Big Swinger

I’ve always wanted to play Tarzan in the movies.

This is an unfulfilled lifelong ambition, ever since I was a kid watching old Johnny Weissmuller movies on TV. The ape man, muscular lord of an Eden-like paradise, and his gorgeous paramour Jane, whom he protects by thrashing the animals that menace her, are the ultimate sexy masculine and feminine ideals. This is especially appealing in today’s crowded, confused, coward’s world, where genders often blur.

If only you could live as one with nature, run around in a leopard-skin G-string, your godlike image on the silver screen ogled by millions of females.

I attempted to make this reality. Twenty years ago, I was a wanna-be actor in Hollywood. I actually got called in for a casting tryout with Bo Derek (the 10 girl) for a Tarzan movie.

I didn’t get the part. Some guy named Miles O’Keeffe did. Why didn’t I? It’s true, at the time I was older than O’Keeffe, an inch shorter, had a somewhat long nose, and a slight tire around the middle. I could have been the first working-class, ethnic Tarzan.

Despite disappointment, I had grim satisfaction when the movie came out. It was awful. People laughed at it. Since the film became an unintentional comedy, they should have picked me. It would have been funnier.

I had practiced a few stunts preparing for the audition. But when I was called to the Paramount lot, the interview took place in a carpeted office before a casting lady, who took one look and penciled me out.

I haven’t given up.

A few years back, I reached the age of 49, and worried about middle age, wondered if I could still do the stunts I’d long ago rehearsed. I went out and tried to climb a tree in the backyard. There’s nothing kinky here. Every man wonders if he still can.

I mounted the first thick branch with difficulty, and heard a noise. I looked up. There was an elderly neighbor lady, peering over the fence. Granted, it’s not a normal sight to see a 49-year-old man in cutoff jeans with no shirt, climbing a tree at 10 p.m. at night. I turned white in the face. Sheepish, I said, “my kid’s ball, stuck up there.”

“Yeah!” She grunted, lifted a plastic garbage can, and disappeared.

She destroyed my concentration. Getting down, I wrenched my shoulder and staggered into the house. For a week, I gingerly held one arm lower than the other.

It’s become clear that if I’m to play this role, I’ll need some major computerized special effects for the stunts.

I’m not discouraged. I hope to play the first senior citizen ape man, whose physical powers are declining, as he watches his jungle bulldozed to make way for low-cost housing for impoverished third world immigrants.



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