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Me Cheeta: The Autobiography Paperback – 28 May 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007280165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007280162
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Easily my favourite book of the year…funny scandalous and moving.’ Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday (Books of the Year)

‘It’s the book everyone’s talking about, a book that makes you gaffaw out loud.’ Evening Standard (Books of the Year)

'A hilarious satire of memory and lore in Hollywood…Nabokovian, only hairier'.’ Joseph O'Neill, Guardian

‘Even though Cheeta has no morals or manners and gives an extravagantly unreliable account of himself, the personality that leaps from these pages remains a more plausible construction than those offered (in other celebrity memoirs). This unquestionably is the gold glinting in the cloacal slurry. Any celebs hoping to crack next year’s Christmas market should take note: look upon the work of the guy with the hairy ears and saggy scarlet bottom and despair.’ Independent on Sunday (Books of the Year)

‘Undoubtedly the year’s best not-a-memoir-at-all…It’s hard to conceive of anyone who’d like a biography for Christmas who wouldn’t like a copy of this truly, horribly funny book.’ Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)

‘It is a lovely way to look at the history of Hollywood, and probably more truthful than most accounts.’ Spectator

`The literary equivalent of Cheeta's own "triple-back-flip-handclap-double-lip-flip-and-grin"…all of this delivered in glorious inventive prose. Whoever you are, I salute you!' Scotland on Sunday

‘A hilarious book.' Sunday Times

'Me Cheeta may well be the finest Hollywood memoir ever written…right up there with the likes of David Niven.' Mail On Sunday

'Laugh-out-loud hilarious…also a moving tribute to the man who will forever be associated with the role of Tarzan.' Sunday Telegraph

`The most rollicking showbiz-memoir since David Niven's Bring on the Empty Horses…Me Cheeta is a satirical masterpiece.' Telegraph

‘A unique, witty and magnificently bitchy Hollywood satire – and oddly touching to boot.’ Metro (Books of the Year)

Review

`I challenge anyone to find a more salacious, foul-mouthed and entertaining memoir.'

`The literary equivalent of Cheeta's own "triple-back-flip-handclap-double-lip-flip-and-grin"...all of this delivered in glorious inventive prose. Whoever you are, I salute you!'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Graceann Macleod on 26 Dec. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Cheeta, the star of eleven feature films with the best Tarzan there ever will be, Johnny Weissmuller, tells us what it was like in Hollywood during the Golden Age.

While Me Cheeta is hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny in many sequences, there is a serious message under the chuckles; he was removed from his native habitat, along with thousands of other animals over the years, for the sole purpose of entertaining humans (in a particularly frightening episode, he is almost sent to a lab). He, with tongue firmly in cheek, refers to this as being "rescued," but it's left to the intelligent reader to make the distinction.

Cheeta describes partying with David Niven (or "Niv," as Cheeta calls him), among many others, and has some very sharp barbs for Chaplin, Rooney and Esther Williams. The most touching passages are when he talks about his work and life with Johnny. There is great love there, and the autobiography is as much about Weissmuller as it is about Cheeta.

Another reviewer here goes on at eloquent length as to what specifically makes this book so marvelous. I would be stealing from that reviewer if I shared my thoughts. I'd only like to say that the conceit of reading a book telling you what Hollywood was like as seen through the eyes of a chimp may be an odd one, but this was a treat from beginning to end. I'm so glad I had the chance to read it.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Shaun Kelly on 31 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
An autobiography by an acting chimp, does on the surface, seem like a ridiculous concept. Have no fear though; this is not what it seems!

It is a beautifully crafted, funny, cathartic, sleazy and gossipy look at 30's Hollywood in the form of a memoir. Me Cheeta has been fantastically ghost written by an author of some considerable talent, blessed with biting wit and an endless catalogue of sleaze on Cheeta's co stars of the day

This book is part tell all, part shocking indictment of the treatment of animals in the name of entertainment and part love poem to Johnny Weissmuller - Cheeta's co star in the Tarzan pics. Cheeta leaves no stone unturned and the frankly litigious slander doled out is worth the price of this book alone. Chaplin, Bogey, Mikey Rooney, Rex Harrison and many more are given the Cheeta treatment, making for some of the funniest lines in the book.

Cheeta's voice to me, had a touch of Stewie from Family Guy, a little of Ignatius P. Reilly from a Confederacy of Dunces and a touch of David Niven. His rakish asides and backbiting make it infinitely more entertaining than any contemporary Autobiography you'll read this year, or maybe ever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE on 5 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This year's oddball choice on the Booker longlist is a satire on Hollywood as seen through the eyes of Tarzan's long-lived chimp companion. When it was published last autumn as an autobiography, the book had Cheeta listed as its writer, but it didn't take long for the real author to be uncovered; James Lever, a book editor, has his name on the paperback.

Cheeta, now aged 76, looks back on his life. In the first section, he tells us how he and many other animals were `rescued' from the jungle and `rehabilitated' by humans, how he was selected to go to Hollywood where he became `part of the family' belonging to L.B.Mayer. There, Cheeta met the love of his life, Tarzan in the sublime form of Johnny Weissmuller, and Johnny too got a pal who would always be there for him. Cheeta didn't get always get on with Jane however - Maureen O'Sullivan found `the ape-talk a trifle wearying'. Johnny's reply, `Jane angry. Jane need smack on rear end.'

Ere long Cheeta is mixing with all the stars and indulging in all the vices - smoking, drinking, sniffing cocaine from starlets' cleavages and indulging in high jinks with Douglas Fairbanks and David `Niv' Niven. There were those he didn't get on with too, particularly Charlie Chaplin who had to upstage everyone, (he got his own back in spectacular fashion with members of Charlie's garden menagerie). Johnny always stuck up for Cheeta though. Esther Williams was another, but we don't know the details as that chapter was `removed on legal advice'! Eventually the films got worse, Cheeta's role was diminished and the Tarzan brand faded. In the last section of the book, Cheeta has retired to a sanctuary where he paints and dreams.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Plom de Nume on 11 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is that rarity, a work of genius that's also accessible in all the right ways: hilarious, touching, cutting, thought-provoking and beautifully written, breathtakingly so at times. But fear not: the romance is constantly sauced with the simian hero's outrageous, turd-slinging wise-cracks and put-downs. Cheeta speaks in a lovely blend of street wisdom and naïve poetry that makes you want to listen to him for much longer than the book lasts. And his racy, piquant subject matter is utterly intriguing!

The brilliance here lies in several layers, beginning with the very idea of a celebrity chimp telling his tale in a mind-boggling combination of natural history (Cheeta's self-awareness leads to many "you'll know this from National Geographic" type references) and "urban jungle" adventure. Add in the period glamour of Hollywood and Manhattan, amongst others, for further seduction. Then there's the constant insider scandal and sly digs at various cinematic egos: if you're looking for scurrilous iconoclasm, just seek out Rooney and Chaplin wherever they appear. The same subtlety informs the dissection of "swimming star" Esther Williams, done in part by having the chapter on her "removed on legal advice" but with frequent sarcastic sneers elsewhere and some nudging clues in the index - yes, even the index is worth reading! And watch out for the deflations of some more contemporary posturers towards the end, during Cheeta's "Oscar acceptance" sequence - scalpel-sharp stuff.

The heart of the book, though, is the enduring friendship with cinema's greatest Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, here portrayed with an ultimate poignancy that is genuinely heart-wrenching.
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