First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Webpages in Archive
Volume 2772
ERBzine Spotlight on Tarzan Actor
Steve Sipek (1942-2019.06.23)

Steve's affection for his cats is obvious. He got Sampson three years ago after he had begun playing Tarzan in the movies. Delilah came along with Frances, as a wedding present.

"When I was a boy growing up in Yugoslavia I saw Johnny Weissmuller in the movies and then I dreamed all my life about being Tarzan and having my own lion. My dream came true, that doesn't happen to a lot of people. But I worked for it. You have to have the physique, you know.

Steve certainly has that. At 6-1, 228, he looked like a well-shaped tree trunk moving about the living room. "I got my build as a long distance swimmer and then I lifted some weights after I got to Canada and began wrestling. You've go to be strong to throw those guys around."

Steve sneaked across the border to the West when he was 17. After a few years in Canada where he wrestled professionally, he made his way to Miami, a handsome young man in his mid-20s, with an incredible build and a wild mane of hair.

"I got into the movies after I got to Miami," he said. "I've just bought the rights to my first picture and I'm getting ready to show it here in this country. It's been shown in Florida before but it'll be the first time in the rest of the country."

"I'm making a movie right now," he says. "It's entitled Born to Love and it stars the cats and my son, Steve, Jr.  It's about a boy who gets separated from his father and wanders alone in the Everglades with a tiger and a lion. They have all sorts of adventures."

~ THE FLORIDAN newspaper, dated, December 17, 1972.

Steve Sipek dreamed of having a lion since he was a boy 
admiring Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies. 
He eventually got to play Tarzan himself, and he got his lion, Sampson.

The cats live at Sipek's home with him and his wife.
Steve and Frances are content to live behind heavy fences.


Kitty Swan was Steve's co-star in "Tarzan and the Rainbow"
where Sampson was to rescue them from flames.
The stunt literally misfired, and Sampson actually did save them.
The actors were burned over 70 per cent of their bodies.

Steve chomps playfully on Sampson's nose.
Steve says training the cats would confuse them.
Instead he rewards them for good behavior 
and spanks them when they're bad.

   1. Stevie, Samson and Delilah (1975)
   2. The Sexiest Story Ever Told (1973)
   3. Tarzán y el arco iris (1972) .... Tarzan
      ... aka Tarzan and the Brown Prince (International: English title)
      ... aka Tarzan e la pantera nera (Italy)
   4. Blood Freak (1972) .... Herschell
      ... aka Blood Freaks
   5. Tarzán en la gruta del oro (1969) .... Zan
      ... aka King of the Jungle (USA: video title)
      ... aka Tarzan in the Golden Grotto (USA: literal English title)
      ... aka Zan, King of the Jungle
      ... aka Zan, re della giungla (Italy)
   6. Desire Under the Palms (1968) (uncredited)
   7. Odd Triangle (1968) (as Steve Pipick) .... Carl Parker
      ... aka Curious Triangle (USA: alternative title)
   8. The Walls Have Eyes (1964) .... Jack Cohen

   1. Stevie, Samson and Delilah (1975) (as Steven Hawkes)
   2. Blood Freak (1972)
      ... aka Blood Freaks

   1. Blood Freak (1972) (writer)
   1. Blood Freak (1972) (producer)
   1. "100 höjdare" .... Himself - Guest (1 episode, 2008)
          - Världens skönaste land - Del 4 (2008) TV episode (as Steve Sipek)
Place of Birth: Croatia
Birth Name: Steve Sipek

Mini Bio
Born in Eastern Europe, Hawkes immigrated to America as a teenager to pursue an acting career citing Johnny Weissmuller as a childhood influence. He played a Tarzan type character in a series of Spanish language movies. In Spain his character was referred to as Tarzan, but when they were released in English language territories they directly avoided mentioning the Tarzan name, instead referring to Hawkes character as Zan of the Jungle. In 1971 he played the lead in the much loved exploitation movie Blood Freak in which he turns into a monster turkey. In the mid-Seventies he was badly burnt in an on-set accident putting an end to his acting career. Now completely retired, today he runs an animal sanctuary out of Florida.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Antony Butcher
On July 13, 2004, his pet tiger Bobo escaped from his compound in Loxahatchee, Florida and was shot and killed the next day by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Officer, bringing national media attention to the incident. Hawkes believes the officer "murdered" Bobo needlessly.

