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Monkey Business

Gromek, who once had electrodes placed in his head and spent close to 40 years inside a concrete cage, is said to be among the bravest of the chimps, eager to venture to the far side of his island.

Gromek, who once had electrodes placed in his head and spent close to 40 years inside a concrete cage, is said to be among the bravest of the chimps, eager to venture to the far side of his island.

I grew up loving Cheetah more than Tarzan, more than Jane, certainly more than Boy. He was a funny-looking, hairy toddler who helped me get over the terror inspired by the Flying Monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. When Cheetah recently died of liver failure at Palm Harbor’s Suncoast Primary Sanctuary, I was saddened, even though ABC News expressed doubts as to whether this was the original Cheetah who had been spending his golden years on Johnny Weissmuller’s estate in Ocala. Apparently what raised the red flag was Cheetah’s putative age of 80, twice the life expectancy of chimpanzees, and the suspiciously unavailable documentation, supposedly burned in a fire in 1995. But none of this mattered; I was forever enchanted. Which is the reason I was happy to discover that Cheetah’s doppelgangers are all around us, like the Scarlet Pimpernel, here and there and everywhere.

Read the entire article in the April 2012 issue