Maybe only Babe knew that, but the investigation found that boxing in California was an endless series of fixed fights, cheated boxers, indiscriminate licensing of criminals, monopoly and only the participants know what else. Now only monopoly is cried in Los Angeles, and most of that is done by Aileen Eaton's rival promoters. With assistance from them, she knocked them all out of the box.
Her technique seldom varied. She would open with a pestiferous ploy by objecting to the commission in Sacramento (where she employed a lobbyist) to the licensing of another promoter. Then she would load up a show and schedule it near the opponent's. This, along with her constant scrapping with managers, made her one of the most vilified and acutely disliked figures in sports, and inspired various comment, ranging from base gossip about her personal life to charges that she controlled the commission and was more than adept at subtle bribery of the press.
"Goodness!" shouts Aileen, "the commission doesn't give me everything I want. Look at Governor Pat Brown. I campaigned for him, and he wanted to abolish boxing. And the press. If you give a man $300, how do you know he won't take $600 from your rival?"
The press, like many of the managers, would like to have another promoter in Los Angeles but, unfortunately, most of those who have pitched their tents have been promotional dolts. "A competent promoter who knows the business," says Melville, "could make money in this town. There's been a lot of promoters, but mostly gypsy groups who gave ridiculous guarantees. These guys were kids taking on a world champion. O.K., you go with one of them, get your $1,000 more than you would from Ma. Then the promoter goes out of business, and you have to crawl back on your hands and knees. Ma has flattened them all. It's the organization. The others were like three-ring circuses. Ma's like a machine."
One promoter whom many claim was flattened by Aileen is Leo Minskoff. Says Minskoff: "I consider Aileen to be one of the smartest promoters in the country. She's building up young fighters and making big paydays. I have no bitterness toward her." Yet, wasn't it true that he once did not feel so kindly toward her?
"Oh," he says, "that's right in a way, but I never blamed my failures on her. I partially blamed people like Don Fraser—he is now my friend—who I thought was spreading untruths about me [Fraser was Aileen's publicity man]. O.K., maybe she did go out of her way to hurt me sometimes. Like the night of the Quarry-Alongi fight, she ran a big wrestling show. This was a regular wrestling night but the commission should have done something about it. Then she tried to block me when my license came up for renewal. She said she was building up fighters and I was stealing them. I never did. I only used one of her fighters once, and that was Quarry. She held something against me that she was guilty of. Joe Louis was promoting and I loaned Joe some money. He brought in Cassius Clay to fight George Logan. Then she steals Clay to fight Lavorante and Archie Moore.
"But she withdrew her objections to our getting a license when she saw she wasn't getting anywhere. I know she tried to block Don Fraser, who went on his own. You know what I told him. I said he should see each of the commissioners individually and that he wouldn't have any trouble. His license was granted. One thing is for sure. Having a lot of money in this town won't help a promoter. She's got a 10,000-seat arena and, best of all, she's got a good television contract. She's a machine, all right." The Machine never stops. Except for a few trips to Las Vegas, occasional parties and a weekly trip to the beauty parlor, Aileen Eaton never breaks her routine. She leaves her house early in the morning, goes to the office, then to the bank and back to the office. She returns home late at night. On one such night an incident occurred that tells much about her. She was accosted in the driveway by a pair of bandits. The two slapped her in the mouth and ripped away her necklace and tore off her bracelet. Why not, they decided, tie her up and put her in the trunk and demand a ransom? "No, don't be stupid," she advised. Kidnapping, she told them, as if she were conducting a symposium, would get them gas, but robbery, well, they would only get a few years. The two thought and then agreed to loot only the house. They wanted her to direct the tour. "Not on your life," she said. "My husband is a very sick man and he can't be disturbed." Exasperated, they started arguing with each other and a neighbor hollered out. The pair fled and Aileen, her feet partially tied, got up and stumbled after them, waving her hands. She managed to get the license-plate number, and the bunglers were later caught. "If people are going to steal," says Aileen disdainfully, "they should know how."
So her life races into the 60s, and one wonders why—alone again, now that her second husband is dead—she persists in the face of so much abuse and what really pushes her along this strange and dark side of sport. Greed seems beyond her, but she does appear, behind her mask, to enjoy power over people and situations, and maybe even secretly to like being called vicious and cunning and a ruthless old chick who is No. 1 in a game in which no woman may ever tread again. Or, perhaps, she delights in being the personification of the kind of woman once described by a 6�-cigar smoker:
"Whatever their outward show of respect for a man's merit and authority, they always regard him secretly as an ass and with something akin to pity. His most gaudy sayings and doings seldom deceive them; they see the actual man within and know him for a shallow and pathetic fellow."
Yet, more than anything, she seems chased by loneliness and by the hope that the next deal, the next great bargaining caper, will ease away what it is that aches inside her. But it never does, and on many nights, very late and when the wind is softly stroking the guava and olive trees in her yard, she walks into the big, empty house littered with phones and toy dogs and there The Incomparable Buzzsaw gently releases her melancholy through a piano. It is a long time before a little girl standing in an Indian summer twilight envelops all the fighters with cut eyes and all the managers with won ton soup on their ties.