The dawning of the gorilla suit in the entertainment industry had begun at least by 1928 with Charlie Gemora’s appearance in The Leopard Lady, an intricate tale about a leopard trainer named Paula who investigates whether a trained ape is responsible for a series of crimes in her city. The ape was played by Gemora, an artist who sculpted for Universal Studios in the 1920s. Gemora went on to play a gorilla in several early films, popularizing the wearing of the ape suit for future generations. Though often used for comic relief, gorilla impersonation at its finest is truly an art, requiring creative use of make-up and technology and an ability of the actor inside to imitate the subtle mannerisms of the apes he represents as realistically as possible. Check out this video clip of Drumzilla, a character played by Garon Michael and used in advertising to take the gorilla suit to a whole new level!
Three Wise Monkeys
“See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.” A classic proverb in both Chinese and Japanese cultures, this saying was first put into visual form by way of three monkeys carved into the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Japan. The three monkeys are seen sitting side by side with the first monkey covering its eyes, the second covering its ears, and the third covering its mouth. Since this initial carving, many renditions of the three wise monkeys have been made, in a variety of media from fine paintings to sculptures to plastic toys.
(Image by Michael Maggs)
According to Merrium-Webster’s collegiate dictionary, a fez is a brimless cone-shaped flat-crowned hat that usually has a tassel, is usually made of red felt, and is worn especially by men in eastern Mediterranean countries. Apparently originating in the early 1800s, the fez was named for a Fez, an actual city in Morocco. It remains somewhat of a mystery how the fez hat became associated with monkeys, though it is quite common to find monkey trinkets and other paraphernalia featuring a smiling brown monkey in a red fez hat. The most likely origin for the association is the use of monkeys as organ grinder assistants and as props for other types of street entertainers. During or after a performance, the monkey would run up to customers, tipping a hat in expectance of a tip. When performing in the Mediterranean, the natural choice would have been the traditional fez hat, tall, flashy, and capable of holding piles of coins. Over time, a natural association formed between monkeys and tiny fez hats. Got a jonesin’ for a fez hat? Pick up one at the Shoppe.