Monday, February 17, 2014

We Can Work It out

I am hoping to finish up on the 50 years ago stories tonight (at least for now...there are always more stories to be told!).    Here is another one from the Feb 16, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone magazine.  This story comes from the promoter of the Sonny Listen/Cassius Clay heavyweight championship fight, Harold Conrad.   This fight was a huge deal and was going to take place on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach, Florida.   The fight was getting just as much publicity as the Beatles during February of 1964.   So Harold Conrad thought it would be a great for publicity to combine the two.

You can see Harold Conrad in this photo.  He is the guy in the white jacket and shades

Newspapermen from all over the world were streaming into Miami Beach to cover the fight scene, but several were examining this Beatles phenomenon.  That's when it occurred to me that the chemistry of the Beatles and young Cassius--they were close to the same age--would make the perfect mixture.  I could see page-one pictures all over the world.  I had to put them together.

To get to the Beatles, you had to go through Brian Epstein.  I finally tracked him down in the Deauville lobby the day before the Sullivan show.  I explained I wanted to invite the boys to Clay's workout.  He was facing me squarely, but his eyes were looking far away.  He was on a magic carpet, flying 10,000 feet over Bombay.  Then he mumbled, "Can't do it, security" and shuffled off.

I scratched the project then and there.  I had enough problems with the fight denying rumors that Clay was about to become Muslim.   The day of the Sullivan Show, it took a couple of cops to get us past the hotel entrance.  I was with Liston and his wife, Jerry.   He was going to take a bow on the show.  After a couple of early acts, the Beatles were introduced and halfway through their number, Liston poked me with his elbow.  "Is these bums what this fuss is all about?  My dog plays better drums than that kid with the big nose."

Liston and his wife took off after the show, but I went backstage to see Sullivan.  I asked hm if there was any chance I could meet the boys.  He said, "Sure, I'm going up to their suite now."

The Beatles were sitting around with some British friends, and Sullivan thanked them for a great show.  "And this is Harold Conrad," he said.  "He's here doing the Liston-Clay fight." I could see this ignited a spark.  McCartney said, "I think Clay's going to win."  His partners agreed.

I asked them if they'd like to watch Clay workout.  "Can we?" they responded, almost in chorus.  I told them that they would be picked up at 11:30 the next day, but to keep it quiet.  I also explained Epstein's refusal and John Lennon said, "don't worry about Brian; we'll handle him."

The eventual summit meeting a the gym left nothing much for posterity except the pictures.  Clay upstaged the British kids all the way.  He even choreographed the picture of the them lying down on the ring and him hovering over them.  But I had to score one for the Beatles.  Clay said, "You guys got to be making a lot of money.  you ain't as dumb as you look."  John Lennon came right back with, "But you are."

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