Las Vegas Sun

May 21, 2019

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A few words with Tarzan No. 12

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Denny Miller with his co-star.

NOW:

When I got the call from Tarzan the other day, the phone rang as it always does.

It would have been really cool had he just yelled, like in the movies.

Actually, Denny Miller said, there have been 21 Tarzans. He was number 12. He played Tarzan in just one movie, a 1959 MGM remake of "Tarzan, the Ape Man."

He said it was the worst Tarzan movie of all time -- at least until the one with Bo Derek came along.

It's not every day you get to talk to Tarzan -- even if he was just Tarzan No. 12 -- which is one more reason why I highly recommend moving to Las Vegas.

Before Denny Miller was Tarzan he was a basketball forward for John Wooden at UCLA -- before they started hanging those NCAA championship banners on the wall, he said.

That's sort of why he was calling. Miller is a part-time public speaker, and he wanted to know if I knew where he might get a DVD of the J-Mac story. He had read my piece on Jason McElwain, the amazing autistic former basketball student manager who scored 20 points in just over four minutes of playing time in the mother of all Cinderella stories.

During our conversation he let it slip that he had played Tarzan in the movies, like it was no big deal. If it were me, I'd hand out business cards with my and Cheetah's picture on them.

He also played Duke Shannon on "Wagon Train" and, more recently, the Gorton's Fisherman in those fish stick commercials.

Miller said he and Jane -- a k a wife Nancy -- moved to Las Vegas seven years ago.

I asked if he still had his loin cloth.

"It's hanging on the wall in my office," he said. "I 'borrowed' it from MGM."

Even though he's 74 years old and hasn't swung from a vine in nearly 50 years, I had to ask.

"Do you still wear it?"

"Not since I was 65."

THEN:

In January 1974, a bunch of us were gathered around the old TV set at the taxicab dispatch stand -- our hangout, if you can believe it -- in our hometown when a guy named Dwight Clay, wearing a bright yellow uniform with a big green shamrock on it for Notre Dame, banked in a shot from the baseline ending UCLA's 88-game winning streak.

I said banked in a shot. From the baseline. I had never seen that done before.

At the time, that seemed more remarkable than UCLA's 88-game winning streak.

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