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A Shining Knight no more
Gary Smith
September 12, 1983
In days of old he was Beautiful Harvey Martin of the Dallas Cowboys, but now the party's over.
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September 12, 1983

A Shining Knight No More

In days of old he was Beautiful Harvey Martin of the Dallas Cowboys, but now the party's over.

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He took his new ring and his new jaw to the nightclubs to see how much love a handsome young Dallas celebrity had coming his way. Sure, Sharon was a great lady, but funny thing about her, she didn't even come to see all his games and often as not hadn't even punched 1080 on her AM dial to hear The Beautiful Harvey Martin Show.

"I was a rude, inconsiderate bastard to Sharon," he says. "I lost all touch with reality."

Women loved him, giggling at his way with words and sensing the vulnerability just beneath the ever-ready grin. But one question ate at him. It was the one the people in the bars asked after they had squeezed his hand and slapped his back. "Well, what are you gonna do when your football career's over, Harv?"

Without football, he told himself, Harvey Martin is nothing. He remembered the days of nothingness and began to invest frantically. "When you're a pro football player you can't take it slow," he says. "You might get hurt. You might get left out. Your name might be gone."

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In '73 Martin had lost $5,000 buying a piece of land that turned out to be at the bottom of Lake Ray Hubbard in Texas, and he had almost lost another 20 grand when a couple of sapphires that he was about to invest in, supposedly worth $350,000, turned out to be paperweights. He had also lost $10,000 on a nightclub named The Balls, which burnt down, and in '76 he had invested in a barbecue restaurant named Smokey John's. But he had just been warming up. In '78 he opened a nightclub named Lucifer's and a restaurant named Recipes, both in Dallas; in '79 a restaurant in Irving named Smokey's Express; in '80 a block of renovated restaurants and office space in San Antonio and a second Smokey's Express in Dallas; and in '81 a second Smokey John's in Dallas and a restaurant named Rib Cage in El Paso. After all that, he bought three houses and several chunks of above-water real estate.

He would play the football player and the TV-commercial personality by day and The Beautiful Harvey Martin at night. There was no time to play the businessman. He would write a check and drop it in the mailbox on the way to his new $32,000 Jaguar: Business closed for the day. Then it was off to an appearance and a quick $1,000. Sometimes he would even do them for nothing. He'd spend all day with retarded children at the Special Olympics, refereeing their games and signing autographs tirelessly. He'd pick up babies and laugh when they wet him. He'd show up two hours late, say, "Had a flat on LBJ," then toss out a quip, laugh that wine-cask laugh and watch everyone warm to him. Harvey Martin was an irresistibly nice guy.

He reminded people of a lovable, overgrown kid. He liked to drink Kool-Aid and watch cartoons. His favorite character was Wile E. Coyote; he had a large stuffed Wile E. in his bedroom. Wile E., he was the one who kept coming back, no matter how many times life left him in little pieces.

In June of '78 a friend picked Martin up at the airport and said the IRS had called while he was away. For the '77 tax year, Martin had filed only his personal return. His corporate return, which should have reported an income of approximately $45,000 from Superteams, radio and commercial income and the Seagram's Award, had never been filed.

Martin says his accountant, who had all of Martin's earnings sent to him and who mailed Harvey the monthly statements on how it had been disbursed, admitted the oversight and took the blame. Martin immediately agreed to pay up. The IRS agent shook his head. The Government began to audit past returns and decided Martin actually owed more like $250,000. He was read his rights and threatened with jail. Harvey's beautiful new jaw dropped.

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