I’m cheating here, because I never met the man, known as The Manassa Mauler. But his wife, there was a tale.
About 1963, I was one of a group of actors working for a Martin Snyder who operated a very successful theater travel group out of New York. He would put together large numbers of mostly retired couples, fly them in from places such as Chicago and St. Louis, and see to their every need while they were in to see Broadway shows. Or, that is to say, we, his small gathering of usually out-of-work actors, would take care of them, meeting them at the airport, getting to them their theater tickets, escorting them to their hotels, and often hosting parties. It was a fun job, it paid quite well, and we got to see a few shows for free.
One of my compatriots was Roy Scheider, and actually he and his wife were kind enough to often take care of our baby Jonathan.
Anyway, the time came when Martin directed me to the Manhattan Hotel on Eighth at 45th., to walk up and down in the lobby to take care of his clients if and when necessary. I got to passing the time talking to a little lady with a strong European accent, who ran her jewelry business from behind her counter. If business was slow, we would chat. Then one day she wasn’t there, so the next morning I asked if everything was all right, and she said she was really tired, because she had been up most of the night dancing at the White House, and had only just arrived back in New York.
How on earth did that come about I wondered, and it was then she told me that it was because she was recently married to a man who was supposed to be quite famous, although she had never heard of him. I asked who that was, and she told me it was a man called Jack Dempsey. And the story of their meeting was quite extraordinary.
She had operated her little jewelry stand for several years in that same lobby, when she became uncomfortable at the sight of a large man who would sit across the floor, and stare at her, day after day. She pretended not to notice, until one day he came up to her and said that his cufflink was broken, and could she repair it. He then said please come and have a cup of coffee with me. At first she refused, but he persisted, and when the link was repaired, she consented to go for a quick coffee. When he mentioned his name, she said she’d never heard of him. And it was only a few days later that he came up and asked if she’d marry him, and she said only on condition that she could keep her business going. He agreed, and so he ran his steakhouse around the corner on Broadway, and she ran her little jewelry store in the hotel lobby. And they remained together until his death twenty years later.