Celebrity Chimp Tells All

by wjw on October 6, 2008

It’s all very well hypothesising about those monkeys and typewriters, he says: isn’t it time for human beings to look around? “You’ve had a million humans, at least, writing away for much longer than a thousand years, and only one of them ever managed to produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Only one! Well, well, what’s the big deal?”

Cheeta, Johnny Weismuller’s pal, has finally written his memoirs. And, as the holder of the Guinness Book of Records title for world’s oldest ape, he’s seen a lot.

How much of his success in films was down to him being an animal? Cheeta will accept it’s as much as 10%; the rest, however, was talent. In common with every other showbiz memoirist, he claims never to read his reviews; he then quotes them extensively. He mentions several times that he never won an effing Oscar. He will recall a great star such as Rex Harrison by first calling him “that marvellous light comedian”, then getting down to the more interesting truth (“universally despised, impotent, alcoholic”), before coming properly out with it: “an absolutely irredeemable c*** who tried to murder me”. And, like many another stellar memoirist, he can’t resist a vicious sideswipe at a fellow thesp. “For three decades I think I ‘phoned it in’ a bit,” he confesses. “It happens to actors. Look at De Niro.”

. . . look at the great shrieking jungle that was Hollywood in its heyday, and who better to understand it than a grizzled old showbiz chimp with an in-built Darwinian perspective? “What does any organism ever do except – survive?” writes Cheeta. “In this business, if your profile ever drops, you’re dead.”


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