WANT TO GO?
Jack Hanna's "Into the Wild Live"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Clay Center
TICKETS: $20, $25, $30
INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Growing up on a farm in Tennessee, Jack Hanna always had animals around, so pursuing a life of animal care wasn't much of a stretch.
"I always knew I wanted to do something with animals," he said. "I am just living my dream."
Hanna got his first job at the age of 11, cleaning out cages at his local veterinarian's office part time. When asked if he chose the job because he wanted to be a vet, he replied, "Nah, nah. Well maybe a little.
"I never did great in school, but I was always good with animals."
Hanna and his animals have cut a swath through popular culture for the last 30-plus years.
After college, a stint in Vietnam and marriage to his college sweetheart, Suzi Egli, Hanna took a job as a zookeeper in Florida. The family moved several times so he could pursue opportunities with other zoos. Ultimately Hanna found himself at the Columbus Zoo, not based on his career but on the care of his family.
In 1978, Hanna's daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and the offer of a job at the Columbus Zoo was fortuitous. The job allowed the family to move closer to the Nationwide Children's Hospital, where his daughter could receive the best care.
Hanna never pursued the media spotlight; he was happy working with the animals and making the Columbus Zoo the nation's premier zoo. He and his daughter did a local kids show called "Hanna's Ark" in the Columbus area, but he never thought he would become a household name.
Happenstance again intervened in 1983 with the birth of twin gorillas at the zoo. "Good Morning America" came calling and thus was born a 30-year relationship with the morning television staple. Hanna and his animals are the longest running regular guest spot in the show's history.
Hanna has also regularly appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman," "The Maury Povich Show," "Larry King Live," Fox News and countless other TV programs, ensuring him a place in pop culture history.