Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

September 16, 2013

A photo alleged to have been signed by Tarzan star-chimp "Cheetah" is being sold on eBay with a JSA LOA despite the fact the chimp signing was exposed as a fraud in a 2008 Washington Post investigative report.

Scroll to Bottom For Update on eBay’s Removal of JSA-Certed Lot:

Auction giant eBay is currently offering for sale an 8 x 10 photograph allegedly autographed by the famous chimpanzee “Cheetah” who starred with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and with Rex Harrison in Dr. Doolitle in the 1960s. The seller, “presspasscollectibles” indicates that the photo has been authenticated by James Spence Authentication and a JSA sticker is afixed to the lower right hand corner of the glossy photo signed in black sharpie by the famous primate.

The first question you may ask upon looking at the alleged “Cheetah” signature is: “How can Spence and JSA authenticate a scribble executed by a chimp and have the ability to distinguish that so-called handwriting from any other chimps?”

The photograph is accompanied by another letter of authenticity issued by an outfit called “Collectibles of the Stars” and is signed by the company, the chimp’s owner, Dan Westfall, and the chimp himself, “Jiggs” a.k.a. “Cheetah.” The LOA, dated March 10, 1997, notes that Cheetah “appeared in many of the original Tarzan films opposite Johnny Weissmuller.”

JSA certifies the authenticity of the chimp signature but, in reality, an extensive investigative report published in 2008 by the Washington Post illustrates that the “movie-career” of the alleged chimp owned by Westfall was a fraud and that the primate never starred in any of the Tarzan films with Weismuller.  This information has been widely disseminated since the report, “Lie of the Jungle:  The Truth About Cheetah the Chimpanzee” was published by writer R. D. Rosen.

It’s yet another striking example of how JSA authenticates items without examining the actual signatures and issues certificates of authenticity based solely upon the existence of other unverified letters of authenticity and a stories from customers.

The chimp alleged to have been the Cheetah of Tarzan fame autographs an 8x10 glossy in an alleged private signing.

In this case JSA could have easily discovered the Washington Post expose by simply Googling “Cheetah the Chimp.”  The fraudulent photograph is currently for sale on eBay for $399.  JSA, along with PSA/DNA, is the officially endorsed authenticator of the auction giant eBay and anyone looking to sell an autographed item on eBay is likely to enlist the services of Spence and his team of “so-called” experts.  The eBay seller tells customers:  ”JSA is one of the most highly respected authenticators in the business and is an eBay approved authenticator.  Be rest assured that by purchasing this item, you are getting the real deal.”

Despite the fact the photo was never signed by Cheetah the Chimp, the eBay seller assures customers: "Be rest assured that by purchasing this item, you are getting the real deal."

Author R. D. Rosen was considering writing a book about the famous chimp but in the course of his due diligence he uncovered overwhelming evidence illustrating that the chimp signing 8×10’s was not the original Cheetah and had never appeared in any Hollywood films.  The fraud dated back to the chimps first owner who, on the record, had stated a myriad of conflicting stories related to the chimps personal history which included a story that the chimp was smuggled out on a flight from Africa after filming ended in 1932.  Rosen, however, discovered that commercial flights weren’t available until 1939.

Rosen examined the Dr. Doolitle film and determined that the alleged Cheetah was not the same chimp in the film and even tracked down Hubert Wells, a retired animal trainer who knew the chimp’s original owner Tony Gentry and told him, “It’s not true, Tony got that chimp from Wally Ross. Wally was a premier chimp and elephant trainer. He was one of the managers of Pacific Ocean Park on the pier in Santa Monica. When Pacific Ocean Park closed [in 1967], he had a chimp he owned and trained, about 6 or 7, the turning point for a chimp. He said, ‘Here, Tony, do you want this chimp?’ Tony said, ‘I’ll take it,’ and he took it.”

This scribble was executed by a chimpanzee who was exposed as not being the chimp from the Tarzan movies. Despite that fact JSA authenticated the signature believing they can actually authenticate the handwriting of primates.

