So how was the big Florida–in–Times Square event the Orlando tourism people planned for this morning? And how was the big how-dare-you-bring-tropical-animals-to-this-frigid- climate protest PETA promised? As it turned out, really, really disappointing. On all counts.
Orlando's display was merely a shabby-looking, artificially heated, palm-fronded staging area on a slushy traffic island. None of the promised animals — flamingos, alligators — were in evidence when we arrived, around 9:30, and there was certainly no gator-wrestling. Nor, to our great disappointment, was there any PETA. There was a gaggle of scantily clad "hotties" who braved the sub-freezing temps and plunged with forced merriment into a hot tub, and a cadre of actors from Orlando's Medieval Times staging a fake joust. (How the Orlando location differs from the one in New Jersey was unclear.) We were not allowed to talk to the hot-tubbing hotties — the PR guy who banned us wouldn't even identify himself — and so we didn't even attempt to talk to the Kingston, New York, family of five that had won an ostensibly free trip to Orlando and, perhaps as payment, was placed on the allegedly toasty stage to watch Mickey, Minnie, and friends cavort.
Later, we phoned the PETA people, who assured us protesters had been there — all two of them — but across the street. They also claimed that, before we arrived, the Orlando folks had briefly exhibited a baby gator. (Orlando didn’t return our call seeking confirmation.) And the ASPCA told us that Orlando had received a New York City permit to exhibit the animals, even in the cold, and had also been told that gator-wrestling was illegal in New York State. Which, we imagine, left those two PETAers little to protest. —Tim Murphy