There are certain famous people who lived in Chicago for a stretch of time whose presence never quite attached itself to the psyche of the city, either because they were very young, like Bobby Fischer and Golda Meir, or because they were here very briefly, like Ronald Reagan, or kept a low profile.
Muhammad Ali was neither young, nor low profile, nor was his stay here brief: he lived in Chicago for a dozen years, at the height of his fame. Yet for some reason he isn't particularly associated with the city. My guess is that, like Oprah Winfrey, his fame was so vast, it transcended place.
Ali passed away Friday, and his relationship with the city seemed to merit a separate story, and this ran in the Sunday paper alongside his obituary.
Cassius Clay was born in Kentucky, but Muhammad Ali was born on the South Side of Chicago.
Ali lived in Chicago, where he found his faith, for about a dozen years. He would cruise in his Rolls-Royce down Lake Shore Drive or stop in for a steak at Gene & Georgetti.
Ali, who died Friday at 74, got married and started his family here and would have fought one of his bouts for the heavyweight championship of the world here, too, but politics prevented it.
The young boxer first came to Chicago in the late 1950s to compete in Golden Gloves tournaments, held at the old Chicago Stadium. Heavyweight Ernie Terrell, who was to have boxed Ali in Chicago, said the future champ made a big impression even then....
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Oh the irony. In KY they mourn their native son now but at one time, though he had already won a bout, wouldn't let him sit in certain restaurants.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this.ReplyDelete
For some reason, the Tribune ran Bernie Lincicome's column on Ali's last fight. It was full of his trademark gratuitous nastiness, including calling the Bahamas, where the fight took place, "a junky little country." Reminded me why I disliked the man so much when he was in Chicago.
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He was a fine boxer and an engaging personality, his trademark boastfulnesss rendered rather charming by an occasional acknowlegement of limitations. Once challenged on a matter of fact he said something Donald Trump, another world class braggart, could never bring himself to say: "I said I'm the greatest. I aint't never said I'm the smartest."ReplyDelete
And speaking of the latter, I find, returning from a relatively Trump-free sojourn in a foreign land, find that what when I left seemed only a bad dream has become a legitimate American nightmare. My hosts, being Iralian and thus experienced in the matter of megalomaniac "Supreme Leaders," said with some sympathy, "He is your Berlusconi." (Tact prevented me from going even further and evoking the memory of Il Duce.)
They are religious, as I am not very, so on parting I asked that they pray we may be spared.