Meanwhile at the Princess of Wales…
Meanwhile at the Princess of Wales…
The bodysuits, leg warmers and tails have been unpacked, the fur and makeup is ready to be applied. Are you ready for Cats? T.S. Eliot’s 1939 book of poems- Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats- is full of descriptions of the fanciful and whimsical jellicle cats. Throughout history there have been many “practical cats” that would be at home at the Jellicle ball. I’ve spent hours combing through the annals of the internet to get past grumpy cat and dig into some historical felines of note that, I think, could have inspired or been inspired by, the characters in Cats:
Gus is “The Theatre Cat” who reflects on his illustrious career on the stage. “Gus is the cat at the theatre door
His name as I ought to have told you before
Is really Asparagus, but that's such a fuss
To pronounce that we usually call him just Gus”
Marzipan may not have performed on stage, but she made her home in the lobby of The Astor Theatre in Melbourne. She would often wander down the aisle of the cinema and find a seat on a patron’s lap.
Flirtatious and confident, bearing a red coat.
This ginger cat would wander the streets of Saint Andrews, Scotland, welcomed by businesses, gushed over by tourists, beloved by all. So beloved, in fact, that the the locals donated to erect a statue in his honour.
A sophisticated and well-respected cat who loves the finer things in life. “Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones
In fact, he's remarkably fat
He doesn't haunt pubs, he has eight or nine clubs
For he's the St. James's Street Cat!”
In 1986 Himmy tipped the scales at 46.8lbs earning him the Guiness World Record as the heaviest cat. Guiness no longer accepts entries in this category as they do not want to encourage overfeeding so Himmy will forever be lauded for his largesse.
This skittish cat that unmasks Macavity.
Fred, the undercover kitty
Fred was awarded the Mayor’s Alliance Award for aiding the NYPD. Due to Fred’s top-notch undercover work they were able to arrest a veterinarian who was practicing without a license.
Once a beauty, Grizabella has seen some hard times. “And the postman sighed as he scratched his head
You merely have thought she ought to be dead"
Bart, the Zombie Cat
Bart survived a traffic accident but was accidentally buried alive. He found a chance at a new life by clawing his way up from the ground.
While not a Jellicle cat, Growltiger merits a spot on this list. He is a character that was played by Gus in his youth. A gristled seacat often portrayed as a pirate.
“Growltiger was a Bravo Cat who travelled on a barge
In fact he was the roughest cat that ever roamed at large”
Simon served on the HMS Amethyst 1948-1949. When not sleeping in the captain’s cap, he earned the title Able Seacat and the Dickin Medal for his service, by ridding the ship of a rats that were raiding the ship’s food supplies. He was injured in battle and not expected to last the night, but with the help of the medical crew he recovered and was able to continue his good work.
A maternal figure who cares for kittens and Gus.
Scarlett the Brave
Scarlett made her home in an abandoned garage. In 1996 Scarlett had a litter of kittens. A fire broke out in the garage, Scarlett carried her kittens, one by one, to safety. She was severely burned but she and her kittens survived the fire.
Jemima is a sweet, young, friendly kitten.
Nicknamed Pantyusha, Panteleimon lived in the Pantagruel restaurant in Kiev. He was a friendly host and beloved by the regulars who pitched in for a bronze statue in his memory.
Seemingly lazy, the Old Gumbie cat really comes to life at night where she rules over mice and cockroaches.
“She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice
Their behaviour's not good and their manners not nice”
The English Government has employed a Chief Mouser since the reign of Henry VIII. As far as I can determine this pussycat managed to keep her head and cats have followed in her footsteps ever since. The current chief mouser is Larry.
A notorious criminal. The “Napoleon of crime.” “Macavity! Macavity's a mystery cat
He's called the Hidden Paw
For he's a master criminal who can defy the law”
A cat so infamous he had to be placed under house arrest. After terrorizing neighbours and attacking the innocent and multiple restraining orders, a Connecticut judge ordered Lewis to be held under house arrest for two years.
A young magical cat, learning to control his powers. “And you'll all say:
Oh! Well I never! Was there ever
A cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistoffelees!”
While not actually magical, Sam’s story challenges belief. During the Second World War Sam was on the Nazi ship the Bismark when it was torpedoed. Less than 1/10 of the crew survived. Sam was found floating on a board and rescued by the British, brought on board the HMS Cossack. Then the HMS Cossack was torpedoed and sank near Gibraltar. Again Sam was found floating on a plank and was adopted by the crew of the HMS Ark Royal. The Ark Royal was torpedoed but Sam was found, again, floating on a board. He retired and spent the rest of his life, dry, in Gibraltar at the house of the Governor General.
Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer
2 notorious catburglars. “Or after supper one of the girls
Suddenly misses her Woolworth pearls
The family will say, "It's that horrible cat!
It was Mungojerrie or Rumpelteazer!"
And most of the time they leave it at that”
Dusty the Kleptocat
Dusty prowls the streets of San Mateo, California, stealing from his neighbours. Nothing is safe as the cat has stolen no less than 600 items from the yards around his home.
The second-in-command of the Jellicle cats. Munkustrap is a brave and dependable protector.
In Talkeetna, Alaska after a grueling (write-in) campaign in 1998, Stubbs was elected as Mayor. He survived an assassination attempt (a dog attack in 2013) went on to lead until his death at the ripe old age of 20.
The wise and benevolent leader of the Jellicles. He is responsible for choosing who goes to Heaviside Layer. “The Oldest Inhabitant croaks
Well, of all things, can it be really?
Yes! No! Ho! Hi! Oh, my eye!
My mind may be wandering, but I confess
I believe it is Old Deuteronomy!”
Oscar, the therapy cat
In Providence, Rhode Island, Oscar lived in a nursing and rehabilitation centre and had an uncanny ability to predict the deaths of the patients. He was so accurate that nurses would often contact loved ones once /Oscar had selected a patient. He makes his rounds and occasionally chooses to curl up on a patient’s bed, providing companionship and comfort in their final hours.
Rum Tum Tugger
A rock-star cat. He loves attention. “The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious cat.”
The Guiness Book of World Records has named Blackie the “World’s Wealthiest Cat”. He inherited a fortune of £7 million when his owner passed away in 1988.
The Railway cat. "Skimble, where is Skimble?
Has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him or the train can't start"
A bus stop in front of Casper’s home in Plymouth, England was too enticing for Casper to ignore. He followed the people onto the number 3 bus and he was hooked. He would regularly be found patiently waiting in line to ride the bus to the end of the line, and then make the return trip to his home. The drivers became so accustomed to him that they knew which stop was his.
A sweet young kitten, not as judgmental as may of the other Jellicles.
1952, Elysian Heights Elementary School in Echo Park, California. Room 8 wandered into a classroom and decided to stay, but everyone loves a summer vacation. Just like the students, Room 8 would appear in September. He’d live in the school until the end of the year. This pattern continued until the mid ‘60s. Over the years Room 8 received hundreds of letters and was the subject of a documentary, a children’s book, the inspiration for music and the focus of a 3-page photo feature in Look magazine.