EXCLUSIVE!!! CRAIG GLAZER CONSIDERS THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TOMMY MORRISON!!!
TKC NOTE: In his own words and without the banter of newsie hacks, Kansas City media impresario Craig Glazer considers the short, tragic life of Kansas City boxing legend Tommy Morrison. Check it:
Bad Boy, Bad Boy
In the Old West, America fell in love with the gunfighter. People loved to read the five cent novella on the bad boy heroes of the day like The James Boys, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, or Wild Bill Hickok. Why? Simply this: it’s a lot safer to live vicariously through people’s lives who risked it all for fame and glory. This trend continued in the early twentieth century with the new bad boys; gangsters. Men like Jon Dillinger, ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd and Organized Crime Boss Al Capone were sensationally written about in their day. Times had changed and most of their exploits were front page news. They sold a hell of a lot of newspapers. Years later, following their deaths, movies were made about all of these ‘bad boys’. There were rare exceptions when one of these swashbucklers would outrun the coverage and live to a ripe old age and learn how famous they had become, like Wyatt Earp. However, most of these men died young.
In the 21st Century, the bad boy image has moved from gunfighters and hoodlums to athletes and TV and film stars. With rare exception, their careers take a meteoric rise at a young age and then flame out. Recent examples have been people like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix and Heath Ledger to name a few. They were all household names whose stars burned brightly, they all had fame and fortune and they all died before their time. In sports we have people like Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath, and more recently Johnny Football and Barry Bonds. They lived the wild life and all too often paid a high price for doing so. What they all have in common is America’s lust for their tales of walking on the wild side.
Tommy Morrison was such a character. Tommy was movie star handsome with golden blonde hair and a chiseled physique to go with it. Women fell at his feet, even those who didn’t know he was a heavyweight boxing champion. Morrison exploded onto the boxing scene in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. Tommy became the darling of Kansas City when he announced it was his boxing home town. Morrison both trained and lived in Kansas City through his glory years. Though Morrison was really born and raised in Oklahoma, he would allow himself to be announced in the ring as a Kansas City boy. We all loved that. Tommy took pride in pitching the concept that he was a relative of ‘The Duke’ John Wayne and was nicknamed Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison.
With his death yesterday, clearly dying from the rare AIDS virus, all the negative stories started popping out. Yes, Tommy had been in jail. He had weapon and drug possession charges over the years and a handful of bar fights and assaults to go with it. However, when you really analyze his criminal record, it wasn’t anything to be overly upset with. He simply suffered from losing his fame and fortune.
Morrison had gained international attention and glory by defeating Heavyweight Champ George Foreman for the WBO Heavyweight Title. Tommy would also become well known for starring with Sylvester Stallone in Rocky 5 as Tommy Gunn. Some felt he was playing a real life version of himself.
Morrison really lost everything he would ever have in the ring. His heavyweight title reign was short lived. He was then crucified by Lennox Lewis when he attempted to win back the Heavyweight title. Shortly after that would come the HIV announcement and the end of Morrison’s boxing career. It was the typical rise and fall of the young somewhat naïve hero who just couldn’t handle his God-given talents.
I knew Tommy Morrison during his glory days in Kansas City. He was a regular at Stanford & Sons in Westport during the early nineties. Morrison traveled with a small entourage and whenever he walked into a nightclub the crowd would ‘Ooh’ and ‘Ah’. Morrison knew I produced the film Champions Forever which starred Ali and George Foreman. Having done that and owning Stanford’s made us quick friends. Tommy and I negotiated for the Harris House property in the early nineties, a bar that had been closed, to turn it into the Tommy Morrison bar. Tommy wanted the dance floor to be built like a giant boxing ring. Morrison and I even met with liquor control head honcho Joe Heide to get a liquor license approved. Even Joe, who was a tough old bird, was caught up in Morrison’s charisma. Morrison volunteered to do charity work with me including Red Friday’s in Westport and other fund-raising events we did featuring the Royals and NASCAR. I have to confess, that Tommy was nothing but nice to me and behaved very well when we went out and even when he had a few too many, I never saw that dark side of him I heard so much about.
My final sad experience in Kansas City with Morrison was when Derek Thomas and I both watched the Lennox Lewis fight together at the Quarterage Hotel. I took Morrison for fifty bucks, well, I had to back my buddy even knowing he would lose. The irony that sitting across from me was the greatest Chiefs player ever to don a jersey after the Dawson era. He, too, was a bad boy. Like Tommy, he had the same issues of booze, drugs and women, just not equipped to deal with his fame. Like Morrison, he too, would die at a young age.
As I said at the top, nothing is more American than the outlaw, the bad boy, the rebel. The one who stands alone against great odds and more often than not, overcomes them. We cheer them, we admire them, we want to know and touch them and all too often we despise them and are jealous of them. Why? I think every man wants to walk a mile or two in the shoes of these men for all the good stuff, but most of us don’t want to pay the price. To be more honest, most of us have no way to be like these people. In their own way, they were all truly special and helped shape the concept of what the American Dream often can be. I should know, I have a little experience in this arena myself.
Tommy Morrison walked the tightrope for several years. He was the Great White Hope in boxing. There was a time he was loved and adored. That was yesterday, how soon we forget. Those moments of greatness now overshadowed by public disdain and a lukewarm sympathy; the man deserved better.