Amore is in the air, and if hopeful Baltimore Zoo officials are correct, their two rare white rhinos, Daisy and Stubby, might be parents one of these days.
The romantic union of the two rhinos recalls similar simian nuptials 30 years ago, when Baltimore's Gorilla Jack, an 18-year-old, quarter-ton specimen, was purchased by an Arizona zoo in hopes that he might breed with Hazel, a 10-year-old female, who was described by The Sun as the "demure denizen of the Phoenix Zoo."
"Hazel, who is 10, and has a dowry of $5,000, which was gladly accepted by the fathers of the Monumental City. Jack can't give Phoenix anything but love," observed The Sun.
Gorilla Jack was sold with the understanding that the first-born of the union would become the property of the Baltimore Zoo.
"Jack is without question the finest male gorilla in the nation and for that matter, perhaps the finest in the universe of apedom. He is mighty, magnificent, and now may be facing his finest role, that of Jack the lover instead of Jack the giant killer," reported The Sun.
Zoo director Arthur R. Watson, who died earlier this year, had acquired Jack in 1954 while on safari in what was then Africa's French Cameroons.
The plans for shipping Jack to Arizona called for the gorilla to be anesthetized with a heavy dose of phencyclidine (with experts from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in attendance) and then strapped to a stretcher and placed aboard an airplane at Friendship International Airport for the flight to Phoenix.
"How, for example, will a near-human react to a trip which will take at least nine hours, under anesthesia and at high altitude? No one was prepared to say yesterday. It could be touch and go," reported The Sun.
After several transportation snafus, Hugh Hefner, publisher of Playboy magazine, put his private DC-9 jet aircraft and three jet bunnies dressed in black leather miniskirts, long black stockings and black leather boots, at the disposal of zoo officials so Jack could fly to his romantic rendezvous in style.
"The motorcade's arrival, complete with backup ambulance and police escort, was mildly reminiscent of a scene from the old movie, 'King Kong,'" reported The Evening Sun.
Jack made his transcontinental trip in a drug-induced haze while reclining in Hefner's round 6-by-8-foot bed in a rear stateroom. The bed's opossum bedspread had been removed for the special flight.
Amanda Blake, the actress better known for her role as Miss Kitty, the genial Dodge City publican on "Gunsmoke," the long-running 1950s TV western, was chairman of the welcoming committee that greeted Jack upon his arrival in Phoenix.
The morning after his flight, residing in a cage next to Hazel and suffering from a slight hangover, Baltimore Jack looked at his companion and, after breakfasting on a juicy peach, offered her a bite from an ear of corn.
However, when Hazel went to take it, Jack withdraw the offer.
"This gesture might indicate that Jack is using a special technique all his own, to gain Hazel's favor - a sort of teasing tactic," reported The Sun.
Several days later, Hazel reached through the bars of the cage that separated them and scratched Jack's back, which caused an immediate reaction - from Jack and his new keepers.
"He's beating the hell out of his chest - exuberance. He is a beauty. He's just gorgeous," said Bryant Arbuckle, the Phoenix Zoo's spokesman.
Reporters ascribed the change in Jack's nature to Hazel, who would not let him rest when the two were together in the yard of the gorilla complex.
"She can relax (sometimes in a most unladylike manner) for about six or eight minutes. ... Hazel apparently is not getting the attention she deems proper. So she chivies Jack, sometimes by sulking, sometimes by clever guerrilla tactics (hit and run or slap and scram)," reported The Sun.
"Last night a gambler from Las Vegas, now a resident here, offered 10-to-1 that Baltimore would have no chance for complete fulfillment of the contract with Phoenix, exchanging Jack for $5,000 and the first-born issue of Jack and Hazel. It will never happen," said the newspaper.
And sure enough, despite Hazel's romantic overtures, Jack failed to end his celibate bachelorhood.
In 1972, Jack died of pneumonia.