Mel Koontz (Melvin L. Koontz)
BiographyFort Scott, Kansas, USA
Mel Koontz and his family moved out to Los Angeles when he was a teenager, and he went to work at sixteen as a popcorn and peanut vendor at the old Selig Zoo in Los Angeles. By the time he was eighteen, he worked himself up to "cage cleaner", according to the 1930 Federal Census. From that humble start, he began to work more and more with wild animals until he became known as one of the premier animal trainers of Hollywood's "Golden Age". Read more... in six hundred movies, and appeared in more than three hundred of them, including doubling for 'Richard Burton' in Slaves of Babylon and Mae West in I'm No Angel. In 1939, he went to New York where he had an animal act that was one of the major events of the World's Fair. After the fair ended, he returned to the Selig Zoo and worked there until 1946, when he became Chief Trainer of Jungleland, in Thousand Oaks, California, a position he held until he retired, due to failing eyesight, in 1964. A lifetime member of the Loyal Order of Moose, he worked as club steward for Moose Lodge No. 1919 in Thousand Oaks before returning to his birthplace of Fort Scott, Kansas.