Evanston man just wants to unload his alligator

Forty-five minutes later I was pulling up in front of a small apartment building at 732 Mulford in Evanston. I dialed the phone number again and told Gator Guy that I was outside.

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Christopher Deese sought media help in trying to find a suitable home for the alligator he’d been keeping in a basement storage area in Evanston.

Tom Cruze/Sun-Times

It sounded like an opening line for a Second City improv skit: “Do you want to talk to a guy who says he can’t get rid of his alligator?” I greedily snatched the phone message from the young lady’s hand, returned to my desk and dialed the number. Somebody answered.

Yeah, are you the guy who can’t get rid of his alligator?

”I tell you, I made a mistake,” answered the guy. “About five years ago, I made a mistake. I gave this guy at a pet store on Western Avenue a $150 deposit on a baby alligator. I never thought he’d really get it. Then I couldn’t get my deposit back.”

Opinion bug


So you have the alligator?

”Oh, yes. Now this thing is five feet long. It’s very big. And he eats a lot. He eats beef stew. I keep him in a swimming pool in the basement. This thing is growing more and more every day.”

But you want to get rid of it?

”I love animals, but I just can’t see myself being locked up,” he said. “I’m a security officer, and I’m in school to become a bounty hunter. I can’t take a chance. What am I supposed to do? It’s getting bigger and bigger.”

Sounds like a problem.

”I’ve got a red-tailed boa constrictor, too. It’s six feet long. I took it to my daughter’s school. The police came. They told me to take it home.”

I can imagine, but let’s get back to the alligator.

”It’s a beautiful alligator,” saidGator Guy. “I can touch it, feed it, wipe it down with a rag. It’s not around any kids or nothing. It’s eating habits are expensive.”

Where do you live?

”On Mulford in Evanston. You aren’t the police, are you?

No, I’m from theSun-Times, remember? You wanted help getting rid of your alligator?

Chris Deese of Evanston with his alligator.

Chris Deese of Evanston with his alligator.

Tom Cruze/Sun-Times

”My mom wants me to get rid of it,” saidGator Guy. “But the zoos won’t take it. They say they have their own sources. Why can’t somebody come and give me $500 and take him to a zoo and put a plaque with my name on it? What kind of a world are we living in?”

Beware of humans

It’s a crazy world, all right. Do you think I could see the alligator for myself?

”You ain’t gonna bring the S.W.A.T., are you?”

Forty-five minutes later I was pulling up in front of a small apartment building at 732 Mulford in Evanston. I dialed the phone number again and toldGator Guythat I was outside.

”You didn’t bring the S.W.A.T., did you?”

No. You aren’t going to kill me and feed me to the alligator, are you?

”What? Nooo, man!”

Then I guess we’re just going to have to trust each other.

Moments later,Gator Guy, known to everybody else as Christopher Deese, 45, met me out front and showed me his security officer identification badge. It listed him as 5-foot-1, 150 pounds.

About the size of his alligator, I thought to myself.

Deese led me through the back door of the building into a small basement storage room. He had already explained on the phone that he rents the room primarily as an art studio. He said he lives someplace else, but never said where. He assured me the landlord was cool with having the alligator there, although nobody else in the building knows.

Before showing me the gator, Deese wanted me to see his file of news clippings on street violence, but my mind was elsewhere, especially after I heard a splash from the other side of the room beyond the clutter.

Deese gave up on the clippings and led me to a small circular children’s plastic swimming pool surrounded by a three-foot metal fence. Spinning around to look our way was a real alligator, smaller than I’d imagined, but big enough to eat a dog. Deese bent down to pet him.

”Is it trying to bite me?” he challenged. “Is it trying to attack me?”

Actually, it looked as if it was trying to get away as it turned tail and scrambled up the other side.

”He loves that,” Deese said, wiping the gator dry with a cloth. “Look at his teeth. Look at his fingernails. This is a gorgeous animal. You can’t get that close to an animal like this at the zoo.”

There may a good reason for that.

Hey, watch it!

Deese said his alligator eats $3 in stew meat a day and is still a long ways from full grown.

”It’s called: ‘I made a mistake,’ “ he said. “All I want to do is find a home for him.”

I asked him to measure it. Just a shade over four feet. Another mistake. The alligator hissed.

”Normally, I take him out and let him run around to dry out, then he don’t want to go back in. He wants to get out now.”

But you’re not going to do that now, I said, backing away.

”I’m not saying this is not a dangerous animal. Don’t get me wrong. It’s very, very dangerous. But I don’t put my hand in his mouth, and I don’t take chances.”

Still, it sounded like my cue to leave.

”Do you think this will help me find a place for him?” Deese said.

Hard to say.

But I’ll bet something happens.

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