Steve HawkesWhile filming the Tarzan and the Rainbow in 1970, on location at Rainbow Springs, Steve Hawkes (Tarzan) and Kitty Svanholm (Jane) were badly burned. During the filming of a torture scene, the two actors were tied to stakes when gasoline-soaked leaves ignited and both were burned seriously. They were rushed to the University of Florida Medical Centre in Gainsville. They remained there for months for skin graft treatment, while the rest of the crew departed for Bogota, Columbia and on to Spain,  to shoot more scenes. The film  eventually saw Spanish release in 1974.

On July 19, 2004, 6 days after his pet tiger Bobo escaped from his compound in Loxahatchee, Florida and was shot and killed, his house caught on fire. He recently had a new air conditioner installed, and it apparently malfunctioned and sparked the blaze. Crews had a hard time getting to the fire because Sipek has electrical fencing to keep his other exotic animals caged in. But the fire was eventually extinguished, and all animals on the property were reported in good condition.

He resides in Loxahatchee, Florida


See the
Steve Hawkes / Kitty Swan Gallery
ERBzine 3927


Tarzan in Florida
The latest in a long line of movie Tarzans and Janes, plus a supporting cast of Italian actresses, directors and other members of a motion picture making crew quietly slipped into Dunnellon, Florida. About as inconspicuous as a wart on the Queen's nose, they scurried here and there, purchasing the necessities for building a tree house and other sets on the Rainbow River.

Tarzan, who's built like Tarzan should be, with a 51 inch chest measurement (normal), nonchalantly strolled about town with his pet lion. Kids asked for his autograph and received an unintelligible scrawl after being asked, "How did you know I'm Tarzan?" The film according to one source, is being filmed for foreign distribution with the original dialogue to be in English and the foreign language dubbed in later. According to another informant, Martinez is quite impressed with the Dunnellon area and is even thinking of setting up studios there.

Tarzan Film Stars Recuperate Following Explosion

FIRE VICTIM -- Steven Hawkes, playing the role of Tarzan in a movie being filmed at Rainbow Springs and Dunnellon, along with Kitty Svanholm as Jane, is steadily improving at the University Medical Center in Gainsville following the accidental explosion of gasoline soaked leaves in a "torture by fire" scene. Both of the young actors were burned over 90 percent of their bodies before a film crew could extricate them from their bonds. Hawkes is expected to be able to return to work sooner than Miss Svanholm who is not expected to be able to return to work for at least three months.

Production of TARZAN AT THE RAINBOW a movie being filmed on location at Dunnellon and Rainbow Springs by an international group, continued as the stars of the film recuperated at the University Medical Center in Gainsville, Florida.

Tarzan, portrayed by Steve Hawkes, 28, and his leading lady, Kitty Svanholm 26, as Jane, were seriously burned last Saturday during the filming of a torture by fire sequence at Rainbow Springs.

Four other members of the film crew, including Rene Martinez, the director, and Mahnahen Velasco, assistant director, also received minor burns and were released after being treated at Munroe Memorial Hospital in Ocala, Florida.

The actress, who received especially severe burns about the feet, is not expected to be able to work for at least three months.

The near-tragedy occurred while Tarzan and Jane were tied to stakes and a tree in the torture scene. Gasoline soaked leaves surrounding them exploded when ignited by a torch as the group prepared to shoot the final sequence after several rehearsals.

Hawkes, Yugoslav, and Miss Svanholm, from Sweden, both scantily costumed for the scene, received burns over 90 percent of their bodies, but reports from members of the cast indicate that neither suffered serious facial disfigurement.

Members of the cast and crew praised the cool-headedness of Fred Blair, attractions supervisor of Rainbow Springs who is also serving as an assistant director for the film, and Assistant Director Velasco, during the near panic which followed the explosion.

