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Terry: "It's the nicest bar in the area."
Don: "It's a dive."
They are losing money on it, trying to sell it. Ciko says, "All we wanted was a short-term roll-over. My God, now we both wear earplugs and clean up after kids throw up. It's beyond crazy."
Another friend of Bragg's, Gene Kilroy, an executive in Las Vegas with the Dunes Hotel and a former member of Muhammad Ali's entourage, says, "Don's idea was to have a basketball court in back of the bar to attract the kids. But he was 10 years too late. Girls don't want to be around sweaty guys anymore. And besides, guys don't want to get sweaty." Times went and changed on Bragg. He would have played pro football but...and he would have killed them on The Superstars but...and on and on.
More than anything, Bragg is a pitchman for Bragg. He prides himself on talking his way into places where only ticket-holders are supposed to tread. "I know I'm arrogant, pompous and loquacious," he says. "I can't control it. But who would want to? It feels sooooo good. Besides, I think I'm a smart son of a bitch. So it's good to take a shot in the head every once in a while."
The thing that bothers me and makes me mad,
Bragg owns 200 acres of property around his appropriately spectacular home. He wants to subdivide a good part of it for residential development, but he is being blocked by environmentalists. "If they don't let me develop my land," he says, "I'll get a bulldozer and a shotgun, and I'll plow over all these trees and all these creepy environmentalists. I'm not paying all this money so they can look at birds. They are my damn trees, and if they want my trees, they can pay for them. A man's home is his castle, and my land is my Ponderosa. I am not giving in."
Says Terry, "Whatever happens, Don won't die. Only the good die young."
But for the current crop of young, the athletes who may find themselves with no Olympics to attend in 1980, Bragg may be an inspiration. He recalls that he was supposed to win a gold medal in 1956, but he failed to make the team because of an injury and a disputed miss in the Olympic Trials. Bragg hung on, kept training, kept slamming that unyielding metal pole into the box, absorbing the shock with his massive arms and shoulders, and levering himself up into the air. Four years later he had his gold.
Jim Tuppeny, Penn's track coach, who was Bragg's pole-vaulting mentor at Villanova in those days, says, "If these kids today are willing to work four more years, it can be done. The proof is Don."