Based upon the trainer’s story, the chimp signing the pictures authenticated by JSA and being sold on eBay was born in 1960 or 1961, nearly three decades after the Tarzan pictures were made.  When asked by Rosen if he was positively sure about the chimp Wells said, “Absolutely, no doubt, not for one minute. Absolutely. I’d known Wally since ‘66, and used him on God knows how many pictures. And that chimp was never in any picture, much less a Johnny Weissmuller picture. The big lie is that he was never in the Tarzan movies, never in ‘Doctor Dolittle,’ never in any movie.”

When the autograph-signing “Cheetah-the-Chimp” died in 2011 several news outlets still reported that the chimp was the star of the Tarzan movies, but many amended their reports when notified about Rosen’s Washington Post report.  Rosen told the Associated Press, “I’m afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O’Sullivan is long gone.”

Author R. D. Rosen did not respond to our inquiry for comment about JSA’s authentications of the “Cheetah” autographs being sold on eBay.

How could JSA ever differentiate between any of the alleged Cheetah signatures that accompany the LOA's issued by the chimp owner. The LOA (center) was offered with a Cheetah sig offered on eBay by seller "collectstars" for $29.99.

Considering the controversy over the authenticity of the chimpanzee, let alone the handwriting of the chimp, it is hard to believe that Spence and JSA can actually authenticate anything attributed to the Tarzan chimp named “Cheetah.”

The chimpanzee authentications also illustrate how JSA’s standing as an eBay-approved authenticator helps facilitate the creation of LOA’s which add false values to fraudulent items.  Ebay seller “collectstars” recently offered a similar Cheetah autograph with only an LOA signed by the chimp’s owner and the chimp for $29.99.  Seller “presspass” offers the same type of bogus chimp autograph with a JSA certification and a Buy-It-Now price of $399.

The lack of expertise and authentication malpractice exhibited by James Spence and JSA in this instance has created an illusion whereby an eBay seller tells customers they can rest assured they are getting the “real deal” when, in fact, they are a “But-It-Now” button away from being swindled.

UPDATE: Author R. D. Rosen, who first exposed the “Cheetah” scam in his 2008 Washington Post report issued this statement after the article was published this morning:

In 2007, after I was asked to write the biography of Dan Westfall’s then 76-year-old “Cheeta,” my months-long research proved beyond a doubt  that the chimp in question had been born in 1960 and obviously could not have appeared in any Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films. At best, the chimp’s connection to Tarzan might be that his first owner, animal trainer Tony Gentry, may have trained, much earlier in his career, one of the many chimps who shared the role of Cheeta in the Tarzan movies. As for a second “Cheetah,” who died in 2011 in a Florida primate sanctuary at what was said to be almost 80 years of age—an unheard of longevity for the species—I can only surmise that he too was an impostor. The heart-warming, charming fantasy that Tarzan’s sidekick is still alive has itself achieved a kind of immortality—and I wouldn’t be shocked if, 20 years from now, the tabloids are still reporting on some “original” Cheeta’s 102nd birthday. Primate autograph hounds beware.”

UPDATE (Wed. Sept. 18): Two days after publishing this article about eBay’s offering of the bogus JSA authenticated signed photo of a chimp who never starred in the Tarzan or Dr. Doolitle movies, the eBay listing is still live and additionally the same signed photograph is being offered by another big JSA customer “SportsMemorabilia.com.” for $504.49.

The same bogus chimp photo being offered on eBay is being sold for an even higher price at SportsMemorabilia.com.

If you have any information about other fraudulent items being offered on eBay let us know at:  tips@haulsofshame.com .

UPDATE (October 3):  eBAY’S FRAUD DIVISION REMOVES JSA-CERTED FAKE OF “CHEETAH THE CHIMP” IMPOSTER

It took a few weeks, but the autographed photo alleged to have been signed by “Cheetah the Chimp” of Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle movie fame has been removed from the eBay auction site.  As reported on September 16, the photo features a chimp who never starred in any movies and was the subject of a Washington Post investigative report by author R. D. Rosen who presented overwhelming evidence illustrating that the Chimp who was being pimped by his handlers as the real “Cheetah” was indeed a fraud.

The photograph was authenticated by James Spence Authentication (JSA) despite the fact that the fraud could have easily been documented via a few Google searches.  The Chimp fake joins a host of other notable removals of JSA items from the auction site including single-signed baseballs featuring signatures of Biz Mackey, Goose Goslin and Walter Johnson.

