Hurricane devastates Acapulco's iconic 'Tarzan House'

Acapulco's iconic 'Tarzan House' where American star Johnny Weissmuller once lived has been devastated by Hurricane Otis (FRANCISCO ROBLES)
Acapulco's iconic 'Tarzan House' where American star Johnny Weissmuller once lived has been devastated by Hurricane Otis (FRANCISCO ROBLES)

A symbol of Acapulco's glory days, the iconic hotel and clifftop villa of late "Tarzan" star Johnny Weissmuller have been reduced to ruins by Hurricane Otis.

The residence was the last address of the "King of the Jungle" until his death in 1984 at age 79 -- and a hideout for international jet-setters who once flocked to the Mexican resort city.

Weissmuller's love affair with Acapulco began during filming of the 1948 movie "Tarzan and the Mermaids" -- the former Olympic swimming champion's last appearance as the man who was raised by apes in the jungle.

In one memorable scene, Weissmuller's character plunged shirtless into the Pacific from Acapulco's famous "La Quebrada" rock.

For decades daredevil cliff divers have wowed tourists by making the same 35-meter (115-foot) leap.

Together with his friend and fellow Hollywood icon John Wayne, Weissmuller bought the Flamingos hotel which became a magnet for stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Welles and Errol Flynn -- away from the paparazzi.

As he grew older, Weissmuller had a house built on the grounds away from the noise where he retired in the last years of his life.

Also known as the "Round House," its design is said to have been based on the huts in one of his movies.

On October 25, the fuchsia-colored villa and hotel were battered by Hurricane Otis, which left a trail of destruction and at least 46 people dead, as well as dozens unaccounted for.

"It knocked down trees and shattered windows," Flamingos hotel manager Victor Manuel Hernandez told AFP.

"As for Tarzan's house, it's totally destroyed," he said.

- Hollywood playground -

In total, 274,000 homes and 600 hotels were affected by the Category 5 hurricane -- a major setback to the city of 780,000 inhabitants who rely heavily on tourism income.

In its heyday in the 1950s and 60s, "the pearl of the Pacific" was the playground of the rich and famous.

Elizabeth Taylor was married there for a third time.

John F. Kennedy spent his honeymoon there with Jacqueline.

The seaside city inspired dozens of movies such as "Fun in Acapulco" starring Elvis Presley, who never actually set foot in the Mexican city, as filming took place in California.

From the 2000s, Acapulco was engulfed by violence linked to drug trafficking, which scared away tourists.

So far only 10 of the 40 Flamingos hotel employees have been able to return to their jobs due to the disruption to transportation since Otis.

"The situation is sad. But we have to be positive," its manager said.

One glimmer of hope -- the government has promised a $3.5 billion recovery plan to get Acapulco back on its feet.