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Gays in macho occupations

by Jasper van Capelle , 12 mei 2004

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

'I consider my crocodiles and boa constrictors to be my friends'

Not all gays are occupied as hair dresser, nurse, flight attendant or model. Also in the typical men’s world you’ll meet gays, who will tell their story in this column.

Ferry Torrez is a strong, big, tough, 35-year-old artist, who’s internationally performing under the name Les Torrez, it’s a show with his huge boa constrictors (pythons), crocodiles and bird spiders.

If you’re watching a Dutch TV show with crocodiles in it, you can be almost sure, it will be Ferry. Because of his dangerous pets Ferry is forced to live with them in a spacious fixed site caravan with a shed next to it, outside the city centre. Not everybody is charmed by the idea of having a neighbour with unpredictable reptiles... The crocodiles are living in the shed next to the caravan, so the bedroom is safe! I know Ferry from the gay scene which makes him perfect for this column.

How did you get an occupation like this?

“I grew up in a family of circus artists, and my father was a presenter (for the older generation: a ringmaster) and director at the circus; and my mother was an assistant in a knife throwing act. Further on my mother had a sensational show with pigeons and parrots. My love for reptiles goes way back long, I already decided I would have a show with crocodiles at the age of four. It takes years of your life before you can have a show with animals. My crocodiles grew up with me, I know them like we’re a family.

Still I always have to remain very alert, though I see my crocodiles and boa constrictors as my friends.

They still are wild animals who can react unpredictable and also can be in a bad mood sometimes.

Another dangerous factor is the constant change of location with my show, but the audience have to be safe at all times.

I always have to be alert for the full hundred percent and make sure my animals are behaving in their normal way. If only once my crocodiles or pythons would wound the audience (or worse), it will be the end of my career.”

Where do you perform?

“That varies from children’s parties, the circus, TV shows, private parties, discotheques and in the past at raves, in and outside of Holland. I have a special truck to transport the animals, with licenses, the whole show. An advantage is the speedy way customs officers are dealing with me at the border. Fear is also common with customs officers, four metres long crocodiles, six metres long boa constrictors and bird spiders don’t get searched! Most of the times the custom officers are checking through the window, when they see my crocodiles they let me pass quickly.”

Are there any performances you’ll refuse?

“The big raves I’ve turned down, the audience is too unpredictable. Normally people have a natural fear which keeps them on a distance. At 03.00 AM most people are under influence and react unpredictable. Then they would like, recklessly because of booze or drugs, to also stick their heads into a crocodile’s mouth. They sometimes try to climb over the barricade, what I of course won’t let happen, because it’s the same as committing suicide! The barricaded area is the safe territory of the reptiles and me, so everybody who enters this area without my permission is an intruder.
I consider the audience holy, but the risk is too high for me. A crocodile can get upset because of rare situations and I have to intervene on time.

Another disadvantage is the drama of settling accounts with the party organisers, it seems to be that I’m always the only sober person at the party, what can lead into dangerous situations.

Under the influence of a pill (XTC) people are willing to cuddle my crocodiles!

At the last big party I did in a well-known big club in Amsterdam the organisation was cooperative with building up before the show; however after the show, when I needed help with pulling down, they had disappeared (to the toilets). At the end I had some assistance from the party audience, helping me to take the crocodiles and pythons out of the place. So for me it’s a Never Again! I work with reptiles who have a killer instinct that doesn’t go together with druggies or drunks!”

So you’re never having a drink?

“When I’m going out of course, I’ll have a couple of bears, but never when I’ll have to perform the next day. I can’t imagine what could happen, when I would perform halve drunk or stoned; that I won’t do.”

Have you ever been bitten by your crocodiles, don’t you have any fear at all?

“More than once I’ve been bitten, mostly at home when I wasn’t paying enough attention; and most of the times by young crocodiles. The danger you have with shows, is the fact that it can become a routine. After a thousand children’s parties and circus performances you might bend to forget the dangers; you know the parents mostly watch after their own kids, so when you haven’t had any problems for a long time, you might be less alert of the reaction of the crocodiles. I stick my head into a crocodile’s mouth; when this one has a bad day and decides to bite, I’m having a problem.

Two times already helpers needed to break open the jaws of a crocodile with a kind of crowbar.

Fortunately I survived without too many scars.

There are also those parents, who’re telling their sweet children to caress my crocodile.

I ask those parents very friendly if they can’t throw their kids in front of a train instead, a train driver has a steady income! By good observing and by knowing my animals, I hope to know what goes on in their minds. If I had fear, it would be better to find myself another job.”

A completely different question: when you’re going out, do you frighten people, when you tell them about your occupation?

“I can’t lie, so I always honestly answer about my profession. The responses vary between extremely positive and completely negative. In common I get a lot of attention because of my profession or my looks. It’s awkward my profession raises that many questions, some men would like to talk about it all night long; I’m not always that keen. Further on a lot of men are afraid to visit my caravan. To reassure them, I tell them the animals don’t live in the caravan but in the shed next to it. I don’t tell them what I feed my reptiles, that seems to cause a rather shocking effect.”

Do you have a steady relationship?

“Yes, with my crocodiles and pythons, ha ha! My relationships always brake down because of my life as an artist, so that’s indirect to my profession. I work mostly night times on Sundays and during holidays. A partner with a ‘nine to five’ job has his time off when I’m working. That always seems to be a problem. I’m self-employed, and my animals are a little bit more expensive than a cat or a dog. So in case of a job assignment, I’ll have to except (except discotheques and raves).”

Ferry Torez can be booked as the artist “Lez Torrez” at different agencies, but his favourite agency is Tel.: (0547) 362299. Here you can get detailed information and deliberate endlessly.
Ferry can also be booked directly without whining at: 06-51405866.
The picture is of four years ago. Ferry has short cut hair and looks much younger nowadays!



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