Golfer Bert Yancey
wears one. So does ex-jockey Johnny Longden. So does Vince Lombardi. So do
Golfers Carol Mann, Pain Barnett, Kathy Farrer and Linda Craft. So does the
English racehorse Karabas. So do Rodeo Star Casey Tibbs and Pitcher Don
Drysdale. So do Trainer Jim Maloney and his filly Morgaise.
Wear what? Why, a
copper bracelet, of course.
And what do these
assorted sports people and sports animals have in common? The answer is
something that your great-grandfather usually called rheumatics and your
grandfather called rheumatism. Today it goes by the classier sounding name of
arthritis. These strenuous sport types are wearing the bangles in the hope of
finding more and better relief from those aches in the joints than they have
otherwise been able to get.
The copper caper,
as medical and legal critics cutely call it, has caught on also among the
self-styled beautiful people—in fact, it got its impetus from them. Candidates
for the title of Old Green-stain include the king who got busted and "the
woman I love," the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Also the Duke's nephew by
marriage, the upwardly mobile photographer Lord Snowdon. Not to mention Coco
Chanel, Stavros Niarchos and the Marquess of Bath (who obligingly offers them
at a modest price to visitors at his commercialized estate). From the flick
world there are Lauren Bacall, Producer Dick Brown and his wife Eva Gabor. And
Actor John Forsythe. The list is endless.
That the wearing
of the bracelets is a fad, no one can deny. It appears to have started in
southern Africa, perhaps Rhodesia, where whites troubled by rheumatism and gout
noticed that the natives wore copper jewelry and had few or no such complaints.
Cause and effect? The fad spread from there to Britain and now to the U.S.
Business in the bracelets has mushroomed in a decade from almost nothing to a
multimillion-dollar take. But are the bracelets only a fad—a latter-day snake
oil to mulct the gullible? Are the sales promoters anything but contemptible
quacks and conscienceless nostrum peddlers?
The wearers, of
course, think otherwise. Yancey declares: "I don't question this thing. I
know it works for me, and I'm never going to take it off. My tennis elbow
hasn't bothered me since I got it." Yancey goes so far as to suggest that
the bracelet saved his career and enabled him to win the $25,000 Bing Crosby
Open. Before he got it he had tried prescribed medicines but complained that
they upset his stomach.
Longden, now a
trainer, has been bothered by an arthritic condition for so long that he can't
count the years. "It was so bad that I couldn't double my hand to hold the
reins," he says. His bracelet was recommended to him by a Montana Crow
Indian. "After I got it I could hold a horse, so I guess it helped. Anyway,
I've worn one so long that I'm convinced. Took it off once to see what
happened. My knuckles enlarged so I couldn't hold a whip. Put it back on, and I
was fine. Now it never comes off anymore."
Lombardi has been
wearing his bracelet (he forgets who gave it to him) since July of last year
and credits it with curing arthritis in his hip. Then he adds: "You have to
be a believer, too!" Surprisingly, many wearers are as candid as Lombardi
in that regard: they admit that it may be "all in the mind" but contend
with considerable logic that if they feel better, by whatever mechanism, the
thing is doing some good.
Players John Newcombe and Tony Roche appeared to think that the bracelets were
doing them some good, so much so that their use of them was mentioned by a TV
commentator at Forest Hills last September. (This touched off a flurry of
repressive action by legal authorities.) Now the green bloom has worn off.
Newcombe refuses to discuss the matter. Roche concedes that he is no longer
paid to wear one, though he keeps his on anyway. "It doesn't hurt to wear
it, does it?" A more significant question is how much good it has done him.
Roche still has trouble with his shoulder and elbow.
The most difficult
wearers to evaluate are dumb animals. On this issue, a talking horse would be a
great help. Lacking one, it's up to the trainer to judge whether a horse has an
arthritic condition. Bernard Van Cutsem made this decision about Karabas and
got a copper pastern strap from Lieut. Colonel Arthur Forbes of Sevenhampton,
Gloucestershire. It seems that Forbes picked up the bracelet idea in Africa and
went into the business in the early 1960s. Since he had been a game warden he
has given special attention to animals (though it was Forbes' bracelets that
Newcombe and Roche were touting). While Karabas still isn't talking, the fact
is that he won the Washington International in Laurel, Md. last November.
Forbes claims that a pastern strap also helped Black Prince II, which finished
third in the Epsom Derby in 1966.