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Jungle love! Bongo, the missing monkey doll, has been found • Brooklyn Paper

Jungle love! Bongo, the missing monkey doll, has been found

The money shot: Bonni Marcus and Jack Zinzi celebrate the return of Bongo on Saturday night with Luis Barreto, the man who discovered the missing Beanie Baby doll. The reunion took place at El Gran Castille de Jagua, the restaurant near where Bongo had been lost.
Photo by Christopher Sadowski

Bongo has been found!

Two desperate Manhattanites who lost their beloved monkey doll on a trip to a Flatbush Avenue restaurant last week have been reunited with their cuddly companion — and they can thank an eagle-eyed Brooklynite in the concrete jungle.

Park Sloper Luis Barreto spotted Bongo sitting on a parking meter on Flatbush Avenue last Monday, just one day after his “parents,” Bonni Marcus and Jack Zinzi, dropped the doll on a trip to their favorite restaurant, El Gran Castillo de Jagua.

Like Marcus and Zinzi, Barreto was taken with the plushy primate’s charms, so he took Bongo home — completely unaware that Marcus and Zinzi had plastered the neighborhood with fliers offering a $500 reward.

The fliers led to the seminal story on BrooklynPaper.com, which led to dozens of phone and e-mail tips to the grieving parents. One of those tips turned out to be a false lead — but a lead that brought Marcus and Zinzi out to Brooklyn from their Upper East Side apartment, nonetheless.

So when Bongo didn’t materialize, Marcus, 47, and Zinzi, 58, returned to the restaurant, as if on a hunch.

“Jack was a little dejected,” Marcus said, “but I told him, ‘He’s coming home, Jack.’ ”

Near the pernil palace corner of Park Place, the couple spotted Barreto just “shooting the breeze” with a few friends.

“They were laughing, so I thought to ask,” Marcus said. Barreto began to discuss a monkey he had found — one who matched Bongo’s description down to his lopsided eye and misshapen ear — Marcus began to hope, and the three went to Barreto’s apartment.

“As soon as we started walking down the hallway,” Marcus said, “I just knew.”

But Barreto had fallen ‚ hard.

“I didn’t want to give Bongo back, but I didn’t want to break the lady’s heart,” he said.

Ultimately, Barreto, 61-years-old, unemployed, and hobbled with a cane from multiple heart attacks, decided to take the $500 reward, but even as the three shared a few beers to celebrate the miracle, he would continue to pick up Bongo, speaking to him and holding him.

“He just kept taking Bongo out of my hand, and kissing him and playing with him,” Marcus said. “I said to Jack, ‘Maybe this is where Bongo belongs,’ and Jack’s face just went white.”

Zinzi, a building manager who claimed that Bongo’s absence even “affected his work,” was particularly beside himself — regardless of the high-stakes reward.

“You can’t really put a price on it,” he said. “Five hundred dollars is a lot of money to me, but to get Bongo back, it’s not.”

Meanwhile, for Marcus, who is now set on writing a children’s book about the entire ordeal, it was a true storybook finale.

“I couldn’t have thought of a more wonderful ending, of a man who needed the money more,” she said.

It doesn’t take the keen intellect of a Dr. Zaius to know how things might have turned out if it hadn’t have been for one monkey-loving community newspaper.

“The Brooklyn Paper was the one that gave me the confidence to keep going with it, instead of thinking it was just some ridiculous story,” Marcus said.

She also complained that other news sources had mistakenly reported that she and Jack were a couple.

For the record, Jack, Bonni, and Bongo are merely “best friends.”

Those lips, those eyes: It’s no wonder why Bongo’s disappearance was such a tragedy for his human companions.
Photo by Christopher Sadowski

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