W: Ali designed
it himself and he's particularly proud of its decor, which I guess could be
described as Spartan Rustic. In a corner of the main cabin he's got an indoor
outhouse, which may seem a contradiction in terms, but I can't think of a
better way to describe the tall, cupboardlike structure. It lacks only the
half-moon on the door.
Ali sleeps in the
smallest of the bunkhouses, which he refers to as "my Uncle Tom's
Cabin." In it are a narrow bed, a table with a Big Ben alarm clock, a coal
stove and a table made from a tree trunk. All through 1974 he trained hard
there—chopping wood ("I borrowed my strength from the trees," he said
about it), sparring in the gym he's built there and doing heavy roadwork on a
country lane named Pleasant Run Road. Throughout the year Ali kept his weight,
which tends to balloon, at fighting trim—about 210 pounds. It is worth
remembering that George Foreman asserts that he only reached his proper weight
a few weeks before the championship bout in Za�re and didn't have enough time
to build up to his peak strength.
It also is
important to note that Ali feels Fighter's Heaven kept him away from
temptation. He has a little monologue about the distractions of the city.
"Look at the kind of thing that happens there. A pretty girl comes by and
says we're having a party. She's just down the hall in 215. You're in 210
across the hall. You are trying to sleep and you hear the music going
bum-bum-bum-de-bum. So you get up and say, 'Well, O.K., just for a while.' But
nothing like that can happen at Fighter's Heaven. Around there, all they got is
Pennsylvania Dutch farmers and coal miners."
S: Doesn't Ali
have any vices? Come on...
W: Of course. In
fact, one of them is his love of automobiles. At present Ali's car pool out
back of the camp includes two Rolls-Royces, a Volkswagen, a station wagon, a
Jeep, a nine-passenger Chevrolet van, a Mercedes 300, a Ford Falcon, a
"Blue Bird" mobile home and a huge Greyhound fitted out with a shower
and a kitchen and roomy enough for 20 people. The turnover of these vehicles is
brisk. As Ali says, he has many more cars than suits. The destination panel
above the windshield of the Greyhound reads: FOOLIN AROUND. Since Ali loves to
drive, you can imagine that motorists out on the highway who have seen the huge
bus gaining on them, idly wondering if it's barreling along for Pittsburgh or
Harrisburg or wherever, have been startled not only at the odd destination, but
at the sudden sight of that familiar face up behind the big horizontal steering
Ali drives all
his cars. He hires chauffeurs, but he ends up doing the driving himself. The
chauffeurs sit in the back of the limousines. At the tollbooths on the
turnpikes the collectors recognize him and ask how things are going. Ali tells
them that times are so rough that he's taking on a little part-time work as a
chauffeur. "I got the white boss in the back," and he motions over the
seat with his thumb.
enjoys driving at night, traveling endless miles through the Poconos as he
chats with the truckers on the Citizen's Band radio. All these truckers have
code names—"River Rat," "Wino." " Smokey Bear" is their
code word for any policeman or a radar trap. Ali's name is the "Big
Bopper." The truckers talk about where they are on the roads, and where the
police cars have been sighted, and finally someone will ask, "Big Bopper,
Big Bopper, this is Redeye...you really fixin' on beating
then the truckers listening in hear the famous voice, full of incredulity,
drifting over the airways. "You ask a crazy thing like that when you know
you talking to the Big Bopper?" Sometimes he gives them a poem:
I done wrassled
with an alligator
I done tussled with a whale...
Only last week I murdered a rock
Injured a stone, hospitalized a brick.
I'm so mean I make medicine sick.
S: I hope you
don't know too many more of those.
W: You want to
hear his shortest? It goes as follows: Me. Wheee!