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GOLDEN TRIUMPHS OF THE GORGEOUS GAEL
Patrick Campbell
August 29, 1960
The carnation was still in position, and the dark-blue pin-stripe suit was holding up well in its maturity. A hint of silver in the sideburns added a new and effective touch to his immeasurable dignity.
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August 29, 1960

Golden Triumphs Of The Gorgeous Gael

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With the ease of men accustomed to dealing in large sums of money we negotiated past �25, down through �10 and �5, and finally settled for �1, which would enable Jack to take a taxi to Stamford Bridge dog track where—as he'd just remembered—a bookmaker owed him �150. At that moment I remembered something, too. I had �28 in ones in my wallet, which I'd just drawn as expenses from my newspaper. I was, however, in safe hands. Jack, perceiving there'd been a hitch and guessing at its origin, turned to look away. "Isn't that Lady Duff Cooper over there?" he said in his social voice. By the time he looked back I'd been able to peel a single unit off my roll and make the transfer, with proper regrets that I was unable to contribute a larger loan.

"At any rate," I said, "the best of luck in Germany." "Thanks, old chap," said Jack. "I hope to put up a good show," he added, modestly overlooking the fact that he'd just put on one fully up to standard, containing all the ingredients which had made me one of his fans during his fighting years.

Of all the fighters I have known, in fact, Jack Doyle was the one with the most highly developed talent for turning actual defeat into apparent victory, while making it seem at the same time that this was the only just and fair result. It was a technique seen in its finest flower at Harringay Arena in north London, just after the end of the war, where he was billed as Jack Doyle, the Gorgeous Gael, Heavyweight Wrestling Champion of All-Ireland, without—according to the more exact records—having been involved in the sport before. His drawing power as a boxer had, however, been terminated by Eddie Phillips, who knocked him stiff inside 30 seconds at White City in 1938, after Jack had kept a large audience waiting for 20 minutes, until chartered accountants had been able to present him with a convincing estimate of his share of the gate. After that he retired to Ireland, where he appeared at the Theatre Royal in Dublin, in a double singing act with his Mexican wife, Movita, that often provoked infighting as fiery as anything we had seen in the ring. Unfortunately, when the war was over, Movita decided to retire alone to Mexico, leaving the singer-fighter, as usual, just this side of the rocks.

Without the boost of her penetrating soprano Jack's own light tenor voice scarcely reached beyond the third row of the orchestra. There was only one thing to do, and that was to climb into the ring again, but this time, in view of the number of people who remembered the brevity of the old one, with a brand-new fighting act. It was the birth of the Gorgeous Gael. He was well matched in his first contest. His opponent was Eddie Phillips, his former conqueror under the Queensberry Rules, a man who had not tried his hand at wrestling either.

Eddie Phillips was first into the ring, wearing thick black woolen tights and looking peevish at being taken away from his East End pub at the busiest hour of the evening. He waited alone in his corner for a long time, but there was no sign of the Gael. We started the slow handclap and then, at the split second when further delay might have reduced enthusiasm, there was a skirl of bagpipes and six Irish laborers in saffron kilts marched in, blowing the martial air O'Donnell Abu. Behind them, gleaming in a white silk robe and a heavy coating of bottled suntan, tramped the Gorgeous Gael, with a shamrock the size of a dahlia embroidered over his heart. The procession made one circuit outside the ring and was about to embark upon another when a female fan in the front row put out her foot and tripped up the leading piper, who fell on his bag and burst it. Most of the other pipers fell on top of him. Unruffled as ever by adversity, the Gael stepped over them and climbed into the ring, only to find that Eddie Phillips had gone. With the speed of improvisation which had always been his forte, the Gael gestured resignedly toward Phillips' empty corner, clasped his hands above his head in the victory sign and exited for his own dressing room.

The crowd, of course, would have none of this, but it was another 10 minutes before the promoters managed to get both men back into the ring at the same time. The battle, when it was eventually joined, lasted about as long as the previous one at White City. A distinguished titled sportsman, tiring of the tentative pawings above him, suddenly called out, "I don't know what you're allowed to do to the feller, Eddie, but do it just the same!" Phillips, equally ignorant of the rules of wrestling, shared his admirer's feelings. He bunched his fist and struck the Gael on the ear. Jack immediately fell down, where he remained until Phillips had been disqualified. Then he sprang to his feet and put in an impassioned plea with the referee to give his assailant a second chance. "He's new to the game," we heard him cry. "We'll fight with fists if he wants it that way!" He was still demanding clemency for Phillips long after Phillips had disappeared. We, the Irish element in the audience, gave him an ovation. It was one of the cleanest and most sporting victories he'd ever achieved.

This quick decision over his former conqueror put Jack right back in the big time. He had a number of successful scuffles against elderly and mainly bald Hungarians, Greeks and Turks, causing many of them to retire by falling on them from his full height while he, and they, thought he was merely maneuvering for a wristlock. Women were turning up at Harringay in large numbers to study the Gael's magnificent physique, on which no mark of his rugged profession had yet appeared, while practically every male member of the audience under the age of 70 was getting more than his money's worth from the opinion, freely expressed, that he could do it better himself.

Then, as usual, disaster struck again. Jack, by a wild error of policy on the part of his several managers, got himself matched against Two-Ton Tony Galento, a fearful fighting machine who had been seen not only to enjoy striking Joe Louis, but also to be indifferent to the lumps that Louis had handed him back.

It was an emergency of the gravest kind. Galento under the comparatively tight rein of the Queensberry Rules was bad enough, but Galento with no holds barred might well be murder. I became seriously concerned for our man. Even, it seemed to me, if a working plan could be agreed upon by both parties in the interests of preventing a fatal injury to one of them, there was no guarantee that Galento's conception of go-slow would be anything like slow enough. Fascinated by the morbid aura that surrounds all executioners, I felt compelled to call upon Two-Ton Tony as soon as he arrived in London. I took him out to lunch. The shock of seeing him close up lasted 20 minutes, during which neither of us spoke. My attention was riveted by the eyebrows, like black fur, which crossed his face from ear to ear. For his part, he seemed more than half asleep. There was a streak of lipstick along the stubble of his jaw, a tribute from some unimaginable source.

Things warmed up in the pub where Galento, having refused a drink, suddenly swallowed two-thirds of a bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges, which I'd ordered for myself. "You're all right, Red," he said, giving me a friendly uppercut which seemed to flip my head over backward between my shoulder blades. As it sprang back into position he did it again. To keep him from doing it any more I gripped his fist in both hands and saw that the knuckles were so badly smashed they were almost concave. Galento revealed that he'd been wrestling a bear in New Jersey, that the animal had become overexcited, and that he'd had to knock it down. Then, to show that the injured hand was sound, he drove it, clenched, against the wall. It looked at that moment as if Jack's only chance of coming alive out of the approaching contest would be to enter it in a suit of armor, mounted on a horse and carrying a lance tipped' with curare. Even then, I thought, he'd need three free stabs before the fight began.

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