THOMAS HAUSER ARTICLE ON HERITAGE AUCTIONS
I have received numerous calls and emails regarding the Thomas Hauser article criticizing Heritage Auctions for their lack of or questionable authentication of certain boxing items in their most recent auction.
Please note I did no work for Heritage on the boxing items offered in this sale. Any questions you have should be referred to Heritage.
I CAN’T AUTHENTICATE CHIMPS EITHER!
I couldn’t resist reprinting this article from Hauls Of Shame. It is remarkable where the autograph authentication business has gone. Draw your own conclusions. And people ask why I don’t recognize these guys
Me Tarzan, You Jimmy Spence: JSA Authenticates Chimpanzee Autographs, But TPA Monkey-Business Enables eBay Fraud
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
My old fighter Michael Grant fought on Friday night.
I left Michael Grant in 2003 for a variety of reasons. In the ten years since I left him we have remained friends and he has continued to fight. In that ten years Grant has had twelve fights. His biggest fight during that time was a loss to Tomasz Adamek in 2010 for a purse under $100,000. In 2011 Grant took on an overweight and aging Francois Botha in South Africa. Behind on points on every judges scorecard Grant knocked out the exhausted and out of shape Botha with one big right hand in the 12th and final round.
Following the fight there was talk that he might reappear on HBO, perhaps in a big fight against Tyson Fury. Unable to land a fight of substance he decided to take a fight against Carlos Takam in France for $25,000.
The fight was a defense of the World Boxing Federation title (yes, that one) that Grant won with his victory over Botha. Physically the fight seemed like a mismatch. Grant at 6’7″ entered the ring at 252 lbs. with a record of 48-4 with 36 knockouts. Takam at 6’2″ and 241 lbs. had a record of 27-1 with 22 knockouts, but was seen as only a moderate puncher who had built his record on virtually unknown fighters. His one advantage was his age (32) to Grant’s age (40). It turned out to not be his only advantage.
From the start the outcome seemed inevitable. Grant was ponderously slow both with his hands and feet. He also held his left hand down inviting the right hands that came frequently. From start to finish Grant was dominated and was finally stopped mercifully in the 8th round. After the fight Grant declared he would be back and wanted a rematch.
It has been over for Grant for many years. In his heyday Takam would have been played with and disposed of. That is many years ago.
The great Cus D’Amato once stated, “Fighters are the last to know how good they are, and they are also the last to know how bad.”
Michael Grant can no longer fight at any high level. That does not mean he might not get fights. There is always an up and comer looking to pad his record. For the sake of his brain, body and family I hope Michael Grant will retire immediately.
ESTATE OF HARRY SHAFFER
There has been a great deal of speculation on the disposition of the boxing collection and historical archives of Harry Shaffer who passed away in June, 2012. I was retained by the estate attorney for Harry Shaffer as a consultant. First to discuss are the historical boxing archives in the possession of Harry Shaffer which had been, for the most part, compiled by historian Bill Schutte. It has been determined that Harry Shaffer did not own these archives. They were purchased through a third party who has taken possession of them with plans, I am told, to donate them to a museum or higher learning institution. These archives will not in any part be sold as part of the estate of Harry Shaffer. The boxing inventory of Harry Shaffer will be sold by MEARS of South Milwaukee beginning likely in April or May, 2013. The inventory consists of a large quantity of books, magazines, photographs, posters, programs, tickets and miscellaneous memorabilia. Once the court has approved the sale the items will be put on the auction block.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the passing of Jack Sheehan last week. Jack was in law enforcement for most of his life and became the Chief of Police in Lowell, Massachusetts. Boxing collectors and dealers remember Jack for his great love of the hobby and his yearly visits to the Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, New York. Jack was a collector of Carl “Bobo” Olson, a fighter he admired and respected. Jack’s photo collection of Bobo Olson is the standard in the hobby. Jack’s yearly visits to the Hall of Fame always included some time for my daughter Jayma and I. What a pleasure it was to get to know Jack over the years. We will absolutely miss him and wish his family the best during this difficult time.