"You gonna whup that Ali?"
A jazz combo blared bravely in the corner and the drinks were flowing free, but when Chuvalo departed the revelers paused in what might have been sorrow. Perhaps they were wincing vicariously in anticipation of the blows that would fall on Gristly George when the bell rang. Perhaps they were still waiting for Howard Hughes.
Samantha Eggar had not showed yet, nor had Batgirl or even the Valley Doll—indeed they never would. Pezim, who was committed to paying their first-class air fares plus accommodations plus free $100 seats at the fight, had canceled them out for economic reasons. But there were a few celebs on hand. For instance, Larry Rose, 28, a watch-charm dentist from Houston who serves as supervisor of Ali's dental health during such Million-Dollar Fistic Classics as this one. Rose, who recently finished a tour of Army duty in El Paso, stands about 5'6" tall—"Just the right size to get into Muhammad's mouth in case he needs a foot extracted," said one jokester around his Demerara and Coke. "A fighter really needs a dentist," said Rose in defense. "What if he gets clipped in the jaw just as he sticks his tongue out? A fighter could lose a lotta blood that way." And, in Ali's case, a good bit of his livelihood.
Also on hand was Tom Larscheid—you all remember old Tommy. Back in 1960, as a running back for Utah State on the same team that produced Lionel Aldridge, Merlin Olsen and Jim Turner, Larscheid ran for 1,044 yards, which was second only to Bob Gaiters of New Mexico State in collegiate ground gaining that season. He led the nation in average gain per carry at 8.42 yards, quite a feat for a man who stands only 5'8".
"After Utah State, I played three seasons with the British Columbia Lions," he said over the music and the slosh of strange-smelling liquids. "I was a flanker, and in my rookie year I caught eight touchdown passes for a league rookie record. After that, I caught three knee operations, two on the right and one on the left. Now I'm 32 and a stock promoter up here. Meet my wife, B.R.—that stands for Bank Roll, haw-haw!" B.R. smiled sourly: Beautiful and Resentful.
Though Samantha & Co. would not be present, Hollywood was ably represented by Charles James, a 27-year-old black character actor who doubles as a sparring partner for Ali. "Boxing and acting don't conflict," he philosophized.
"There's a lot of acting in boxing, sure enough, and plenty of aggression in the film business. I was into music once—played with a rock group culled The Sledgehammer out in the San Fernando Valley—but music was a troublemaker at home. All them groupies. Now I got me a family and a Honda 750 chopper and a few television and movie jobs. Just finished a Mod Squad and a bit in The All-American Boy with Jon Voigt for Warners. And I got my lists. I've sparred with both Ali and Frazier. Ali is all head, all stick and move and smarts. He can hurt you or not hurt you at will. Frazier always hurts you. He don't know how not to. Joe, a country boy, just diggin' all the time. In the belly. You come away from three rounds with Joe, you don't walk tall for three days. Still, I like to work with them all. It keeps the meter runnin', as Joe says."
By now a crowd had gathered around Charles James. This was good stuff for $100-a-seat fight fans, a man who had actually been pummeled around by both Ali and Frazier, wow! What does it feel like, does it hurt much, how do they move, etc.? But at this moment, Murray Pezim decided to call a "brief timeout" in the nonstop party. A smoked turkey contributed by Irving Ungerman had been consumed down to the wishbone and no more food, not even the stalest of hors d'oeuvres, was in prospect. Indeed, Ungerman's turkey had been the only food on hand all night. "Some orgy," muttered one Vancouver swell. "Right now I'd settle for a cheeseburger and coffee."