Nobody Shoots at Santa Claus

By Clarence George on December 27, 2013
Nobody Shoots at Santa Claus
He spoke of combative wonder my friend wanted that autographed photo.

Imagine his dismay, and my amusement, when he ripped open the wrapping paper to discover a photo of a white guy in a cowboy outfit…

“Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”—A Christmas Story

One of my brother’s gifts to me this past Christmas was a signed photo of Jake LaMotta knocking Sugar Ray Robinson through the ropes. I was both delighted and reminded, reminded of a fellow boxing fan who once asked Santa, in the curvy form of his girlfriend, for an autographed photo of Rory Calhoun. Imagine his dismay, and my amusement, when he ripped open the wrapping paper to discover a photo of a white guy in a cowboy outfit. My friend wisely expressed his delight to the curvaceous Circe, who was no end pleased with herself. But he later took me aside with a “What the hell?”

I told my confused and disappointed friend that, as is so often the case in life, he received not what he wanted but what he asked for—in this case, a signed photo of B actor Rory Calhoun. Distressed by the look on his face, Sylvester foiled in noshing on Tweety, I thought it might make him feel better to know that Calhoun had portrayed Gentleman Jim Corbett in The Great John L. It didn’t.

My friend wasn’t a fan of that Rory Calhoun, but of the middleweight who fought from 1954 to 1962, and who once noted that “No matter how often my father belted the devil out of me for fighting, it failed to curb my combative tendencies.” Combative tendencies…no wonder my friend wanted that autographed photo.

With a record of 45 wins, 21 by knockout, 15 losses and two draws, Calhoun won his first 23 bouts. His first loss came courtesy of Spider Webb, who won by unanimous decision at Chicago Stadium on August 29, 1956. Webb was also the first of five to stop Calhoun, by fourth-round KO at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, on January 20, 1958.

Rory scored victories over an impressive lineup, including Joey Giambra, Rocky Castellani, Yolande Pompey, Tiger Jones, and Dick Tiger. But his record turned spotty. Following his devastating loss to Henry Hank by second-round TKO at the Cow Place on April 25, 1960, which kept him out of the ring for seven months, he lost five of his seven remaining fights.

It was after being stopped by Florentino Fernandez by eighth-round TKO at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1961, that Calhoun moved up to light heavy, losing two of three.

He quit the ring after being stopped by Jimmy Ellis via first-round KO at the Jefferson County Armory in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 11, 1962. He was no longer a contender…and he knew it.

Rory Calhoun died of liver failure on February 15, 1988. He was 53.

Consolation to my fellow fan that Calhoun changed his name from Herman to Rory in order to capitalize on the actor’s celebrity? No soap. That the two men later became friends? Uh-uh. How ‘bout that when suing the actor for divorce his wife claimed he’d had affairs with Betty Grable and 78 other lovelies, to which he said, “Heck, she didn’t even include half of them”? That at least brought an admiring look to his sour puss.

Me, I lucked out. If my brother had gotten me a signed photo of the actor Jake LaMotta, the guy who appeared in Cauliflower Cupids (with Lee Meredith as Dee Body)...why, it’d still be the same guy whom the great Sugar Ray couldn’t knock down.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Clarence George 03:28pm, 12/31/2013

    Mad at you, Nicolas?  Not in the least; never even occurred to me.

    I look forward to reading your article, but I’d like to see your work posted here.  My idea of high tech is my retractable fountain pen, but I’m sure there’s somebody who can walk you through how to log on (or whatever the process is) so you can have a piece published on

  2. nicolas 03:10pm, 12/31/2013

    thank you very much Clarence for your kind words. I thought that you might have been kind of mad at me when AI mentioned about Chris John losing his last fight, which I think Ted Sares correctly said was the upset of the year. I meant no disrespect. I wanted to write some articles for BOXING.COM, but am kind of confused about sending stuff with pictures, and then when I tried to log on to this new foremat, could not do so. Just to let you know, and if you and others are interested in reading it, I wrote an article on my facebook page, I guess it is my wall. It begins with “As Arnold knows”, and it is about the WBC flyweight title. It was written before Yaegashi’s last title defense. My full name by the way is Nicolas Kuciak. There is an interesting history that has not been brought up any where that I have noticed.

  3. Clarence George 07:56am, 12/31/2013

    Thanks, Mike!

  4. Mike Casey 07:34am, 12/31/2013

    Still catching up on my Christmas reading since being away. This one is great, Clarence!

  5. Clarence George 04:35am, 12/31/2013

    Ha!  Another film I must look into, Nicolas.

