Many points are so beautifully made in this excellent spoof of a Hollywood memoir that it is honestly hard to know where to start. But one could usefully begin with Cheeta's incisive contribution to the “infinite number of monkeys” theory of probability. It's all very well hypothesising about those monkeys and typewriters, he says: isn't it time for human beings to look around? “You've had a million humans, at least, writing away for much longer than a thousand years, and only one of them ever managed to produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Only one! Well, well, what's the big deal?”
What we have here is a showbiz memoir from a star whose gilded cage was no metaphor; who views the great days of Hollywood in zoological terms. It's a brilliant idea. Naturally, as befits the memoir genre, Cheeta defines himself as an actor (“I'm a comedian, not an intellec- tual”). Naturally, too, modesty does not prevent him from pointing out that, in his great middle-period work on the Tarzan pictures, he was a pioneer of “simian thespianism”. How much of his success in films was down to him being an animal? Cheeta will accept it's as much as 10%; the rest, however, was talent. In common with every other showbiz memoirist, he claims never to read his reviews; he then quotes them extensively. He mentions several times that he never won an effing Oscar. He will recall a great star such as Rex Harrison by first calling him “that marvellous light comedian”, then getting down to the more interesting truth (“universally despised, impotent, alcoholic”), before coming properly out with it: “an absolutely irredeemable c*** who tried to murder me”. And, like many another stellar memoirist, he can't resist a vicious sideswipe at a fellow thesp. “For three decades I think I ‘phoned it in' a bit,” he confesses. “It happens to actors. Look at De Niro.”.
Straight in to the top five in my reading list goes Me Cheeta: The Autobiography