Tarzan, Jane & CheetahThe world receives the sad news that one of our cultural icons is gone. Shortly before his death, Cheetah sat down with for an exclusive interview. Cheetah, who was born into a show business family,  was in New York City to consult with kidney specialists at Sloan -Kettering institute, had his agent contact to grant what would be his final interview. Read on:

Bob Crespo: “Thank you for granting us this interview, Mr. Cheetah, it is an honor and a pleasure.”

Cheetah: “No prob, Bob, and drop the Mister! It’s just Cheetah.”

BC: “Thank you, Cheetah! So, what brings to you to New York City? I heard you were living in retirement in Florida?”

Cheetah: “What else? Doctors! At my age it’s always one thing or another , prostate, heart trouble, you-name-it! This time it’s my kidneys. I remember back in the day when a trip to the Big Apple meant tons of fun, nightclubs, restaurants, shows…”

BC: “Sorry to hear of your health woes, Cheetah. May I ask how old you are?”

Cheetah: “Sure, I’m 80.”

BC: “And how many years is that in Chimp Years?”

Cheetah: “It’s 80, fool! You think the calendar changes because I’m a chimp? Get real!”

BC: “Well, I just thought that since one year is 7 dog years…”

Cheetah: “That’s a bunch of crap too! Dog simply don’t live all that long. Chimps do.”

BC: “Sorry…”

Cheetah: “Just don’t make me sorry I signed up for this interview with your cockamamie outfit! What the hell is a, anyway? My agent said your site is on the “cutting edge” and I should talk to you. The cutting edge of what, being a complete jackass?”

BC: “Well, there are some who have said exactly that…”

Cheetah: “Ah, don’t mind me, son, I’m just getting a bit grumpy in my old age, and I’m thinking his kidney deal might just bring down the curtain on old Cheetah… Go ahead, ask your questions.”

BC: “How did you get into show business?”

Cheetah: “The oldest Show Biz story in the books, but the God’s honest; born in a trunk in DeMoines to a touring vaudeville family of Chimpanzees. Dad was Jiggs, Mom was Daisy, and I was part of the act  before I was weaned, learning to dance, be an acrobat and dress in a tuxedo with a derby, Classic Chimp Comedy Clothes.”

BC: “I thought you were born in the wilds of Africa…”

Cheetah: “Why, because I’m a Chimp? Did you think the same of Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne because they were black? Don’t get me started...”

BC: “No, no, it’s just that in all your Tarzan Movies, you seemed so at home in Africa…”

Cheetah: “Ever hear of a skill called acting, Bob? Like you, I’m born in the USA!  Not a single one of those movies were shot in Africa, I’ve never even been there! They were done mostly on movie studio sets, and the location shots were taken in Florida or Central America, and the “jungle animals” were all actors like myself, every one of them with an S.A.G. card. Old Leo the Lion, good buddy of mine and most famous for roaring at the beginning of every MGM movie, he was in all sorts of films, ‘Mighty Joe Young,’ ‘Ben Hur,’ ‘Samson & Delilah,’ you name it. They needed a lion, Leo was the go-to guy. He had great acting chops , never flubbed a roar, and was in huge demand.”

BC: “What was it like working with Johnny Weismuller?”

Cheetah: “Hell of a nice guy, but a bit of a dumb jock, and I had to carry him for our first bunch of pictures before he learned to act. Being a champion Olympic swimmer doesn’t qualify you for being much but being a champion Olympic swimmer, otherwise that pothead bozo Michael Phelps would be a huge star, but Johnny was pretty game and put his mind into learning the trade, and always asked me for tips and advice. When he got stuck on the motivation for his character’s lines a couple of times, I just slapped him upside his head and reminded him this that was Tarzan we’re talking about here, not Hamlet! Just hit your mark and say ‘Bad men must leave jungle now!’ He eventually got it and you could wake him up in the middle of the night and he could deliver that whacky Tarzan scream and mumble some inarticulate crap quite easily.”

BC: ” You make it sound so … pedestrian… workmanlike…”

Cheetah: “It’s a job, Bob! We’re really good at acting and special effects and telling stories out in Hollywood, in case you weren’t aware. You’re a musician, you oughtta know that just because you sing a sad song doesn’t mean you’re feeling suicidal!”

