Back in October, EW ran a profile of Cheeta the chimpanzee, the legendary simian sidekick from the classic Tarzan films of the 1930s and 1940s, now a 76-year-old showbiz retiree quietly living out his remaining days in Palm Springs, Calif. We spent a day with this renowned chimp, observing him as he went about his business: snacking on corn chips, kicking back by the swimming pool, flopping on the couch and watching TV. A fine time was had by all, man and beast.
Today, however, the Los Angeles Times published a story that has rocked the celebrity-animal world, suggesting that this particular chimpanzee, who has earned legions of fans around the world and whose “ape-stract” paintings sell online for $135 a pop, may not be who everyone believes he is. In fact, according to an author whose research the Times cites, he’s most likely a roughly 50-year-old chimp who has never been in any movies whatsoever. Cheeta’s trainer, Dan Westfall, has refused to comment on the allegation — and, whatever the truth may be, it should be said that Westfall is a nice man who has selflessly devoted himself to caring for elderly primates.
Still, we’re left to wonder: Have Cheeta’s fans been misled all these years? We know stars like to lie about their age, but does that go for chimps, too? Do you believe this is, indeed, the real Cheeta? Do you care?