RINGSIDE IN LAS VEGAS
THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD
HOLYFIELD VS HOLMES
JUNE 19 1992
I am a sports Freak!
My ultimate Fantasy is to be rich enough and cool enough to hit all the Big Time sporting events in the galaxy!
The STANLEY CUP FINALS, the SUPER BOWL, the WORLD SERIES, WIMBLEDON etc.
And I don’t mean just to be there. I mean to BE there.
To be able to stay at posh hotels. To be able to hang with the cool folks.
To be able to skate around with the NHL players during an optional skate.
To be able to have a hit with Fed ( as in Roger) on grass. To be able to have strawberries and cream in the Royal Box with actual Royalty.
Like I said, Fantasy.
But the thing I fantasized about doing above all else was being,...
RINGSIDE IN LAS VEGAS FOR THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD!!!
And guess what sports fans,...IT’S NO LONGER A FANTASY!!!!
June 19 1992 I was invited to Las Vegas for the,
HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD!!
Evander Holyfield vs Larry Holmes
A Producer friend of mine from MacGyver, nicknamed GMON, has a brother, nicknamed PREZ, who is a Producer at HBO SPORTS. ( He later became President of HBO)
We have comped seats,
RINGSIDE IN LAS VEGAS!!
Compliments of PREZ. Who also goes by,
” The man with the coolest job in show biz.”
First of all I needed clothes! I don’t think shorts are allowed ringside.
I borrowed some clothes from a cool LA friend of mine.
He used to date a LINDA EVANS from DYNASTY lookalike. She was actually with an agency specializing in Hollywood lookalikes. She actually dressed like her and talked like her. We used to think that was cool.
Now, not so much.
Urban Cowboy was cool at the time. So he gave me a pair of cowboy boots, a Roy Rodgers (or was it Gene Autry) shirt with the fancy stitching on the chest pockets, an ultra suede sports jacket that seemed to change colour when you moved, one of those string ties and a huge 10 gallon hat!
It seemed bigger than the one Hoss used to wear on Bonanza!
I tried it all on and I looked like Robert Redford from Electric Cowboy. Not actually like Robert Redford. But the clothes looked like the clothes from Electric Cowboy.
I felt like an idiot!
But my cool friend who dated the LINDA EVANS lookalike assured me that everyone in Hollywood was wearing it.
Next I had to get to Vegas.
My wife’s a flight attendant so I can fly on a pass, But I have to fly standby.
When they announced that first class could board at their leisure, GMON naturally started to board the plane. He looked back and wondered why I wasn’t doing the same. I kinda shuffled around a bit nervously and said I’d join him in a minute.
I was flying standby and there had to be an empty seat on the plane. And because it was a small plane and because it was fight weekend it was gonna be tight.
If I didn’t get on this flight I’d try the next. And then the next. And then maybe try the one through Portland or Seattle or LA. If not I was just gonna get in my car and drive real fast!
These airline passes are like manna from heaven but we’ve had our fair share of horror stories.
Like being bumped from a plane halfway around the world with only $10 in your pocket.
Or the family having to split up and having to choose who gets on the flight and who doesn’t. With the baby being snatched from mom’s arms screaming as she boards the plane because mom’s the only one who can sit in the jump seat.
Our watered down version of SOPHIE’S CHOICE.
I got on! Luckily there’s always that drunken guy who leaves the lounge too late or that person who doesn’t realize airports actually have lineups and security.
But my Hoss hat wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin. So I had to check it.
Landing in Vegas is always a thrill! As the plane comes around you see the strip. The florescent green MGM Grand, the LUXOR, the golden MANDALAY BAY etc.
It isn’t until you get down on the ground that you realize how huge these hotels are! It’s like Land of the Giants! It takes almost an hour to walk from one hotel to another.
The first order of business was to get the ultra cool,
With my very own picture on it! On fight weekend in Vegas the
were like having the conch of power in Lord of the Rings or Diplomatic Immunity.
Or the Immunity Idol in Survivor. If you like Reality TV or everything in 3’s.
With them I could go anywhere and do anything and I wouldn’t get voted off the island.
