SI Vault
Jerry Kirshenbaum
May 14, 1973
Mark Spitz has seven golds, $5 million in endorsements and a beautiful bride, but his image needs regilding
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May 14, 1973

On Your Mark, Get Set, Sell

Mark Spitz has seven golds, $5 million in endorsements and a beautiful bride, but his image needs regilding

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Ask Mark Spitz about his place in the world today and he replies, with characteristic bluntness, "I'm a commodity, an endorser." Raise the matter with Norman Brokaw, the Los Angeles talent agent under whose care Spitz is amassing a fortune to match his Olympic fame, and you receive an answer rather more elaborate. " Mark Spitz performs services for several major companies," Brokaw says. "He's an instant star. He's the greatest hero since Lindbergh."

In the busy days before Spitz was once again decorated with gold—this time a wedding band on his tanned left hand—Brokaw's assessment seemed hardly overdrawn. When Mark and fianc�e Suzy Weiner (see cover) drove off one morning to pick up their wedding license, they kept their mission secret only to find, as they did almost everywhere else they went, newspaper photographers lying in wait at the Santa Monica courthouse. Sketches of Spitz' honeymoon wardrobe ("yours for cutting and folding") wound up in the local papers, and the Hollywood Reporter called a Spitz-Weiner wedding invitation the hottest ticket in town. Taking time out from writing thank-you notes for the silver trays, chinaware and other gifts that were pouring in, Suzy joined Mark one afternoon aboard his new 39-foot racing sloop Sumark 7.

As the boat sailed into the Pacific, Instamatics clicked alongshore, other vessels reconnoitered for a better view of the famous skipper and a small girl aboard a cabin cruiser jumped up and down at the sight of him. "Look at that," Spitz said happily. "She sees me."

Spitz' days were darkened only when the Los Angeles Times suggested that he was being merchandised like "a chunk of plastic livestock" and characterized him as peevish and inarticulate. When Mark drove Suzy in his Mercedes 450SL to a steak house named Monty's, the parking attendant sympathized, "They really did a job on you, Mr. Spitz." Entering the restaurant, Spitz caused his usual sensation, although Suzy, in low-slung bellbottoms and with her blonde hair flowing, could have turned heads by herself. Suzy has modeled for national TV commercials, and she has the wholesome, dimpled prettiness one routinely expects of every UCLA coed—which is what she was before meeting Mark Spitz.

She was already showing a willingness, moreover, to stick by her man in sickness as well as health. "That story in the Times was demeaning," Suzy said. "It made me so mad."

"Some people are just going to hate me, and I don't know why," Mark said. "I guess you can't win them all." He was interrupted when the hostess approached with a problem. Mark and Suzy had arranged to hold their rehearsal dinner in the same restaurant later in the week but in the excitement of landing so prestigious a booking the management had forgotten that the private room the couple reserved had been taken by the local Kiwanis club. "This is very embarrassing," the hostess said.

But the confusion was soon cleared up, the rehearsal dinner went smoothly and, finally, in a Sunday-afternoon ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Mark Andrew Spitz, 23, and Susan Ellen Weiner, 21, became legend and wife. Curiosity-seekers and paparazzi were kept at a comfortable distance while 300 guests gathered in the Crystal Room, which was festooned with pink and white chrysanthemums and roses. The room was cheerful, if less lavishly decorated than it had been for Dean Martin's wedding reception a few days earlier, a party said to have cost $60,000 for flowers, another $20,000 for food.

Mark's Aunt Katie and Uncle Paul were there, as was Cousin Sherman, the best man. They rubbed elbows with Spitz' old swimming teammates from Indiana, former coaches and with the lawyers and press agents who oversee his affairs. Also present were Mark's parents; Arnold Spitz recently lost his job with an Oakland scrap metal firm and now is a paid consultant to his son.

The menu included Chicken Polynesian and California champagne. But first Mark and Suzy exchanged vows beneath a chuppah—wedding canopy—in a traditional Jewish ceremony that included a reading of e. e. cummings poetry selected by the bride and groom:

for you are and i am and we are (above and under all possible worlds) in love

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