Archive for April, 2018

Remembering Holyfield-Foreman: “Battle of the Ages” (and how we snuck into Holyfield’s victory party)

April 19, 2018
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Evander Holyfield addresses supporters at his victory party following his heavyweight title defense against George Foreman in Atlantic City, April 19, 1991.

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ April 19, 1991:  In it’s early casino days Atlantic City was a popular site for Heavyweight Championship fights, back when such fights were king, with most of them taking place at the Atlantic City Convention Center with Donald Trump’s “Trump Plaza” as host.

April 19, 1991 was my first after moving to the city where I anchored the 11 p.m. news at the local NBC affiliate WMGM-TV 40. It was billed as the “Battle of the Ages” and featured 28-year-old Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield defending his title against 42-year-old former Champ George Foreman.

I recently came across some pictures I took and an old press notebook from the fight which listed the ticket prices in the 19,000 seat arena ranging from $100 for the cheap seats up to $1,000. Serious change in 1991 dollars.

My press pass didn’t get me into the fight, plus I had to anchor the 11 p.m. news on that Friday night but I remember being around all of the star-studded build up to it. I recently came across the notes I jotted down of the night on the people I saw and so forth.

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Future President Trump at title fight weigh in.

The notes included, ironically enough, my killing time with future President Donald Trump as I waited in a hallway outside a pre-fight party on the Plaza’s 7th Floor. They were leaving the party when his then girlfriend Marla Maples had to use the bathroom. After a while waiting “the Donald” decided he too may as well go. As he came out a few minutes later he looked at me as if to ask “she’s still in there?” I shrugged. He then proceeded to stick his head in the ladies’ room and yelled for her to “come on.”

The real fun came after our 11 p.m. newscast, we gathered in the Green Room of WMGM-TV 40 to listen through the scramble of the pay-per-view to the end of the fight. After Holyfield’s victory a couple of us decided to drive back into Atlantic City just to be around the action.

We went back to Trump Plaza where the pre-fight festivities went on but it was dead but we ran into a Trump executive who told us the Holyfield victory party was taking place over at Trump Regency. This was the former Playboy Casino that Trump now owned but operated as a hotel only property after his Trump Taj Mahal opened a year earlier.

Four of us, my co-anchor Lisa, our sports anchor Christine, our producer Dave and I made our way down the Boardwalk to the Regency. We had no idea where in the hotel we were going or if we’d be able to even get on the floor of the party but as luck would have it we stumbled on the ballroom and standing guard at the door was an Atlantic City cop who recognized Lisa. He told the person manning the door “they’re okay.”

We were in!

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Luckily for me I had my still camera (pre cellphones kids this is how we took pictures) so I was able to get a number of pictures with the star studded attendees. There were sports celebrities everywhere Randall Cunningham and Keith Byars of the Eagles, basketball great Bill Walton, Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, Joe Piscopo, Donald and Marla and of course the guest of honor Evander Holyfield dressed in a suit, his face swollen from the pounding Foreman laid on him.

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Joe Piscopo and his wife.

The four of us kind of split up as I roamed the floor getting my picture with a couple of the celebrities and boxing greats and I also took pictures of Holyfield out on the dance floor and thanking his supporters and one with Lisa and Christine.

At one point Lisa caught up with me to tell me about this Irish actor she and Christine ran into and how nice he was. His name to me did not ring a bell. She said he told them he was not into this loud scene and wanted the two girls to go back with him to his room where they could be in a quieter setting.

I told her, I don’t know the guy but for my money I think he’s looking for a three-some. She said no, no, he’s really nice. I told her do what you want but that’s my opinion. She said come over and meet him, so I went over and we actually had a drink together. His face, like his name, weren’t familiar but I found him to be as Lisa said very nice.

After awhile Lisa pulls me aside and says “so what do you think, should we go?” I told her she’s right, he’s very nice but if this wasn’t his scene why did he even come to a title fight and a victory party? She said you’re probably right and noticing my camera asked if I’d take a picture of them. So I snapped a shot of Lisa and Christine with him.

When I had the pictures developed (again pre cellphone era) I gave her a copy but don’t even think I initially put the picture in my photo album since I never heard of the guy.

About two year’s later “Schindler’s List” was released and it hit me, “oh that’s who Liam Neeson is!”

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Lisa, Liam Neeson, Chris

 

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Title Fight weigh in at Trump Plaza, April 18, 1991.

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Boxing legend Lou Duva and me.

 

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