THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist

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THIEF! character, Vince Eli

Sunday, January 7, 2007

THIEF! Fight excerpt

Jack "Doc" Kearns was one of the most famous fight promoters in the world. He rubbed elbows with presidents, heads of state, actors, name it. Slick's boyhood friend, Jack Kearns, Jr., figures prominently in THIEF!

Photo l. to r.: Mickey Walker & son, Jack Kearns, Jr. & Jack "Doc" Kearns, Sr. circa 1934. (Courtesy of Jack Kearns, Jr.)

Slick and Jack are about 9 years old in the following excerpt:

Speaking of tough, one of our gang was Jack Kearns whose world-famous father promoted and managed Jack Dempsey in bout after moneymaking bout during Dempsey’s heyday. “Doc” Kearns also handled guys like Mickey Walker and Joey Maxim to round out a card that read like a who’s who of boxing. It was a well-known fact that Kearns was the biggest fight promoter in the entire country. He was the kind of guy who made a million dollars, went broke, made another million, went broke, and so on. Someone said Doc was like one of those inflated shmoo dolls with a weighted base. It kept popping up no matter how hard you punched it.

Young Jack was a natural bullshitter just like his old man. When it came to fighting, Jack took a lot and gave a lot. He was as fearless as a male lion defending his harem.

One lucky Thursday—a day seared into my memory—Jack invited our gang over to Helsing’s to meet his father. It was the first time I set eyes on a hundred dollar bill. Doc threw money around the table like he minted it in his basement. I got a knot in my stomach the size of a man’s fist just eyeballing all that cash. If a working stiff took home a hundred bucks a month, I guarantee, he was President of the United States.

Not only did Doc treat us guys to lunch, he casually peeled off a ten spot for each of us— fifty bucks just like that. My hand shook as I reached for mine. That was more than my father made in a week. It was funny Doc Kearns was so free with his money because, rumor had it, he was in one of his broke spells. After that meeting, Jack never lost a fight.

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