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Done to death on a highway, the poultry pet was laid to rest, with ecclesiastical overtones, in a casket made of an old shoe box and with a prayerbook selection read by the only mourner who knew how to read. When it came time for the recessional hymn, however, the congregation was stumped. But only momentarily.
Suddenly, as if with one voice, they burst out with the only song everybody present knew: Don't Give a Damn for Duke University .
NO TOY BALLOONS FOR MAXIE
This is a gag," said the visitor who had been down at Asbury Park, N.J. watching Max Baer train for his fight with Primo Carnera. "Nothing about it is real. The ocean, the hotel, the blue sky, they're painted scenery for a musical comedy in which an actor plays the part of a contender for the heavyweight championship. I expect to see the chorus come dancing on the stage at any minute."
In that early, noisy time, the chorus was always in the wings of Max's life, which he fashioned into one grand music-hall turn. Never at a loss for a few thousand well-chosen Broadway-type words, Max strutted, mugged, cracked wise whether wrapped in white camel's hair at the wheel of his 16-cylinder Caddy or rapping, with his splendid right hand, papier-m�ch� pillars in a gin mill or opponents in the ring.
Max was built like a fighter but he wasn't built for fighting. Fighting is a somber, arduous trade and Max wasn't cut out for work. "I hope he's more appreciative of the title than I was," Max said when Jim Braddock beat him. If it wasn't good for a laugh, it wasn't good for Max. "Listen," he said after he was knocked out by Joe Louis, "I couldn't see straight. I thought all Harlem was in there. I saw a whole ringful of black clouds and this little ray of sunshine just couldn't penetrate them all."
He was champion for a year after knocking out Camera in 1934. "I want to end up with a little trust fund," he said then. "I don't want to end up with the toy balloon concession in some insane asylum or other." He didn't. When Max Baer died of a heart attack in Hollywood last week at 50, he had a monthly annuity of $2,200, a wife, three children and a happy home.
The audience Max always played for last saw him three days before he died. He was refereeing the televised Zora Folley-Alonzo Johnson fight in Phoenix. Just as the show went off the air, Max vaulted his big frame over the ring ropes and blew a kiss and sent a laugh to all the living rooms and bars. It was a perfect exit.