I'm old enough to remember a young boxer named Cassiius Clay. I remember when he became Muhammad Ali. I also remember that it took awhile for many of us blue collar types to really appreciate what he was doing and the impact for good that it all ultimately had. Whether you agreed with his beliefs or not, it was hard not to like him. Even while he was seemingly arrogant, (his type of what today we call "talking trash" was unknown), he invented it, he did so with such personality that we had knew he didn't really take himself too seriously and we laughed along with him. At least I did. I loved his interviews with Howard Cosell. He always got the best of him. He was an amazing athlete and by all accounts of those who knew him best, a great person. Below is another great story among the many that are being posted about him this week. Rest in peace Champ.
It’s hard to imagine now:barely having a clue who the
Beatles were, or the man who would become
But that’s how things were when Robert Lipsyte found
himself facetoface with these future legends more
than 50 years ago, through a chance of publicity
The New York Times had plucked Lipsyte from the
feature department to go to Miami Beach and cover
the heavyweight boxing title fight between champ
Sonny Liston and the upstart Cassius Clay, who
would later change his name to Ali. He barely knew
who Clay was, and even less about the mophaired
singers who happened to show up during his visit.
“I wasn’t a teenage girl,” Lipsyte said. “I really didn’t
know who the Beatles were or what they would become.”
A few days earlier they had appeared for the first time on television’s popular Ed Sullivan Show. Now they were
being led up a stairway in the gym where Clay trained, with an unwitting Lipsyte swept along.
“They’re little guys with lots of hair and all wearing white terrycloth cabana jackets,” Lipsyte said. “They were yelling
and cursing because they had just been told Clay wasn’t there yet, and they wanted to leave. But these big security
types just kind of herded them up the stairs.”
Lipsyte found himself in a dressing room with the Beatles, who weren’t at all happy. They had gone earlier to Liston’s
training, but Liston took one look at them and refused to pose for pictures.
Lipsyte introduced himself and asked for their prediction, which was for a firstround Liston knockout. Then they all
waited for 10 or 15 minutes, with the Beatles complaining the whole time, for Clay to arrive.
“But suddenly the door burst open and there he is. He’s the most gorgeous creature I’ve ever seen. He kind of glows
and he’s laughing, and he says, ‘Come on, Beatles, let’s go make some money.’”
Make some money they did. In photos that would become legendary, Clay is shown knocking the Beatles down like
dominoes, and standing over them sprawled out in the ring.
It was as if they had all rehearsed it beforehand, Lipsyte said.
“There was a lot of laughter, and then they’re gone, off to their limo,” he said. “Cassius then started training in front of
people who paid 50 cents to get in.”
After the workout, Clay went back to the dressing room for a rubdown, and Lipsyte crowded in with him. Clay
recognized him as being in the room earlier, and beckoned him over with a question.
“Who were those little sissies?” he asked.
Clay, of course, would beat Liston and go on to even greater things as Muhammad Ali. Lipsyte would become a
columnist for the Times and cover him for years.
And the Beatles? They ended up doing OK, too.