Fortunately a few less erratic fighters came to the HBA door, Frank Tate the most prominent among them. The "shows," as Abercrombie calls them, have not exactly taken Houston by storm. "We took some terrible baths in the beginning. We must have lost $1.5 million." The very first of her shows was at the Astroarena, and it was a near disaster. Abercrombie called Arum and asked him to set her up with some "first-class fighters." Arum's traveling pugs were low rent, it turned out, and the evening's entertainment was low comedy. "It was a valuable, and not too costly, lesson," Abercrombie says. "I was taken advantage of, and properly." She immediately hired a matchmaker.
Once at Madison Square Garden, Abercombie is among her colleagues in promotion. They all extol her: Mickey Duff ("a great, honest broad"), Shelly Finkel ("an honest lady") and Don King ("She's adorable not only in her feminine loveliness but also in her business acumen. One minority to another, I love her"). Arum, for his part, calls her "a Houston lady. She hasn't taken the gloves off yet."
In one of the Garden's clubs, Abercrombie stands between Mike Tyson, whose brutish neck seems thicker than Abercrombie's waist, and the novelist Joyce Carol Oates, who is as ethereal as Olive Oyl. Oates was once overheard at a party in Princeton saying that she had published "as much as Dickens." Part of her recent concerns have been with the ring. She and Tyson are pals.
"Are you Joyce Carol Oates?" says Abercrombie. "I just love your books."
"Oh! Thank you very much."
"Yes, I just read one. Yes, I can't remember the...."
"And what do you do?"
"I'm in boxing."
"Promoter or a manager?"
"Well," Abercrombie says bashfully, "both, actually."