    Is Deborah Kerr in “The Innocents” losing her mind or seeing ghosts?  My own take is that one doesn’t preclude the other.  She was one of the truly great actresses.  But a bit unappreciated, rather like Susan Hayward, who was stunning (in more ways than one) in her portrayal of Barbara Graham in “I Want to Live!” 

    You’ve been a great commenter, Nicolas, adding much to my and my fellow writers’ articles.  Pray continue in the coming year.

    Speaking of which, I’ll take this opportunity to wish you and the other boxing aficionados and cognoscenti who take the time and make the effort to comment (often offering new information and fresh insight) all the best for 2014.  The same goes for my colleagues and editor, and for itself, recently (and most deservedly) named the best boxing site on the web:

  6. nicolas 03:44am, 12/31/2013

    Clarence, when you mentioned Deborah Kerr unraveling, I thought for a second you meant a different way, and I thought of her scene in the film ‘the Gypsy Moths’, though I am not so sure if it was not a body double, though it does not look like it was.

  7. Clarence George 01:47pm, 12/30/2013

    I shall do so, Nicolas.  I researched them, and they both look interesting, particularly “Under the Sand.”  When a woman unravels, as did Deborah Kerr in “The Innocents”...that can be good cinema.  Besides, I love anything to do with disappearances, real or fictional.  Both films, fortunately, are available from Netflix.

  8. nicolas 01:26pm, 12/30/2013

    Clarence, just to let you know, I found her pretty sexy in those films that I mentioned. Suggest you check her out.

  9. Clarence George 12:14pm, 12/30/2013

    Thanks for the info, Nicolas.  I wasn’t aware of those films.  The last time I saw Rampling was in an episode of “My Uncle Silas.”  She also had a small role in a very poor Michael Caine movie, “The Statement.”

    I suppose I was wrong in saying that she “disappeared.”  It’s more that she didn’t attain the stardom people expected she would.

    I agree with you, by the way—I too never found her particularly sexy or attractive, but she was a very good actress; still is, I guess.

  10. nicolas 11:42am, 12/30/2013

    CLARENCE: Was never really big on Charlotte Rampling, however she was in two films back in 2000 and 2003 by a French director names Ozon, who cast her top billing in films respectively ‘Under the Sand’ and ‘Swimming Pool’. and have to say she was much more sensuous in those films than I found her when she was in her twenties. She still acts today, is now 67 years old, but I think has more supporting roles, in films that are perhpas not as available as those two films I mentioned.

  11. Clarence George 04:16am, 12/30/2013

    One of my favorite Strode films is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”  So many people who see that movie don’t have idea one what the hell is going on.  They think they do…but they don’t.  I don’t remember “Sailor” Art Thomas, but the Cagney story rings a faint bell.  Big fan of Douglas…that strident ranting of his!

  12. Mike Schmidt 03:25am, 12/30/2013

    Remind me not to engage you gents in Trivial Pursuit!!! Mr. Kirk Douglas would tell you that he did not know a darn thing about boxing but he would have been a world class collegiate wrestler if his thespian pursuits had not taken him in another direction. Another tough dude for sure.

  13. Mike Silver 11:51pm, 12/29/2013

    CG, let’s not forget Woody Strode in “The Professionals” (I think his best part), and of course Spartacus. Woody was a super athlete and I think a former pro footballer. Had a build like The Big Cat Cleveland W. (Does anybody out there remember pro wrestler “Sailor” Art Thomas?)
    Mike, great story re: Chuvalo and Stallone. You should write a play-“My Dinner With George”. BTW, did you know Jimmy Cagney wanted ballet dancer Barishnikov to portray Cagney in a movie?

  14. Mike Schmidt 02:46pm, 12/29/2013

    Silver Surfer thanks for the info. I am a huge Nolte fan ( and from previous posts and our Coyote/Shepherd dog of course Bronson and “Hard Times” rate up in the stars). Did not know this Dempsey fact-thanks. Nolte of course was a studster as well- he triple lettered at Temple; football, baseball and basketball- I suspect his deamons started early in life- he was booted out of high school for boozin and prankster items. I will give you a good one back Mike- was out with Chuvalo and a few of the boys for dinner and the lads were ribbing George how he blew a good deal. Sly Stallone wanted to consider doing a movie about George and asked him about it- Georges response ( this is all in good fun but none the less ya gotta love Georgee)- George to Sly “Your to small for the part.!!!!” Hee hee ya gotta love that!

  15. Clarence George 02:39pm, 12/29/2013

    Woody Strode!  Outstanding in so many excellent movies—“Pork Chop Hill,” “Sergeant Rutledge”...not to mention the Barbara Payton classic, “Bride of the Gorilla.”

