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Joined: Nov 2, 2009
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November 25th, 2021 at 9:04:13 AM permalink
As a boy, the original King Kong was one of my favorite movies. In the pre-VCR, pre-cable days, it wasn't easy to watch it, but Channel 9 in NY used to show it on Thanksgiving Eve. So I was very excited when they announced a remake of the movie due out on The Fourth of July 1976.
Back then, I subscribed to a weekly newspaper called the Comic Buyers Guide. It would have news about comics, reports from various shows but mostly it was the advertising paper for buying and selling comics and related items.
One week I come home and the front page has an article taken from a Chicago newspaper about a man claiming he had been the actor inside the ape suit for the movie.
This was quite surprising as it was assumed King Kong had been filmed using stop motion animation.
Carmen NIgro was working as a night watchman at a Chicago skyscraper when he befriended a newspaper reporter and " reluctantly" agreed to tell his story.
Nigro claimed he had been working as a professional rodeo rider when he was approached about being King Kong. He said he was offered $150 a week for the job compared to his rodeo wages of $15 a day. According to him, much of the movie was done in stop motion but some scenes had him in a monkey suit. All the scenes involving the Empire State Building were him, as his story went.
Mr. Nigro said that an altercation with the male lead turned the crew against him and that is why he wasn't invited to the premiere or involved in any publicity.
As you can imagine this created a bit of a stir, especially with the new movie coming out.
Mr.Nigro became a minor celebrity and in further interviews, his story got crazier and crazier. He claimed his work in Kong impressed Hollywood and he got many more roles, and soon he was known as the Ape-Man of Hollywood. He said he had a custom suit made from
six Grizzly Bear skins and that he had traveled to Africa with Frank Buck and lived with a pack of gorillas in the wild to study their motions.
His resume included 25 movies in ape suits- several Tarzan films, Mighty Joe Young, Abbot and Costello movies and tv episodes, and over a hundred films where he was an extra or a stunt man.
Many people cast doubt on his claims, pointing out the stop motion films and that other actors were credited for many of the roles he claimed. It was pointed out that every role he remembered was credited to a person who was dead.
Mr. Nigro doesn't seem to have profited much from his claims. He reportedly was paid $25 a speech for speaking to a variety of youth groups throughout the Mid-West, mostly Boy Scout groups. As his credibility came into question, he sort of faded away.
Nigro passed away in 1990 and it was revealed he had worked as a cook on a railroad for 32 years, including the time he claimed to have been in Hollywood. He never had a passport, which pretty much eliminated his Africa fantasy, No acting or stuntman credits were in his name and a review of his Social Security records had only his railroad and watchman employment.
The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction is supposed to make sense.

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