Jungle Out There
crackers. Not the tasteless ones I used to eat by the thousands. I'm thinking
about the times animals make us crack up. The things that animals do with
us or to us that make us giggle, snicker, and laugh out loud -- crack up.
Playing the role of Tarzan is like being in a zoo. Chimps and elephants,
lions and tigers and bears, oh my, are in your neighbourhood. Well, not
tigers and bears. They are in the Indian neighbourhood, not African. Snakes
and hippos and zebras too, but in our production they were stock footage.
We couldn't afford the real thing.
A chimp's DNA is ninety-eight percent the same as ours. Smart? You bet,
and strong. But then human hands and arms would be as strong if we walked
on them like chimps do.
They can be dangerous, as they get older. Ask Mike Henry about that.
A chimp bit him on the chin during the filming of a Tarzan movie. He only
got sixty-seven stitches. Mike said he noticed the nibble right away.
The chimp on our show seemed docile but the trainer warmed me up front,
"If he bites you, punch him in the nose."
Once scene was about the chimp running up to Tarzan, grabbing his hand
(my hand) and pulling Tarzan back in the direction of the camera, all this
to save Jane for the umpteenth time.
To get the shot, the chimp trainer stood behind the camera; I was in
front, walking away. "Action!"
The trainer commands, "Go get him!" The chimp runs in and grabs my hand.
Bring him here! yells the chimp's boss. I resist because I'm angry with
Jane, a lovers' spat.
Now what's the chimp to do? This hairless clown won't let him obey his
trainer's command. I felt his teeth sinking into the meat of my left hand.
I lifted my hand and the chimp came with it. A right cross to his nose
and I saved a chunk of my hand from becoming chimp lunch. It took a long
time to get the chimp to grab my hand again. It didn't take a long time
once he grabbed it for me to turn around an go with him, back to his trainer
Jane (Joanna Barnes), the "white hunter" (Cesare Denova), the chimp
and I were riding through the jungle, toward the camera. I was first no,
the chimp was cradled in my left arm, and Jane was right behind me holding
on to my latissimus dorsi, and Cesare was last.
It had taken forty-five minutes to get everyone in place. We each had
to climb a ladder and get settled up there, and then one elephant train
er stood in front of the grey mountain and fed him some straw, while the
other trainer came up the ladder and handed the chimp to me. This particular
elephant didn't enjoy chimps riding on his back That was our reason for
being so sneaky.
We heard "Action!" filter through the plastic jungle. The camera was
forty yards down the trail. The trainer yelled whatever you yell at elephants
to make them go and we were off at two miles per hour.
We hadn't gone far when I heard Jane (Joanna) cursing. She could say
anything she wanted as long as she stayed behind me,. There was no dialogue
so the microphones were off but it would ruin the shot if the camera picked
up her mouth moving.
This is what I heard, "Stop this#*?#~+\\<!#!" The problem? The chimp
was reaching under my arm and with his extremely long arm could reach certain
parts of Joanna's anatomy. He seemed to enjoy squeezing.
The way I was holding the chimp, his mouth was in range of my chin,
and my right hand was busy holding onto the strap that held the rubber
African ears in place. So I did nothing to stop the chimp's explorations.
The more important problem was not to crack up. A laughing Tarzan in
this time of peril in the script would not do. So I bit my own lip. Joanna
did not enjoy the stroll.
The elephant was big. He was taller than I when he was lying on his
side. That's where he was in this scene. He had been shot by a poison arrow
and the trainer got him in position so I could pull the arrow out, turn
and show Jane and the hunter why the elephant was headed for the "elephant
The prop department had made a rubber socket to put the arrow in. The
socket had a rubber border about ten inches in diameter. It was thin and
looked like the skin of the elephant and it allowed the socket to be glued
on the side of the elephant. Insert the arrow and it would stay there until
I pulled it out. The prop man warned me to put my left hand flat against
the border and press down while I pulled the arrow out. Otherwise the whole
thing, the socket and its rubber border, would come unglued and ruin the
"Action!" I pushed down firmly on the border glued on to the elephant's
stomach. Do you know the difference between a cocktail lounge and an elephant's
fart? One is a bar room and once is a BAHHHROOOOM!
The show must go on. I turned to show the arrow to Joanna and Cesare.
They were gone. The camera operator was gone, along with the director and
the rest of the crew. Crack up!