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AFTER ANOTHER evening out on Mallory, in the quiet of his Southard Street apartment, an exhausted Dominique explains I how he came to be the Catman. He sips his wine and talks, surrounded by antique mirrors, French posters, stacks of Georges Brassens' CDs and Thomas Paine books on philosophy.
Born in Brittany and growing up in the suburbs of Paris, Dominique found inspiration in playwrights Samuel Beckett's and Luigi Pirandello's theater of the absurd as well as old Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films and Mack Sennett comedies. As soon as he could, he pursued his love of acting, studying improvisation, modern dance and even mime at the Lecock School in Paris in the mid-1960s. "At first I wanted to be an actor because I didn't want to live only one life," he says. "I wanted to live plenty of lives. But the paradox is, I'm not an actor. . . I end up playing myself." It was during his phase as "Roudoudou the Clown" when

Oscar, Mandarin and George leap through hoops and onto stools as Dominique encourages and bribes with morsels of chicken gizzards. After the show, spectators herd around the cat cages while Dominique, the celebrity, autographs postcards.

"Cats for cat people," Dominique announces to passersby.  "Don't be late, we are never on time," he adds humorously seconds later


 Dominique first introduced Chaton-his daughter Vanessa's cat-into his act. "When she was five, Vanessa wanted a cat. So I bought her a cat, and she was pulling his tail all the time. So the cat came to me for protection. He was following me everywhere, and I said, 'Chaton, maybe I should train you and put you in the show?' I gave him five minutes and no problem. He liked to do it. He was very happy."

NOW, AFTER nearly 25 years as a Mallory Square entertainer, Dominique and his cats are legendary. He's done his act in almost every major U.S. city, including Chicago, San Francisco and New York. In fact, the show's financial success has allowed Dominique's daughter to get not one, but two master's degrees-one in nuclear physics from Cornell and one in art history from The Art Institute of Chicago.
Like any good performer, Dominique has devoted fans. Andy and Karen Kinbacher have been coming to Key West every year since 1990 to see Dominique and his Flying Housecats. "At first when you hear him, you think he's crazy," Karen says. "But when you get to talking with him, you realize he's a really
down- to-earth, lovely person. And he's just phenomenal with the cats." A modest Dominique will tell you otherwise. It's the cats, he says, that are phenomenal-not just in showmanship, but in who they are. He even compares them to the great thinkers of the world.
"Philosophers don't want to be from the mainstream," Dominique says over a bottle of Beaujolais one night. "People who

"[The cats] follow me because they know that I am with them."

make the world think differently. That's why I like cats. Cats are independent.
They don't belong to anyone." Dominique continues, "They follow me because they know that I am with them. And they do that because we have a bond together." The cats are sprawled in every corner of the living room as he says this-across the sofa, curled underneath chairs, in little nooks and crannies throughout the apartment they share together. And Dominique sits contently among them.
Tonight, like every night, it's just him and his pack of philosophers. .

When asked why he does what he does, Dominique simply says, "I and an entertainer."

According to the Catman the smarter the cat, the quicker its tail will twitch. Any kind of excitement thy have, it's in the tail," Dominique says, with Moon- a persistent tail twicher.

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