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Me Cheeta: The Autobiography

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  507 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews

Meet Cheeta: actor, painter, gossip, recovering addict, author and the best damn friend Tarzan ever had - oh, and it so happens this very talented star is also a chimp.

From Cheeta's 'liberation' from the Liberian jungle to the black-hearted jungle of Hollywood's Golden Age, Me Cheeta is an extraordinary tale of stardom, substance, abuse, paradises lost and found and, above

ebook, 336 pages
Published November 12th 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
"Humanity, I salute you!" said he, Cheeta, in his own introductory "Note to the Reader" of this, his autobiography.

He wrote this in 2008 at age 76, after he had long outlived Tarzan (dead in 1984) and Jane (1998).

Whereas humans write their autobiographies to crow about themselves and their accomplishments this chimpanzee--one of the greatest animal actors of all time (think Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and King Kong for competition)--wrote this one to extol humanity, Hollywood, and the actors and actres
Sep 27, 2009 Christina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, animals, 2010
Yes, this is what the title says. Cheeta, the chimpanzee from the old Tarzan movies, wrote his own autobiography - although it's as much about Johnny Weissmuller as it's about Cheeta.
Cheeta tells his life story from he was a young chimp captured in Africa, his movie career until his time as an old, retired chimp spending his time visiting hospitals and the like.
For me, this was a strange book. I enjoyed the intro note where Cheeta talks about his problems arriving at a title since all the good o
A story narrated by an animal is a premise that would probably make most people roll their eyes and groan in horror at the whimsicality of the idea. But if you agree that an outsider’s view is often the most clear-sighted, then surely what could be more ‘outside’ than a narrator who is not even a member of the human race? And indeed Cheeta does bring a fairly Darwinian sensibility to the jungle that was Hollywood in its glamorous heyday. “What does any organism ever do except – survive?” An amus ...more
Jul 23, 2009 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I genuinely didn’t know what to expect of this book. It is, after all, the fake memoir of a chimpanzee. But having breezed my way through I think it’s both a spoof of and a tribute to the scandalous ‘reveal-alls’ of Hollywood’s golden age. Cheeta casts his eye across the sordid shenanigans with similes that are sometimes wittily Chandleresque and other times hilariously bitchy.

The strongest portion of the book is when Cheeta is hanging with Johnny Weissmuller in 30’s Hollywood (the beginning and
Aug 16, 2009 Elaine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The fun of the conceit wore off pretty quickly, the reveal at the end is moving, but getting there was a slog.
Mel Campbell
This is absolutely a work of fiction, is more sophisticated than it seems, and should not be read at face value. Its basis is a real-life hoax in which a chimpanzee born around 1960 was claimed to be the same chimp who appeared in Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan movies in the 1930s and 1940s. (The role of 'Cheeta' was actually played by many individual animals over the years.) I've read that when this book first came out, it wasn't known that Lever was the author (or, perhaps, that the now old, reti ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary, 2010
A really funny, satirical take on the Hollywood memoir. The novel is written from the point of view of Cheeta, the chimpanzee who starred in ten Tarzan movies during the 1930s and 40s. Cheeta chronicles his journey from the jungles of Liberia to his later life in a Sanctuary for former TV/Movie primates, and everything in between. Though he is, of course, a chimp, the novel is written as though he were a major (human) movie star working during the peak of the Hollywood Studio System, and his det ...more
Ignacio Peña
It's a lot easier to write about a book that never quite does it for me than one where "it's great, so great, run out and read this now!" So often I was really impressed with the wit and charm on display throughout Me Cheeta, the fictional autobiography of Tarzan's chimp during the Golden Age of Hollywood. It's a wonderful concept, and at times I found myself very engaged. But oftentimes I found myself having a hard time understanding what was happening, precisely, and at some point I realized w ...more
Dec 05, 2008 Graceann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Animal Lovers, Film Buffs
Shelves: memoir, humor
Amazon is being quite slow with uploading my review, so here is the text in it's raw form:

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 entertaini
Jazzy Lemon
As much a biography of the life of Johnny Weissmuller (and an insider's look into the escapades of several early film stars) this is a charming, romp in the Hollywood life of Cheeta, the chimpanzee in the Tarzan films of the 30s. This isn't a book for the kiddies, and even though there were times I thought I probably wouldn't give it 5-stars, it came together so nicely, so PERFECTLY in the end. A very good read, highly recommended.
Aug 09, 2010 Nickie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: binned
I feel terrible for binning this. It's well written, it's witty, it's a great idea. But there is no narrative progression. Maybe it's just me and biographies/autobiographies but there is absolutely no reason to pick this up and continue reading. I'm half way through and I do enjoy the wisecracking and the style and the made-up stories about david niven and all of the hollywood greats, but they're not real, and there's no reason to carry on. I probably shouldn't give it 3 stars, considering I'm n ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Tracey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto-biography, 2008
This was something really different and I was not sure what to expect. What I did get was a book that was very funny, and also crude, lewd and rude.

