Cheeta is Dead

Nine years ago, I wrote an article titled Cheeta Lives which, as I review it today, appears to have been written under the influence of Sudafed and illegally imported bathtub gin. At the time, Cheeta was 71 years old and living the high life in a retirement home, fawned after by nurses and addicted to bad TV and copies of National Geographic which, apparently, he sat and “read” through cover to cover each month.

On Christmas Day, as the haze of gift-giving and a heavy breakfast rolled into the afternoon, I grabbed the paper and found myself reading Cheeta’s obituary. The obit was, sadly, a little critical, detailing Cheeta’s prima donna attitude on set. His hate for Maureen O’Sullivan – Tarzan’s Jane – was severe and he would bite her and chase her at every opportunity, often ruining multiple takes. O’Sullivan spent the rest of her life referring to Cheeta as “that bastard,” and telling anyone who would listen about the chimp’s transgressions. Cheeta outlived her, but her daughter was on Twitter within moments of Cheeta’s death with a healthy helping of yuletide bitterness, retracted later in the day.

Cheeta’s nurses, however, report that he was a perfect gentleman. And now he’s in pet heaven. Being savaged by one of the Lassies.