Mexican Spitfire

By Clarence George on April 26, 2013
Mexican Spitfire
She was smoldering, exotic, and spoke an English so broken it turned men to molten lust.

Did Herman Weiner return to the ring after appearing with Velez in “Hell Harbor” because facing his fellow heavyweights was less…exerting?

Now you’ve listened to my story
Here’s the point that I have made
Chicks were born to give you fever
Be it Fahrenheit or centigrade

To the best of my knowledge, no fighter has taken the nickname “Mexican Spitfire.” And small wonder, given that heavyweight champs Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey staked their claim—not to the ring moniker, but to the woman: Lupe Velez.

A habanero chili pepper if ever there was one, Velez was beautiful, smoldering, exotic, charmingly accented, and spoke an English so broken it turned men to molten lust.

Originally a dancer in her native Mexico, she moved to the U.S., where she worked in vaudeville. Discovered by Fanny Brice, Velez became a film actress in 1924 at the age of 16. Although she never attained stardom (Dolores del Rio avoided her, fearing that the envious and fiery-tempered Velez would literally take a bite), she was reasonably successful, particularly in Leon Errol comedies.

No shortage of Hollywood sex kittens involved with pugilists. Mae West’s decades-long relationship with “chauffeur” Gorilla Jones, for instance. He once threatened to perpetrate all sorts of unpleasantness on a guy who made an ungentlemanly remark about “The Lady,” as Jones called West. “Let him talk,” she said. “It’s good for business.” And 1950s va va voom girl Mamie Van Doren was once engaged to Dempsey. In addition, she was one of the countless beauties to have a fling with Art Aragon. “The Golden Boy was a perfect title for him,” said Van Doren after his death. “His smile turned everyone on. His skin was golden. His floppy hair bounced so perfectly. He was just so sexy.” But could either West or Van Doren claim to have biblically known not one but two heavyweight champs? No, that distinction belongs exclusively to Velez.

And what of Herman Weiner? Did he return to the ring after appearing with Velez in Hell Harbor because facing his fellow heavyweights was less…exerting?

“The Mexican Spitfire” didn’t bestow her renowned favors exclusively on sweet scientists. In addition to her tempestuous marriage to Johnny Weissmuller (“Lupe marks on his godlike torso, strawberry hickeys on that Thor throat, annular bites on his perfect pecks, eloquent scratches on his ivory back”), Velez bedded, among any number of others, John Gilbert, Charlie Chaplin, and Errol Flynn. But, most famously, Gary Cooper, who had, according to Velez, “the biggest organ in Hollywood, but not the ass to push it in well.” And did Velez play Cleopatra to Edward G. Robinson’s Little Caesar? “Sex was her game, and she played it on stage and off the stage,” said the quintessential movie gangster. “I could deal with the rubbing and roving hands…I managed to elude her. She was a hot tomato, and I was not a rock. It was not easy.” Admirable (I guess), though distressingly vague in relating how he dealt with those “rubbing and roving hands.”

In Hollywood Babylon, woman-hating Kenneth Anger writes:

“When Juanita, the chambermaid, had opened the bedroom door at nine, the morning after the suicide, no Lupe was in sight. The bed was empty. The aroma of scented candles, the fragrance of tuberoses almost, but not quite, masked a stench recalling that left by Skid-Row derelicts. Juanita traced the vomit trail from the bed, followed the spotty track over to the orchid-tiled bathroom. There she found her mistress, Senorita Velez, head jammed down in the toilet bowl, drowned.”

The stygian blackness from the poison-pen of the aptly named Anger is to be taken not with a grain of salt, but with the entire contents of the Hallein Salt Mine. What was it Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman? “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’”

As reputable Velez biographer, Michelle Vogel, says:

“The truth? Lupe Velez died in her bed, as she intended. She was 36 years old, unmarried and about to become a mother. She was successful, beautiful, kind, talented, funny, a little bit crazy (by her own admission), and on December 14, 1944, she was dead by her own hand… Every ounce of the truth was tragic. No salacious embellishment needed.”

Velez wrote her own epitaph:

“Whenever I see a man, there is something in here which must make me winkle my eyes at him. I cannot help myself anymore than you can help yourself from breathing. Sometimes I say I will never flirt again. I sit around. I grow sick. When I cannot flirt with some mens, I get a fever.”

A good Catholic (well, let’s be generous), we can be confident that Velez thanked Nicholas, the patron saint of boxers, for at least tamping down that fire by sending her two of his greatest champions. Heavyweights, of course. Who was he going to send, Teddy Yarosz and Babe Risko? Middleweights for Lupe Velez? There’d have been nothing left but the laces from their gloves.

What’s boxing without beautiful women? It’s Laurel without Hardy, The Three Stooges without Curly, New Jersey without you, ordering a gin and tonic…and skipping the gin.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Lupe Vélez y Laurel and Hardy

Jack Johnson Boxing Tribute HD

Lupe Vélez sings La Negra Consentida (1939)

A Tribute to Lupe Velez - Music by Agustín Lara

Hell Harbor (1930) Al St. John

Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles


This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Norm Marcus 06:03pm, 04/23/2014

    Yo Clarence- you forgot Max Baer when he was at MGM in 1933. He told an old neighbor of mine in the army in 1942 that they called Valez the Spitfire because she wouldn’t swallow for anyone! Good old Baer, I miss him!!!

