Chimp vies for Walk-of-Fame star

June 12, 2008 1:04:49 PM PDT
Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Kermit the Frog, Donald Duck - even Godzilla. All have stars on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame" - so why can't Cheeta the chimp get a little love?ABC News' Wendy Burch caught up with the retired movie "star" out in Palm Springs - where there's a controversy about getting the 76-year old simian star some recognition.

Like most celebrities from his era, Cheeta the chimp retired to Palm Springs, where he lives with his manager/caretaker Dan Westfall.

"We are just one big happy family, and we just monkey around all day long," Westfall said.

He has countless screen credits to his name - including a number of roles co-starring right alongside Johnny Wisemiller in many a "Tarzan" picture. His headshots got him a lot of work over the years, including a lead part in the 1967 major motion picture "Dr. Doolittle". Although never nominated for his work, critics called him a "scene stealer".

"I think he deserves a star on Hollywood Boulevard," Westfall said. "Lassie is on there. There were 10 Lassies. There were three or four Rin Tin Tin's."

But as of today, not one ape. And that drives his caretaker absolutely bananas.

"He has been up for the Star, this is the 7th time now," Westfall said. "They've turned him down every time. We think he deserves it."

After all, he says this ape is an artist whose talents have transcended the silver screen.

"Most celebrities move to Palm Springs to retire and take up golf, but he took up painting," Westfall said. "That's what he enjoys."

Cheeta's works of "Ape-Stract" art have actually been sent all over the world. But he has yet to leave his mark on the place millions of tourists "swing" by.

"He is the last of a long line of a lineage of the chimps that worked in that era back there," Westfall said. "We think he deserves a star. Thousands of people think he deserves a star - so we hope Hollywood lets him have it this year."

Currently, there's a petition circulating to get Cheeta is long-overdue star. It's being addressed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame committee, which announces it's choices for the coming year later this month. The committee selects about 24 names each year out of hundreds of celebrity names submitted.