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When the driver stopped his truck at a red light on the Manhattan side of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, two men, one of them armed, told him to get out with his hands up. They took his money and drove off in his truck. Among the items in the truck was a large red envelope addressed to Jack Fox, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
No one called Jack Fox works for this magazine. It is an all-purpose name, immutable, a mail drop. It has served several men over the years, none of them called Fox, or even Jack. It belongs to whoever is currently acting as traffic manager in our photography department.
Since the manager has an alias and the envelope was hijacked, it might be deduced that its contents were heroin or hot pearls, but actually it was only 12 rolls of exposed film. When a photographer on assignment out of town wants to rush film to New York for processing, he puts it in a big red envelope and sends it off to Jack Fox.
Sometimes the journey is precarious. Film from the Evel Knievel canyon jump went from a boat at the bottom of the canyon to a helicopter to a plane. In New Orleans an off-duty policeman hired to speed Sugar Bowl film from stadium to airport couldn't find the airport. An SI photographer coming back from a championship fight in Nigeria mistook an Associated Press motorcycle courier at Kennedy Airport for our own man and innocently sent his film to the AP photo lab.
Still, the hijacking was something new. Two weeks ago in Los Angeles, Photographer George Long put his film of the Virginia Slims tournament into a Jack Fox envelope, phoned Traffic Manager Ted Stephney (Ted's been Fox off and on since 1958) and had the parcel sent by "priority small parcel handling." That meant the red envelope would travel in the baggage compartment and would be unloaded with other baggage at the airport in New York that night, where it would be picked up by a driver from the Time Inc. mail room.
All routine. Next morning Fox—er, Stephney—phoned the photo lab to see how the film was coming along. "No film here," said the lab. "Impossible," Stephney muttered. He immediately phoned L.A., getting Long out of bed. Long checked the airport and was assured that the film had indeed gone to New York. Stephney checked the mail room. Yes, said the mail room, the film had been picked up at the airport. "Impossible," Stephney said. Well, the mail room said, they'd check further. In a little while, they phoned back.
"Ted," the voice said, "we have a little problem," and went on to describe the hijacking. "Impossible," Stephney groaned. Had the Mafia been watching those red envelopes and decided they might be worth swiping?
As it turned out, the perpetrators were interested only in the driver's cash and a getaway ride in the truck, which was found abandoned a short time later at Broadway and 43rd Street. The envelope for Jack Fox was still in it. The film was rushed to the lab and developed, and the pictures got into the magazine on schedule. Despite everything, Jack had not been outfoxed.