Maury Z. Levy

Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

10 Most Popular Stories

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm

There are over 50 stories and columns on this site. They cover a period from the late 1960s to the present. Publications range from Philadelphia Magazine to Playboy, from New York magazine to a book from Random House. The ten stories below represent the most visited pieces in the last few months. Just click on titles to go to stories. Enjoy. [All stories are copyrighted by Maury Z. Levy, 2011. All rights reserved. No story may be used, in full or in part, without the written consent of the author.]

1. Poor Butterfly: The Muhammad Ali Story In 1975,  Ali had been the king of the world for a long time. He was always surrounded by press people fighting for interviews. He talked a lot, but never let anyone get really close to him. Until this.

2. Jimmy Stewart: The Interview America’s favorite actor talks candidly about knocking Hollywood on its ear and Garbo on her ass.

3. The Sex Chapter From the book Gym Psych: the Insider’s Guide to Health Clubs. Written at the height of the fitness craze, this became a tongue-in-cheek manual for those who knew it was better to look good than feel good.

4. Jessica Savitch: Please Don’t Send Me Panties Before she became the talk of the nation, Savitch was the queen of the Philadelphia new jungle. Follow her adventures with co-workers, bosses and fans who send underware.

5. Dead End at Toms River: A Bizarre Murder Mystery  A young girl disappears from the streets of Philadelphia. Her body is found half a state away in the woods of Toms River. In pieces. The murderer? No one knows. Certainly not the cops.

6. Raquel Welch: The Playboy Fashion Guide Interview One of the most beautiful women in the world shows it was brains and a really good sense of humor that got her to the top. Oh, and that she likes French asses better than American.

7. The Last Steve Carlton Story  When the future Hall of Fame lefty came to Philadelphia for one of the greatest individual seasons ever, he soon became known as the enigma who never spoke to the press. This was the only in-depth story Carlton did before he shut down.

8. Soul on Ice: What You Never Knew About the Philadelphia Flyers This is a happy story. It’s the story of a lot of all‑American boys from Canada and a Jewish vegetable hustler from Washington and Kate Smith and Ed Van Impe’s jockstrap.

9. Terry Bradshaw: The Playboy Interview This hit the stands the day the Steelers’ QB won his first Super Bowl  and his first Super Bowl MVP trophy. Most of America thought he was a country bumpkin. Here, he showed a side they’d never seen.

10. The Best of Philly. And the Worst: In the Beginning We never knew that this little feature we invented one day at lunch would become an institution. Dig in.


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Pete Rose: The Playboy Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on June 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm

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Twenty-some years ago, Peter Edward Rose was just another tough kid growing up in the river wards of Cincinnati. He was a tough kid who liked girls and fast and fancy cars and baseball. Today, at the age of 38, not much has changed about Pete Rose. The girls have turned to women and fast cars are getting more expensive. But Rose, who makes his living–and a very good one, at that–playing baseball, is still tough. And he is still very much a kid.

Rose may play with different toys now–a $4000 fur coat, an $8000 gold-and-diamond watch and a $44,000 car that goes 130 miles an hour–but he hasn’t really changed. Baseball has. The game has become big business and he has grabbed more than his share of the big bucks that go along with it. At an age when the major decision facing most players is whether to become a car salesman or to open a taproom, Rose was faced with the enviable task of choosing from among a slew of major-league teams offering him millions of dollars for starters. And Rose, who had never played a home baseball game outside Cincinnati, picked the Philadelphia Phillies, who would pay him at least $3,200,000 over four years.

But how, many asked, could Rose be worth the money? Well, he packs ball parks. And while, as a technician, he really can’t be ranked up there with the Dave Parkers, the Rod Carews and the Jim Rices, Rose has one very important thing going for him. He has become perhaps the most famous white sports star in the world.

Just last year, a world far beyond baseball watched as Rose look on the seemingly unbreakable record of Yankee great Joe DiMaggio–who hit safely in 56 straight games. In a streak that started in mid-June, Rose scratched, clawed, hustled and bunted his way to one plateau after another. On July 31, 1978, he set a National League mark of 44 straight games. The streak would stop there, but Pete Rose would go on to a White House visit with Jimmy Carter, a highly heralded tour of Japan and commercial deals that would make him millions. And while Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was only a line drive away from his boyhood home, Rose had come a long way.

Rose is the son of a bank employee. His father’s passion for sports rubbed off easily on him. Too small to make it as a football player, he concentrated on baseball. He played hard and tough, but he never had a great deal of natural talent. Luckily, he knew somebody in the business. His uncle was a minor-league scout for his hometown team, the Reds. He talked them into giving the kid a tryout. Rose was impressive enough to be signed to a minor-league contract. He spent three years riding the battered buses of thefarm teams. The Reds finally called him up in 1963.