The JSA-authenticated fake of Cheetah The Chimp was removed by eBay's Fraud Division earlier today.

A source with knowledge of eBay’s Fraud Division confirmed that the Cheetah photo was removed because of its “authenticity issues.”  The photo was being offered by eBay seller “Press Pass Collectibles” of Scottsdale, Arizona.  Several calls to Press Pass for comment on its offering of the fake after it was exposed on Hauls of Shame were directed to the company’s owner who did not return calls.  When Press Pass representatives were asked for the name of the owner they stated, “It doesn’t matter who the owner is.”

A call to James Spence III of JSA for comment was not returned.  The JSA authentication of the fraudulent chimp photo is another embarrassing blunder by the authentication company eBay considers one of leaders in the industry.  In the past JSA has made serious authentication mistakes ranging from its certification of a misspelled $35,000 Ed Delahanty letter to the infamous Sal Bando video released by a FOX news crew.

While the Chimp controversy has provided laughs for many onlookers, Hauls of Shame has been contacted by several people who collected Cheetah material and were disappointed that their alleged Cheetah autographs and paintings were created by a chimp with zero Hollywood-movie pedigree.  Most of the Cheetah fakes ranged in price from $100 to $400.

Author R. D. Rosen, who exposed the fraud, recently told Hauls of Shame he’s working on a book chronicling his investigation of Cheetah with the working title:  Chump.


By Peter J. Nash

September 6, 2013

Convicted felon Robert Fraser (top left) is on the loose; Bruce Dorskind (top right) passes away; Bud Selig (bottom left) should buy NYPL docs; Barry Sloate (bottom right) a hobby hypocrite.

As Summer ends and the MLB playoff races heat up, Hauls of Shame brings you some belated CHIN-MUSIC:

-Whistle-Blowers who have worked for big hobby companies have contacted Haulsofshame.com with the intention of exposing alleged fraudulent business practices of some of the hobby’s biggest players. Stay tuned this Fall for our coverage that should be beneficial for collectors and interested law enforcement entities.

-Nuf-Ced McGreevy’s treasured photograph of a legendary Red Sox scene was recently recovered by officials at the Boston Public Library. The photo was stolen along with close to one hundred others back in the late 1970s and the library has done a tremendous job recovering McGreevy’s looted treasures all on their own. Stay tuned for in-depth coverage of the recovery this month.

-Robert Fraser, a convicted felon and disgraced real-estate agent who works for Terrie O’Connor Realty in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, has unleashed himself upon the hobby falsely posing as a long-time collector and spouting slander, false statements and assorted absurdities about yours truly. Not surprisingly, he has been embraced by fellow ex-felons like ex-drug dealer Leon Luckey and other Rob Lifson fan-boys like John McDaniel III and Brooklyn dealer Barry Sloate.  Pay no mind to his criminal conviction for insurance fraud and perjury and that in a civil action he was also found guilty of “committing four violations of the Fraud Act”  and for submitting “multiple false statements” as chronicled in the State of New Jersey v. Robert Fraser.  He’s totally believable, though, just ask him.  Fraser has received cease and desist letters from hobby veterans who he has harassed and even his close friend, Rob Lifson, who also referred him to his own lawyer, told John Rogers of the Rogers Archive via email: “Fraser is obsessed with Peter Nash.”

-Barry Sloate thinks Fraser’s slander and fabrications are”amazing.” This coming from Sloate who, in response to an inquiry in 2009 by Freddie McGuire related to the provenance of many dubious items he had sold in the past, stated: “As far as pieces I have sold in the past, I have sold dozens and dozens of rare items and I will admit I do not know the provenance of any of them. I hope all of them were good but like I said, I do not know their source.”  Sloate returned a call from Haulsofshame.com and declined to comment on his past statements and his ties to stolen materials.  Sloate, a known cat-lover, may also be interested that Fraser admitted to our source that while pet-sitting for a neighbor’s cat in Westwood, New Jersey, he became agitated with the cat and killed it, drowning it in a bathtub.  He’s a real gem.


