Guess What ER is Celebrating His Birthday
'Cheeta' The Showbiz Chimpanzee Turns 74
PALM SPRINGS Cheeta, the chimpanzee will be celebrating his 74th birthday, Hollywood-style, complete with the acceptance of an award before an entourage and paparazzi.
Cheeta starred in a dozen “Tarzan” films in the 1930’s and 1940’s. He retired to the desert hamlet of Palm Springs and stands as the world’s oldest chimp, according to the Guiness Book of World Records. Chimpanzees rarely live past their 40’s, but can live until their 60’s in captivity.
"He loves going for rides, watching TV and, of course, monkeying around," said keeper and friend Dan Westfall. "He likes hanging out in the house with me. He's just my buddy."
His 17-year-old grandson, Jeeter, also lives with him.
Cheeta retired in his 30’s after his last performance opposite Rex Harrison in 1967’s “Dr. Doolitle.” Since then, he’s enjoyed a quiet retirement. He’s taken some time to paint some “ape-stract” artwork, kept in the National Museum in London and homes of celebrities.
Money generated from Cheeta’s artwork is used to pay for his upkeep (he does not qualify for a Screen Actors Guild pension) and help out the nonprofit sanctuary he resides in.
In his younger days, Cheeta was known for his penchant of beer and cigars, but his years in showbiz has taken a toll. Now a diabetic on a special diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and monkey chow, he takes insulin daily. His birthday cake will also be diabetic friendly.
Cheeta resides at the Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (CHEETA) Primate Sanctuary in Palm Springs, founded in 1991 and run by Westfall. The sanctuary houses old stars and unknowns, including saved laboratory animals that would not be taken in by zoos.
Cheeta will also be presented with a special comedy award from the International Comedy Film Festival of Pensacola (Spain). It will be the first award of his career.
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