They instantly transformed me into CINDERELLA. Or at least a kind of a manlier version of her. And I didn’t even have to squish my smelly size 12‘s into a glass slipper. I just had to wait in the S-Z line for Will Call.
These HBO CREDENTIALS hung around my neck like an Olympic Gold medal.
Problem was I couldn’t get them over my Hoss hat.
We also picked up our free RINGSIDE tix which were $700 US each. In 1992!
The most expensive tix we ever got I believe were $2500 US. For the DeLaHoya/Mayweather fight. That was about $5000 Canadian back then!
We heard a rumour that by fight time they were going for $18000 a piece by the scalpers.
I could have sold mine and put a down payment on a house! But I don’t know if Prez would have liked that.
I thought I’d immediately test the powers of the HBO CREDENTIALS by walking to the actual epicenter of the boxing universe,
The FIGHT was actually being held in the parking lot of Caesars Palace. Subsequent fights would be held indoors at the MGM GRAND or MANDALAY BAY with air conditioning. But this was in a parking lot in Las Vegas in the summer! It was hot!
If you call 140 degrees Fahrenheit hot.
I nervously approached the security checkpoint manned by 2 steroid juicin, long haired coke machine rejects from WWF. I walked right up to them and instead of slamming my face into the turnbuckle they looked nervously down at my HBO CREDENTIALS hanging around my neck and opened up like a couple of barn doors.
It was like they were both on hinges like in a cartoon.
I walked through effortlessly and actually gave them a little Queen of England wave.
I went in and out a few times. Approaching the WWF barn door rejects quicker and more confidently each time just to test the power of the HBO CREDENTIALS. And each time they’d open up like they were on hinges in a cartoon.
In and out. In and out.
I could almost hear my old man yelling at me when I was a kid at home,
“Stay in or Stay out!!”
I slowly walked up to the top step of the ring. I lifted the top rope and stepped into the ring the way I’d seen fighters do it many times on TV.
I leaned my back against the turnbuckle in the corner.
I bounced around the ring, throwin a coupla jabs.
I leaned my back against the ropes doing Ali’s Rope-a-Dope.
I could almost hear Angelo Dundee yelling for Ali to get off the ropes in his fight in Zaire vs Foreman.
Actually it was a grouchy old maintenance worker who looked like Angelo Dundee actually yelling at me!!
“Get off the Ropes you Dope!!”
He wanted me off the ropes and out of the ring. Pronto!
I guess the the HBO CREDENTIALS lose their power inside the RING.
I can respect that.
Next was the Fight swag. I had to buy T shirts and hats to bring home because there’s absolutely no point in doing something cool if you can’t rub it in.
Also I had to hand some out to some above-the-line types back home.
Also to some below-the-line types just to prove I’m not a total suck up.
The, there’s-absolutely-no-point-in-doing-something-cool-if-you-can’t-rub-it-in theme became more sophisticated in subsequent years and fights.
We would get cocky and request seats in the 4th row on the TV side. Because that would put your face right between the 2nd and 3rd ropes in the ring for people watching on TV at home.
What’s the point in being Ringside and having a rope go right through your face so no one could see you!
And yes I became,
The CELL PHONE GUY.
THAT GUY who knew he was on TV during the Fight and who would be looking at the camera, talking and waving to his buddies back home.
I used to hate,
Until I became,
I even took it one step further.
Whenever the fighters were entering the RING to the cheers of the crowd I’d phone my stunt buddy at home and let him HEAR the cheers on my phone. I did that just so he could SEE me talking to him on the phone on TV, while letting him HEAR the cheers on my phone.
But I used to bring him home a hat.
Next was the HBO truck. It had tons of TV monitors and we could see where all the celebs were sitting.
I used to bring my poorly written scripts with me and put them on the seats where the celebs were sitting. Steve Martin, Jim Carey and Bruce Willis were all lucky recipients of my unsolicited universally loathed screenplays.
I think the plan was for Steve Martin to ignore the fight , start browsing through my script and by the 10 round agree to do the picture for scale with me Directing and being his stunt double. ( Which I did become in Pink Panther reshoots years later)
Never worked out that way.
I kept all the Producers writer’s reports about my scripts which stupidly enough were always about hockey.
