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About A Week: Dining With Tarzan

It isn’t every day of the week that you get the chance to sit down and dine with Tarzan of the Apes.

Peter Hinchliffe recalls a heady night in Guaymas, Mexico.

If you feel like letting out a Tarzan yell, go right ahead.

If you think the famous cry would bring in new customers, stand in the street and yodel your heart out.

The legal “animals’’ who prowl around and protect European copyright law have rejected the famous yell as a registered trademark.

Copyright on the yodel, which has echoed round the world for many decades, was sought by the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created the iconic character, Tarzan of the Apes.

A fortune could be made from selling the yell for use in ringtones, advertising and computer games.

Mini-melodies can earn fortunes for composers, or copyright holders. The Microsoft Windows startup notes and the Intel Inside chimes are prime examples.

However, the EU trademark officials said that Tarzan’s famous jungle cry did not qualify.

Before you rush out to buy a loin cloth and make like an apeman, allow me to warn you from personal experience that correctly emitting that famous yell is no easy thing to do.

I once drank cocktails with Tarzan of the Apes, then sat down at his side to eat dinner.

This was in Guaymas, a small Mexican fishing village, where a friend of mine was competing in a series of speedboat races. The event publicised the opening of a plush resort hotel.

After three days of shrieking engines and high drama, the hotel owner threw a huge dinner party for the racers and their crews.

Before the meal we were supplied with a generous flow of cocktails. Strong tequila cocktails!

I was glad when the time came to sit down. Even gladder when I found myself beside actor Jock Mahoney.

Jock was the 13th actor to play Tarzan. He appeared in three films in the 1960s – Tarzan Goes To India, Tarzan’s Three Challenges and Tarzan’s Deadly Silence. The first of those three films was hugely successful, becoming the first million dollar grossing Tarzan film.

At that banquet there were enchiladas to eat, California wines to drink, lots of good conversation to be enjoyed.

Jock and I talked about Mexican food, Texas food, Indian food, travel, American football, soccer, Huddersfield Town. That was the night when Tarzan first heard of the proud achievements of my local football team.

Suddenly, at the end of the meal, I heard my own name being mispronounced from the top table, where the Admiral of the Mexican Navy presided, an 83-year-old gent weighed down with enough gold braid to sink an aircraft carrier.

"... among our guests tonight is a journalist from Yorkshire, England. Peter . . . Hine . . . er . . . Peter Hine Clyfe who will now say a few words."

Hine Clyfe got to his feet, desperately assessing the strength of those tequila cocktails.

"Well, we've had a very good night,’’ said I. “And Tarzan is a splendid man. And all I can say on this occasion is…’’

Thereupon, I did my best impression of the Tarzan yell.
It went down well. There was laughter and applause.
Then Mr Mahoney got to his feet.

"A great guy, this Limey," he said. "But he sure don't know how to make a noise in the jungle."

He let forth with a cry which made the windows rattle.
A cry which brought the biggest round of applause of the night.

Actually, my yodel wasn't too bad. I'd had plenty of practice at doing it.

When I was a boy, Tarzan was my hero. The lads from our village went on regular safaris through Whitley Woods to the Vale Cinema, Mirfield, to watch Tarzan films.

When we were heading home from the Vale, those woods became dense jungle. We filled them with Tarzan yells.

In those days, Tarzan was Johnny Weismuller, who won five Olympic gold swimming medals. He was never beaten in a race.

Maureen O'Sullivan was Jane, Johnny Sheffield was Boy, and the comedy was provided by Cheetah, the chimp.

When I wasn't watching Tarzan films, I was reading Tarzan novels. There were 40 of them to go at.

Edgar Rice Burroughs's first book about the jungle hero, Tarzan Of The Apes, was published in 1914. His last, Tarzan And The Madman, appeared in 1964.

Details for the first novel were culled from a pictorial book of animals, and explorer Henry Morton Stanley's Darkest Africa. He made one mistake. He had tigers roaming the African jungle.

Burroughs never did visit Africa, though he was repeatedly invited to go there. "Visiting Tarzan's playground might take away all the glamour and fascination which my adopted country holds for me," he explained.

Burroughs, Weismuller and Mahoney were all from Chicago. Perhaps the urban jungle made them dream of a natural jungle.

The application for EU copyright described the famous yell as consisting of five distinct phases – “namely sustain, followed by ululation, followed by sustain, but at a higher frequency, followed by ululation, followed by sustain at the starting frequency’’.

The lawyer making the application said he had spent 10 years trying to get the yell trademarked, but it was difficult to set the sound down on paper.

A fresh application for a trademark has been made. This includes a sound file of the yell. This file is allowed under new EU rules.

This application is now being considered.

In the meantime, if you want to imitate Tarzan, yodel away.

If you think you can.


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