ECCO (Harper), Mar 3 2009, $24.99
Septuagenarian Cheeta of Tarzan fame is proud of his film résumé. Before becoming Weissmuller’s sidekick in 1934, he was captured two years earlier in the Liberian jungle and brought to Hollywood under the name Jiggs. After performing in eleven Tarzan movies as Cheeta, he was considered too old so he was forced into retirement. He came out of the rest home for retired acting chimps to make one film in the 1960s in Doctor Doolittle (Harrison not Murphy). Still alive and residing in Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (C.H.E.E.T.A.) in Palm Springs, California, he provides his unique perspective of Hollywood.
This is a unique autobiographical fiction in that it is “written” by a chimp who tells his story in Hollywood. Cheeta provides an insider look at some of the great names especially in the 1930s and 1940s like Gable, Bogart, Rooney, and of course his sidekick Johnny Weissmuller. Although there is little about the life of an animal star in spite of the author, fans will enjoy the latest Hollywood exposé as Cheeta tells about his co-stars’ monkey business as the likes of Natalie Wood and Victor Mature agreeing he was a better kisser than James Dean.