  16. Mike Silver 02:27pm, 12/29/2013

    For what it’s worth—Jack Dempsey after seeing Nolte in “Rich Man Poor Man’ wanted Nolte to portray him in a Dempsey movie. Understandable.
    Thanks for the info on Will Smith. Always wondered what happened to him. Maybe the best physique in movies—rivaling Woody Strode and Charlie Bronson. These pumped up movie pansies today don’t compare to those authentic macho men.

  17. Clarence George 02:11pm, 12/29/2013

    Thanks, Mike.

    I think Smith was at his most chilling after the male rape in “Rich Man, Poor Man”—so…complacent.

    By the way, Peter Strauss is an excellent actor, who never got the recognition he deserved.

  18. Mike Schmidt 12:08pm, 12/29/2013

    Clarence the William Smith movie was Blood and Guts filmed up here in Ayr, Ontario with shots done at the Kitchener-Waterloo Auditorium- spot as well where Mr.Lennox Lewis fought in his early pro career before hometown fans. Smith in real life was a nice guy but tough guy- yes a World Arm Wrestling Champ and world record holder in reverse curls- also went 31-1 as an amateur boxer and trained in martial arts/kenpo. He played the perfect hells angels type of biker guy. Great stuff sir and to all posting a Happy bringing in of the New Year.

  19. Mike Schmidt 11:57am, 12/29/2013

    Little late to the party here gents. Irish Frankie- don’t know about them there backside zippered gorilla’s but when Bella Lagoshtlee did that out of the coffin stare down in the old wearhouse on a dark, lightening storm night, in Yabbbbbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein,..awesome, as was the one in the caves, Yabbbbot and Costello Meet the Killer with Mr. Horror himself. As for William Smith- he filmed a movie up this neck of the woods after Rich Man Poor Man- got to meet him- hell of nice guy and one of my all time fav scenes is William as Falconeti duking it out in the ship barge storage area with Nick Nolte as Tom Jordache- and didn’t a young Nolte look like Jerry Quarry. Good scene in that one as well of Nolte pounding on middleweight Champion played by George Maharis- in a hotel room- great line when Nolte mentions to Maharis, in regards to banging Maharis’s girlfriend, “Oh, that! I didn’ think you would mind!”

  20. Clarence George 10:54am, 12/29/2013

    Irish:  I remember Charlotte Rampling in that movie.  A wonderful actress who’s pretty much disappeared.

    Oh, that’s funny, Ted!  And I’m in complete agreement.  Mrs. Rizzo (Mildred Dunnock) aksed for it…and, boy, did she get it!

  21. Ted 07:51am, 12/29/2013

    Well, Richard Widmark went to the same undergrad as I did but a lot earlier. We were all proud of him when he rolled that hag down the stairs.

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:47am, 12/29/2013

    Clarence George-I hear you about Paul Newman….although I do feel his closing statement scene in the Lumet/Mamet gem “The Verdict” was first rate.

  23. Clarence George 04:04am, 12/29/2013

    Mike:  The only sword-and-sandal/biblical epic I find unwatchable is “The Silver Chalice” (despite a hilarious performance by Jack Palance).  I think it was Paul Newman’s film debut.  I never cared for him, but he himself recognized that the movie is just godawful.

    I always liked Victor Mature.  He was very good in “Kiss of Death,” though the film was stolen lock, stock, and barrel by Richard Widmark in his debut.  His Tommy Udo is among the most blood-chilling characters ever brought to life on the silver screen.

    Buddy Baer…he played Ursus.

  24. Mike Silver 11:42pm, 12/28/2013

    Wow! Got to see “The Colossus of Rhodes”. Looks like a treat! Love those early “spectacles” like Quo Vadis and “Demetrius and the Gladiators”. Two of my favorites. Victor Mature looked like Rory Calhoun (actor not fighter) on steroids. Remember Buddy Baer in “Quo Vadis”?

  25. Ted 03:59pm, 12/28/2013

    “Airforce weight lifting champ” I resemble that comment

  26. nicolas 01:23pm, 12/28/2013

    ERIC: William Smith, yes, that he did not become a big star is amazing, but perhaps playing the villain so many times did not help. Looking back at “Any Which Way You Can with Clint Eastwood,” you would have thought that would have led to stardom, but for whatever reason, it did not. Also he is quite good in “Grave Of the Vampire”, and who can forget his other famous film, Invasion Of The Bee Girls. He was a US 200 pound Arm Wrestling Champ, and Also Airforce weightlifting champ. He is 80 now, and still acting in movies, though apparently B films.

  27. Clarence George 08:26am, 12/28/2013

    Theodore Dmitri Sares!

