Cheeta Turns 76!
I hope I look this good (and have that much hair) when I turn 76!
Cheeta the chimpanzee, star of the Tarzan series and other films, celebrates his 76th birthday today. He is the world's oldest chimp (the usual lifespan is about 50), outliving his co-stars Johnny “Tarzan” Weismuller (who died in 1984, aged 79) and Maureen "Jane" O’Sullivan (who died in 1998, at 87).
Last of the Line?: Cheeta holds up family album
Cheeta, who was born in the wilds of Liberia on April 9, 1932, was discovered by animal trainer Tony Gentry, who brought him back to Hollywood to make his screen debut as a baby chimp in 1932's Tarzan the Ape Man. His first star billing came with 1934's Tarzan and His Mate. Cheeta went on to make 50 some pictures - including a half dozen Tarzan films - notably fighting against the Nazis in 1943's propaganda masterpiece Tarzan Triumphs before bowing out with a final appearance as Chee-Chee in 1967's Doctor Doolittle. Cheeta also made an uncredited appearance as Ramona the Chimp in 1952's Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, which starred the not-so-famous/not-so-funny comedy team of Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo doing their shameless impersonation of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Chimp Cheeta with chumps Mitchell and Petrillo
Under the supervision of his owner and trainer Dan Westfall (Tony Gentry's nephew), Cheeta will celebrate as per usual at the primate sanctuary Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (CHEETA) in Palm Springs, California, by eating sugar-free cake and drinking diet soft drinks. Although formerly fond of smoking and drinking, Cheetah was diagnosed with diabetes about eight years ago and was forced to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. It's obviously paying off as Cheeta's hobbies now focus on the arts, from playing piano to creating "Ape-stract" paintings.
Cheeta says, "Move over Jackson Pollock!"
And, according to Esquire magazine, Cheeta is writing his autobiography (allegedly the work of a ghostwriter), Me Cheeta, which is slated for a Fall 2008 release. Extracts will appear in this month's Esquire, where it is reported that Cheeta was once a body double for hirsute comedian/actor Robin Williams.
Check out this Italian highlights reel celebrating Cheeta's 75th b-day from mastrolindo3: Happy Birthday Cheeta!
Cheeta Autobiography? (Daily Mail)
C.H.E.E.T.A. Primate Sanctuary