The movie is being produced by NEW ERA PRODUCTIONS, based in MIami, Florida and Madrid, Spain. The 20-member group on location here is made up of Cubans, Italians, Swedes and Yugoslavian nationals and refugees.

Jungle river sequences of the film were shot on Monday and Tuesday along the Withlacooche River, using an old phosphate pit close to the center of Dunnellon, as the simulated site of a tropical lagoon. Angel Del Pozo, as the white animal hunter, and Agata Flori as his Philadelphia-born wife, were featured in the scenes along with three elephants form the Husley Brothers Circus.

The crew of NEW ERA PRODUCTIONS plan on going to Bogota, Columbia to finish shooting scenes there, while Tarzan and Jane are recuperating.

ZAN, KING OF THE JUNGLE(aka Tarzan in the Golden Grotto)  (1970) 
A Spanish-Italian Tarzan rip-off from director Manuel Cano.  Zan (played by Steve Hawkes) is a white man, who happens to be king of the jungle.  But the black natives want him dead, so they can get after the treasure of the Amazons.  Zan befriends the Amazon queen (Kitty Swan), who tells him the secret of the treasure.  Later, Zan is shot by one of the blacks, but is saved by an old gold prospector.  Zan repays him with some of the gold, but when the old man returns to town the jealousy of some locals are incited, and they kill him to find out where the gold is hidden.  Matters are further complicated when the prospector's daughter shows up, to find her father and bring him back to civilization.  But the criminals have set their eyes on her as well.  Also starring is Antonio Casas, Jesus Puente, Fernando Sancho, Krista Nell, and others.  Written by Umberto Lenzi.

TARZAN AND THE BROWN PRINCE (aka Tarzan and the Rainbow) (1972)
A jungle adventure starring Steve Hawkes, Kitty Swan, Peter Lee Lawrence, Angel del Pozo, Agata Flori, and others.
Directed by Manuel Cano.
Also known as: Tarzan and the Rainbow.
A review by Orvy Jundis ~ Reprinted from the Jasoomian 1973

The movie version of TARZAN AND THE BROWN PRINCE was filmed in the jungles of South America. Steve Hawkes portrayed Tarzan and Robin Aristorenas played the part of Nasu, the Brown Prince.

The film was based on the comic book novel that was serialized int eh Philippines. The art work was done by Franc Reyes. The script was written in Tagalog, the main dialect of the country. The serial appeared weekly and ran for sixteen weeks..

The story deals primarily with the adventures of Nasu, a young boy, and his rival and opponent Ukali, a big and mean warrior. Both are in contention for the empty throne which was left vacant by the death of the old chief. In order to become king the contestants must go through a series of tests. The winner gets the throne.

The comic book version contains many exciting scenes such as Tarzan fighting a crocodile, stampeding elephants, and a wild helicopter ride culminating into an explosion when the copter loses control and rams into a giant tree.

