Mike Mazurki

In the early twenties, Mae West's manager, Jim Kimberly, bought a piece of Gorilla Jones's contract . When Kimberly died a few years later, Mae took over as Gorilla's manager until she moved to Hollywood in 1926 to make movies. Gorilla followed. They met when he was a teenager, shortly after his first train ride from Akron to his first fight in Madison Square Garden. Three days later he was riding home in his own railroad car counting fifty grand in bills. Today he is broke, but no one would ever guess it. An inveterate spendthrift, Gorilla's remaining years are being bankrolled by Mae West.

Gorilla Jones was Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World on and off between 1931 and 1940, when he earned as much as a million and a half dollars a year. The father of slick black flamboyancy, he entered the arena escorted by lion cubs on a leash--lions he caught in Africa with the Great White Hunter, Clyde Beatty. Flying his own airplane in 1931, Gorilla took the only dive in his career, not in the ring but into a barn in Kansas. He lost his pilot's license, his championship belt, and his eyesight. A year later he regained both his sight and his title, but he never flew again.

Gorilla's white frame house in Echo Park is a dusty shrine to his career, his mother, and The Lady. If he has company and the phone rings in the early afternoon, Gorilla will excuse himself and grope for the phone buried beneath a pile of mail. A famous voice purrs his name. "I have a present I want to give you, Lady," Gorilla whispers. "How much will it cost me?" The Lady laughs and the sound sends Gorilla Jones straight to heaven. When she dies he will follow her one last time.