear he even smiles and poses for pictures. He and the other two camels live in a little room (aptly named "The Camel Room") on the right side of the stage. The sheep and donkey live in a pen one level down from the stage; they ride the elevator up to the stage, hit their marks on stage during the show, and ride the elevator back downstairs. Seeing six sheep in an elevator is definitely a treat.

This year, Animal Orientation was set for Thursday at 2pm, but the camel truck broke down on the Thruway. So it was rescheduled for 10pm that night.

In case you're wondering, all of the above is completely true. I swear. Don't believe me? Take a gander at this little video I made in 2007.




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