click for full-screen images

(1970 & 1972 ~ unauthorized Spanish-made Tarzan movies) Steve Hawkes 
Birth Name: Kirston Svanholm
While filming Tarzan, King of the Jungle in 1970, on location at Rainbow Springs, Steve Hawkes (Tarzan) and Kitty Swan (Jane) were badly burned. During the filming of a torture scene, the two actors were tied to stakes when gasoline-soaked leaves ignited and both were burned seriously. They were rushed to the University of Florida Medical Centre in Gainsville. They remained there for months for skin graft treatment, while the rest of the crew departed for Bogota, Columbia and on to Spain, to shoot more scenes. (Eventual 1974 release in  Spain)
MOVIES: Criminali della galassia, 1965 ~ Deadlier Than the Male, 1966 ~ Operation Kid Brother, 1967
*** 1970: Tarzan actor Steve Hawkes (Steve Sipek) and actress Kitty Swan (Kristen Svanholm) were badly burned while filming the movie, "Tarzan and the Brown Prince" aka "Tarzan at the Rainbow-Tarzán y el arco iris" Filming was in Rainbow Springs, Florida. Hawkes and Swan were tied up for a scene and spilled fuel caught fire during the planned pyrotechnics. The fire spread quickly, the actors struggled, and the film crew panicked. Hawkes' lion, Sampson, who had been trained to remove Hawkes' bonds, freed him. The lion sustained burns over 90% of his body while pulling the two actors from the fire. Kitty had burns over a quarter of her facial and bodily skin and Sipek suffered extensive burns and spent the next five years undergoing 45 skin-graft operations. When money ran low to pay his medical bills, he starred in a bizarre B-movie called Blood Freak. Kitty was transferred to the best American clinic for treating burns. She never made another film.
    A grief-stricken Sipek vowed he would pay the lion back by looking after big cats which he did on his animal sacntuary in Florida called Jungleworld for the rest of his life. Over the decades he had adopted more than 50 big cats including Sampson, who lived for 23 years.
STEVE HAWKES (Steve Sipek 1942-2019.06.23)
Steve "Tarzan" Hawkes Film Posters and Stills
ERB Event for June 23:
Reprint Series: Real-Life Tarzan Shares Home With Big Cats

A Cult Favourite starring Steve Hawkes as a chicken
(Obviously a non-Tarzan role)

Blood Freak (1972)
A Dracula On Drugs!
Only the blood of drug addicts can satisfy the thirst of the blood freak monster!

Directors & Writers: Brad F. Grinter ~ Steve Hawkes
Cast:  Steve Hawkes as Herschell | Dana Cullivan | Heather Hughes | Bob Currier | Anne Shearin . . . more>>>
Plot: IMDB

There's probably no other movie like this one anywhere in the world. Not even the Turks, as laughingly inept as THEY are at committing films to celluloid could dream up anything this unintentionally hilarious. I'm only scratching the surface here. This might in fact be the Holy Grail of bad/good horror movies, respect due to "Creeping Terror" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space".

Herschell, a muscular Elvis lookalike with an Eastern Bloc accent and horrible burn scars, hits the Florida highways on a chopper he's about a hundred pounds too big for when he comes upon Angel, a damsel in distress having car trouble. He gives her a lift to her house, where a groovy drug party is going down, hosted by her sister Ann, a seventies-tastic young thing with Sharpied-on eyebrows and a room full of fifty-year-old friends. Herschell soon learns that Angel is a bible-quoting do-goodnik, and her sister Annis a party girl. Though Herschell is more interested in the scripture-quoting Christian, Ann sneakily wins his affections by conning him into toking a doobie by the pool. Only the joint in question turns Herschell into a simpering junkie in the span of ten minutes or so. Meanwhile the girls' father gets Herschell a job at a nearby turkey farm as a human guinea pig, where two turkey scientists feed our hero chemically-altered turkey meat. They even offer him some drugs as an added perk.

After consuming an entire drug-laden turkey wrapped in tin foil (with no side dishes or drink to wash it all down), Herschell collapses in the grass, in a dope induced twitching spasm, and blacks out. When he comes to, he finds that some wise guy has replaced his normal head with an oversized papier mache turkey head with fangs and ping pong ball eyes. Now a terrifying titular blood freak, he sets out to hang dope-loving hippies from a ladder, sloppily drinking their blood (which spurts from a hose under their shirt) in cupped hands as a stock terror shriek is played repeatedly, even when the hippie in question has her mouth closed. In a mire of despondency and gorged on drug-blood, Herschell lumbers back to Ann in hopes she can save him from his current low state. Despite his horrifying feathery appearance, Ann turns the lights off and fucks the turkey monster (..."Oooh,Herschell,oooh"..."gobblegobble") before gathering her long-haired buddies to collectively drum up a plan to save Herschell's life.

