Acapulco becomes ever more splashy, many long-time regulars like to go
to the famous Mexican Pacific coast resort to skip all the glitz and
instead sample the faded glamour of yesterday.
Thus a bunch of us were
having dinner not long ago at La Cabana restaurant on Caleta Beach in an
area known as Old Acapulco.
We came in two cabs. As
is always the case when two cars or cabs head out for the same
restaurant at the same time, we had half finished dinner when the second
cab arrived, the driver apologizing that many of the old addresses are
hard to find.
But we were in no hurry.
Grilled sea bass, calamares, platters of shrimp, sliced limes,
tortillas, shots of tequila and chilled bottles of Tecate.
Acapulco chefs long ago got a handle on preparing fresh seafood and have
been improving on it ever since. La Cabana, in business for over 50
years, started out as a simple thatched palapa and grew into the beach
club and restaurant it is today. Okay, its a bit seedy, but the
atmosphere and the prices are right.
used to hang out here," somebody said, a statement quickly verified
by the number of photographs on the walls and over the bar of the former
Olympic swimming champion who became known to the world as Tarzan. No
charging cavalry coming to the rescue in Hollywood Westerns, with bugles
blaring, could stir as much emotion as Tarzan swinging through the trees
and yelling his famous yell. Numerous actors have played Tarzan on the
screen but for those of us of a certain age, there is only one, Johnny
Weissmuller, just as Sean Connery will always be the only authentic
Time and salt air and the
dim lights made the photographs on the wall difficult to see,
Weissmuller fishing, hamming it up on the docks, posing with friends. I
The Tarzan Movies
In all, Weissmuller made 12 Tarzan movies, from Tarzan the Ape Man
in 1932 to Tarzan and the Mermaids in 1948. The latter, budgeted at over
$1 million, at the time the largest budget ever for a Tarzan film, was
filmed in Acapulco, not far from the very restaurant we were at.
I remember as a youngster
being scared half to death at some of the more graphic Tarzan scenes.
Captured native warriors being tied to crossed palm trees bent to the
ground. A rope was cut, the trees snapped back into place, body parts
flying all over the screen. Or being thrown into a pool filled with
flesh-eating piranhas, a swirling feeding frenzy, and picked-clean bones
floating to the surface. I know, I know, bones cant float, but how
else would we know?
"Mermaids" cast was Brenda Joyce playing Jane. Maureen
OSullivan (Mia Farrows mother), who originated the role,
dropped out after movie six. Shed had enough. The newly formed Hayes
Office was coming down hard on the popular Tarzan movies, less for
violence than for scantily clad cast members.
Making her first major
role in the film was Mexican actress Linda Christian, who was not only
an excellent swimmer but who counted Mexican President Miguel Aleman
among her most ardent fans. She later became the wife of screen idol
Producer Sol Lesser chose
Acapulco not only for its spectacular scenery but as a place to show off
Johnny Weismullers swimming prowess, as well as Linda Christians
who played chief mermaid Mara, selected to wed a brutal white pearl
trader who poses as a native god. Intent on making "Mermaids"
the classiest of all Tarzan movies, producer Lesser hired noted
Hollywood film composer Dmitri Tiomkin to do the score. Interior scenes
were filmed at the Churubusco Studios just outside of Mexico City.
The Aztec ruins of San
Juan de Teotihuacan (Pyramid of the Sun), north of Mexico City, served
as temple scenes in the film.
It was widely reported
that Weissmullers stunt double, Raul Garcia, was killed when he was
dashed against the rocks of La Quebrada while making a spectacular dive
for the film. However, a number of locals contend that the story was
purely hype for the movie. A carpenter did fall off the rocks during
production but wasnt seriously hurt. Raul, at 75, is still an