Lew Lipset was told Bruce Dorskind (left) posted bail for Rob Lifson after his NYPL apprehension. Barry Sloate has owned and sold a myriad of relics stolen from the NYPL including the 1852 Eagle Ball Club By Laws (center) and "Challenge Letters" from the Knick BBC scrapbooks. Pictured (right) is the second page of a letter that is still pasted in the NYPL scrapbook. In his 2000 auction, Sloate sold the other half of the May 19, 1859 letter which was stolen with the aid of a sharp object.

-Bruce Dorskind, the controversial collector who had a knack for making as many enemies as friends in the hobby passed away in August after being ill for some time.  When we interviewed him last year for the book, The Madoff of Memorabilia, he revealed many interesting facts about the hobby back in the mid-1970s and told stories about collecting personalities like George Lyons and Barry Halper.  But when talk shifted to the issue of the Spalding Collection thefts at the NYPL, Dorskind’s memory wasn’t as sharp.  When asked, Dorskind said he had only recently learned via the news that his long-time friend and supplier Rob Lifson had been apprehended stealing items from the NYPL back in the late 1970s.   But when we interviewed hobby veteran Lew Lipset earlier this year, he told us he recalled George Lyons telling him it was Dorskind who actually posted bail for Lifson after he was apprehended at the 5th Avenue branch building (Dorskind lived close by on 57th. Street).  Unfortunately, we never got to follow up with Bruce and it looks like he may have taken that NYPL secret to the grave.  Our favorite lines from the Dorskind Group related to his friends Lifson & Mastro are:

-“….A few months later (in 1976) we attended our first Philadelphia show.  There we met two young dealers, Billy Mastro and his pal Bob Lifson.  We purchased the rarest cards they had…included Four Base Hits, 2 Kalamazoo Bat NY players and a Just So.”

-“…..They (Gar Miller, Bob Richardson, Joe Michaelowitz, Buck Barker and Frank Nagy) all said there were only two people who get (super rare type cards) for you–if you are willing to pay, Rob Lifson and Bill Mastro…..With Rob, ‘Where there’s a bill (1,000+) there is a way.”

-Rob (Lifson) is the most knowledgeable dealer I ever worked with.  He knows cards, he knows value and most importantly he knows where the bodies are buried.”

-“Oh how sweet it was…..When it was a hobby.”

-REA and Rob Lifson are rumored to be the auction house that will ultimately sell-off the Dorskind Collection.  REA sold Dorskind’s “Panel of 4 Boston Garter Cards from 1912″ for $177,750 this past May.

Sources say Bud Selig has a chance to restore the NYPL's stolen Harry Wright letters offered for sale in MLB's 2009 All-Star Game auction. Included were letters from Jim Devlin (right) who was banished from baseball in 1877 for taking part in throwing games. Sources say Selig could purchase these docs from collectors much like he bought the Biogenesis docs (bottom left) in his quest to banish A-Rod (inset).

-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig could score some points in trying to restore the Harry Wright Papers to the New York Public Library.  Haulsofshame.com reader Alex R. from Miami suggests that the Commish buy the letter sent by pitcher Jim Devlin to Wright after he was banned for life from Baseball by National League President William Hulbert.  Devlin was pegged a cheater after his involvement in a scheme to throw games was uncovered by baseball officials and his pathetic letters to Wright asking for assistance were cited in works published by Dr. Harold Seymour and his wife Dorothy Mills as originating from the NYPL’s Wright Correspondence Collection.  Considering that Harry Wright originally donated his papers and archive to the National League and Organized Baseball in 1895 it would seen appropriate for MLB to step in and assist the NYPL after the FBI returned the stolen cache of letters to the original consignor who placed them in the 2009 MLB FanFest Auction held by Hunt Auctions.

-MLB’s budget for the Alex Rodriguez investigation and for buying the Biogenesis documents and testimony from Tony Bosch (or part of Bud Selig’s $20 million annual salary) could surely cover the costs for these historic Harry Wright documents and save some baseball history.  We hear the owner/consignor and the collector who has been buying the stolen documents are open to giving them all back for about $30,000.  You’d think Selig & Co. could afford that?

-Hauls of Shame would like to thank all of our readers for their continued support as our readership has passed 50,000 unique users and close to 150,000 page views per month.  Stay tuned for our soon-to-be-released “Worst 100″ authentications of PSA/DNA and JSA, you won’t want to miss it.