SI Vault
Douglas S. Looney
October 14, 1991
Murray Pezim, owner of the British Columbia Lions of the CFL, is one wild and crazy guy—and proud of it
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October 14, 1991

You Should Have It So Good

Murray Pezim, owner of the British Columbia Lions of the CFL, is one wild and crazy guy—and proud of it

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This is, as you can see, a cooperative effort. Nobody is in charge, which makes everyone in charge. One of the shoppers screams for matzo balls while another complains that her fellow shoppers won't help her find the Pepto-Bismol. The bill is $378.59.

Next stop is next door at the specialty shop for the eucalyptus oil that Tammy demanded. "Eucalyptus oil and that's all," instructs Murray. Pearl and Julie scour the small shop, picking up aromatic bath oil, Kristal Natural Mineral Bath Crystals from the Dead Sea, and mineral bath crystals not from the Dead Sea. The bill is $80.03. They forget the eucalyptus oil.

Nothing is simple in Pezim's life. Although his main business is mining—gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc—he wants, above all else, to make deals. The deal, in many ways, is more important to him than the money. That's why he has agreed to meet with a group that wants to put various juices in containers carrying pictures of athletes.

At 9:22 a.m., five men in suits—including L.A. Raider running back Marcus Allen and two-time All-Pro defensive back Mike Haynes—walk into Pezim's house. They look very businesslike. They want $5 million from Pezim. For this meeting, Pezim has elected to wear baggy pants, a sweatshirt and slippers. He sits down on the black carpet with the white diamonds around the edges.

The visitors are trying to make a professional presentation, which is difficult because Pezim wanders off to talk on the phone to friends, and seven dogs race about doing some high-decibel yapping. Abruptly, at 9:54 a.m., Pezim interrupts. He always interrupts. It's a perk of being rich.

"You're in business," he says.

The visitors are stunned. No business plan was discussed. There were no charts, no samples. Allen rolls his eyes in disbelief. "I ain't believing what I'm seeing," he says. Suddenly the phones are alive with calls to lawyers and accountants and advisers and brokers and underwriters. Pezim says he'll put in $2 million of his own money and raise the other $3 mil. The visitors are ecstatic. Pezim is distracted again, this time by his aquarium. "Why," he asks of anyone who is listening, "do I have 14 fish in here and I never get to see any of them? Why?" Nobody can give him an answer.

Then he's back in the spirit of the deal. He puts on his new Louis Prima-Keely Smith CD. He turns it up loud. Nobody likes it except Pezim. The music plays on. Pearl is flying around making breakfast. Pezim is puttering around picking up coffee cups and juice glasses, the debris of the deal. Allen gets into the cleanup spirit. "I do this at home," he says, "so why not here?" Pezim carefully straightens his coffee-table books, Desert Images and French Impressionists. He looks at the turmoil and confusion and says, "When I'm around, there is action."

All this opulence ("You can find my house," he tells a caller. "Just drive to the neighborhood where the rich people live") is light years from Pezim's childhood in Toronto. "My dad, Isadore, was a bootlegger," he says. "Actually, he said he was a druggist, and he had two stores, but all he sold in them was liquor." Subsequently, the old man got out of the drugstore business and into a butcher shop. There, Murray discovered his talent for selling.

"These poor, horrible-looking, downtrodden women who had been beaten by their husbands during the night would show up with six or eight cents to buy meat," he recalls. "I'd say, 'Mrs. O'Brien, you look so beautiful this morning. Let me just look at you.' They loved it. It was a bright moment in their dull lives. It got so they wouldn't buy meat from anyone but me. Sure it was phony, but so what? It made them feel better. This job also gave me insights into women. I've always liked women better than men. Most men are jerks."

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