Cheeta and Tarzan.

So I was in dire need of a laugh. Dealing with taxation, superannuation and insurance companies is just no fun at all. Agreed?

Me Cheeta by James Lever is Cheeta the Chimps memoir. Yes, you read that right. Cheeta, the chimpanzee that featured alongside Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies back in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Of course you remember Cheeta, don’t you? He and Maureen Sullivan, Tarzan’s Jane, we’re forever jostling for Tarzan’s attention. I don’t believe he was very fond of Ms Sullivan at all.


Cheeta’s role in the Tarzan films and TV series was to provide comic relief, convey messages between Tarzan and his allies, and occasionally lead Tarzan’s other animal friends to his aid.

Cheeta was just a baby when snatched from the African jungle by an animal importer who at one time supplied NASA with monkeys for its space program. He was forced to earn his keep by making movies amongst the fake jungles of Hollywood. Just like many Hollywood stars both before and after him, Cheeta suffered addictions of both drinks and cigars.


Cheeta’s social commentary of the 30s and 40s is what makes this such a fun read. His dislike of Rex Harrison, Mickey Rooney, and Charlie Chaplin borders on plain bitchiness. He shares tales of the shenanigans at Hollywood parties and is quite the raconteur.

But it’s not all Samantha Markle : Cheetah shares his fondness for Mr Weissmuller over their many years together, despite the stars predilection for fiery partnerships, which included Lupe Velez, the Mexican Spitfire, who died with her head in the toilet bowl.


Cheeta outlived both Sullivan and Weissmuller. Retirement in Palm Springs brought him contentment and an interest in artwork.

Well worth the read. I have no idea what is fact or fiction, and it doesn’t matter. It made me forget all that adult stuff for a while…..

The Tarzan books, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, were actually my first book collection. Every birthday and Christmas I would spend any Gift Certificates at the local bookshop on the next instalment in the series. Paperbacks only, and they were $2.00 a book.


And, be honest: who didn’t watch the Saturday afternoon Tarzan movie on the telly?And Jungle Jim every afternoon after school?


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