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Leigh Montville
July 14, 1997
Joe Namath, erstwhile Super Bowl hero and playboy and sometime actor, now has the best role of his life: family man
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July 14, 1997

Off Broadway Joe

Joe Namath, erstwhile Super Bowl hero and playboy and sometime actor, now has the best role of his life: family man

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The names and events come from Joe Namath's time, from my time, from our time, from 25, 30 years ago. Suddenly ancient history. The real time is seven o'clock in the morning on a rainy Monday in Tequesta, Fla.

"Who'd you meet who was famous?" I ask.

"All kinds of people," Namath says. "John Wayne. Was there anyone bigger than that? The Duke."

"Who else?"

"Frank Sinatra," Namath says. "I used to drink with Sinatra and Dean Martin and Sammy Davis at Jilly's in New York. Those guys were crazy. They stayed up all night. Every night. They didn't have anything to do in the morning. Didn't have to get up. Me, I had to go to practice. The good thing, though, was that the Jets practiced late. I didn't have to be there until noon. I could stay up pretty late and still get some sleep before practice started."

The four dogs who live in the white wooden house on the banks of the Loxahatchee River—Friska and Palm and Augustus and Scout, who is named after the girl in To Kill a Mockingbird—are awake. They are all of different breeds, these dogs, all of different sizes. They hurry in circle: bouncing off one another, looking as if they were part of a circus act. They are crazy with the excitement of a new day. Their toenails clatter across the white wooden porch.

"Who else?" I ask. "The Beatles?"

"No, I never met the Beatles," Namath say "But I met Elvis. I knew him a little bit. I will love Elvis forever for one thing: the way he treated my father. I took my father to see him in Vegas. My father loved Elvis. We went backstage afterward. My father and Elvis got along. They sat on couch for a half hour, maybe 40 minutes, just talking about everything. It was something to see, my father and Elvis, just sitting there, bull————about football and music."

Joe's daughter Jessica, 11, appears. She ahead is dressed in her school uniform and has eaten breakfast. She has fed the two smaller dogs, but the two bigger ones still have to be fed. She doesn't ha the time to do it. Is that O.K.? Her sister, Olivia, 6, is going to stay home with a slight fever and one of those deep coughs that make a parent nervous.

Tatiana, Joe's wife, dressed in black, will take Jessica to school. Joe will take care of Olivia, exult when she finds Horse Facts, a library boo that has been missing, sit with her on his lap read about the various horses, compare style and breeds with her, smile when she points out the picture of a spotted horse with her big toe and correctly calls the horse an Appaloosa. Isabel, the maid, will arrive soon to help. The two cats, Poppett and Willie, aren't around; they're hiding somewhere, doing personal business.

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