The blood freak escapes to murder a drug dealer, circular sawing off the poor bastard's prosthetic leg,leaving him to drown in stage blood,clutching the plastic stump and screaming for a minute straight before finally joining the choir invisible.He then kills another junkie broad and an elderly onlooker before incurring the wrath of an enraged overweight redneck,who hops a fence and plunges an ice pick into one of the fiend's ping pong eyes.The goofy turkey head shows up on a dinner table next to a real cooked turkey,which is savaged bare-handedly by chattery off-camera poultry aficionados.The audience is then revisited by chain-smoking on-screen narrator,Brad Grinter,who rambles incoherently from a script on the table before nearly choking to death in delivering the film's apparently Christian message. We cut back to Herschell at the turkey farm -- unconscious from his drug spaz -- and find that the whole turkey nightmare was merely a badly filmed psychotic hallucination, spurred on from a reaction of the turkey drugs and marijuana. At the close, Herschell and Ann find a better life through Christ, our lord. Amen. Cue the groovy acid rock guitar score.

Ref: Wopsploitation.Blogspot

A More Recent Steve Hawkes (Sipek) News Story
Officers kill escaped tiger, said animal lunged at them
A distraught Steve Sipek speaks to the media about the killing of his pet tiger, Bobo on Tuesday.
2005 ~ USA Today
LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. (AP) — The owner of an escaped tiger fatally shot by wildlife officers said Wednesday that he believes someone opened several gates, enabling the big cat to get out.

Steve Sipek, an actor who once played Tarzan, said the gates would have had to be opened before the 6-year-old tiger, named Bobo, could have reached the 12-foot wall surrounding his property. He did not say who might have done it. "He was let out by somebody who is interested in causing problems," Sipek told CBS' The Early Show. Sipek has another tiger, a panther, a cougar and lions on his five-acre compound, which is marked by a sign that reads, "Trespassers will be eaten." They did not escape. (Related video: Tiger sought earlier)

Willie Puz, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Wednesday that Sipek's claim was being investigated. He said Sipek has licenses for the big cats, but said he could not comment on whether they could now be revoked because that is part of the investigation.

Bobo was shot and killed Tuesday when officials say it lunged at a wildlife officer who was trying to capture it. But Sipek, who developed a soft spot for jungle beasts after playing Tarzan in B-movies decades ago, said he doubted the tiger had to be killed. He said he would have been able to coax the tiger to safety if officers had called him to the scene before shooting it. "Murder is the word," Sipek said. "They murdered a poor helpless animal that only looked ferocious, as any tiger would, but Bobo had a heart of gold."

A dozen wildlife trackers and sheriff's deputies had searched more than 24 hours for the animal, which escaped Monday. They had kept watch Tuesday in a five-acre area of dense slash pines and palm trees, hoping to catch it. Officers approached the tiger intending to shoot it with tranquilizers. But the tiger jumped at one officer, who fired a shotgun in self-defense, said Jorge Pino, a wildlife commission spokesman. "Needless to say, the owner is very distraught. We're distraught," Pino said. "Our concern was to recover this tiger alive and well."

Sipek says he developed his affection for big cats after one pulled him from a fire on a set more than 30 years ago, saving his life, and he promised then he would always take care of such animals if he recovered. He told ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday that wildlife officials had told him they wouldn't try to capture Bobo until later Tuesday evening, so he went to take a shower. He said he was coming back to rejoin the search when he heard five shots and "my heart sank," knowing he hadn't protected Bobo. "I kept my word, except I failed yesterday, trusting people," he said. He said wildlife officials were laughing after the shooting. "It was a glorified thing for them," he said.

Puz denied the officers were laughing, saying Sipek was too far away to see the officers' demeanor, which he described as "somber." Some nearby residents, who moved to the rural area so they could have room for their own pets, had little sympathy for Sipek, saying his big cats are dangerous. "What I want to know is when he was in captivity, how long did he go without a feeding?" said Kim Smith, who has horses and dogs that she normally keeps outside. "Tigers are predatorial. All of us moved out here because we're city people wanting a taste of the country. But this is a little funky."

