At last, on May 29, 1969, Veee came to the U.S.—a bit too late, unhappily, because the infant U.S. soccer boom was just going bust. The NASL had contracted from 17 to five teams. Veee ended up with a $150-a-week job at Todd Shipyard in Long Beach and an introduction to a local German soccer club, the Hollywood Stars. "They gave me $250 to sign," he says, "and the first game I played, we won 10-1, with me scoring five goals. It was pure Mickey Mouse. So they gave me another $500, and I played seven more games."
But the rest of his story—almost right up to this winter—is best written quickly, because it tells of a jumbled career that missed by just this much. Indeed, the life and times of Julie Veee are a saga of just- missed opportunities and near-collisions with fame—and of entanglements with various teams brought about by his carefree attitude toward contracts and by his simple, trusting nature. He went back to Europe a couple of times and, by the time he signed with San Diego in 1978, had played for eight teams in three countries: the Stars and the Los Angeles Hungarians, whose $300 check bounced; Stade Rennais of France; Liersé and Standard Liege of Belgium; the L.A. Aztecs and the San Jose Earthquakes of the NASL; and the New York Arrows of the Major Indoor Soccer League. It was while he was with the Aztecs, in 1975, that his professional name became Julie Veee, courtesy of L.A. General Manager John Chaffetz. Easy to spell, easy to yell. But in all cases, it's safe to report, he missed getting rich.
Ah, but Veee figures he did become, at last, a man of the world, which is just about as good, as far as he can tell. One of his early jobs, in 1970, was clearing brush at a place called the Spahn Ranch, near Los Angeles. "How was I to know," says Veee, "that it had been the headquarters of the Charles Manson family? They KILLED people. So one day I was working away when this real weirdy came riding up on a horse. He was half naked and all dirty and sweaty, and his eyes—his EYES!—were gone mad. And he spoke to me, all menacing: 'What are you doing here?' he asked me. So I didn't know just what to say, and so I said to him, 'Oh, I'm a Hungarian.' And he thought about that for a long moment, just staring at me. Finally, he sort of shrugged and turned and rode away."
Along about the same time, Veee was courting Yvette Stern, now the mom of daughters Jennifer, 10, and Katrina, 4. "I wanted so desperately to speak the language," he says. "So I would buy copies of National Geographic and underline the words I couldn't understand and then show them to Yvette and get her to explain them to me." He pauses for dramatic effect.
"You know what the hardest words are in the English language?" he says.
Yvette sighs and then looks up at the ceiling.
"Jagged peaks," Veee says. "JAGGED PEAKS! Vat means that, jagged peaks? I ask Yvette and she explains and explains, but I absolutely cannot understand it. So finally she draws the picture. And now I love it: what a nice, nice sound—JAGGED PEAKS!"
But that's formal English. The real gut stuff of the language, as everybody knows, comes from the comics. And Veee is an avid collector, a genuine connoisseur. Ah, Conan the Barbarian and the Fantastic Four with Galacticus and Doctor Doom. And, of course, the Silver Surfer, Sentinel of the Spaceways! For Veee, it was love at first sight: Good old Silver Surfer has that sort of soccer-player look about him, something in the way he rides his board through the skies. Veee has all 18 issues of Silver Surfer that Marvel Comics ever produced, starting with Vol. 1, No. 1 in August 1968. Collectors now estimate the value of a copy in mint condition—and Veee's are all in terrific shape—at $70. And you want to talk about terrific use of the English language, well, just listen to this introduction in that first issue.
High o'er the roof of the world he soars...free and unfettered as the roaring wind itself! Behold the sky-born spanner of a trillion galaxies...the restless, streaking stranger from the farthest reach of space...this glistening, gleaming seeker of truth, whom man shall call, forevermore—The Silver Surfer!
And there's more. Veee has lined his suburban San Diego home with more than 1,000 books of all kinds—and built a special hideaway over his garage for hundreds more comic books and vintage magazines, from Black Mask and Doc Savage to LIFE and TIME. In his den, one wall is lined with perhaps 350 movie-star biographies, everything from the sublime (Good Night, Sweet Prince, Gene Fowler's superb life of John Barrymore) to the ridiculous (Linda: My Own Story, by Linda Christian). Signed first editions by authors from Ezra Pound to John Updike are everywhere, and Veee doggedly reads them all. He has only $4,500 left to pay on an installment-plan purchase of an $11,000 collection of signed limited editions of contemporary novels and anthologies—and no place to put them, unless he goes up another story on the house. What precious wall space now remains is taken up by Yvette's collection of Walt Disney original animation celluloids—called cels—and autographed glossies of movie stars, old and new.