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After the first hour of a shooting session with Hugh Green, the University of Pittsburgh defensive end, and Orpheus, the 80-pound black panther who shares this week's cover with Green, Photographer Lane Stewart said to Green, "I'll tell you what. You let me know when you're really fed up and we'll try something else."
"O.K., I'm fed up," Green said. "My shirt is torn in two places, my right ear has been tongued to death, and my hair is covered with a quart of saliva." Orpheus, a female who would have been more aptly named Eurydice, or even Thelma, was upset. She had begun stalking around her platform. Another day under the bright lights shouldn't have upset this eight-year veteran of the silver screen. In fact, spending a Friday afternoon in a quiet, air-conditioned Hollywood studio should have been a kick compared to her last couple of gigs: a role in The Island of Dr. Moreau and a record-album-cover session with the heavy-metal rock group Blackfoot. Nevertheless, in a display of panther pettishness, Orpheus had chased Green from the set and now was threatening to make the SI cover a solo act.
After an hour of clawing and nibbling by the four-foot-long cat, Green was ready to pack up and go home.
Stewart sat down on his ladder, removed his glasses and pondered the quandary. His male lead, an All-America who had dished out his share of punishment during three years of college football, was letting Orpheus take the line of scrimmage away from him. And the female co-star had refused to face the camera whenever she consented to have Green share the frame with her at all.
"This is terrific," Stewart said. "The carpenter built a platform with matching staircase so the cat wouldn't stub her paw; the studio was rented from a photographer who would be out of town this week so we would be sure of peace and quiet; Orphy was hand-picked from Gentle Jungle of Hollywood's Affection Training School, where her mother and father were members of the Screen Animal Actors Guild; and now the cat is turning into Gloria Swanson."
"Don't be alarmed," said Jim Pickerell, Orpheus' handler, to the beleaguered Green. "Those are just love taps. If she wanted to, she'd take your head off before you could move. So relax. Orphy is tame."
Reassured, Green took his place back on the set, at which point Orpheus decided it was time for a catnap. Attempting to rouse her so he could get the session going again—and get out of there—Green massaged her paws, her neck, her nose. He picked her up and tickled her stomach. One trainer gave her leash a tug. Pickerell waved a red hat in front of her eyes. Nothing.
Finally, one of the photo assistants flipped his keys and some loose change into a metal bucket and then slammed the whole business against a cement wall. Slowly Orpheus opened one yellow eye.
A second later there was jubilation. Orphy had opened her other eye, faced the camera and flashed her choppers. Camera! Action!