The attorney general's office found no improprieties, and $332,000 is currently in escrow, ready to be disbursed to charities as soon as the necessary paperwork is completed. Meyer says it took so long for the money to reach the charities because the players didn't sign their contracts for nine months, partly because they were trying to negotiate a bigger cut for themselves. He points out that while 50% of both his profits and the players' royalties were to go to charity, to date he has donated $182,000 and the Bears players $60,000. "It concerns me that some people aren't being as charitable as they intended to be," he says.
Wilson still seems convinced that Gault is the Baryshnikov of bunco artists. "Put it this way," says Wilson. "If I had to trust him with my life or my wife, I wouldn't trust him with either one."
Gault, however, insists he has done no wrong and seems unconcerned about all the grumbling in the Bears locker room. He thinks some of his teammates may be less concerned about the money going to charity than they are about looking after their own percentage. "A lot of people, per se, wanted to make sure they got their cut," he says.
Few people have ever wanted their cut of the Great American Dream more than Willie Gault. "One day he said to me, 'Dainnese, I have to build a dynasty for the kids and for you,' " says his wife. "And we didn't even have any kids. Willie's a hustler and he can make deals, and when you're in the limelight everybody's got a deal for you. My biggest problem is trying to slow him down a bit. Willie just can't say no. Last year I could see it growing, but since they won the Super Bowl it's gotten to the point where I think he's ready to explode."
Sitting on an apricot-colored couch in the Gault living room, Dainnese herself looks ready to explode. She is about to give birth to the couple's first child—a girl, according to the ultrasound, whom they have already named Shakari because Dainnese thinks it sounds vaguely Egyptian. She commissioned the painting of a large mural depicting herself as Cleopatra and Willie as both Caesar and Mark Antony, which serves as the centerpiece of a formal living room she is decorating with an Egyptian motif. "I think his mind is faster than his body," she says. "He just can't go fast enough. But I think he's slowing down, I really do." She stares thoughtfully off into space for a moment, and as she does, Willie's voice comes booming out from behind the door in the next room, telling his aide, "I need the number for P.M. Magazine. I want to talk to them about doing a story on me." Gault's wife just rolls her eyes.
"Willie's mother and father are busy bees," Dainnese says, "so I guess it's hereditary. And his sister, Clara, was as fast as he was when they were growing up, fast as the wind. But she got married and stayed in Griffin. Willie took his talent and ran with it."
Griffin, Ga., calls itself the textile capital of the South, and like most of the people who have spent their lives there, both of Gault's parents worked in the mills, making towels. Gault may be from Griffin, but he was never entirely of it. He is named after his mother, Willie Mae, but in high school he was better known as Country because his friends considered him such a square. If Gault happened to be riding in a car when one of his classmates lit up a joint, he would stick his head out the car window for the rest of the trip so that he would remain pure of the drug peril. "I was a very likable person," he says. "All my friends used to say I was a teacher's pet, but everybody just liked me." After the Bears won the Super Bowl last season, Griffin (pop. 21,871) had what Gault describes as a ticker-tape parade for him, although when pressed, Gault concedes that the parade was characterized by "not a lot of ticker tape."
Gault says that growing up in the South, where right next to his name on his birth certificate he was identified as "Negro," made him conscious of the economic disadvantage at which he started because of his skin color. And like any other contest he entered, black was a race he was determined not to lose. "I want our children to be able to inherit millions of dollars when they're old enough to," Gault says. "It has to start somewhere; why can't it start with me, per se? Someone has to step out, someone has to start to accomplish what I want to see done. I'm willing to be that person. If I'm sitting here living off my football contract, I'm not fulfilling my dream. You hear about dynasties and empires being built all the time. I want to build one. That's what drives me."
Before he is done he would like to pierce the Chicago skyline with Gault Tower, open a clothing store called Gault's of Chicago and fill it with his own distinctive line of clothing, to be called World Class. For the time being he has to content himself with running Gault Communications, a cellular-telephone distributorship, and with trying to get his film-acting career started. Perhaps uncertain whether to study the Stanislavskian system or the Method, Gault has confined his acting classes to one on auditions and another on acting in commercials. He did read for a role in the soap opera Ryan's Hope, and once auditioned for a guest shot on The Cosby Show but didn't get it. At the moment he is waiting for the right property. He is thinking of joining Chicago's famed Second City comedy troupe. "They might let me in just because of who I am," he says. If that doesn't work out, he might take the Farrah Fawcett route to stardom. "The NFL has never done a poster of me," he says. "Can you believe it? I'm going to make one and distribute it myself, so I get to keep all the money."
In Gault's pin-up world looks are never deceiving, they are the only reality that truly matters. To see the gloss of his image is to know him the way he wants to be known. Gault once boasted, "Some people have one or two friends; I've got thousands," which is precisely how beauty queens feel about the people who adore them. When Gault saw a dog in a Kal Kan commercial that was so perfect-looking it could actually complement his own good looks, he became obsessed with the idea of owning it and contacted the sponsor to get the dog's address and phone number. As a result, Gault now owns a pure white two-year-old Samoyed named King that was one of the Kal Kan pooch's puppies. "You know Willie," says Dainnese. "He's flamboyant and he loves the camera, so naturally he had to have the most spectacular dog he could find." She looks down at King, who has several bows tied to his fur. "The dog looks good in pictures. What can I say?"