BC: “Sorry, you’re right of course…”

Cheetah: “Damned straight I’m right! I haven’t been in Show Biz for 80 years for nothing!. That’s why they call it show business, not show art! Artists starve, entertainers make serous dough!”

BC: “I think I’m beginning to see my own problem… Anyway, what was Maureen O’Sullivan like?”

Cheetah: “A dream to work with, a consummate pro, and damned easy on the eye, lemme tellya! She and I had a thing for each other, hot and heavy, for years you know, we were very deeply in love…”

BC: “I’d never heard that!”

Cheetah: “Of course you didn’t, the studios kept a tight lid that stuff back in the day, so you never knew about interracial couples, drunks, dope fiends, gay matinee idols, love children and so on. Don’t forget, this was the 1930s, when baseball wasn’t even integrated, never mind the rest of the country, and with the Great Depression going on, most people didn’t have two nickels to rub together. The Hollywood American Dream Machine was busy trying to keep up appearances, and eventually Maureen and I drifted apart due to some pretty intense studio pressure…”

BC: “A shame…”

Cheetah: “Yes… yes it was… and one of my few regrets, not getting to raise my own son…”

BC: “You had a child with Maureen O’Sullivan?”

Cheetah: ” We did, and I don’t care who knows it now! After a lot of arm twisting by studio bosses, we gave the boy up for adoption so he’d have a shot at a normal life far away from the spotlights and the inevitable scandal… but it was in his blood, I suppose, and he’s a famous man today. Maybe you’ve heard of our son, he’s a pretty big deal on TV, his name is Bull O’Really. I can’t help but think that he wouldn’t have turned out to be such a cold, arrogant jackass if I had raised him myself… ah, but that’s all water under the bridge now…”

BC: “Are you in touch with your son?”

Cheetah: Sadly, no. He’s ashamed to introduce me to his family. I’m Jewish, you see, and he’s a devout Catholic, and won’t tolerate my Judaism, even though I’m not particularly observant. Funny, but Maureen never had a problem with that, and she was as Irish Catholic as they come!”

BC: “Do you miss Maureen?”

Cheetah: “Very much so. I have fresh roses sent to her grave once a week since we lost her back in ’98.”

BC: “Did you stay in touch with Johnny Weissmuller after the Tarzan movies?”

Cheetah: “Who do you think set him up with the ‘Jungle Jim’ franchise? I had been in the business all my life as a performer, and knew I was always going to be typecast, “the Chimp in the picture,” so I branched out into producing, directing and screenwriting, and brother, that’s where the money is, and the creative control! I set Johnny up as executive producer, and he retired on his Jungle Jim residuals. Wasn’t much call for aging Tarzans in Hollywood either, so Johnny invested wisely and was sitting pretty in his golden years until de died in 1984. I did the same thing for Maureen, and why not? There was plenty of dough to go around, and I say dance with the one who brung ya! We three came up together, became stars together, and no one ever had to throw any benefits for Tarzan, Jane, or Cheetah, thank you very much!”

BC: “Very generous of you, Cheetah. I know you have retired completely from Show Biz these past several years, so how have you spent your Golden Years?”

Cheetah: “Writing my memoirs, of course! The book is called ‘The Chimp Stays in The Picture,‘ and will be published by Random House in the Spring of 2012, going for the must-read summer books lists, huge promo campaign, and also available on Kindle and iBooks. I’ve been tweeting short passages to my Twitter following, so advance orders have been strong…”

BC:You have a Twitter following?”

Cheetah: “Who doesn’t? Only Ashton Kutcher has more followers than me! You know what they’re saying; ‘Tweet or die,’ Bob, Tweet or die!”

BC: “I think I’m seeing another thing I’m doing wrong…”

Cheetah: “You mean that an 80 year-old monkey has a Twitter account and you don’t? Get real, Bob, check the calendar!”

BC: :”Pretty much, Cheetah, pretty much… I see I have much to learn from you Show Biz veterans. Thank you for taking time out to speak with, Cheetah. It has been an honor.”

Cheetah: “No prob, Bob! And remember, ‘The Chimp Stays In The Picture’ comes out this spring, and early word on the Strip is that Spielberg is dickering for the rights, and already has Matt Damon on board to play me! Happy New Year, Tarzan Fans!”

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