CHEETA - Me Cheeta: The Autobiography (4 stars)

CHEETA - Me Cheeta: The Autobiography

(Fourth Estate)


At first glance it might sound as daft as a bag of monkey nuts. But this ‘autobiography’ of the septuagenarian chimpanzee who became world famous as the companion of Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan is actually a brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed exposé of Golden Age Hollywood. Supposedly written by the oldest living chimp (who’s in retirement at Palm Springs’ CHEETA Primate Foundation, to which charitable concern animal lovers are encouraged to make a donation), this tell-all memoir recalls Cheeta’s life, from his kidnapping in the Liberian jungle through high times with Tinseltown’s movie stars to his post-screen career struggle with alcohol and diabetes.

All of which gives the book’s ghost-writer (I, Fatty’s Jerry Stahl at a wild guess) free rein to pen a scathingly satirical stab at the bad and the beautiful of the studio-era dream factories. It’s by turns hilarious and affecting, and the central conceit – that the rich and famous are less civilised than simians – is absolutely priceless.

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