In 1999, I was given an assignment for Amnesty International — they had secured Muhammad Ali as their spokesman. I flew to NYC to shoot a commercial with him. I had done a lot with various celebrities before, but the second Ali walked into the room, I could tell he was different. I think if my eyes were closed, I still would have known when he walked in. He was a presence unlike anyone I have ever met.
He was amazingly gracious and very funny. He played jokes on everyone during the shoot. When it came time for the crew photo, I was kneeling in the row in front of him and right before the photo, he mussed my hair. After the shoot, he signed posters my art director and I had created for the campaign — his wife said he loved the poster and it was up in his home gym. After 25 years in advertising, it’s the most satisfying comment I’ve ever received. The poster he signed for me is one of my most prized possessions.
When it came time to take a photo, I decided to put my dukes up — and he did the same. Then he took my wrist, pulled it against his face and grimaced like I had just decked the king.
Over the next several days, when you hear thousands of great stories about him, know that the reality was a hundred times better. He truly was the Greatest of All Time. There will never be another Muhammad Ali.