Sunday, November 24, 2013


In a dramatic fashion, a Cherokee Indian took up for me and left some indelible marks on the protagonist of an anti-Semitic episode

Chief Gordon House was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian boxer who had a serious drinking problem that eventually got him killed. From 1946-50, Gordon fought 55 times all over the country in the 135 lb. (lightweight) division. He won 34 fights, 25 by knockout and lost 19 bouts, 4 by knockout. He also fought to two draws. Two of those losses came at the hands of Buddy Garcia, my best friend while I lived in Galveston. If it had not been for his excessive drinking, Gordon might very well have become World Lightweight Champion. After his retirement Gordon faded into obscurity until some years later, when his father-in-law shotgunned him to death in Oklahoma.

Gordon’s most memorable bout took place in Long Beach, New York on July 15, 1949 in a 10 round non-title match with World Featherweight Champion Sandy Saddler, one of the greatest fighters to ever put on the gloves. Sadler was tuning up to defend his championship. But the fight turned out to be anything but a tune up. Gordon knocked Sandy down for a four-count in the first round and the champion barely made it to the end of the round. Gordon beat the shit out of Sandy throughout the second round. But Sadler had recovered before the start of the third round and began to give Gordon a boxing lesson. The fight was stopped in the fourth round after Gordon had suffered a bad cut over his left eye.

You are probably wondering why in the hell am I writing about a fighter from back in ‘40s. It’s because in 1949 I had a close relationship with Chief Gordon House. Irving Cohen, who managed World Middleweight Champion Rocky Graziano, was also managing Gordon at the time. Irving asked me to look after Gordon while he was training in New York. My job was to try and keep Gordon’s drinking from getting out of hand after his daily training sessions at Stillman’s Gymnasium. That was some experience. I must have visited more than a dozen different bars with Gordon. I thought it was quite an achievement if I could get him to leave a bar after only a couple of beers.

What brings my relationship with Gordon back to mind is the resurgence of anti-Semitism throughout the Western World, especially in Europe, the cradle of the Holocaust. One afternoon after we left the gym and were headed to his Manhattan hotel room, Gordon decided to take a slight detour and stop in at a bar. At the time there were only three or four patrons inside. Somehow the barkeep must have figured out that I was Jewish because, as we sat down at the bar, he blurted out, “Get the fuck outa here, I don’t want no goddamn Jews in my bar!”

To my surprise, and within the blink of an eye, Gordon grabbed the fat son-of-a-bitch with both hands and dragged him over the bar. He then knocked him on his ass and continued pounding on him with both fists while telling the bigot he couldn’t talk like that to "my Jewish friend." I had to drag Gordon off the bastard because I thought he was about to kill him. Leaving a bloody mess on the bar floor, we made a hasty exit so as to avoid any cops that might show up.

Speaking of Buddy Garcia, he also took up for me in a Galveston club during another anti-Semitic incident. Sometime in the late ‘40s, I was with Buddy when he was playing poker with four other Galvestonians. One of the players was the Galveston municipal judge (His first name was Eddie, I don’t remember his last name) who for some reason suddenly went into an anti-Semitic tirade. Buddy interrupted the judge’s rant and chewed his ass out royally in front of everyone in the club, telling him that “Howie here is Jewish and he’s my friend. I don’t ever want to hear you talk like that again or I’ll kick the shit out of you.” The judge sat red-faced through the ass chewing but never made so much as a peep.

I am fully aware that in beating up the barkeep, Gordon was committing a serious criminal offense. But as far as I am concerned, that anti-Semite got exactly what he deserved. Because this gentile took up for me in such a dramatic fashion, Gordon will forever be in my grateful heart and mind.

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