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
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.
And his smile
Is a stunner.
It's hard to believe
He's a cross