Wildlife officials had said they did not believe the declawed pet would attack. He was never taught to hunt, and had never killed anything or lived in the wild. However, he did bite a woman working inside his cage two years ago, severely injuring her. An expert on tiger behavior disagreed that Bobo had posed no danger. "Tigers are wild animals and they retain hard-wired instincts and to say just because a tiger doesn't have his claws — so what? He still has his teeth and they're powerful," said Ron Tilson, conservation director at the Minnesota Zoo.

Sipek's compound sits about 10 miles from West Palm Beach, just off a main east-west thoroughfare. "He never should have had these animals in the first place," said Andrea Newell, who grew up two doors away and was visiting family on Tuesday. In 1985, a tame, three-legged black leopard belonging to Sipek eluded searchers for nearly three days before being found wandering near a fence on his property.

Ex-‘Tarzan’ actor losing possession of pet tigers and leopard
after accepting plea deal for mishandling big cats
Palm Beach Post - May 17, 2013
A tearful Steven Sipek, better known as “Tarzan,” acknowledged Friday that it is unlikely he will ever again be allowed to live with his beloved big cats after admitting he violated state wildlife laws by keeping two tigers and a black leopard in his Loxahatchee home. “I’ve taken care of animals all my life and now I’ve lost them,” the 71-year-old red-eyed giant of a man said outside a Palm Beach County courtroom after accepting a plea deal. “They have something against me. I don’t know what. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

As part of the agreement, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges — exhibiting wildlife without a proper permit and failing to cage the animals properly. Those charges will disappear in a year if he pays the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission the $4,800 it has spent caring for the animals since they were seized from his home in February 2012. Sipek also agreed to pay an undetermined amount to transport the tigers, Bo and Lepa, and the leopard, Oko, to their ultimate home. He said the animals are now in Dade City, north of Lakeland. FWC officials didn’t respond to requests for comment. In court, prosecutors said agency officials weren’t happy with the plea deal. It also appears there are questions about where the cats will end up.

Sipek, a native of Croatia who was dubbed the “Spanish Tarzan” during his acting career, said he was hoping they would be placed in a facility in Okeechobee where he could visit them. While he wouldn’t name the facility, it is likely Animal Adventures, a 1,100-acre family-owned ranch that takes in homeless wildlife. It is open to the public by reservation.

Nick Atwood, of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, applauded the state’s decision to permanently remove the cats from Sipek’s home, action he described as rare. However, he said, they must assure the cats end up in good hands. “My concern is making sure they have a permanent retirement in a safe place,” he said. Animal Adventures seems to be having difficulty caring for the animals it has, Atwood said, referring to a recent inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s not unusual. There are very few facilities in the state that are capable of caring for abandoned wildlife, he said. He said he believes the tears Sipek cried at Friday’s hearing were real. “I’m sure he’s a good person and I’m sure he loves his animals,” Atwood said. Unfortunately, he said, for years Sipek has been unable to satisfy state and federal caging requirements designed to keep the animals and the public safe. That was vividly illustrated in 2004 when one of his cats, a 600-pound tiger named Bobo, escaped. It disappeared for 26 hours before it was shot to death by a wildlife officer.

FWC officials said last year that they had been working with Sipek to correct violations but their efforts failed. However, Sipek said, the cats that he slept with and allowed to roam his house were never mistreated. His attorney agreed. “It’s an unfortunate situation that FWC reacted this way in this particular case,” said attorney Rob Melchiorre. “A lot of things were done to spite Steve Sipek.”

Steve Sipek Speaks After Removal of Tigers, Leopard

Steve Sipek Obituary:
Former "Tarzan" actor whose 600-pound tiger escaped

Ref: Palm Beach Post ~ June 24, 2019
Palm Beach County’s very own Tarzan, Steve Sipek, died in a North Florida hospital last week, a man who never outgrew the bitterness of losing his Loxahatchee wild animal oasis.
Steve Sipek never outgrew the bitterness of losing his Loxahatchee wild animal oasis. One of his big cats, a Bengal-Siberian mix named Bobo, escaped and was killed by a wildlife officer in 2004.

