For Foster, his fans—indigent blacks for the most part—would crowd around his hotel and press up against the glass doors, but on his visits to the lobby the champ would deny them any acknowledgment, much less a smile they could cherish. Mostly, he elected to hole up in his suite, buffered by his obese brain trust; Lou Viscusi, his cheerful manager ("Mister Lou"), the classic old-time pot belly with matching big, fat cigar; Bob Goodman, PR man, nearly spherical and pink, suggesting a child's bouncing ball; Maurice Toweel, the promoter, crippled since his infancy, heavy-chested and swarthy, running the show from the side of Foster's bed, squatting there like some giant frog on a lily pad.
In the midst of this rotundity, Foster, shaped like a string pulled tight, groused and grumbled except when the subject of his $200,000 was advanced. Apparently, he would spar with the angel Lucifer in the fires of hell if sufficient front funds could be placed in Mister Lou's escrow account. Foster's major revenues have come by serving as fodder for sundry heavyweights, and he has been required to defend his title for walking-around money in places such as Tampa and Scranton. It is no wonder that for him Jo'burg was just, as they say, a date.
Displaying his sheriff's black leather gloves with the pebbled lead knuckles, he offered his views on South Africa. Well, the food was real good. "I don't know how they treat others around here," he explained. "That's not my business. They treat me like a king."
A few blocks away a man very nearly Foster's age and shade stood in the lobby of a building. He could not go up the stairs to attend a meeting he had organized for Ashe and some black journalists because he had just that day been "banned." That means he cannot be with more than one person at a time. He cannot play doubles in tennis, or play bridge, or go to a college or a library, or leave town, or publish a thought. Effectively, a man who is banned is no longer viable—which is precisely the intention. And it is neat: no trial, no explanation.
"It is amazing how few people realize what South Africa really is," Ashe says. "It is a police state. The greatest, most influential variable here is fear. Wherever I go I see that everybody is afraid."
Even the press, relatively untrammeled till now, fears that censorship is imminent. Informers are legion. Society matrons toss off the phrase "go inside" in the natural, everyday way that the friends of Eddie Coyle talk of "stir." The government police, the wistfully acronymed BOSS (Bureau of Stale Security), are omnipresent. One BOSS policeman stood with the banned man by the stairs, while another went up and infiltrated the meeting. As Ashe spoke in a room heavy with smoke and sweat and passion, he noticed that a little man in the first row could not keep his hands from trembling. Ashe talked of how he hoped his visit could be a first small step, somehow. He cited the progress he was familiar with.
"Sure, and here they would have banned Martin Luther King after two weeks," a man said, under his breath.
"Power, power," the people spoke out loud sometimes.
"Shame, shame," they also said.
The man with the trembling hands rose and talked of their banned colleague downstairs. "Our time is short. Very soon we all may say no more."