There are some descriptions of people that hit hard and hold nothing back which makes it entertaining and perhaps scandalous.

Who ever created the idea for this book really hit pay dirt and I hope we are not treated to the lost diaries of Rin Tin Tin or Trigger's life with Roy.

If you want something different to read then I highly recommend the book
Fx Smeets
Aug 11, 2015 Fx Smeets rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seven years after its original publication, the first French translation of Me, Cheeta has just been released by Le Nouvel Attila, whose founder has been exploring all kinds of genre literature for the past twenty years. I first heard about it on the French radio programme Mauvais Genres. Little is known about the author, said Francois Angelier, programme creator and presenter. James Lever doesn’t do interviews and his previous works went by rather unnoticed. Actually, Angelier added, rumour has ...more
Al Bità
Feb 08, 2013 Al Bità rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book as a potential source of some light relief reading, thinking it might amuse me. I was wrong, but initially I was not quite sure why. Eventually it became obvious: I had been expecting a tongue-in-cheek ‘exposé’ by the use of the literary conceit of the perspective of a non-human; instead we are presented with what appears to be a serious ‘memoir’ — Cheeta’s recollections of life in the jungle before capture and the promise of Hollywood; philosophical discussions on various con ...more
Humorous... But not enough to make me finish reading...

I like the premise, but an entire book? I stopped before I was made to reflect on the animal cruelty eluded to that some other reviewers have mentioned.
Glen Stott
Feb 12, 2014 Glen Stott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, biography
I picked this book up because in the early 1950’s, after my parents got the 13-inch Hoffman, I used to watch Tarzan movies nearly every Saturday, brought to you by Buster Brown shoes. Cheeta was my favorite animal actor, even ahead of Rin Tin Tin. Me Cheeta is an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek autobiography of Cheeta, (an amalgam of chimpanzee stars) written when he was over 75 years old with a great deal of help from his ghost writer, James Lever. Cheeta describes the Hollywood lifestyle from th ...more
Sep 22, 2016 Rusty rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, own, e-book, fiction
I had some hope for this book when I started reading it. The first part was ok, but then the story bogged down. I hate not finishing books I've started, so I plowed through. I think most of my time was wasted.
Julie Failla Earhart
I couldn’t believe it when I read a news report not long ago that Cheeta, the chimp in the ‘30s Tarzan movies, was still alive. As Tarzan would say, “Umgawa,” which translate as “let it be so.” And now he’s (Or is Cheeta a she? It’s never clear.) decided to at long last (the real Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, died in 1984 and Jane, Maureen O’Sullivan, died in 1998) to tell the story of his rise from African jungles to the most admired and loved Hollywood animal of all time. Let’s face it: Cheeta w ...more
“The model for Me Cheeta is obviously Lolita. It even rhymes with Lolita.” – James Lever

Me Cheeta is a glorious tell-all tale of the golden age of Hollywood from the perspective of the Tarzan co-star, perhaps the most famous of the Hollywood chimps, Cheeta.

In truth, this smart, witty spoof is the work of novelist James Lever (this is his first published novel). Literary fiction is not as marketable as non-fiction & biography – the publisher stuck with the conceit of this being an autobiograp
Gerald Sinstadt
Difficult not to have been exposed to the early hype for this book. To be fair, it sounded as though a clever idea had been carried through triumphantly. Not so - as revealed by a couple of days labouring with increasingly heavy heart through the first two hundred pages.

