my first autograph(s), ever
here are three autographs i collected on the weekend of july 20th, 1963, that i found amid the fillmore east tickets and movie stubs that are my life.
i was ten years old.
it happened like this;
my father bought a 1962 chevy belair station wagon, in an end-of-year sale.
in the spring of 1963, he announced that when school was out, we were going to take a two-month+ cross-country trip and see the USA in our chevrolet.
i got car-sick in over thirty states, but that’s not what this is about, though it’ll probably end up in the book i’m writing.
maybe, it’s already there. i forget.
we arrived in las vegas, nevada, about four days before the heavyweight rematch between the champion, sonny liston and the ex-champ, floyd patterson, who mister liston knocked out in the first-round in chicago about ten months earlier.
my father made arrangements for us to stay at the thunderbird hotel. there was all sorts of hubbub about the fight because sonny liston was finishing his training and was staying at this hotel, too. he was “the bad guy.”
walking in the lobby on saturday afternoon, july 20th, he was doing a sort-of public workout in an open, roped-off area.
people were all around this space watching him.
he did sit-ups, skipped rope, worked the speed bag, pounded the heavy bag, then his handlers threw the weighted “medicine ball” at his stomach.
i was in awe. he was a giant, chiseled out of granite.
after the exhibition, he toweled off, then worked the assembled crowd, saying hello to well-wishers and giving out his signed-autograph picture like you see here.
when he handed it to me, he didn’t smile much, i remember.
that evening, after we had dinner and were heading back to our room, there was a small crowd around a man who i immediately recognized, even though i was a kid.
it was Joe Louis, the greatest fighter ever.
my father went over to the desk and got a sheet of hotel stationery and tore it into three pieces. mister louis was kind and gracious to us and whipped out a pencil and wrote his name on each paper and handed them back to us, smiling. you will notice the hotel name on the back scan.
the next day, sunday, my irish-catholic mother found a catholic church for us to go to mass. at the end of services, we saw, in the back of the church, Floyd Patterson.
as church let out, a big crowd gathered around him. unprepared for this publicity-opportunity, one of his people handed him a pen and a small pad. he wrote his name and tore off pieces from the pad, handing them to his fans.
i was a floyd patterson fan. everyone was.
he was a nice guy, but he was at church for a reason.
Sonny Liston was gonna kick his ass the next night.
on monday, july 22nd, Floyd Patterson lasted four seconds longer than his first fight in chicago.
they were both first-round knockouts.