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Our pet chimpanzee ruined my life, claims stepdaughter of French singer
May 22, 2013 5:48 AM   Subscribe

"Soon, however, with the strength of eight men, Pépée became an uncontrollable tyrant who would strip guests – including once a government prefect and wife – of their clothes and valuables, bite others who failed to accede to its whims and once stole a baby, which it took to the roof despite Leo waving a toy pistol at it and shouting: "Daddy's not happy. Daddy's going to shoot."
posted by unSane (40 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chimps are not pets. Previously. It seems much more like a captive/oppressor relationship.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I mean ... what do you expect when you have a pet chimpanzee?
posted by ChuraChura at 6:00 AM on May 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


Gin, the monkey trainer who sold Pépée to Mr Ferré and who said: "I divorced three times because of my chimpanzees, be careful! More than any other animal, a chimpanzee must know who is the master otherwise you are heading for disaster."

Covered with bites, the servants eventually fled the 16th chateau, now totally given over to animals, including a 350kg pig called Baba that would watch TV and have its ears waxed with olive oil.

The singer blamed his wife for the animal's death, and the pair divorced.
Hilarious and utterly surreal. Sounds like something Harmony Korine would make up.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:03 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Popular culture spent decades telling people that chimps were amiable, goofy, and nonthreatening. This was the era of J. Fred Muggs, Bedtime for Bonzo, and the like. As late as 1979, you could run a show like BJ and the Bear on the premise that a chimpanzee was a wacky sidekick.

Animals in popular culture didn't have an assumed, inherent dignity for a long time, and that had to shape people's perceptions of "appropriate" pets. The idea of "pet" chimpanzees, especially, only became some mix of tragic and frightening for most people around the time the story of Charla Nash's unfortunate injuries made the media rounds.
posted by kewb at 6:09 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


This sounds like a badly thought out sequel to The Great Gatsby.
posted by boo_radley at 6:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Too bad it wasn't a face-eating chimp.
posted by spitbull at 6:21 AM on May 22, 2013


My father-in-law STILL has a hard time recalling the period of his life that his father owned a pet ocelot. Said it used to jump out of trees and attack him.
posted by any major dude at 6:23 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm amazed nobody ended up dead. An angry chimp could probably rip your limbs off once you're down.
posted by Iosephus at 6:24 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


.....


" I'VE NEVER SEEN AN OCELOT!"
posted by The Whelk at 6:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


It wouldn't have to wait till you're down if it felt hurried, but ripping off limbs is a style decision chimps don't tend to make. They have the luxury of chewing off your face, hands, feet and genitals after they've thoroughly beaten you into submission.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:27 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Having a mentally challenged child with severe anger issues is the stuff parents have nightmares about. Why anyone would choose that intentionally, with superhuman strength and razor sharp teeth thrown in....
posted by 256 at 6:34 AM on May 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


From what I've read about chimpanzees, they're fine as pets before they reach adulthood. Once they hit puberty, watch out. Which means you shouldn't have one in the first place since you can't keep it for its lifespan.
posted by ChuckRamone at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp
posted by robbyrobs at 6:43 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Léo Ferré: if Jacques Brel and Ben Franklin had a child.
posted by item at 6:44 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I blame Tarzan.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:45 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


My family had a pet monkey for awhile. I loved him, but frankly he did not play well with the cats. Cats were terrified of him.

If you are going to have an exotic or odd-ball animal as a pet, ruminants are a lot nicer, also a lot less inclined to eat your face or other soft bits of your body. They do kick though.
Get something little like a sheep, a Pygmy goat, or a mini-horse.
Mini horses are adorable. I'd rather have any of these than a dog or cat.

I like pet bugs, crickets are really sweet pets.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:52 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's an article in French on the same topic with a video of Pépée in action and the song that Ferré wrote about his chimp. It includes the line "Pépée, you had the ears of Gainsbourg", which is possibly one of the most unusual shout-out from one singer to another.
posted by elgilito at 6:57 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


once stole a baby, which it took to the roof

Luckily, the chimp didn't live in New York.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:02 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, my God. Gainsbourg totally had chimp ears. Also a chimp attitude.
posted by Mooseli at 7:03 AM on May 22, 2013


"From what I've read about chimpanzees, they're fine as pets before they reach adulthood. Once they hit puberty, watch out."

While that's more or less true from the perspective of the person with a pet chimp, the trade in baby chimpanzees is pretty brutal. The trade in wild chimpanzee babies is inextricably linked to the bushmeat trade (baby chimpanzees don't have much meat on them, but they are very cute. If they survive the death of their mother and subsequent transport out of the forest to urban areas, they'll be sold as pets locally or transported out of the continent along with bushmeat). While it's illegal to buy a chimpanzee born in Africa after 1976 in the United States, the continuing trade in the US removes babies from their mothers very young so that they're human dependent. When they ultimately end up too strong and disruptive for their owners, it's very difficult to reintegrate them with other chimpanzees in sanctuaries. The pet trade also undermines the push for chimpanzee conservation where they are endemic.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


While that's more or less true from the perspective of the person with a pet chimp, the trade in baby chimpanzees is pretty brutal.

Maybe they're enraged and traumatized.
posted by yonega at 7:22 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fucking Andy Serkis. Method actors. Yeesh.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:27 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hmmm...of course, it's an article in the Telegraph, so it has to say this:
"Miss Butor's account of the descent into animal tyranny reads as a cautionary tale into the laissez-faire, peace and love attitude of the 1960s adopted by her anarchist stepfather, who eschewed all types of authority."
As if there was some sort of epidemic of irresponsible chimpanzee ownership that engulfed the youth of the West between 1965 and 1972, and no one has noticed until now.
posted by Wylla at 7:46 AM on May 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


Cool post. We of course cannot forget Nim Chimpsky and Project NIM
posted by KokuRyu at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2013


crickets are really sweet pets

...croutons?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nah, they are, especially field crickets, which are little and glossy and black, and the guys chirp their hearts out in summer.

