The supposed autobiography of Cheeta, the famous Tarzan chimpanzee, was in actuality written by James Lever. According to an interview with the author, he picked up his Hollywood gossip from reading 30 biographies of movie stars. (To me, this smacks of stealing intellectual property.) Furthermore, he never met or wanted to meet the chimpanzee in question. In his rush to meet a press deadline for Cheeta's 75 birthday, Lever left a lot on the table. He even failed to include Cheeta's memorable role as Hitler, in the 1944 film, Meet the People.*
The author admitted that his story was "an annulus of fraudulence rather than a satisfying revelation." This snippet from an interview for The Man Booker Prizes reveals what is intrinsically wrong with the book, Me Cheeta. The author is so full of himself that he frequently digresses from Cheeta's story to plunge into esoteric gibberish. What should have been a frivolous romp through Cheeta's life suffers from the author's angst and ego. When Cheeta (Lever) obsesses over Charlie Chaplin's pomposity, it is almost laughable. It is obvious he suffers from the same disease. Could Cheeta really be the self-abusing, swearing, misogynist that Lever portrays him to be?
The truth, as far as I can discern, is that Cheeta was a series of chimpanzees. According to an article in the LA Times, author R.D. Rosen was attempting to write Cheeta's biography when he became aware of many discrepancies in the purported life of the famous simian. The chimp being passed off as Cheeta by trainer Tony Gentry was actually born in the 1960's and never appeared in the movies.
Cheeta, or whoever he really is, resides in Palm Springs at a sanctuary run by Dan Westfall. This chimp is in his seventies and is suffering from diabetes. Your money would be far better spent donating to the primate sanctuary (cheetathechimp.org) than purchasing a copy of Me Cheeta.
*According to a radio interview with Spike Jones, fellow actor, "Hitler was played by the ape (sic) from the Tarzan movies."