To Tell the Truth

Published: December 30, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
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What… is your name, please?”

“I am Cheetah D. Chimp.”

I am Cheetah D. Chimp.”

“I am Cheetah D. Chimp!

Among the notable death’s this past year, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX announced the stunning news that “Cheetah,” 1930’s animal superstar (far left in photo), and faithful chimp companion to legendary king of the jungle, Tarzan, died December 24, 2011 at the grand old age of 80, as reported by the Associated Press.

“Film historian and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osbourne said [that] Cheetah ‘was one of the things people loved about the Tarzan movies because he made people laugh… He was a major star.’ ”

(Will somebody PLEASE spell my name right? It’s Chee-ta! without the “h.”)

After the last Tarzan movie starring Olympic swimmer, Johnny Weissmuller, Cheeta was dropped from future productions because, “…frankly, he was becoming too old,” the chimp star’s former agent said.

“In the ‘60s, I booked him into the Lounge at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas,” the agent said, “where he smoked, drank and reminisced about the Golden Age; and the time when he and Weissmuller would sneak a peek into Maureen O’Sullivan’s dressing room. But it was only for about 2 or 3 weeks in the off-season and frankly, the public was more interested in that lion and tiger stuff with Troy and Roy.”

“I then tried to get him on the dinner-theater circuit paired with Harpo Marx in a re-write of the holiday classic, re-titled, The Chimp who Came to Dinner. It was hysterical,” the agent said. “Cheeta spent three months learning how to hit his marks on stage in that wheelchair. No easy feat, but he did it and I admired his talent. In the end, however, nobody was interested in the old guy.”

“I tried to talk to him,” the agent said, “but he was pretty depressed after the dinner debacle. I lost touch with him in the mid-70s.”

What happened next to the chimp has-been, is speculation; speculation that has become legend.

He was first reported to have retired to Palm Springs, painting desert scenes by day, hitting the bars by night. In an attempt to raise needed cash, Cheeta hired a high-powered Washington Post writer to collaborate on his memoirs. Sadly, the whole enterprise blew-up when Post reporter R.D. Rosen exposed him as a fraud who had really been born in 1960.

When reports came yesterday of his death at an animal sanctuary in Florida, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, “Animal Actors” division, perked up believing that they had finally located the missing chimp and wanted to donate a special grave marker. However, before news of the chimp-actor’s demise had reached Hollywood elite, rumors were circulating that another fraud was being perpetrated.

“Debbie Cobb,” the Associated Press reported, “outreach director at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary along Florida’s Gulf Coast, said Wednesday that her grandparents acquired Cheetah around 1960 from Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller… But Cobb offered no documentation, saying it was destroyed in a 1995 fire.”

In the early 70’s, chimp star, Mr. Jiggs, who portrayedLancelot Link Secret Chimp, famous for “Lance of Arabia,” and “The Surfin’ Spy,” came forward claiming that he had been Weissmuller’s original sidekick. But the “jig” was up when Donald Trump asked Jiggs to produce his full and complete birth certificate. All Jiggs would say is that it was destroyed in a banana boat fire.

So, who and where is the real Cheeta?

According to the AP report, Washington Post reporter, R.D. Rosen “said in an email Wednesday that this latest purported Cheeta looks like a ‘business-boosting impostor as well. I’m afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O’Sullivan is long gone,’ Rosen said.”

Yeah, that’s just what he wants us to think.

I say, the truth is out there. The real Cheeta is out there…somewhere.

They thought Livingston was dead, until a reporter named Stanley found him. And I’m going to find Cheeta, so help me, Iwill find the truth!

To be continued in…. The C-Files


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