Me Cheeta, By James Lever

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The Independent Culture

Scene-stealing co-star of Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan flicks, Hollywood insider over five debauched decades, Cheeta – that chimpanzee prince among primates – has written his tell-all, naming-names memoirs. Or rather, James Lever has crafted a wonderfully witty pastiche of the Tinseltown-unveiled confession.

Me Cheeta knocks most of its "genuine" rivals clean out of the tree. Our hero never tasted bananas in his African jungle; his first, on the boat to America, felt as blissful as "my first snort of cocaine off Constance Bennett's breasts".

And so Cheeta (or Lever) deliciously balances chimp-like perceptions with all-too-human tales of high times in the studios' golden age, as he swings from Marion Davies's beach-hut orgies to the sunset serenity of "Casa de Cheeta", Palm Springs. Even the index packs in scandalous laughs: check out the lovers of "Mexican spitfire" Lupe Velez.