Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 30, 1972 · Page 38
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 38

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 30, 1972
Page 38
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BROWN BOMBER By Ed Coimrford Newsday LAS VEGAS-"You're going over to see Joe Louis?" in old-time fight manager asked "You know he's. . . " He squinted his eyes.and tapped a finger to the side of his head'. It is no secret. What bad been whispered among boxing people is now public knowledge. Joe LoUis is mentally ill. Last year he spent four months confined in the psychiatric ward of a Veterans Administration facility in Denver. This heavyweight champion who became one of America's mythical folk heroes is tormented by delusions. His fight is not in the glare of the ring, but in the dark recesses of his mind. His big fists are of no use to him against the phantoms of his imagination. So there is some trepidation as you enter Caesars Palace, a landmark on that section of Las Vegas Boulevard called "The Strip." Even by the tanselly standards of this gambling oasis, Caesars Palace is extraordinary. Opulent. Garish. Flamboyant. Extravagant, tasteless. In Oscar Wilde's phrase, a monument to people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The section of the casdno which houses the one armed bandits is labeled "Salone Di Slots" and one of those slot machines doesn't turn unless you deposit a $5 token. If you can find Joe Louis these days, which isn't always easy, Ceasars Palace is the place to look. He is on the payroll there as a casino host, which is a polite name for shill, and he represents the hotel traveling around the country to golf tournaments and sports affairs. Some people suspect that Joe Louis' role at Caesars Palace is not much different from the imported marble statuary in the men's room, an objet d'art, bought and paid for to dallze the high rollers. But this seems unfair. There are executives of the hotel who have known Joe for a long time and,seem to have a genuine tove for him and concern for his welfare. They see to it that Joe gets whatever he wants; he can live like a millionaire with empty pockets. And 'they make sure he is never Joe Louis Fights Deep Recesses of Mind While Serving as 'SUIT For Famed Hotel JOE LOUIS He't Remembered alone. If his wife Martha or some trusted friend is not with him, one of mem is there to help him fight the demons of his mind. On this recent day Joe was holding court in one of the hotel restaurants. He wore tan slacks, an open-neck white knit shirt and a bright orange jacket. "Got it at the Hawaiian Open," lie said. "I played in the pro-ain there. The hotel sends me all over." Golf was once a with him, and he can still shoot in the 70s. But he said he did not play every day any more: "It's not as interesting as it used to be." Part of his financial troubles came from losing ;olf bets. He is reliably reported o have blown $15,000 in one 8-hole match. But he scoffs at hat. "I have made some big *te," he admits, "but I didn't bet 10 per cent of what people say I did." PHYSICALLY, he looks great for a man of 58. He is beginning to bald and his face is jowly, but there are no scars from the fights. He weighs 240 pounds. "Not bad," he says proudty. "I weighed 214 for my last fight." That was the eighth round knockout by Rocky Marciano in Madison Square Garden in Oct. 1950, when Joe had come back from retirement to try to straighten out his tax problems. Mentally, he seemed fine. An elderly man brought his grand- son to get Joe's autograph. "I wanted him to meet the greatest champion of all times." the man said. Joe chuckled and scrawled his name. After they left Joe said, "If I get a kick out of aiything, it's where young people, maybe 10 or 12 years old, recognize me. They wasn't even born when I was fighting. That's the biggest thrill." To the children. Joe Louis is a legendary prize fighter. To the older people he is more than that, a symbol. Joe he- cane a national hero in Yankee Stadium on June 22, 1938, when he annihilated the pro- type ubcrmensch of Nazi Germany, Max Schmeling, in two minutes and four seconds of the first round, avenging a 12th round k n o c k o u t by Schmeling two years before. In the contest of the times it was a tremendous psychological lift for freedom and justice. "It was more than just another prize fight," Joe says. "It was race against super race. At that time, the Jews was catching hell in Germany." At that time blacks were catching hell almost everywhere in the U. S. A.; the difference between the Nuremberg laws and separate- but-equal was subtle. Some young blacks now deride Joe Louis as an "Uncle Tom," but his quiet dignity helped 1 pave the road for Jackie Robinson, and maybe Dr. Martin Luther King. And now everybody was saying this big, chocolate-color man was mentally ill. But on this afternoon he seemed alert, rational, happy. Until . . . "Joe, have you read Barney Nagler's book?" The title is "Brown Bomber: The Pilgrimmage of Joe Louis." (World Publishing, $7.95). Nagler s a columnist with the Daily Racing Form and a veteran xixing reporter. Joe's smile turns to a frown. ·fe says he had not read the book; and he had a contract to see it, and approve it, before it was printed, but Nagler did not live up to it. "When he got into the Mafia part of it," Joe grumbles, "he changed the whole damn thing. I told him the whole damn story of how the Mafia wai after me, and he made it sostnd like it wasn't true. He made it sound like I'm nuts." Naeler's book counterpoints the glory that was Joe Louis in his prime with the agony of his mental breakdown. It is a gooc book. Not angrily, but with weary patience, Joe begins telling the sinister script that unreels in the dark corners of his mind. The key figure is a girl named Helen. But Joe does not hate her. "I like the girl," he said "We'd been going together for 15 years. But she has one weakness; she's oversexed. I talked to a psychiatrist about her and he said when a person was like that they couldn't help themselves, there was nothin' they could do about it." * * * EARLY IN 1969. when he was traveling a r o u n d refereeing wrestling matches, Joe claims he- found his girl sticking nee- Petty Is Favorite In Pennsylvania Stock Race Today dies into him turn his back. when he would "She wanted to put me to sleep so she could disappear out of the room and go to them. They would get a room next door or across the hall." Then they would 1 plot to make films of the drugged Joe Louis and this 1 girl. "You know, pornographic films," Joe says, stum- pling over the pronunciation. "There's a big profit in it." Joe says he then started taking cocaine. "To keep from going to sleep," he insists. "You can't go to sleep when you're on cocaine. That's why I took it, not for the thrills or nothin'." Once the Mafia knew Joe was wise to the plot, he says, they decided to kill him. "They were trying to poison me by shooting stuff into my room," he says. But when Joe says all this he does not rant and rave. He talks quietly, patiently, making it sound plausible and logical. It is like a scene in a Hitchcock movie where the hero really is in danger but can't convince anybody. Eerie. Do you think the Mafia is still out to kill you, Joe? "I know they are," he says quietly. "But I ain't gonna wor- ·y. Maybe you better worry, They'll see you talking to me." MOUNT POCONO, Pa. AP) -- A 40-ear field that features two current champions and three-time former titleholder in the first two rows will take the green flag today for the $98.000 Pennsylvania 500 stock car race. Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., who captured the stock car crown of the United States Auto Club (USAC) three times in five years, qualified a winged Plymouth for the pole position at a lap speed of 148.177 miles per hour. That's about a mile ah hour faster than the track's best previous performance by a stock sedan. The old mark of 146.127 mph was held by Butch Hartman of South Zanesville, Ohio, berth beside McCluskey. Hartman, who won the inaugural Pennsylvania 500 last year and edged McCluskey for the USAC stock car title, drove his Dodge Charger at 147.444 mph. The third starter will be Wally Dallenbach of N. Brunswick, N.J., who cut his driving teeth in stock cars before switching to the more powerful Indianapolis-type cars, quali- f i e d McCluskey's backup Plymouth at 147.309 mph. Lurking beside Dallenbach in the second row is three-tune champion Richard Petty from :he rich National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's Grand National circuit. Petty, 35, has won more than $1.3 million in career prize money and is the undisputed cing of the stockers in the South. He qualified a stub- nosed Plymouth roadrunner at 147.292 mph, but a day later was being clocked at 148.5 mph in practice. Despite the credentials of McCluskey and Hartman, Petty was being tabbed the favorite :o collect first prize money of about $15,000. Two other drivers were being pven a good chance to cause trouble. Al Unser qualified a Ford in 7th starting position at 145.141 mph. Ramo Stott, win- ner of the July 18 USAC 200- mile stock car race at Mich igan International Speedway put his winged Plymouth in 5th position at 146.551 mph. McCiuskey, Dallenbach, Us- ncr and 9th place starter Gary Bettenhausen were among the 33 drivers who participated in Saturday's 500 mile race for Indianapolis cars. A field of 40 cars will start Sunday. HOMELITE VI «4O CHAIN SAW ^W IdC with«'bar« chain * NOW ONLY* 1B7 77 · ^pT e» (Regularly $189.95) SAVE OVER $22 ·Manufacturers Suggested Retail LEWIS HARDWARE INC. t70SMicCOIIiaEAVE.,$I. MARKET, W.V A. PM.J4M1S1 YOUR CHOKE DRUM BRAKE SERVICE · Imull no h«U Mm tutof · MMKim ill k»k« tnimt · Rl*Ht h«nl · Bind .nrf ll u ,h h · Ro* me IK. OK. 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