(“He shoots! He scores!” The crowd yawns)
But I digress.
I would use the TV monitors to determine when all the celebs were arriving so I could walk the red carpet with them. With the Paparazzi wondering who the hell I was!
I was invited to dinner with PREZ and the HBO gang. Jim Lampley, the HBO TV commentator treated us to a couple of Howard Cosell anecdotes, while we chowed down on real Mexican food.
Howard once did a eulogy about a fallen comrade of his, a TV Legend, in front of a room full of TV Execs. Howard went on for over an hour about how much he loved the guy. When he was done there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Lampley approached Cosell after the speech and gave him his condolences because it was obvious Howard had really loved the guy.
Howard Cosell looked at Lampley like he was crazy and said,
“He was a BUM!!...”
And went off on a rant about how much he despised him!
That was Howard Cosell.
Next morning was pancakes with George Foreman! At least it was supposed to have been pancakes with George Foreman. But, “the man with the coolest job in showbiz” had gotten up early, had breakfast and had already gone to work.
Maybe that’s why he is the man with the coolest job in showbiz.
So we had to settle for having pancakes at the table NEXT to George Foreman. But I honored George by ordering my usual tons of extra butter!! That got a smile from George.
At least I think it got a smile from George. Either that or he was just trying to get the waitresses attention for a coffee refill.
The next day was spent furiously bagging rays poolside! My tan had faded dramatically in the night. I didn’t want to get caught sitting ringside beside the other famous George. As in Hamilton. He’d make me look like Johnny Winter, the whitest man on the planet!
Sorry for the dated reference. It was 1992 after all.
I spent that night in what appeared to be the Honeymoon suite with a Teamster who used to walk RDA’s Dog on MacGyver.
They used to call us COATTAIL and the DOG WALKER.
Sounds like a Porno to me.
Speaking of which, there was a huge shower right in the middle of our Honeymoon suite. It was made of clear glass. So that when the hot water steamed it up you would have a sexy silhouette of the person taking a shower.
The next morning I was awakened to the sound of the DOG WALKER’S not so sexy silhouette taking a shower.
I don’t believe he knew I was awake.
If you catch my drift.
Apparently he had gone to see the topless dancers the night before.
It’s an image I’m not likely to forget!
The moment had arrived.
It was time to get dressed and go ,
I put on my Urban Cowboy outfit. But Gmon wasn’t going to let me get anywhere near RING SIDE wearing that getup! He said I looked like Jon Voight from Midnight Cowboy!
He gave me some of his clothes to wear. But they were way too small. I looked like Jethro Bodine from The Beverly Hillbillies! Which I suppose was appropriate because our family was always referred to as The Clampetts.
But finally I was
There were tons of cool people everywhere! Really cool people! People richer, better looking and way more tanned than I would ever be!
Now we had lots of cool people on Macgyver. Different stars every week. But I had developed the ability to stand inches away from them and totally ignore them.
This was different. Maybe it was because there were so many A listers and B listers and Ex Champs all in one spot.
Or maybe it was just the heat.
But whatever it was, I just lost it!
I grabbed my tiny, plastic, disposable camera that made that a cheap snapping sound whenever you took a picture.
I started snapping every celeb that moved like I had a, one shot at a time cheap plastic sounding uzi.
TOM + NICOLE!
ARNIE + MARIA!
MR T! (in bare feet!)
And where’s JACK?!!
I had seen him on one of the monitors on the HBO truck. But where was he now?
I WAS TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL!!
Suddenly I remembered why I was there.
THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD!!
The 2 Warriors were about to enter the RING.
Suddenly music started to blast over the loud speakers!
I positioned myself at the corner of the RING where the fighters were about to enter because I could, because I had my,
Larry Holmes and his entourage entered first.
Then Evander Holyfield with one of his handlers carrying his Championship belt.
I always thought that carrying the Championship belt would be a cool job!
I was in Heaven. I was experiencing first hand what I had seen on TV 100 times.
The Smells. (of MR T’s feet!)
But I still held it together long enough to,
FIND THE LENS!
I’M ON TV!
I’m like a moth. I can find my Key light and the lens in a snow storm.
So now, not only am I,
RINGSIDE IN VEGAS.
