Our greatest Zoo Day segment ever was the one on which Betty White, my favorite camel, let out what sounded like a torrential downpour splashing down on the studio floor—something like when you've got a broken gutter in a thunderstorm. It was way too loud to ignore, so I just interrupted my spiel on what the camel ate and said, "Guess what, Angela? Betty's going to the bathroom."
Angela, meanwhile, was trying to step out of the camel's way. And I figured we'd better get Betty off, so I went to pull her with the rope, but she slipped in her own urine and ended up knocking me and Angela down. Next, I brought out a few little goats to promote spring fever at our Children's Zoo. I guess they must have all just eaten, because when they got to the same spot, they all started going to the bathroom, too. By now, I was laughing so hard I was crying; Angela was trying hard to maintain her composure.
"Let's have one more look at Betty White," I said to Angela.
"No, uh . . . Jack, I don't think we have time," said Angela, just as Betty came storming back in, butting Angela out of her way, sending her flying to the floor again. In one split second, ol' Betty was in and out of the frame.
As Angela attempted to pick herself up off the floor to sign off, I went to grab Betty White, who was now standing in a corner of the studio. In traditional camel fashion, she wouldn't budge. The last thing the viewer saw was me tugging on that camel, with the picture jumping up and down from the cameraman laughing so hard.
Why anyone would look at that tape and still invite me into their studio, I have no idea. But soon to follow was my big start on national television. In 1983, Patty Neger, associate producer from ABC's Good Morning America called. She had seen on the AP wire service a story about twin gorillas being born here in Columbus. She asked if they could do a live remote with me from the zoo, and I said fine. It all went off very smoothly, but I have to say it's hard to miss with a couple of twin baby gorillas.
"I was the first person to put Jack on national television. . . . You can blame it all on me." —Patty Neger, Coordinating Producer, Good Morning America
A year later Patty checked in on us again with the idea of doing a birthday party for the twins. We had a birthday cake, the whole bit, and by this time the twins were total hams. They were all over me, pulling my earphone out and chewing my safari shirt. The GMA people liked it, and Patty told me to call her if there were any more significant births happening at the zoo.
The following spring, while in New York on some other business, I told Patty about Taj, the white tiger cub born to yellow parents that Suzi was raising at home because of the cub's leg disability. Patty said they had a last-minute opening and asked if I could get Taj to New York immediately. Suzi wasn't home, but the GMA people somehow managed to track her down—before I did—on the golf course during Jack Nicklaus's Memorial Tournament. Hours later, Suzi and Taj were on their way to New York City.