Sasquatch Speaks: The Truth Is Out There

Now it can be told: Bigfoot isn't real!

So says Bob Heironimus, a retired Pepsi bottler from Yakima, Wash., who reveals to the Reliable Source that he donned a gorilla costume and appeared in the famous grainy film clip that helped fuel the Bigfoot craze in 1967 and is studied by Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti investigators to this day.

"It's time people knew it was a hoax," Heironimus told us. "It's time to let this thing go. I've been burdened with this for 36 years, seeing the film clip on TV numerous times. Somebody's making lots of money off this, except for me. But that's not the issue -- the issue is that it's time to finally let people know the truth."

Heironimus, 63, makes his full "confession," as he calls it, in a just-published book by paranormal investigator Greg Long, "The Making of Bigfoot." Long spent four years investigating the 60-second film clip and the people behind it. He traces the shaggy Bigfoot costume to a North Carolina gorilla suit specialist, Philip Morris, who says he sold it for $435 to an amateur documentary maker named Roger Patterson (who died in 1972). The hoax was staged near Bluff Creek in Northern California, according to Heironimus.

"Patterson was the cameraman," Long tells us. "They made a gentleman's agreement that Bob would get in the suit and walk in front of the camera for $1,000."

But, Heironimus says, "I was never paid a dime for that, no sir," and adds, "Sure I want to make some money. I feel that after 36 years I should get some of it."

Backers of the Bigfoot legend include primatologist Jane Goodall, who was in Silver Spring last week to tout a new chimpanzee documentary that premieres tomorrow on Discovery Communications' Animal Planet network. Too busy to comment herself, Goodall authorized an aide, Nona Gandelman, to tell us she has read "countless books" about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Chinese wild men and other creatures. "She's spoken to people whom she respects who say they have seen one of these hominids," said Gandelman, "and to many other people she respects who have heard strange calls they thought were made by Bigfoot. As a scientist, she has a very open mind about this and has yet to close the door on the possibility."

Bigfoot researcher John Green, a retired Canadian journalist, says the book doesn't disprove the existence of the mysterious beast. "It's all [expletive]," he told us. "There are going to be libel actions flying."

Tom Malone, a lawyer in Minneapolis, called us Friday on behalf of Bob Gimlin, associate of the now-dead Bigfoot filmmaker. "I'm authorized to tell you that nobody wore a gorilla suit or monkey suit and that Mr. Gimlin's position is that it's absolutely false and untrue."

And the mystery lives on . . .

Sucking Up to Disney's New Big Cheese

* The corporate shake-up at Disney, which last week installed former Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell as chairman of the board, has profound implications everywhere. "I never imagined I'd be working for George Mitchell," conservative yakker Michael Graham said Friday during his show on Mouse-owned WMAL radio.

"Especially since you ran Pat Buchanan's campaign," quipped fellow host Fred "Gopher" Grandy, a former Republican congressman.

'Tis true, Graham tells us: "I was Pat Buchanan's South Carolina coordinator in 1992. I was doing stand-up comedy and trying to get out of that, and I happened to have done some comedy for Republican groups.

"No Republican consultant would take Pat's race," he says. "My friend Hal Eberle, from the Nixon and Ford White House, got a call from Pat. He told Hal: 'Find me someone smart enough to do the job and dumb enough to take it.' "

Graham ended up spending six years as a Republican campaign consultant. He remains friendly with Buchanan: "I like him. He's a great guy, but he's no George Mitchell. Did I mention I now love George Mitchell? He's my boss! A little brown-nosing never hurts."

Mark Warner: From Va. to VP?

* Veepstakes watch: Before sex machine James Brown raised the collective pulse of the Larry King Cardiac Foundation gala with a funky performance Friday night, we asked Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, an up-and-comer in Democratic national politics, to address rumors that he's on the short list of Sen. John Kerry's picks for vice president. He looked stunned and he didn't say no.

"I've got a job that's more than full-time," Warner dodged. "Heck, I may still have a legislature in session."

Was that a classic non-denial denial? The governor smiled broadly, laughed and said nothing more. When Brown played, he stood, swayed and almost let himself dance.

SQUIBS

* "Who knows: Maybe one day I'll have political aspirations myself," Chrissy Gephardt tells us. The 30-year-old daughter of Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), who campaigned for her father in the primaries, has joined the board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which encourages openly gay people to run for office. "We see gay people in the media and in 'Queer Eye' and 'Ellen,' but we don't see any real-life politicians or people who have families or who are successful. We need to broaden the image that we're not all hairdressers."

* Like other presidential campaign junkies who no longer have candidates, Jeremy Ben-Ami, who served as Howard Dean's policy director, needed a new cause. Now, as a stay-at-home D.C. dad reacquainting himself with his wife and their 9-month-old daughter, he is promoting a Web-based petition that prompts residents to vent their anger at the District's Water and Sewer Authority over elevated lead levels. This campaign site, set up by Josh Levinson and Paul McKay, can be found at www.purewaterdc.com. Says Ben-Ami, 41: "Just goes to show that there's a need for grass-roots activism right here inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, we're worried that the water's going to kill the grass -- so we've got our work cut out."

With Anne Schroeder