Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Breaking News! - Cheetah is Dead!

Cheetah is dead.

Best known as Tarzan's chimpanzee companion in a host of Johnny Weissmuller films, the chimp had retired to Florida decades ago to live out his Golden Years. The actor died at the age of 80, in bed at the Florida sanctuary where he had lived since retiring in 1960.

"It is with great sadness that the community has lost a dear friend and family member on December 24, 2011," the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Florida announced on its Web site. The 80-year-old chimp was as remarkable for his longevity as he was for his acting, as the average lifespan of a wild chimpanzee is said to be 45 years.

Although he never won an Academy Award, Cheetah often overshadowed performances by his co-stars, Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, all of whom he outlived. Cheetah's childhood friend Johnny Sheffield, who played Tarzan and Jane's son "Boy" in the movies, died a year earlier. Cheetah co-starred in such classic jungle fare as "Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932) and "Tarzan and His Mate" (1934).

Friends at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary say Mr. Cheetah loved finger-painting and watching football, according to the Tampa Tribune, a local newspaper. A sanctuary volunteer was quoted as saying, "When he didn't like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them. He could get you at 30 feet with bars in between."

The former movie star was also noted for his ability to "walk upright with a straight back like a human," which set him apart not only from his peers at the sanctuary but also from many of his contemporaries at a nearby Century Village.

While he had many understudies for his role as Tarzan's simian companion who also appeared in the films, Mr. Cheetah steadfastly dismissed rumors through the years that his was a composite role created through the use of numerous animal actors. "Those lightweights could barely peel a banana," he was once quoted telling Variety.

Ironically, the character of Cheetah never appeared in any of Edgar Rice Burroughs' the two dozen Tarzan novels. In fact, no chimpanzees did, although in the novels Tarzan did swing through the trees with a monkey named Nkima as an occasional companion.

The flag outside the Chiquita Banana company flew at half mast today, in honor of the late actor.

Mr. Cheetah and his family in happier times.

1 comment:

  1. 80!! That's amazing! God Bless Mr. Cheetah - who was closer to being *human* than most of us would be comfortable admitting ;)