We knew that monkeys paid for sex as soon as they learn what money is. But that's in a lab, a controlled setting, where who knows what kinds of tricks the labcoats used to pervert their monkey minds. Turns out, though, monkeys in the wild don't need money to develop a "strangers with benefits" relationship. They'll happily barter for low-level prostitution. Not only that, the exchange can be delayed. They remember who gave what when and how much and how much monkey business it was worth.
Angry monkeys turn on their cruel trainer and beat him senseless with
his own stick after he handed out a vicious beating to one of the trio
during a performance riding mini bicycles in a market in Sizhou, China.
But today the matter at hand is not the felid cheetah but the aging chimpanzee actor, Cheeta. Yes, that would be Cheeta from the Tarzan movies, with Johnny Weissmuller. Years ago, I drove out to Palm Springs, where, like all good golden age movie stars, Cheeta had retired. I dutifully wrote about his sunset years, painting, eating, and eating paint. Beyond simian celebrity, Cheeta was also supposed ot be the oldest non-human primate in the world -- 71 years old at the time. Fun times, fun times. Nothing like a celebrity animal profile to get a young writer started in the cutthroat magazine game!
Now, it turns out, I was had. As was the rest of the world. The shocking truth about Cheeta has come out. The other day a friend sent me an article in the Washington Post by a writer who was hired to write Cheeta's "authorized biography" but quickly discovered significant holes in Cheeta's story. Cheeta's original owner, Tony Gentry, turns out to have embellished his chimp's resume. Weismuller, Dr. Doolittle, Bed Time for Bonzo, the daring expatriation from Liberia in 1932 -- none of it was true. Cheeta is just a regular chimp, about 45 years old. He's not even the chimp from BJ and the Bear. But that doesn't mean he's not a funny, in that almost-human way:
Side note to the story. The definitive sourcing of Cheeta's pedigree came from two trainers who used to work at Jungleland with the man who sold Cheeta to Gentry. Jungleland was a big animal facility for Hollywood out in Thousand Oaks from the 1930's to the 1960s. It suffered an ignominious decline and went out of business, with the owner auctioning off the animals to pay the bills. (1968 street price in Los Angeles for a legal hippo: $450.) But just before all that, Jayne Mansfield had a birthday for her six year old son, Zoltan, at Jungleland. (Yes, Zoltan.) Zoltan was mauled by one of Jungleland's lions. He survived, a miracle that Mansfield supposedly credited to a ritual performed by Anton
LaVey of the Church of Satan. Full circle: when Mansfield was killed (but not beheaded) a short time later, some people said it was due to a curse by LaVey. OK, that's not full circle at all. But it is entirely true.
The Zombie Zeitgeist A full scale movement is on the lurch. But why the best zombie movie ever made a video game?
Believer interview with Mark Allen Digital artist and awesome gallerist Mark Allen talks about Tekken Torture Tournament and other projects where people were wired to machines and did strange things in public.
Believer interview with Marjane Satrapi Enlightening Q & A with the Persian cartoonist, memoirist, quick conversationalist in which she declares: “THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN AND ROBIN FIGHTING THE JOKER; THINGS ARE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.”
Yeti Researcher Yet another 100-page issue of the world's top academic journal devoted scholarship about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasqatch, and other mystery primates worldwide. For researchers and lay audiences alike, the latest YR features a history of Sasquatch sightings in southern California, an update on the wily orang pendek of Sumatra, and a new look into Teddy Roosevelt's obsession with bagging a Bigfoot. As Editor-in-Chief, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Panda PowerPoint! I guess I don't mind being "the entertainment" when it's at Mark Allen's second annual Holiday Fry-B-Que. Presented: preliminary findings from my ongoing research into the most charismatic megafauna of all: Giant Pandas.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Dec 9, 2006 For those who missed it, there will be more. World, Explained is going strong! Money was raised, laughs were had, and for those paying attention, small amounts of useful information about things like the aurora borealis were transmitted. Plus: Michael Cera = lovably funny. And Nick Diamonds' renditions of Dumb Dog and Hanging Tough are still in my head. As is that horribly catchy Fresh Step jam.
Jest Fest at Skylight Books Somehow I wound up hosting the 10th anniversary jubilee for Infinite Jest at Skylight Books. Because who doesn't love a jubilee, right? Despite being delirious with Hepatitis A (that's the mild, non-lethal kind; I'm not at risk for Hep B since I always go the needle share and choose clean-looking prostitutes), I managed to not mis-pronounce anyone's name and make an erudite joke and poke gentle fun at Michael Silverblatt.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | June 10, 2006 Number Three! Last one was sold out so we moved to a slightly larger theater. Andy Richter hosted, and his opening exegesis of CSI: Miami warmed the people up right. Evany Thomas presented her very scientific findings on the Secret Language of Sleep; Starlee Kine bared her neuroses to the world (or at least the 300 people in the audience); Josh Davis showed video of his 135-lb self sumo wrestling a 550-lb opera singer from San Bernardino; and Davy Rothbart closed it out with some Found Magazine magic. Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Shelton and Zooey Deschanel provided the music punctuation! I can still hear their rendition of We Are the Champions.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Feb 11, 2006 The second in our series of precision comedy and fact-based entertainment extravaganzas benefiting 826LA. Patton Oswalt was kind enough to host, and Jon Brion joined in on the piano and guitar as thematic accompaniment. Presenters included: David Rees, Michael Colton, John Hodgman (along with his hirsuit troubadour, Jonathan Coulton), and me. Plus: a fashion show of exciting multi-user garmentry.
Little Gray Book Lecture at Galapagos How to Observe President's Day. Jonathan Coulton's technical wizardry has made this entire show available online. The summary from PRX: Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman and Joshuah Bearman on Presidents' Day, along with a fifteen-piece marching band and a new song about all forty-three presidents. My contribution? Yes, from Yeti Researcher. Again. Actually that was the first one. So I have only five stories!
July 25: TJ to LA -- A Night McSweeney's Readings I was honored to be part of a strange triptych along with Salvador Plascencia and Josh Kun. Sponsored, somehow, by La Ciudad magazine, we all packed into Beyond Baroque with no air conditions. 150 people showed at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, which we took as a good sign of something. Sal held up and anxiously discussed drawings from his novel, Josh delivered an essay on the Dr. Moreau of Tijuana, and my shtick (again) was Pac Man and metaphysics, this time with fun slides.
October 8th: Skylight Books w/Stephen Elliott Fun times were had by all. Someone in the audience actually mistook me for an expert on the psychology human character. We ate shrimp cocktail and drank cheap wine and laughed at Bush and celebrated the certainty of right besting wrong in American democracy. A lot of good that did.