Basically, the author can't make the premise work. On the one hand Cheeta portrays himself as an intruder from the animal kingdom variably bewildered by human behaviour, and even more by artefacts (a strange bite-resistant wrist
Christopher Roth
Aug 16, 2011 Christopher Roth rated it it was amazing
Magnificent. Even for someone who is NOT a big fan of the intelligent/talking apes genre or of sordid Hollywood memoirs, as I am, this is a moving and hilarious book and was even nominated for a Booker Prize, even when the author was identified only as "Cheeta." I was astounded, reading it, just how much they got away with. Not just the man-crush on Johnny Weissmuller that is the book's main narrative thread but all of the other graphic portrayals of stars who are either alive or have living des ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sandra Danby
Oct 13, 2013 Sandra Danby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was something of a word-of-mouth hit, a spoof autobiography by the chimp which played Cheeta in the Tarzan films of the Thirties, and was recommended to me by my husband. It sat on my to-read shelf for a long time, until I had a tired day when I needed something easy to read.
It had me laughing right from page 1. “Dearest humans, So, it’s the perfect day in Palm Springs, California, and here I am – actor, artist, African, American, ape and now author – flat out on the lounger by the po
Aug 04, 2011 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This parody of a celebrity bio was seriously funny, but also about 30 years too late - who gets jokes about David Niven anymore?

Several set pieces set in old Hollywood provide some funny commentary on celebrities of the 30s and 40s. Then there's a running summary/commentary about the Tarzan movies from Cheetah's perspective (Jane is the antagonist). There's also Cheetah's hilarious unexplained hatred of Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Rooney, and (especially) Esther Williams; the Esther Williams thing
Alexander Frost
Its been said already but, again, Me Cheeta was not what I expected from a book 'written' by a chimp. 'Me Cheeta' is not at all the cheesy mock-biography, rather, it reads more like a simian-authored version of a gossip magazine. Snorting cocaine with a Highball in one hand and the occasional sexy romp, Cheeta lives the high life as much as any of the movie stars. Funny in parts, quite moving in others, it will probably keep you entertained for a while.

That being said, this is a very confused b
Mar 27, 2013 Aapo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Olipa urakka. Tämän piti olla lukupiirimme ohjelmassa jo kuukausia sitten, mutta totesimme kirjan olevan sen verran kehno, että vaihdoimme vetävämpään opukseen. Koska minä ehdotin tätä luettavaksi, ajattelin kantaa vastuuni ja urakoida kirjan loppuun asti. Kannattiko? Jaa-a.

Hyvää kirjassa oli lähtökohta: Tarzan-elokuvien simpanssin näkökulmasta kirjoitettu omaelämäkerta. Ja satiirinen ote oli kivan terävä. Ja Cheetan läheinen suhde merkittävimpään vastanäyttelijään Weissmulleriin on kuvattu aika
Ian Young
I only became aware of this scurrilous autobiography when it was long listed for the 2009 Man Booker Prize. Cheeta was an extraordinarily talented chimpanzee – actor, artist and now author. He lived and worked through the golden years of Hollywood, and this book is filled with stories from that era. Who could have guessed that so many stars behaved so badly? If only that one key chapter had not been deleted on legal advice, I suspect I would have learnt even more!

But this book is much more than
May 30, 2011 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If I could give this three and a half stars, I would. This autobiography from the point of view of a chimpanzee during Hollywood's golden age is very clever and pointed, but unfortunately the pickings are a little too slim during the second half.

The horrendous treatment of animals in Hollywood is made even more pointed by Cheeta's disingenuous narrative (animals are "rescued" from the jungle and brought to the USA for "rehabilitation" in cages - but it takes him a while to figure out where the a
Aug 31, 2008 R. marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Longlisted for the Man Booker.


This is the autobiography of Cheeta, of Tarzan fame. It's up for the Guardian's "first book award".


message 1: by Robert 5 hours, 12 min ago

I remember (from somewhere) that Cheeta had the reputation for being an asshole: a total prima donna.

message 2: by R. 5 hours, 10 min ago

Aren't our best artists often cursed with the worst personalities?

message 3: by Robert 5 hours, 3 min ago

Indeed. And Cheeta was most definitely one of the best.

His performance in
Oct 05, 2009 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cleverly constructed mock autobiography. I very much enjoyed the Tarzan films as a small kid, with Cheeta's performances always a highlight. Of course time and improved morals have now highlighted the inhumane nature of using animals in films and it's one thing we can't quite believe people did a few years ago, a bit like the Black and White Minstrel Show - unless your are an antiquated Strictly Come Dancing presenter of course.

This book reminded me of Glen Duncan's excellent "I, Lucifer" in t
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real author 1 6 Jun 15, 2010 01:19PM  
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