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 Acapulco. 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 Ocean from Acapulco’s famous La Quebrada rock.

Debris and fallen trees lie in the empty swimming pool of the Flamingos Hotel in Acapulco in the aftermath of Hurricane Otis. Photo: Reuters

For decades, daredevil cliff divers have wowed tourists by making the same 35-metre 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.

Hurricane Otis destroyed the so-called Tarzan House – the former residence of late US actor Johnny Weissmuller, star of several Tarzan films. Photo: AFP

As he grew older, Weissmuller had a house built on the grounds away from the noise, where he spent the last years of his life in retirement. 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-coloured villa and hotel were battered by Hurricane Otis, which left a trail of destruction and killed at least 46 people; dozens more are unaccounted for.

The view from the so-called Tarzan House. Photo: AFP

“It knocked down trees and shattered windows,” Flamingos hotel manager Victor Manuel Hernandez said. “As for Tarzan’s house, it’s totally destroyed.”. In total, 274,000 homes and 600 hotels were affected by the Category 5 hurricane, a major setback to the city of 780,000 whose inhabitants rely heavily on tourism income. Most of Acapulco’s biggest hotels now look like skeletons – without walls, windows or balconies – and are full of debris. The bulk are Mexican owned, with a surge in narco-trafficking violence having forced international chains to pull out of the area in recent years.

Residents of Acapulco walk past debris left by Hurricane Otis in the Mexican resort city. Photo: AFP

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 and in 1953, future United States president John F. Kennedy spent his honeymoon there with Jacqueline. The seaside city inspired dozens of movies, such as Fun in Acapulco (1963), starring Elvis Presley, who never actually set foot in the Mexican city, as filming took place in California. “The situation is sad. But we have to be positive,” Hernandez said. One glimmer of hope: the government has promised a US$3.5 billion recovery plan to get Acapulco back on its feet, although damage from the storm is estimated at between US$14 billion and US$21 billion, according to Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller with Enki Research.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg