THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 14 : Obviously, Joaquim, It’s Time to Get Those Eyes Checked Again
If Florence Griffith Joyner is a man, then call me Michelle.
This Brazil nut, Joaquim Cruz, said she looks like a man. Joaquim needs his eyes checked. Joaquim also said something even more nasty about Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence’s sister-in-law and one of the nicest people around. Joaquim needs his brain checked.
“If Joaquim Cruz thinks my wife looks like a man, then evidently he hasn’t seen my wife,” Al Joyner said Thursday.
The editors of Vogue magazine do not believe Florence Griffith Joyner looks like a man. As soon as FloJo finished setting another track and field world record, this one in the women’s--repeat, women’s--200-meter dash, Vogue sent a wire to the Olympic Stadium, inviting her to pose. Vogue does not want her because she resembles Billy Dee Williams. Vogue wants her because she is a definite she.
Close to 8 hours later, pushing midnight, just the three of us are sitting together in Al’s and Florence’s hotel room. Everyone in the restaurant downstairs had just risen and applauded at her entrance, and the tuxedoed waiters had taken a snapshot with her at her exit. For dinner, Florence ate a pizza. Unless the cook slipped steroids into the tomato sauce, her further drug tests at the Olympics will not turn up positive.
FloJo does not do drugs. She swears it. She does 3,000 situps before bed. Three thousand . She runs 3 or 4 miles a day. She lifts weights, mostly hand curls. She jumps rope, does squats, does leg extensions, makes Jane Fonda look like a goldbrick. Pushups, too. By the hundreds. That’s why her body looks like this, Joaquim Cruz, you rumor spreader, you.
“We make bets on it,” she says, sitting on the sofa in her warmup suit, still wearing her two gold medals around her neck, so proud is she of what they represent. “I do 40 pushups. So, Al has to do 40. I’ll do 45 more. Al’ll do 50. We both want to win the bet.”
What’s the bet--dinner?
“I like money better,” Florence says.
Uh, oh. Forget those drug rumors. Gambling scandal at the Olympics. Husband, wife wager on workout.
“She’s crazy for leg curls,” Al says.
“Like this,” he says, and sprawls face-down on the floor. His legs flex, back and forth. “I bought her a leg-curl machine for Christmas. Thought she’d use it for fun. Now, I can’t get her off it. We even had to bring it here to Seoul.”
Drugs, though. Must be drugs. Ben Johnson won his sprint, was built like a truck, got disqualified for drugs. Florence Griffith Joyner won her sprint, had muscles she never had in 1984, must also be on drugs. 2 + 2 = 4. Hey, thanks, everybody. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Thanks, Joaquim. Thanks, you L.A. television guys, for casually tossing out Florence’s name that way, while her parents and everybody else in her hometown were watching.
Griffith Joyner has broken down crying twice so far at these Olympics. Once was on the awards pedestal, after she won the 200, after Al had scooped her up and spun Flo around like Rhett spinning Scarlett. The mascara came streaming that day. And the other time? When she heard her name linked with prohibited drugs.
“It’s devastating,” she says now, shaking her head. “I’m too strong to let this stop me, but to sit there and see your face on TV and see people calling you a drug-user, that hurts.”
Al says, “We haven’t even been able to talk to anybody back home about the incident yet.”
The incident being Cruz, the Olympic big mouth from Brazil, saying Griffith Joyner “looks more like a man” and that she and her sister-in-law, Joyner-Kersee, who already have won four golds between them, “must be doing something that isn’t normal to gain all these muscles.”
All weepy and apologetic, Cruz came to the Joyners’ room to use the motto of the 1980s: I was misquoted. That was before somebody went to the videotape.
“He told everybody he was misquoted,” Al says. “Me, her, you, the woman from CBS, the guy from UPI. Crying and all. ‘I never said anything like that.’ I believed him. Didn’t you believe him?”
Flo: “I believed him.”
Al: “Hey, the guy wins the Oscar from me.”
Besides trying to figure out how people could be so good at conclusion-jumping that there ought to be an Olympic event in it, Griffith Joyner wonders why it is so surprising to find a 1980s woman, particularly an Olympic athlete, with muscles. “Whose legs are my legs supposed to look like--some actress’?” she asks.
“You know, I used to admire bodybuilders, but I wanted to know how far you could go and still be athletic. I wanted to build myself up, to have some definition. People who knew I was an athlete used to say, ‘You don’t have that many muscles.’ So, I decided to get some. I didn’t want to look like a bodybuilder, but I wanted to look and feel stronger. It’s an ‘80s look. It’s attractive, not ugly.
“So, soon as I start getting muscles, people come up and say, ‘You don’t want to become a bodybuilder. You’re going to be on drugs.’ People are always going to think something. They’re always going to have preconceived notions. It doesn’t faze me. I enjoyed working out, so I worked out.
“Four years ago, I’d watch somebody like Valerie Brisco, winning her gold medals, becoming a phenomenon, and I’d think, ‘I can do it, I can do it, I can do it.’ I’d tell myself, ‘That gold could have been mine.’ I had to get physically stronger and I had to learn how to run certain races, think them through, because it takes a lot more than just being fast.
“So, now that my time has finally come, the thing with Ben happens, and next day your own face is on the TV and someone is accusing you of something you detest. People trying to compare me to Ben Johnson. I try to tell people not to believe everything they hear. It’s like that magazine article where they said I was once 60 pounds overweight. It’s ridiculous.”
The strange thing, I say, is that the woman who comes along epitomizing how you can combine beauty with sport is the woman who gets told she looks like a man.
“Yes, as though I look like Ben Johnson,” Florence says. “Do you think I look like Ben Johnson?”
“I like to run like a man; I don’t like to look like a man,” she says.
There are a few days of Olympic activity left, a couple of relays, and then the Joyners are out of here. There are obligations to meet. There’s relaxation to get. There’s Vogue. There are children’s books Florence wants to write. “What I would really like to do is write a play,” she says. “In fact, I’d like to act in one.”
Just not in October. Al Joyner has other ideas for October.
“Finally take our honeymoon,” he says. “This lady and I will be married 1 year come October.”
I should tell you something about Al Joyner.
He does not go on honeymoons with guys.