Then again, I'm biased because keeping crickets in a cage is a Chinese thing. When I was a kid, I was hideously allergic to anything with fur, feathers, or saliva, but desperately wanted pets, so my dad used to catch one or two every year, and we'd keep them in a big jar for the rest of the season.

IIRC, you could keep a female and a male in a jar together, but two of the same sex was a recipe for legs and bits on the bottom of the jar. We fed them leftover grains of rice from dinner, soaked in water to soften them. It was really fascinating see them pick up a grain of rice with their front legs, position it with one set of mouth extension-y things, and then actually put the food into their mouths with a second set of them. When they died at the end of the season, it always made me sad -- I could keep them alive a couple weeks beyond the first heavy frost, but not much further.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:36 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read a script recently, Trevor, about a woman that owns a chimp. The chimp sees himself as a temporarily out-of-work actor -- he had done some commercial work when he was younger and appeared in a nature special. And he's increasingly agitated about his failing acting career, acting out. And when the play is told from the chimp's perspective, it is quite funny.

But occasionally the play reverses perspective, and all we see is a chimp whose behavior is increasingly erratic and out of control. And there is a point when we realize this story is loosely inspired by Travis, the chimp that mauled his owner's friend, tearing her face off before Trevor's owner stabbed the chimp to death with a kitchen knife. And suddenly the play stops being a comedy, and a sick, terrified feeling kicks in, and when it reverses again to the "chimp as out of work actor" perspective, that terror carries over, and the play becomes unspeakably sad.

I really liked the script; I emailed the playwright to say how struck I was by it, which I don't typically do. I hope it gets more productions.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


The chimp sees himself as a temporarily out-of-work actor -- he had done some commercial work when he was younger and appeared in a nature special.

That sounds like Warren the Ape!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:02 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone who would keep a chimpanzee deserves one. I have no love for the creepy little bastards, but they are the ones suffering the whims of the self indulgent.
posted by Xoebe at 9:55 AM on May 22, 2013


Longform Guide to Animal Attacks (two brutal chimp attacks in there... no sympathy for anyone keeping a chimp as a pet, we all know how it ends)
posted by jcruelty at 10:01 AM on May 22, 2013


They aren't creepy; they are wild animals. It's when we try to treat them as humans that things go wrong, and that is not the chimpanzee's fault.
posted by tavella at 10:02 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Undomesticated animal runs amok, causes havoc. Shocked, SHOCKED I am at this turn of events.
posted by endotoxin at 11:40 AM on May 22, 2013


Wikipedia: "Léo Ferré (24 August 1916 – 14 July 1993) was a Franco-Monegasque poet, composer, singer and musician who mixed love and melancholy with moral anarchy, lyricism with slang, rhyming verse with prose monologues"

That's what moral anarchy will do - ruin everything. I discovered Ferre' on youtube some years ago, and really like 2-3 of his songs. Not knowing anything about him other than his singing, I had created an idealized version of the man. That changed, today. What a fucking, self-prepossessing jerk! Here's a guy who sang some really cool songs, but if anyone knew what this guy had put his family, friends, and stepdaughter through they would have most likely vilified him.

Last, I feel bad for the chimp. Another human tragedy, caused by someone who should have been forced to live among chimps. btw, Ferre's wife holds some responsibility for this.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:43 AM on May 22, 2013


Blame it on Tarzan's Cheeta as well... related somewhat.. chimp-gate
posted by snaparapans at 12:15 PM on May 22, 2013


I own an original Cheeta painting and do not regret it. If anything, the scandal makes the painting more interesting to me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2013


Anthropomorphizing chimps isn't a relic of the free love sixties. In the 1910s in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, a millionaire hair tonic manufacturer kept a slew of well-dressed simians in a backyard "monkey village," among them the very poorly behaved chimp Charles Fuller, who once tossed a bulldog through a window while attempting to steal a neighbor's baby. Eventually, the city passed an ordinance against him.
posted by Scram at 2:19 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


An angry chimp could probably rip your limbs off once you're down.

[nods to chimp brethren] Ook.
posted by quin at 2:52 PM on May 22, 2013


In the video at the 59 second point linked in elgilito's comment, the woman, who I suppose is the wife of this nutcase in some misguided version of planet of the apes, picks up a pistol from the table and taps the chimp on the head with it, as if to threaten it.

The chimp apparently killed cats with roof tiles, flung from the chateau and tormented dogs.

The whole things seems insane. Ha, unSane posted the OP, eponysterical that. And very much some sort of child abuse for the step-daughter, Annie Butor, who grew up in this bizarre oppression by simian proxy. She says in this interview (in French) that her step-father did not perceive her as a child at age 5 and 6. Only the chimp was considered a child. The mother, Madeleine, sounds like a classic Silent Partner type, who witnessed her child's being terrorized and did nothing, for years.

Good for her truth telling this dysfunctional family history, which is not as common in Europe as it is in America. It must have taken a lot of courage for her to share. A miracle Annie survived.
posted by nickyskye at 3:27 PM on May 22, 2013


I worked on a film with a chimp in it - he was just young enough to be mostly friendly, but there was one actor that he hated, and almost attacked. Most of the scenes that showed the two together were split-screens, because the chimp just wouldn't tolerate being anywhere near the guy.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:32 PM on May 22, 2013


"...the very poorly behaved chimp Charles Fuller, who once tossed a bulldog through a window while attempting to steal a neighbor's baby. Eventually, the city passed an ordinance against him."

Maybe the best thing I've read on this site, ever.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:47 PM on May 23, 2013


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