Mohammad Ali: Happy 65th Birthday
I used to work in the hotel business and one time we had a visit from Mohammad Ali. They set up a special session for us to have our picture taken with him and two other famous fighters. They had Archie Moore and Michael Spinks along with Mohammad Ali at the end of this small meeting room, ready for a group shot.
I explained as best I could that this was a political thing rather than a sports thing for me so could I just have my picture taken with Ali? They agreed and Archie Moore and Michael Spinks stepped aside. After my picture they decided that it would only be group shots from then on so mine was the only one in that photo shoot like this.
We got ready to take the picture and the photographer said, "Okay, now smile." I said. "No, this is serious." Ali nodded. He said, "Yeah, serious", and that's the look you see in this shot.
I'm not usually that forward, but this was different. I felt this was really important. For years, I would meet Presidents and all kinds of celebrities, but this was Mohammad Ali. I even used to say before this that the one person I wished would come through town was the Champ.
To my good fortune, he did. I even spoke to him a little bit in Arabic and he responded right away. I told him I was from Arabia and he was intrigued by that.
Mainly, I got to thank him for everything he had done for the world. It's very rare that you get to meet an actual political hero. Later, during the banquet we were in the back hall, and he was waiting to be introduced. He was having trouble standing - his balance was bad and he seemed weak. A chair was brought and he sat down. The crowd inside the room began chanting "Ali, Ali", and when it was time he jumped up like he was going into the ring. Everybody there got choked up to see that. He disappeared through the door and the crowd inside went crazy.
Mohammad Ali turned 65 today. I could tell being around him, that he's the same person he always used to be. He just can't communicate it like he did before, and that's one of the most unfortunate breaks of our times.
There's also one other point that I don't think is made enough about the guy. Back in the day, in addition to being the most famous person in the world, a true political hero, and an amazing boxer, he was also one of the top 2 or 3 standup comedians of all time: "I'm so bad I make medicine sick." Who was more entertaining than this? Nobody. So Happy Birthday Champ, and thanks for the picture.