Max's World, his
friends called it, a planet where a kid could proclaim that he was going to do
the implausible--then do it. Sam, Harry and Jack, swept by the gravitational
pull, followed Max to the studio each Thursday, learned the control room and
assumed production of the show, which would last nine years. Sam Kellerman Live
and Jack Kellerman Live would follow when Max moved on.
the brothers called themselves in the credits. It was the name their father had
coined when they were little boys dragging and jamming their mattresses into
one room while three other bedrooms lay vacant, staying up past midnight
plotting the tribal raid they'd spring on America's media and entertainment
giants, and the riches they would reap. Their ambition was a demand for
justice: Their successes and rewards would vindicate all that Zeida had
suffered. Their mother's belief, borrowed from a Buddhist monk, that all a man
needed was one bowl, one shawl, one roof? Sorry, Ma. It never had a prayer.
lessons made them feel as if they were the guardians of an ancient tongue on
the verge of extinction. Each Saturday morning, on their way to the secular
Jewish school that their father and his friends had founded, the four
mop-haired boys would walk side by side. They were closer than brothers--more
like survivors huddled together. That's what Max's longtime friend Steven
Schneider said. They'd drop everything and come on the double whenever one of
them called a Brothers Meeting. They'd play hooky and go to the movies en
masse, kiss and caution one another when they parted. Walk into their home, and
you couldn't help but smell the blood loyalty, the certainty that these boys
were going places ... together, like fingers in a fist.
And so, of
course, Sam had to climb the same grimy stairs as Max. All that Sam and his two
younger brothers had ever had to do when they felt threatened was run to a
phone, and Max would appear like an avenging angel, his Little League Reggie
Jackson bat tucked in his jacket sleeve in case their enemies outnumbered his
fists. But Max had just left for Connecticut College. Now it was Sam's turn to
make sure that no Kellerman ever again became a victim.
In his senior
year Sam climbed to the third floor above the Greek deli and the tailor shop on
Times Square. He heard the machine-gun fire of the speed bags beyond the open
steel door. He peered into Max's World ... and stepped inside.
Athletic Club wasn't where you'd look for a 5'8", 130-pound kid with a
perfect 800 on his verbal SAT. Sam, to be honest, didn't really want to wallop
anyone. He was the brother who'd sit and listen all day to old people whose
loneliness and complaints annoyed everyone else, then walk them down Fifth
Avenue with slow and tiny steps. The one who'd leap into the middle of a family
fray and point to something so poetic and noble in each combatant's cause that
both would feel as if their conflict had occurred in a play crafted by a
master, and that resolution was aesthetically the correct choice. He was the
the boxing ring. Inside the ropes stood a black man two years older, five
inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than he, cannonball shoulders throwing
thunder at a sparring partner. Trainer Alexander Newbold, a strapping man from
Harlem better known as Ness, suddenly turned to the newcomer. "Got your
mouthpiece?" he barked.
"No way! Man,
that guy can punch!"