  2. Clarence George 02:33pm, 04/29/2013

    Well done, Mike Silver!  What an eye you have, and I’m sure your research is right.

    I confess I never heard of him, but I see he fought some names, including Gunboat Smith and Jack Dempsey.

  3. Mike Silver 02:22pm, 04/29/2013

    Looked up the movie “Sailor’s Beware” and it lists Dick Gilbert as the heavy. He is described as a former boxer. There is a record for Dick Gilbert on BoxRec but the picture looks nothing like the actor—but of course the picture was taken many years earlier.

  4. Clarence George 04:02am, 04/29/2013

    So glad you liked it, Mike Silver.

    I think the movie is “Sailors Beware” and the actor is Frank Brownlee.  But he wasn’t a boxer, was he?  I hope someone more knowledgeable than I has the answer to your question.

  5. Mike Silver 10:50pm, 04/28/2013

    What a treat Clarence! Can someone identify the bruiser who comes down the stairs after Laurel and Hardy. I believe he was an ex-boxer of the “white hope” era.

  6. Clarence George 10:58am, 04/28/2013

    I now know the full meaning of “abundance of naughtiness” (James 1:21).

  7. Ted 10:10am, 04/28/2013

    Irish, I see we can’t have one thread without mention the Klits!

  8. Clarence George 04:45pm, 04/27/2013

    Thanks for the info., NYI.  I don’t at all remember “The Merry Mailman,” though I vividly recall Captain Jack McCarthy and Officer Joe Bolton.

  9. NYIrish 03:09pm, 04/27/2013

    Got some laughs out of this series of posts. Life goes better and longer with a sense of humour.
    Joey Heatherton is the daughter of Ray Heatherton who was “The Merry Mailman”  on WPIX TVin the early 60s. It was a kiddie show on the local NY station.
    May all the “Old Horns” enjoy the fights tonight and stay out of trouble.

  10. Clarence George 09:45am, 04/27/2013

    Thank you, Mike S.

    Hmmm, I have to give thought to your suggestion.  I think (and I may be wrong) that she’s still with us—late 60s or early 70s, and living in California.

    One of my favorite 1960s vixens is Joey Heatherton.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t have even the most tangential connection to boxing, though she was married to a football player—the distasteful Lance Rentzel.

  11. Ted 09:00am, 04/27/2013

    Irish, Thanks for sharing.

  12. Mike Schmidt 08:30am, 04/27/2013

    Clarence—there is only one man for the job—how about an article on Arlene “Charlie” Quarry—game show host and Miss Indiana—what is she up to now?? I think you are clearly the only man that can get up for the job!!!!! Keep em coming Sir!!!

  13. Clarence George 07:46am, 04/27/2013

    Um…no doubt, Irish, no doubt.  And one doesn’t often come across a Lupe Velez/Margaret Hamilton comparison.

    As always, I appreciate your kind words and, um, unique perspective.

    And you always make me laugh.

  14. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:19am, 04/27/2013

    Clarence George-I’m convinced that you are a blooming genius….when I read “de-bitchmittened” in your other article, my sip of Johnny Black Soda shot straight out of my nose and sprayed my keyboard! She faulted Cooper for not having a pile driving ass….what a girl….bet she had a big clit and was orgasmic as all get out….I have a feeling that Margaret Hamilton was the same way!

  15. Clarence George 05:33am, 04/27/2013

    Thank you, gents—I strive to both entertain and enlighten.

  16. Ted 05:03am, 04/27/2013

    “Whenever I see a man, there is something in here which must make me winkle my eyes at him. I cannot help myself anymore than you can help yourself from breathing. Sometimes I say I will never flirt again. I sit around. I grow sick. When I cannot flirt with some mens, I get a fever.”

    Holy Moly! Why didn’t I meet these types when I was in HS? Or maybe I did…......

  17. Ted 04:52am, 04/27/2013

    Ha, he needs to change his “signature”. But his post down below has me on the floor laughing like a hyena

    “Pool of melt”

  18. Mike Casey 04:43am, 04/27/2013

    Indeed, Ted, a bit of a giveaway!!

  19. Ted 04:37am, 04/27/2013

    NYIrish, nice play on words! BTWM As soon as I saw the photo, I knew who the writer was.

  20. Clarence George 02:25am, 04/27/2013

    Thank you, gentlemen.

    What can I say, Mike?  The integral role that beautiful women have played in rendering the Sweet Science yet sweeter has been shamefully neglected.  Indeed, I wouldn’t be the boxing writer I am (autographs available through Robert) if not for my own savory muse.

    Speaking of Robert, breathe in that smoldering photo he so astutely selected.  Nothing short of astonishing that my computer isn’t a pool of melt.

  21. Mike Casey 01:11am, 04/27/2013

    Clarence, you are quite delightfully incorrigible.

  22. NYIrish 09:00pm, 04/26/2013

    Interesting piece…

Leave a comment