That’s when baseball people really started to take notice of this hard-nosed kid who ran to first on a base on balls, the hustling hot-shot who, instead of sliding, dove headfirst into bases. They noticed him enough to vote him Rookie of the Year. Read the rest of this entry »

Poor Butterfly: The Muhammad Ali Story

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on June 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

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[Maury Z. Levy: author’s note: In 1975, Muhammad Ali had been the king of the world for a long time. He was always surrounded by press people fighting for interviews. He talked a lot, but never let anyone get really close to him. Then a strange thing happened. He lost a fight to Joe Frazier. Reporters did a 180 and started following Frazier. Ali was alone. He wasn’t used to that. So, I got a call one morning from Ali’s press guy. He said Ali liked a Philadelphia magazine cover story I’d done on hockey flash Derek Sanderson. He said Ali wanted me to come up to his Deer Lake, PA training camp and spend a couple hours with him. The couple hours turned into a couple days. I got to train with him, I got unlimited access to him. Here’s the story…]

THE FORMER CASSIUS CLAY remembers when he was “just another nigger.” “It started back in Louisville. That’s where I was born. I was riding a bus one day. Didn’t have no Cadillacs yet. I was riding this bus and I was reading in this newspaper about Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson. This was just when I had decided to turn professional, right after I won the Olympic gold medal in Rome. I was sure I could beat either one of them if I had the chance. But I was just as sure that I wouldn’t get the chance because nobody had ever heard of me. So I sat there thinking. How was I ever going to get a shot at the title? Well, it was right on that bus I decided. If I ever wanted to get noticed, I’d have to start talking it up. I’d have to do better than that. I’d have to start screaming and yelling and acting like some kind of a nut.

“You see, I figured if I did that, pretty soon people would get tired of hearing from me and they’d be insisting that I put my fists where my mouth was and fight who­ever the champ was. They’d watch me fight. And I would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. That saying has stuck with me to this day—float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

“I started off pretty slow because I had to sort of feel my way around, find out what the folks, the reporters especially, wanted to hear. I told this one reporter I was going to knock this boy down in the sixth round, and he printed it and then I did it. That’s the first time I said I am the greatest. I figured if I didn’t say it, nobody else was going to say it for me.

“First the people were saying, ‘What’s that bigmouth talking about?’ But I kept fighting and talking and pretty soon people were saying I was the greatest. And I just said, ‘I told you so, didn’t I?’

“Now where do you think I’d be right now if I didn’t use all that shouting and hollering to get the public to notice me? Do you think I’d be sitting here in some $250,000 house in Cherry Hill? Hell, no. I’d be back down there in Louisville washing cars or running some elevator and saying ‘yes suh’ and ‘no suh’ and knowing my place. Instead of that, I’m the highest-paid athlete in the world and I’m the greatest fighter in the world. And that’s just the way I planned it.”

Like all things with Muhammad Ali, the former Cassius Clay, the explanation is a little oversimplified. But it’s very basically true. People around Philadelphia tend to take Ali for granted. Maybe it’s because he’s lived around here for the past five or six years, because he’s trained and done most of his talking around here. People just tend to see him as part of the local color. You lose perspective.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Magic Bus: All Aboard The Oxford Circle Shuttle

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980), Uncategorized on June 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

By Maury Z. Levy

IT WAS RAINING NOW. It was Monday morning and the thick gray air was chilly and damp and it was raining now. The skies had been holding it in for a week and now they had 
burst open to soak the streets and break the promise of 
an early summer. People walked along quickly under black umbrellas with their collars up and their faces down and 
automobiles with snow tires still on made a whirring sound as they moved up Susquehanna Avenue, heading 
for the Mansion and the Park, never stopping.

For a week, it had been summer again. For a week, the 
kids with bandanas around their heads roamed the streets in shirtsleeves, while men stood together on corners and 
drank the contents of brown paper bags and women in 
housedresses pushed strollers up and down 17th Street looking for bargains.

For a week, the desperation of North Philadelphia was no longer quiet. For one great week of Indian spring North Philadelphia was alive and ticking with anticipation of the warmth ahead and some memories of some heat behind.

But the Monday morning rain put things back to normal. It was trash day and the beginning of another week.

The flat-red pushcart of the 15th Street Junk Shop 
made its way up French Street toward 17th. The man behind it was old and black and he was wearing a dark 
plastic raincoat with the hood up over his head and the drawstring knotted around his chin so that all that could 
be seen were the slits of eyes that stalked the curbside cans for salvage.

He pushed his way between the cars parked on one  side of the narrow street of ancient brownstones. It was the side of the street with the signs that read “NO PARKING 
MONDAY 7 AM TO 7 PM-PARK OTHER SIDE.” It was 7:20 
a.m. and French Street was asleep.

Bucking traffic, he turned right on 17th and pushed past 
the cozy old James L. Claghorn Elementary School. The rain made the gray 84-year-old building wetgray.

Claghorn takes up less than a third of the block. It is 
surrounded by a big black iron fence that comes to within a few feet of the tiny building. Pressing against one side 
of the fence—in what is supposed to be a schoolyard—is a black iron pole that holds a slightly bent basketball 
backboard. There isn’t even enough room in the yard for a half-court game and even less room to hang the blame, because back in 1884 outdoor sports were not exactly national pastimes.

Claghorn sticks out—an ancient school in a procession of old stores. The building was supposed to be torn down 
back in 1944, when it had reached its 60th birthday, but 
that was a war year and people had more important 
things to do than break up little old schools. Somehow it 
never got back on the demolition list and so for the past 
24 years Claghorn has been living on borrowed time.

Across the street from Claghorn is a luncheonette, the 
hub of what little activity there is at 7:30 on a Monday 
morning. There is a bus stop on the corner there and a 
handful of people were huddled in the doorway of the 
luncheonette to avoid the downpour and wait for their 
bus.

It was 7:40 now and the bus hadn’t come yet and the 
doorway was filled to capacity. As they craned their necks 
to watch for the bus, none of the people in the doorway 
seemed to take notice of the scattering of kids who 
made their way down 17th Street toward Claghorn, 
soggy brown lunch bags firmly in hand. Read the rest of this entry »

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