SI Vault
Richard Hoffer
July 14, 2003
Art Donovan was in Guam with that last wave of Marines when the U.S. unleashed its nuclear might on Japan. His first thought when he heard the news: "Was this trip really necessary?"� Coming home, he did not exactly get a hero's welcome, to the extent that the bartenders in California, his first friendly land-ho after 23 months of bobbing around the Pacific, would not serve him. It had been a long trip but not so long that he was yet old enough to drink. We won the war for this? Matters improved marginally by the time he reached his family's Bronx kitchen. "My mother was cooking a ham." But even when he got into Manhattan, with 20 months' pay in his pockets, a guy still had a hard time slaking his thirst. The fellow at the Roosevelt Hotel told Donovan he'd need a shirt and tie if he was going to drink there (he wasn't).
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July 14, 2003

"artie, Are You Out Of Work Again?"

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Donovan didn't mind, because playing in the NFL had gotten to be serious fun. When a team made its West Coast swing—to play the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers—it was a fiscal imperative that the team stay out there for the entire two weeks. Airfare was a killer.

"Oh, man, a paid vacation," says Donovan of those early travel schedules. "One time, five of us rented a car and got a map of Hollywood, all the stars' homes. We're driving around, and I can't believe my eyes: I think I see Alan Ladd washing his car."

It was Alan Ladd (this was after Shane), and the NFL being just on the cusp of public awareness, the actor looked up, startled to recognize so much semifamous muscle in a rental car. "He says, 'I know who you guys are, you're the Baltimore Colts.' ...Anyway, he invites us in."

It had been about a decade since Donovan had first visited California, to little purpose, but things were changing. Anything could happen now. Was it really possible that football players, in that short time, had become celebrities? Ladd, the famous movie star, went off to get the boys a case of beer, and they all had a grand time that afternoon in Hollywood.

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