THAT I WAS,
RINGSIDE IN VEGAS!
And I’m bettin there wasn’t a single slack jawed soul back home that was happy with that.
Now it was time to hear those 5 little words.
Those 5 words that could change the course of a nation!
Ring Announcer MICHAEL BUFFER enters the RING.
He’s wearing his signature white Tuxedo.
His tan was darker than the inside of a cow.
MICHAEL BUFFER grabs the mike.
The crowd goes silent.
He then belts out those 5 words that have taken on BIBLICAL importance,...
LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!
It sends the multitude into a frenzy!!
After hearing those 5 words live,..
WHILE STILL ON TV.
My life will never be the same again.
I hope someone at home is TAPING me,
THOSE 5 LITTLE WORDS,
WHILE STILL ON TV!
Like they’re supposed to be doing.
I noticed all the Sports Photographers with their cool cameras and huge lenses with their elbows on the RING’S canvas.
I had an epiphany!
I muscled my way closer. Whenever someone turned to be annoyed with me, their eyes immediately went to my,
And they all suddenly developed door hinges like in a cartoon, and,
THE SEAS PARTED.
I slid into my spot the way you’d slide into a crowded jacuzzi after a day’s skiing.
I was now leaning on the canvas on my elbows,
OF THE WORLD!
It was gonna be totally downhill for the rest of my life after this.
There’s the BELL!
The Fight’s started.
Larry Holmes is on the ropes! But it isn’t Rope a Dope! This is the younger Champion, Evander Holyfield trying to rip another man’s head off!
Suddenly without warning, Evander is cut! It’s more like a gash in the worst possible spot. Right above the eye!
It was from an “accidental” elbow.
But you’ve got to give Larry Holmes a break. He is a grandfather after all!
If Holmes can pull off this upset we may be able to hear Michael Buffer announce the
2 LITTLE WORDS,
that would be even cooler than,
THOSE 5 LITTLE WORDS....
That he had said earlier.
And those two little words would be,
(HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD)
I had my elbows on the canvas in a sea of Professional Photographers with HUGE lenses when I whip out my tiny, plastic, disposable camera that makes a cheap snapping sound when you take a picture.
But you know it’s not the SIZE of the lens.
Actually it IS the SIZE of the lens.
I point and SHOOT!
Now I had forgotten that it had gotten dark, outside in the parking lot at Caesars Palace.
And out of my tiny, cheap, plastic disposable camera came a huge,
Flash photography is not allowed ANYWHERE in ANY Sporting Event. Especially in a Championship Fight. Even up in the Nose bleeds over 100 yards away a Flash can be distracting to a fighter. And all it takes is a split second for a fighter to blink and it’s all over!!
I suddenly felt like Ellen Page being attacked by Leo DiCaprio’s Projections in Inception.
I felt like I’d just shot Lincoln in the back of the head!
If it wasn’t for my HBO CREDENTIALS I would have been lynched on the spot.
Man, you thought Bill Buckner had it rough or Steve Bartman the Cubs fan who tried to catch the ball in the Playoffs!
I immediately thought of the MOB and Sonny Liston lying there dead with a needle sticking out of his arm even though he had a phobia against needles.
And how much money the MOB standed to LOSE if someone were to distract Evander long enough to get knocked out!
Luckily Holyfield survived and pounded out a unanimous decision. Probably saving me from the wood chipper from Fargo.
When Larry Holmes returned to his corner he promptly threw up all over the A list celebs in the front row and my HBO CREDENTIALS.
Well that was it.
The A list celebs hopped in their stretch limos and returned to their way cooler lives than mine.
Holyfield and Holmes split the 25 million.
Prez hopped on the Concorde to Wimbledon to be cool all over again.
I just tried to clean the puke out of my HBO CREDENTIALS.
But for one brief shining moment I was,
FOR THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP,
OF THE WORLD..
Who knows, if I get all the puke out of my HBO CREDENTIALS, it may restore it’s power in time for, the, WORLD SERIES? SUPER BOWL? STANLEY CUP?
(NEXT WEEK- SCOPES- STEVE THE STANDIN GETS LINE ON STARGATE)
RINGSIDE LAS VEGAS!!