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
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 and friend.
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
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
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 burial ground."
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 shot.
"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!