ATHLETE TURNED ACTOR
A Hard Man To Appreciate
Americans might recognize Vinnie Jones as the taciturn tough named Sphinx in Nicolas Cage's new car-theft movie, Gone in 60 Seconds, or as Big Chris, the enforcer who sucker-punched and head-butted his way through the 1998 black comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Across the Atlantic, though, Jones is best known for another picture—one from 1987 in which he's manhandling the manhood of shocked English soccer star Paul Gascoigne. "It was 13 years ago, and people still talk about it as if it were last week," says Jones, 35, who earned his tough-guy reputation while patrolling the defensive midfield for Wimbledon. "The photographer won picture of the year. I've got a painting of it hanging in my living room. I had it done in oils."
Throughout his 14-year career Jones terrorized opponents. He was ejected 12 times for rough play, once only five seconds into a match, and in 1992 he was fined more than $30,000 for narrating Soccer's Hard Men, a notorious video of vicious tackles and dirty plays. Jones also dabbled in journalism during his career, writing a column for a London tabloid until he had an altercation with a fellow newspaperman. "I got into a bit of a scrap, so they sacked me," he says with a laugh. He had bitten the other reporter's nose.
Gone in 60 Seconds isn't Jones's first sting on the auto beat. He once hosted a TV show on a channel called Men & Motors, in which he met with celebrities and soccer players in a rowdy London bar to discuss subjects dear to men's hearts. "All they talk about at pubs is football, cars and women, don't they?" he says. "I won presenter of the year."
SPORTS AND POLITICS
Point Man, Point Guard
Two weeks ago Bob Conrad, 42, a former star point guard at Clemson, was enjoying a quiet five days working at a basketball camp at his alma mater in which his three sons were participating. A week later Conrad, a federal prosecutor in Charlotte, found himself in the thick of things in a much more hostile arena: the political cauldron of Washington, D.C.
Last Thursday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) revealed that Conrad, who had been appointed in December to head me Justice Department's Campaign Financing Task Force, had recommended to Attorney General Janet Reno that she name a special counsel to investigate Vice President Al Gore's 1996 fund-raising efforts. Needless to say, the disclosure considerably elevated Conrad's profile. "Life was a lot simpler teaching left-handed layups at basketball camp," he says, "than it was last week in Washington."
If there's one thing Conrad demonstrated at Clemson, however, it's that he knows how to lead a team through trying times. In 1979-80, his senior season, he teamed with forward Larry Nance to lead the Tigers to their only Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament The 6'2", 170-pound Conrad exhibited grit on the court (he's the school's all-time leader in charges taken, with 62) as well as sound instincts (his 402 career assists are fourth highest in school history).
Immediately after Conrad's recommendation to Reno was made public, the Gore campaign released a transcript of a contentious four-hour interview with the vice president on April 18, and Democratic officials questioned his impartiality in light of a $250 campaign contribution he'd made in 1996 to the reelection campaign of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Conrad is used to absorbing hard elbows, though. "Being chief of this task force is very similar to playing point guard," he says. "You have to drive down the lane not knowing what to expect but stay confident that something good will develop."