Mazurki's voice booms across the
room. He is having lunch with Gorilla Jones and George Raft. The once
flamboyant Middleweight Boxing Champion
of the World and the sweet old shrimp who tried to buy Cuba with Mickey
Cohen. Mickey, Gorilla, and George went to grammar school together in
Akron. The gangster, the boxing champ, the movie star. One of those
natural pitches for which agents pride themselves. I'll take $10,000 a
word for a short first option."People don't understand racketeers,"
Gorilla explains. "But it's simple. You make a deal and use their money
and so you got to go along. No big secret about it." Gorilla's dealings
with hoods were purely personal.Some hoods in New Jersey once
threatened to cut off his you-know-what and throw it in the East River if
he failed to take a dive in a certain fight. Gorilla mentioned this
threat to Mickey. Mickey told Olie Madden. The King Pin put out word that
whoever messed with Gorilla Jones would never mess in New York City again.
That was the end of Gorilla's active enemies. But if a hood started
spouting off about putting someone in a hole or cutting off a head,
Gorilla would ask them not to tell him. By staying clear of their
occupational violence he kept his occupational violence unblemished (with
the exception of a few early matches when deals were made to keep him from
knocking out established white fighters. Black fighters back then had to
do certain things to get to the top).
Straddling the high lattice
fence in front of Gorilla's Echo Park house is a statue of a gorilla, the
namesake bestowed on him for his first boxing match at the age of 11. A
local matchmaker, the sheriff, was unable to fill a bill and came up with
the last-minute idea of promoting a match with "that little Gorilla boy
who's always looking for a fight." The Gorilla grew up to become to the
boxing ring what Josephine Baker was to Paris nightlife.