  28. ted 08:21am, 12/28/2013

    btw, what is her hand holding in the photo?

  29. Ted 08:20am, 12/28/2013

    I knew Spider Webb. He was a friend of mine. Spider Rico was no Spider Webb.

  30. Clarence George 08:10am, 12/28/2013

    Which reminds me, Irish, of Victor Mature in “After the Fox.”  He assures his manager, I think it was, that he’s still in excellent shape, inviting him to hit him in the stomach.  He reacts to the blow with a smile, but then goes into another room and doubles over.

  31. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:44am, 12/28/2013

    Eric-Yes, the times they were a changin’ in the Fifties…I guess I was thinking more of the Forties when even Johnny Weissmuller toward the end of his run as Tarzan was sucking in his gut. We could care less, as long as he could still wrestle lions and crocs and Roy and Gene kissed Trigger and Champion and not their lady friends.

  32. Clarence George 06:46am, 12/28/2013

    I remember him, Eric, in “Any Which Way You Can” and how sinister he was in “Rich Man, Poor Man.”

  33. Eric 06:36am, 12/28/2013

    Movie and television tough guy William Smith worked out back in the day. William Smith, not to be confused with former rapper and fellow actor Will Smith, had a huge set of arms. Smith wasn’t all brawn, I heard the guy was fluent in Russian history and language. Always liked that wonderful 3AM classic, “CC and Company,” starring Joe Namath and Ann Margaret. Smith was his usual badass self playing the leader of a motorcycle gang.

  34. Clarence George 05:52am, 12/28/2013

    When my brother and I were kids, Nicolas, we were addicted to Steve Reeves’ Hercules movies.  In one, “Hercules Unchained,” Primo Carnera puts in an appearance as Antaeus.  After being defeated by Hercules, Antaeus cries out:  “You will pass through my valley again!”  But Hercules didn’t.

    If I remember correctly, NYIrish, Hall of Famer Billy Graham beat Carmen Basilio and Kid Gavilan.  And let’s not forget Jimmy Carter.  No, not God’s gift to dreadful presidents, but the lightweight (and also Hall of Famer) who stopped and took the title from Ike Williams.  Ike Williams!

    Rory Calhoun, Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter…Ha, there could be a whole article right there!

  35. NYIrish 05:26am, 12/28/2013

    Billy Graham used to be introduced in the Garden as “the uncrowned welterweight king” by Johnny Addie. He was never stopped or knocked down in the ring. After he hung ‘em up he was a liquor salesman in Manhattan.

  36. nicolas 10:03pm, 12/27/2013

    IRISH FRANKIE. In the 50’s I think actors like Charles Bronson, and Kirk Douglas while maybe not having personal trainers, did work out. I saw a picture of Jack Palance doing some kind of weight lifting with someone else, don’t know though if it was a personal trainer. Of course at the time Rory Calhoun doing Colossus of Rhodes, a Sergio Leone film no less, you had the musclemen like Steve Reeves doing the Hercules films, and another named Reg Park, and of course Gordon Scott of also Tarzan fame. The times were changing back then.

  37. Clarence George 08:06pm, 12/27/2013

    Right you are, Eric—boxer Rory did indeed do some acting after he left the ring.  And thanks for reminding me of the Billy Graham “triplets.”  The boxer was a terrific welter…never stopped!

  38. Eric 06:58pm, 12/27/2013

    Boxer Rory Calhoun did have a small bit part in the movie, “Requiem For A Heavyweight,” a very underrated boxing movie IMO. Makes me think of the 3 “famous” Billy Grahams, one a boxer, the other a “rassler” and of course the preacher. The boxer just might be the least well known of the three, with Wayne Coleman aka Superstar Billy Graham coming in second.

  39. Clarence George 06:28pm, 12/27/2013

    Glad you enjoyed it, Peter. 

    Your point is well taken, though I’d argue that the boxer should be more highly rated than the actor.

  40. peter 06:17pm, 12/27/2013

    Thanks for that interesting story on Rory Calhoun. While both men were “B actors”, both were successful in their fields. We still remember and talk about them.

  41. Clarence George 06:14pm, 12/27/2013

    Thank you, Irish.  Those were the best movies, weren’t they?

    Ha!  Apparently more than double that number, Ted.

  42. Ted 06:07pm, 12/27/2013

    “78 other lovelies” wtf!

  43. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:49pm, 12/27/2013

    Clarence George-Thanks again!....which reminds me…..Rory worked during the era before actors had personal trainers….in bare chested scenes they just sucked in their guts and that did the trick. Of course those were the days when credulous youths like myself were scared out of our skins by gorillas with zippered up backsides who were chasing Abbott and Costello around on the silver screen.

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