From the archives: When Andy Rooney went to the circus

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will perform for the last time on Sunday. Here's a look back when Rooney visited circus elephants in 1986

After 146 years, the curtain is finally going down on "The Greatest Show on Earth." The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is scheduled to perform its final show Sunday on Long Island in New York. 

It's impossible to estimate how many millions of children and adults around the country watched Ringling Bros.' beloved elephants perform since the circus began. But we know one of them was Andy Rooney, who dropped by to meet the elephants when the circus came to New York City in 1986.  


The following is a script of "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney," which aired on April 13, 1986.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is in New York. I called and asked if I could come over and meet one of their elephants. They said I could.

Axel Gautier: Where ya goin'? Go on!

Andy Rooney: You have to talk to them sort of loud?

Axel Gautier: Well, at times.

Andy Rooney: You have to let them know you mean it.

Axel Gautier is the elephant's trainer.

Andy Rooney: Is she a little puzzled about what we're doing, do you think?

Axel Gautier: No.

Andy Rooney: No, she doesn't care.

Axel Gautier: She's just kind of…

Andy Rooney: Does she know she's on camera?

Axel Gautier: No. She's kind of nosy, you know, to go look around what all this…

Andy Rooney: What is this dotey thing they do? They have this swaying movement.

Axel Gautier: Well, an elephant is an active animal. He's always… when he stands perfectly still, he's usually resting or sleeping.

Andy Rooney: Come on! We're doing a piece on television, Targa. Will you stay here?

Axel Gautier: Targa, come here! Here!

Andy Rooney: That's right. Right. Gee! If you get off camera, you know, you won't star in this thing.

Axel Gautier: But, of course you have a few of them that are sort of dunces also, you know, there's…

Andy Rooney: You got dumb elephants?

Axel Gautier: Yeah, that happens with any animal.

Andy Rooney: Well, how do they compare with a horse?

Axel Gautier: He's smarter than a horse, has to be smarter than a horse.

Andy Rooney: How about Smokey and Targa? Which one is the smarter?

Axel Gautier: Smokey. Well, he'd be… I think the dog outsmarts her sometimes.

Andy Rooney: Is that right? But the elephant would never hurt the dog?

Axel Gautier: No, she hasn't yet. And this dog has been with her for 16 years now.

Andy Rooney: Is that right? Never stepped on her?

Axel Gautier: Never stepped on him. When the dog is close to her and he gets too far away, she'll pick up the chain and gently pull him towards her and…

Andy Rooney: How much food does Targa eat in a day?

Axel Gautier: Two hundred and twenty-five, two hundred and fifty pounds of hay.

Andy Rooney: A day?

Axel Gautier: A day.

While we were standing there, Targa saw a hose connection and went for it. She wrapped her trunk around it, turned it on and took a drink.

Andy Rooney: I saw somebody giving Targa an orange peel earlier. Do you have to worry about people giving them things?

Axel Gautier: We do because the world is full of funny people.

Andy Rooney: Dumb people.

Axel Gautier: Right. We've had like eight of them here in the garden, in a menagerie, for instance. We've had them give them razor blades, flash cubes and all this sort of stuff. And really, that's…

Andy Rooney: That stinks.

Axel Gautier: That's bad.

Now I can say I never met an elephant I didn't like. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey asked if I wanted to meet a camel, but I didn't want to meet one.