Long before big cats were the lifestyle prop of the exuberantly mulleted duo Siegfried & Roy, a tiger was a part of actress Marilyn Maxwell’s Vegas nightclub act. Or it was supposed to be. The duo’s Aug. 23, 1954 debut at the Last Frontier was a literal flop, with Britches the tiger schlumping down on stage, refusing to budge. A series of prods and tugs finally convinced the lazy feline to exit. Why such lassitude? Britches was probably ready for an epic catnap: Handlers had fed him 16 pounds of horsemeat before the show to reduce the chance he’d snack on a human.
The following day, a photo op with Maxwell and Britches in the casino pool began innocently enough. But according to news accounts, the tiger became panicked as it swam in the shallow end; soon the feline was thrashing around to escape the pool. The photographers scattered, but Maxwell didn’t get out of the way in time: Britches pawed her in the legs as he scrambled out of the pool. Maxwell promptly fired the beast. “We’re sending him back to his compound in Thousand Oaks,” she told a journalist. “He’s stealing the show.”