“This show is as real as it gets. I want ‘em mean, and I want ‘em aggressive,” explained the “Swampmaster” Jeff Quattrocchi. The 20-year expert alligator handler doesn’t perform his traveling show with trained animals or pets. He works with one gator only five times before it retires from show biz and goes back to the pond. Anyone who catches his show at the New York Boat Show can see him in action with a 200-pound, eight-foot wild alligator.
It’s a dangerous job – since he got his start working with gators in Florida two decades ago, Quattrocchihas been bitten 14 times. In 2010, a bad bite left him with 37 staples and 26 stitches in his arm. “There are lots of ways to make a mistake handling an alligator, Quattrocchisaid. “But I’m not wrestling them – it’s not a ‘winner and loser’ type of deal. It’s just a friendly show, with lots of excitement.”
There is an educational side to the show as well. Quattrocchikicks off his presentation with a bit of Alligator 101. He goes over common reasons they might attack, like defending their nests or territories. He also clears up a few common misconceptions – like the fact that they are much slower runners than people think.
To handle his wild gators, Quattrocchistarts by getting a hold of the animal’s tail and bringing it to the middle of the pool. Then Quattrocchipins it down by hopping onto its back. Fortunately, it isn’t tough to stay fit on the road, because gator handling is great exercise. “There’s lots of athleticism, balance, and skill involved. He’s got his mouth open the whole time. You take a step, he takes a step.”
When the reptile is finally under Quattrocchi’scontrol, he opens its mouth to show the audience 80 sharp teeth.
While they might not be ready to take on a wild gator right away, audience members can still become budding handlers too. At the end of every Swampmaster show, people get a chance to pet baby gators and snap photos with Jeff. “We have a lot of fun with it,” he said.
Catch the Swampmaster Live!
The New York Boat Show 2014 (Jan. 1st – 5th)
Wednesday – Saturday, 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m., 1 p.m, 3 p.m.