Back when they still referred to grades 7-9 as Junior High School, my parents began a subscription to was then a fledgling start-up called New York magazine. Not to be confused with the legendary New Yorker, the new kid on the block featured articles by some the Big Apple’s most contemporary writers like Tom Wolfe, Nora Ephron, Gail Sheehy, Gay Talese and Nat Hentoff as well as grizzled news veterans like Jimmy Breslin.
I was flipping through a June 1969 issue when I came across a profile of heavyweight boxer Jerry Quarry, who was preparing to challenge Joe Frazier for the title at Madison Square Garden. For those old enough to remember, Quarry was a hard-punching face-first fighter from California who, unfortunately, emerged at the same time as Frazier and Muhammad Ali and was therefore rendered to perennial contender status for the duration of his career.
The article titled “The Great White Hope” described in uncomfortable detail Quarry’s spartan training regimen while sequestered at Grossinger’s Resort in the Catskill Mountains. The author was Pete Hamill - another battle tested soldier of the Big Apple’s tabloid wars, who if you sliced his arm, would no doubt have bled his beloved New York. He would often remark that you could just “wander around and let the city dictate the script.”
I kept that magazine for nearly 10 years and today have a printed copy of the piece among my boxing memorabilia. It was then I became an immediate fan of his – whether reading his columns in the New York Daily News, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire Magazine or one of his many books and novellas.
He was the eldest of seven children born to Irish immigrants and a high school dropout, yet rose to become a reporter at the New York Post, and had covered the Vietnam War, riots, sporting events and was just feet from Bobby Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He even found time to squire around Shirley MacLaine, Linda Ronstadt and Jacqueline Onassis.