February 28, 2012 | 9:52am
On Monday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee arrested former Tarzan actor Steve Sipek and removed two tigers and a leopard from his Loxahatchee home.
It's hard to justify keeping giant beasts like those in a private residence, especially after police in Zanesville, Ohio
, this fall had to kill dozens of exotic animals that escaped a shoddy animal farm. Sipek had a similar though far less serious problem a few years back when his 600-pound tiger Bobo escaped in 2004 and was gunned down.
But you have to admire Sipek's affinity for big cats, which was galvanized when a lion saved his life by pulling him from a fire that charred 90 percent of his body. Have you ever been saved by a lion? Didn't think so. Here, a few reasons why Sipek -- whose screen name was Steve Hawkes -- is cooler than you:
1. He Swam Across Lake Ontario: Sipek fled Communist rule in what's now Croatia and made his way to Canada. In this 1994 article, Sipek said that after arriving in the country, he became a long-distance swimmer, eventually leading him to swim across Lake Ontario.
2. He Played a Giant Turkey Monster in a Movie Called Blood Freak: Sipek is best known for his role in Spanish-language Tarzan flicks, but his 1971 role in Blood Freak is too awesome to overlook. The movie, according to IMDB, features Sipek as a biker who ends up at a "drug party" before running into a mad scientist who turns him into a giant killer turkey. Whatever happened to American cinema?
3. He Saved a Lion Cub From Being Strangled by a Snake
: Lion cubs are adorable. Snakes are disgusting. Sipek must have been acutely aware of this when he saved a cub from the death grip of a snake while filming in Africa. According to this article
, he named the lion Samson, starred in several movies with it, and forged a lifelong bond with the beast.
4. A Lion Saved His Life
: During the filming of his second Tarzan
movie, a special-effects mishap left Sipek engulfed in flames. "My arms were melting," he recalled
. "I couldn't get out." All the humans on set ran away. But his trusty lion buddy Samson came to the rescue and pulled him from the fire. While Sipek lived, 90 percent of his body was severely burned.