The Croatian-born Sipek first came to fame as the B-movie actor, Steve Hawkes, playing Tarzan in action movies shot around the world. Then, at the age of 63, he became locally infamous when one of his pets, a 600-pound tiger named Bobo, got outside the gates of his five-acre Loxahatchee compound in the summer of 2004.

For 26 hours, the aerial and land manhunt for Bobo went on, captivating and terrorizing his neighbors, while Sipek begged the searchers not to harm his tiger. Sipek desperately wanted to be the person who found his pet. But instead, it was a frightened wildlife officer who fired five shots with an M-4 rifle, killing the tiger and sending Sipek into a spiral of grief.

Steve Sipek never outgrew the bitterness of losing his Loxahatchee wild animal oasis. One of his big cats, a Bengal-Siberian mix named Bobo, escaped and was killed by a wildlife officer in 2004. “Bobo was a gentle giant. He loved people. He loved me,” Sipek said at the time. “Little did he know that death waits for him from people who are heartless.”

That was the beginning of the end for Sipek in Palm Beach County, as he blamed the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and his neighbors outside his C Road compound for interfering with his love affair with the giant wild cats he raised as pets. He constructed a memorial for Bobo on his property with a sign that said “Trespassers will be eaten.” And he spent years fighting efforts by the state to take his remaining animals away from him.

“I watched a man be destroyed,” said Melanie Boynes, a former Palm Beach County school teacher who volunteered to help Sipek after Bobo’s death and ended up living there with him and his tigers for nine years. “Until you get to know exotic animals in the way that he introduced them to me, you don’t know them,” she said.

A state investigation ended without an explanation for how Bobo made it outside the boundaries of seven locked gates on Sipek’s compound. No one was ever charged.

Sipek explained his fondness for big cats from a time during his movie days when a lion named Samson saved his life on a movie shoot by dragging his burned body to safety out of a flame-engulfed set. “I said, ‘God, if I survive this, I will take care of these animals for the rest of my life,’” Sipek said. Sipek began raising lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards as pets in Loxahatchee before the state of Florida passed a law that barred residents having these animals as pets. So his ownership rights were grandfathered in.

After Bobo’s escape, FWC officers took a harder look at Sipek’s facility and catalogued numerous fencing, caging and dietary violations. These violations caused his permit to possess these animals to be revoked in 2012. FWC officers took away two of his tigers, Lepa and Bo, and a black leopard named Oko. He was also slapped with a $50,000 bill and two misdemeanors.

Sipek’s friends raised money for him for his legal costs. But the loss of his cats made him inconsolable, they said. “It’s like they took away his babies,” said Dottie Stonestreet, who runs a diner in Fort Pierce and organized a fundraiser for Sipek. “Every time he would start to talk about it, he cried. The whole day he was up here, he was in tears.”

Authorities moved Sipek’s three cats to a facility in Glades County. His leopard died there, and the facility closed amid complaints of animal abuse. “That’s when we got involved,” said Vera Chaples, who runs Mystic Jungle, an exotic animal tourist attraction and education center in North Florida. “We were one of the only facilities around that could take care of his cats.”

Sipek’s two remaining cats, Bo and Lepa, were relocated to the Live Oak attraction three years ago. Sipek sold his Loxahatchee property and moved near the attraction to be able to visit his remaining tigers. He left a lot behind, but not his Bobo memorial, which he trucked to North Florida put up outside his modest home, where he lived alone.

Sipek,77, would come and go from the wildlife park to be with his tigers, but his health gradually declined, and he hadn’t been to the park since December, Chaples said. “He took what happened to him to his grave,” Chaples said. “You don’t tell somebody who was raising cats for 50 years that he was doing it all wrong.”

Before Sipek died, he willed the caring of his two tigers to Boynes, who moved with him from Palm Beach County to North Florida. “Rest well, Steve,” Boynes posted on Facebook after his death. “I am with Bo and Lepa for life.”

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They Ripped My Heart Out. . .
Interview with Steve Hawkes
Blood Freak: 1971

Tarzan and the Rainbow (Spanish) 1974
Tarzan and the Golden Grotto (Spanish) 1969
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