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* Ali Knew! Liston Didn’t Know! The Beatles Figured It Out!

Posted on January 23rd, 2014 · Other

* Ali Knew! Liston Didn’t Know! The Beatles Figured It Out!

With the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ 1964-American debut approaching, I thought you guys might enjoy reading what sportswriter Bob Lipsyte (2011) had to “say” about the day The Beatles met Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) at his Miami Beach training camp…

Not trying to make this into a Beatles’ blog…but the way Jeff Eats sees it, The Beatles were a revolutionary “force” on American culture as was Muhammad Ali…amazing how these two iconic forces met purely by accident. Interesting that Sonny Liston didn’t see what-could be, nor did The Beatles (that’s right away) but a young brash underdog did!

“As I climbed the splintery stairs, there was a hubbub behind me. Four little guys around my age in matching white terry-cloth cabana jackets were being herded up. Someone said it was that hot new British rock group on their first American tour….A British photographer traveling with the Beatles had tried to pose them with Sonny Liston, but the champ had refused-”Not with them sissies,” he was supposed to have said-and now they were settling for a photo op with the challenger. At the top of the stairs, when the Beatles discovered that Clay had not yet arrived, John Lennon said, “Let’s get the fuck out of here.” But two huge security guards blocked their way and crowded them into an empty dressing room. I allowed myself to be pushed in with them, figuring to get a few funny quotes. Had I understood who those four little guys were, I might have been too shy to become, briefly, the fifth Beatle. But then I was also clueless about Clay. The Beatles were cranky in that damp dressing room, stomping and cursing. I introduced myself, rather importantly, I’m afraid, and they mimicked me. John shook my hand gravely, saying he was Ringo, and introduced me to Paul, who said he was John. I asked for their predictions. They said that Liston would destroy Clay, that silly little overhyped wanker. Then they ignored me to snarl among themselves again. Silly little overhyped wankers, I thought. Suddenly the locker room door burst open, and Cassius Clay filled the doorway. The Beatles and I gasped. He was so much larger than he looked in pictures. He was beautiful. He seemed to glow. He was laughing. “Hello there, Beatles!” he roared. “We oughta do some road shows together, we’ll get rich.” The Beatles got it right away. They followed Clay out to the boxing ring like kindergarten kids. You would have thought they’d met before and choreographed their routine. They bounced into the ring, capered, dropped down to pray that Clay would stop hitting them. He picked up Ringo, the bittiest Beatle. They lined up so Clay could knock them all out with one punch. They fell like dominoes, then jumped up to form a pyramid to get at Clay’s jaw. The five of them began laughing so hard their impromptu frolics collapsed. That photo op is a classic (Check YouTube; you might even see me.) After the Fab Four left, Clay jumped rope, shadowboxed, and sparred as his court jester, Drew Bundini Brown, hollered, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, rumble, young man, rumble!” Afterward, stretched out on a dressing room table for his rubdown, Clay pretended to fall asleep as reporters asked him what he was going to do after he lost. Finally, a crabby old reporter from Boston said, “This whole act is a con job, isn’t it?” and Clay pretended to wake up and he said, “I’m making all this money, the popcorn man making money and the beer man, and you got something to write about. Your papers let you come down to Miami Beach, where it’s warm.” The Boston reporter shut up. I think that was the moment when I began to wish this kid wasn’t going to get his head knocked off, that somehow he would beat Liston and become champion or at least survive and keep boxing. He would have been such a joy to cover, I thought. Too bad he’s got no chance. Too bad he’s only passing through, a firefly fad like those Beatles. We could all have had a blast.”

5 Comments to “* Ali Knew! Liston Didn’t Know! The Beatles Figured It Out!”

  1. ZED says...

    Jeff, nice story. those beatles photos with ali are now legendary.

  2. TURNER says...

    I remember that Liston V. Clay fight. Nobody in their right mind thought that Clay had a chance of beating Liston.
    I also remember watching The Beatles on my parents’ black & white when they appeared on Ed Sullivan.
    ALI and The Beatles should changed the American landscape literally in a heartbeat.

  3. Mr. Klein says...

    It’s stuff like this article and others on The Beatles etc that make this a very interesting blog. You cover great restaurants but every so often throw in other subjects to get the conversation going.
    Love the site.

  4. GTG says...

    Ali is a brilliant man.
    Great fighter and outstanding promoter.

  5. Mr. Brenner says...

    No question that The Beatles changed American culture. As a matter of fact so did Ali. Amazing that these two forces met because Sonny Liston told The Beatles to basically get lost.
    It’s now 50 years later and The Beatles are still huge.
    Great article.

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