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For the grand finale, George, Mandarin and Chopin walk the tightrope, gracefully hurling their little bodies through a flaming hoop and landing, perfectly balanced, on the other end of the rope. The cats perform flawlessly guided by only a gesture or shriek from Dominique and coaxed along with generous bribes of chicken gizzards.
And all the while Dominique is there to carry the show with flailing arms and a ridiculous script, including a barrage of absurd phrases such as "Stay where you ARRRRE!" and "Hurry up, take your time." His seeming lunacy is a result of "too many sunsets," he says. There are other Dominique sayings, too, surprisingly poetic: "I am perfectly in harmony with myself," he says while petting Cosette after a job well done.

In 1984, Dominique-actor, mime, entertainer and occasional philosopher-came to Mallory Square with cat, Marlene, in tow. What started as a one-man, one-cat clown show gradually turned into a seven -cat act featuring hoops of fire, nonsensical phrases and affectionate nudges. Today, Dominique describes his cat show as a miniplay, containing all the key elements of a drama: "It touches everything. It's absurd, of course, but not that absurd. There are plenty of meanings. It's got romanticism, satire, absurdity, craziness, love. All this stuff in a comedy act with the cats."

"I wanted to be an actor because I didn't want to live only one life. . . But the paradox is, I end up playing myself. "

Ah, the cats. There is Oscar-part jungle cat-who has a mellow attitude and unusually long legs. Cosette, a tailless Manx cat, is the most affectionate. Sara, the eldest, is apparently a "Bitah" -she's the "most jealous kitty," Dominique says. Moon, the youngest, is a perfectionist. Chopin, George and Mandarin all come from the same litter, which Dominique rescued in 1998 during Hurricane Georges. Chopin is the smartest and Mandarin the shyest. George is a bit feisty like her namesake, writer and feminist George Sand. "I have no favorites because they1l get jealous," Dominique says very


"She'll drool on you," Dominique says of his most affectionate cat, Cosette, during a tender moment in the show. "Cats need to feel like they're in love, otherwise they won't do anything, "Dominique later explains.

Dominique and Chopin, his smartest cat, rest up before the show.

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After a long nap with the cats and before heading out to the show, Dominique shaves at his kitchen sink, with no mirror. "I'm very fast and very good." he says.

"They need to feel like I'm one of them," Dominique says of how he bonds with his cats so that he can better train them. Before and after the show, Dominique typically rolls around his living room floor, purriing sniffing and playing- mimicking his cats.

At 6 PM Dominique starts his workday carefully shuttling all seven of his cats via scooter to the show. Once ant the Westin pier, it takes him a total of seven trips (roughly and hour) to haul all his props, cages and felines out to his "stage."

Dominique carries Cosette and Moon in a basket from his Southard Street apartment. Every evening, he transports the basket and two other cat-filled cages to the show on his scooter.