VIDEO VAULT: Bobby Berosini's Orangutan act did not survive allegations of animal abuse
In mid-January, it was announced that the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Baily Circus is shutting down operations after 146 years, due in no small part to the efforts of PETA--People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Back in 1989, that same group focused their attention on Las Vegas, and the most popular animal act on the Strip.
"This was the third time I've seen 'em, and I think it's still better than the first time," gushed one audience member after the show.
"Do you have a favorite part?" asked a News 3 Reporter.
"Orangutan," she responded. "They're beautiful. I love 'em.
Bobby Berosini and his orangutans were headlining "Lido de Paris" at the Stardust, in the wake of silver screen simian stardom.
"Ever since I saw Clint Eastwood with the orangutans in his picture," explained one Lido Patron.
One of Berosini's orangutans had been a show-stealer in the 1978 Eastwood movie "Every Which Way But Loose".
But the cute factor disappeared when PETA released a grainy dark video shot backstage by a Lido dancer.
"Bobby Berosini is beating them with a steel rod, with his fists and with his hands," said PETA investigator Jeanne Roush at a 1989 news conference. "And helpers are holding the orangutan's arms and also leading them while he's doing this."
Berosini invited the media to his home to plead a misunderstanding.
"This is rare," explained the performer. "This what they've seen is the worst that I have done because I was under stress too and it was not any abuse."
The Department of Agriculture and Humane Society made inspections, and found no harm. It certainly appeared Berosini cared about his orangutans.
"What do you want?" asked Berosini, as he kissed the nose of one of his orangutans.
A couple of weeks after the controversy seemed to be subsiding, the show resumed.
"Well it felt great, but let me tell you I was very nervous," Berosini told News 3, with a young orangutan in his lap. "The orangutans were looking at me, 'Hey, what are you getting nervous for?' And I was just sweating."
But the video was harsh. TV stations showed it over, and over and over. PETA also kept the pressure on.
"The investigation is just beginning," said Roush. "And as more and more facts are uncovered, we very much doubt that either Berosini or the Stardust will be able to withstand the public outcry."
She was right. The Stardust dropped Berosini, who took his act to Branson. Missouri. But while there, he faced new allegations after a dispute with his magician partner.
"The insinuation about me using this prong, hot shot using on the animals. I mean that's insane," an upset Berosini told the media. "I mean why doesn't he say that I used cannons or four-by-fours. It's ridiculous."
Berosini sued PETA for defamation, and was awarded $3.2 million in damages. But the award was overturned, and protests continued at every appearance.
"Mister Berosini has had his day in court and he lost," PETA representative Oda Lomax told News 3 in 1994. "Unfortunately the animals have not seen any justice. They're still being dragged out and performing degrading acts."
Berosini tried other venues, and his last Las Vegas appearance was offering the orangutans for photo-ops at the Tropicana in the late 90s, but that closed under pressure as well. These days Bersosini is retired and living in Costa Rica.