Under the Black Flag

The Monkey Chronicles

I want to make something very, very clear.  This column’s review of the autobiography of Cheeta, Tarzan’s chimpanzee, has absolutely nothing to do with the man who just got elected to the White House last month.  Cheeta’s 336-page opus was published in Britain two months ago by Fourth Estate and has become a runaway best-seller.  Is it a spoof?  Obviously, but it’s a brilliant one, taking us back to the good old days of Hollywood when stars kept their mouths shut about politics, and their noses clean from cocaine—at least in public.

For any of you who have not heard of Cheeta, he is the longest-living chimp, 76 as of this writing, whereas most of his kind live only up to 40 or 45 years in the wild.  Which goes to show the Hollywood jungle may not be such a bad place after all.  Cheeta ascribes his longevity to his daily injections against diabetes, and the benefits of a civilized society.  Me Cheeta may well be among the finest Tinseltown memoirs ever written, rivaling those of David Niven and Errol Flynn.  He was shipped over from Africa as a baby and hit the big time right away with Tarzan and His Mate in 1934.  His costars were the great Johnny Weissmuller and the beautiful Maureen O’Sullivan, both of whom received top billing, although it was Cheeta who stole the show.

Once in training by the Sammy Glicks of Hollywood, who knew they had...

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