Johnny in Cuba

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Weissmuller was well known and loved in Cuba, both before and after that country’s communist revolution. To this day there remains a “Johnny Weissmuller Suite” at the historic Hotel Nacional in Havana. Early in the morning or after a night of hard partying, he would dive from the second story balcony outside his room to the pool down below.

One widely recounted story is from when he was there in 1958 for a pro celebrity golf tournament. At that time, Cuba was in the throes of revolution, with Castro’s rebels fighting a guerilla war against Batista’s regime. Weissmuller and some other golfers were commuting to and from the Villa Real golf course in an open touring car, accompanied by bodyguards assigned by President Batista. Suddenly they were surrounded by a band of Castro’s rebel soldiers, demanding the bodyguards throw down their weapons. Realizing the danger of the tense standoff, Johnny raised himself up in the car and gave his famous Tarzan yell. The rebels immediately recognized him and gathered around their cinema hero, crying “Tarzan, welcome to Cuba!” Far from being kidnapped, they were escorted by the rebels to and from the golf course.

This story was confirmed directly by Weissmuller’s granddaughter when she was working in Havana at the Hotel Nacional on a special project. She was introduced to a charming old man who everyone knew had hung out with Johnny as his local helper when he was a teenager. Unprompted, he himself told her this story, and knew it because he was there as part of the entourage when it happened!

JW is pictured on the center right of the large poster mural at the left of the photo, from the famed hallway gallery of the Hotel Nacional
Menu from the main dining room at the hotel
The hotel pool outside the Weissmuller suite’s balcony
Menu from the main dining room at the hotel

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