Fight fans as well as movie fans will enjoy this—George Kimball’s wonderful piece about Budd Schulberg’s memorial service back in the fall of 2009.
“On the Waterfron,” for which Budd received the Academy Award, might not have been in the strictest sense a “boxing movie,” but Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy is the ex-pug who “coulda been a contender,” and at Budd’s insistence, a trio of charter members of the Bum of the Month Club — Two-Ton Tony Galento, Tami Mauriello, and Abe Simon — were cast as burly longshoremen in the film. One highlight of the program was the telecast of the 1954 Oscar ceremony, when, after director Elia Kazan and Brando had already won their statuettes, Bob Hope and Brando opened the ‘Best Screenplay’ envelope and summoned Budd from the audience to receive his. (And let history record that he didn’t even try to look surprised. He knew what he’d done.)
Pete Hamill recalled having first met Budd at the 1962 Sonny Liston-Floyd Patterson fight in Chicago, an occasion far more memorable for the press room cast publicist Harold Conrad had assembled than for the barely two minutes of action in the ring. “You’d look in one direction and there would be Norman Mailer and A.J. Liebling,” recalled Hamill, then just in his second year as a newspaperman, “and you’d look the other way and there would be Nelson Algren and James Baldwin and Budd Schulberg.”
(Liebling, recounting the same scene in the New Yorker, wrote that “the press gatherings before this fight sometimes resembled those highly intellectual pour-parlers on some Mediterranean island; placed before typewriters, the accumulated novelists could have produced a copy of the Paris Review in forty-two minutes.”)
Hamill also recalled that on the evening of June 6, 1968, he and his brother Brian had driven across Los Angeles to pick up Budd in their rental car, and driven from there to the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert F. Kennedy would be speaking once the returns were in from that day’s California primary. Budd, said Hamill, remembered the hotel from his youth as the scene of some memorable Hollywood debauchery. Both Hamill and Schulberg were waiting in the kitchen that night when Sirhan Sirhan shot Kennedy. Hours later, once the east coast deadlines had passed, everyone reconnoitered, still battered by the shocking assassination. Everyone was grieving, but Schulberg made it his particular point that night to console Hamill, who he knew had lost a close personal friend.
They don’t make ’em like Budd anymore. Hell, they don’t make ’em like Kimball anymore either.
[Photo Credit: Boston.com]