The internet is usually a dumping ground for exaggerated grief whenever a celebrity dies, but there’s one actor who has not received the accolades he surely deserved. Cheetah, the chimpanzee who played Tarzan’s sidekick in the early 1930s, died of kidney failure over the weekend at Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Florida. He is estimated to have lived for 80 years.
Cheetah, named after the lovable pal he would play in several Tarzan films, was a warm soul who never dwelled on his post-career life. According to The Tampa Tribune:
Cheetah…loved fingerpainting and football and was soothed by nondenominational Christian music, said Debbie Cobb, the sanctuary’s outreach director.
He was an outgoing chimp who was exposed to the public his whole life, Cobb said today. "He wasn’t a chimp that caused a lot of problems," she said.
"He was very compassionate," Cobb said. "He could tell if I was having a good day or a bad day. He was always trying to get me to laugh if he thought I was having a bad day. He was very in tune to human feelings."
Cheetah will certainly be remembered for what he loved most: laughter. Cheetah also had his serious side, and always lived his life with dignity, having turned down the role of Marcel, Ross’s pet monkey, on Friends, as well as the deadly virus-carrying villain in Outbreak. His legacy cannot be tarnished, despite the efforts of those in Hollywood like Mia Farrow, daughter of Cheetah’s Tarzan co-star Maureen O’Sullivan. Farrow took to Twitter this morning, saying, "My mom, Tarzan’s Jane, referred to Cheetah-the-chimp as ‘that bastard’ – saying he bit her at every opportunity." Farrow later claimed in a now-deleted tweet that the chimp was homosexual.
The volunteers at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary didn’t notice Cheetah biting anyone, but it turns out that he was a particularly vocal judge of one’s character. One volunteer told The Tampa Tribune, "When he didn’t like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them. He could get you at 30 feet with bars in between."