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Dr. Stillman has not been so styled since birth. His original surname was Ingber, but he got into the gymnasium business by working for a philanthropist named Alpheus Geer who ran a kind of Alcoholics Anonymous for burglars trying to go straight. Geer called his crusade the Marshall Stillman movement, and he thought the best kind of occupational therapy was boxing, so he opened a gym, which young Ingber managed. The burglars got to calling Lou Ingber, Lou Stillman, and after they stole all the boxing gloves and Mr. Geer quit in disgust, Ingber opened a gymnasium of his own, farther uptown than this Old Stillman, and legally adopted his present name.
Occasionally Dr. Stillman has a problem student who does not know when he is being insulted, and then he has to think up some more subtle psychological stratagem. Tommy (Hurricane) Jackson, a heavyweight who has to be driven out of the gymnasium at the end of every session because he wants to punch the bag some more, has been a recent disciplinary challenge. Jackson, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall and of inverse intellectual stature, would occupy a boxing ring all the time if Stillman let him. He would like to box 15 or 30 rounds a day, but this would be of no value to his fellow students, even those who worked with him, because Jackson is a purely imitative boxer. He waits to see what the other fellow will do and then does it right back at him until the guy drops from exhaustion. Against a jabber he will jab and against a mauler he will maul; it is the exact opposite of Sam Langford's counsel: "Whatever that other man want to do, don't let him do it. Box a fighter and fight a boxer." Jackson will box a boxer, after a fashion, and fight a fighter, in a way, but he can never decide for himself. Knowing this, most boxers who work with him step in with a right to the jaw, planning to knock him out before he can begin his systematic plagiarism. But he has a hard jaw. Whitey and Freddie Brown, his trainers, who are partners, attribute his lack of originality to an emotional conflict, but it has not yielded to any kind of permissive therapy like buying him a .22 rifle to shoot rats, or letting him drink soda pop on fight nights. "He is not too smart of a fellow," Freddie Brown has concluded.
Jackson, when not exercising, likes to walk around Stillman's with a shiny harmonica at his mouth, pretending to blow in it. A small, white camp follower trails in his wake, completely concealed from anybody in front of Jackson, and plays a real tune on another harmonica. It is Jackson's pose, when detected, that this is an elaborate joke because he could play a tune too, if he wanted to. Dr. Stillman once invited him to play a tune into the microphone with which the president of the University of Eighth Avenue announces the names of students defending theses in the rings. "Give us all a chance to hear you," he snarled invitingly. Tommy backed off, and Stillman grabbed a moral ascendancy. Whenever Jackson is obstreperous now, the good Doctor points to the microphone, and the Hurricane effaces himself.
OKAY BY EMANATION
To gain access to the hall of academe you must pass a turnstile guarded by Professor Jack Curley, the assistant to the president who the sign says is the fellow to see about boxing instructions. The only person who ever did was a follower of Father Divine named Saint Thomas. Curley signed him up as a heavyweight contender before letting him through the gate where the managers could see him. Saint Thomas was a hell of a natural fighter if you believe Curley, but they split on theological grounds such as he wanted Father Divine, in absentia, to okay his opponents by emanation. Later he backslid and stabbed a guy, and is now in a place where he has very little opportunity for roadwork. The sign is as sensible as one would be on the door of Yale saying "Instruction in reading and writing, see Professor Doakes." Old Stillman is no elementary school.
There are two ways of getting by Professor Curley. The more popular is to invoke the name of some manager or trainer you know is inside, claiming an urgent business mission. Professor Curley will deny he is there, but if you ask some ingoing fighter to relay the message, the fellow will come out and okay you. Curley will then assume the expression of a baffled witch in a London Christmas pantomime, but he will let you in without payment. The second method is to give him 50�, the official price of admission, which he doesn't expect from anybody who looks familiar. Through decades of practice he has trained his facial muscles not to express recognition, but he is violently disconcerted when the other fellow does not demand to be recognized. After you give him the 50� he has another problem—whether to say hello. This would be a confession he had known you all along. He compromises by giving you what is known on campus as "a cheap hello," looking over his shoulder as if he might be talking to somebody else.
On the main floor of Old Stillman there are two boxing rings set close together. The space in front of the rings is for spectators, and the relatively narrow strip behind them for boxers and trainers. To get from one zone to the other, the latter must pass directly in front of Dr. Stillman, who stands behind an iron rail leaving a passageway perhaps two feet wide. This is a big help in the collection department, because a boxer who is in arrears can't get into the ring to spar unless the president, who doubles as bursar, gives him an extension. When granted, this is usually on the grounds that the delinquent has a fight coming up.
Boxers pay $6 a month for a locker and $11 a month for a dressing room, which means a stall just wide enough for a rubbing table. The de luxe dressing rooms have hooks on the plywood partitions. Stillman has a microphone in back of his stand and in the back of his head a rough list of the order in which fighters will go into the rings. Some fighters he knows by sight; trainers have to prompt him with the names of others. Most of the present crop, the Doctor says, he would like to forget as rapidly as possible. When he says the names into the mike they come out equally unintelligible, so it doesn't matter. Most of the spectators know who the guys are anyway, despite the increasingly elaborate headgears which make them look like Tlingit witch doctors.
In the days when 375 boxers trained at Stillman's and the majority actually had bouts in sight, there was considerable acrimony about the scheduling. Trainers were afraid that some of their boys who needed sparring would be crowded out. Now that fewer fellows use the place and are in less of a hurry, everybody gets a chance. The enrollment at Old Stillman is less than a hundred, which is not bad when you reflect that there are only 241 licensed professional boxers in the whole of New York State and this number includes out-of-state fighters who have had to take out a license for a New York appearance.
The main operating theater at Stillman's is two stories high. There is a gallery which, in the halcyon days before television, used to accommodate spectators, but which now serves as a supplementary gym. The light and heavy bags are up there, and so is most of the space for skipping rope. In pre-television times Stillman's had an extensive bargain clientele of fans who couldn't afford the price of admission to regular boxing shows, but now these nonholders see their fights free.