Jim Brown walks like something’s hurting him. Maybe it’s the pointy-toed black snakeskin cowboy boots. Maybe it’s an old football injury. Or could one of his numerous girlfriends have delivered a well-placed kick?
“I just walk funny,” he said.
He always gets out of cars slowly, so as not to pull anything.
Is it possible the man is showing a few signs of age? It doesn’t look as though Father Time has exactly stomped on him with cleats, but there are a few telltale shadows of life evident on the former Playgirl centerfold, who, after all, is 52. (He said. Biographical listings give his birth date as Feb. 17, 1936.) The chest hairs peeking over the black tank top are flecked with gray, and the top of his forehead is now farther from his eyebrows than it was in either his football hero or acting days. Is he getting a tad overripe?
Fruit and Meat
Brown is fond of grocery metaphors when it comes to women, whom he is very fond of if they fit into a certain type. “I prefer girls who are young,” he says in “Out of Bounds,” his hot-off-the-press memoir. “When I eat a peach, I don’t want it overripe. I want that peach when it’s peaking.”
Or to put it another way, “If I wake up in the morning, I hunger for crab, then I don’t want steak.” Steak being a woman who is older, say over 25.
And, the book continues, he wants a woman who’s small. “I don’t mean mousy small. I mean tight. Petite. Delicate. No excess. When I get into the bedroom, I don’t want to see anything that’s big like me.” Not that he looks only for vacuous one-night stands--at least not any more.
Brown said he understands why some people might find his attitude about women, as portrayed in this book, offensive; that people, especially females, might blanch at his constant references to “chasing girls” like a hunter after game, picking up whole coveys of them and passing them out among his friends, swapping them, sharing them and then moving on to the next day’s quarry. Or the endless parties/orgies, as he is happy to call them--at which the primary decorations are naked women and the only rule is No Locked Doors.
‘Just My Sexuality’
He admits in the book to following a double standard, to having a Main Girlfriend that you take out in public, as opposed to the women who were called freaks, the ones who arrived at Cleveland Browns parties, where “we’d all bring two or three girls. . . . Those pretty girls from Cleveland were allowed to express themselves freely and creatively.”
He knows, but he laughs. True, the laugh is a little tight, perhaps embarrassed, but basically, he said in an interview, he just is the way he is. “It’s just my sexuality. Everybody likes something.”
Remember, sex sells.
And by that standard, Brown’s book should be a best-seller. The first half is mostly about his career in football, which he left in 1965 at his peak after nine great seasons as a fullback. The second half is about sex, and various movie stars he’s known, and sex, and business, and politics, and sex. And about some of the legal troubles he’s had involving various accusations of assaults on women, none of which he has been convicted of.
He writes about not having affairs with co-stars Raquel Welch, Stella Stevens and Jacqueline Bisset; how he introduced Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to menage a trois; how his good buddy Muhammad Ali was having as many as five women a night in his early years while declaring himself celibate; and how he almost became part of Ali’s management team before the fighter bucked the draft as a conscientious objector.
Confusing, and Frank
Actually, “Out of Bounds” is not a book in the traditional sense, because it was not written so much as talked. Brown and a collaborator, Steve Delsohn, then edited the tapes down to book length. The result is a sort of extended locker room monologue--profane, outrageous, one-sided and occasionally thought-provoking.
It is full of unexplained references and confusing allusions, but it also contains some frank character assessments and self-appraisal. It is Jim Brown’s take on Jim Brown, his version of the way things were, his platform. He wrote it because he was not happy with his first book, “Off My Chest,” also written with a collaborator.
“It reflects my life honestly,” he said. “It might shock you but if you read the whole book you might see I have a very individual point of view.”
His point of view, as reflected in the book and an interview, seems to be that of a combination radical black militant, sexual libertine and traditional Republican capitalist.
On the one hand, he spoke recently at Huey Newton’s funeral; has been friends with Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan; and has always, even as a young football player in the 1960s, been an out-front activist.
On the other hand, he is against government programs that increase dependence and thinks the only way blacks will alleviate the “symptoms"--substance abuse, black-on-black crime, poverty--is to solve the problem of economic impotence.
And guess what. He had an affair with Gloria Steinem! Or so he says in the book.
Of course that was back in 1968, and the only reason he wrote about it was in connection with the Eva Bohn-Chin affair. She was the woman, half-German, half-Jamaican, whom he met in London while filming “The Dirty Dozen” and whom police later said he threw off a balcony in Los Angeles.
What really happened, Brown says in the book, is that Bohn-Chin was jealous over his fling with Steinem, whom he met while she was doing a magazine profile of him while he was filming in Arizona. Bohn-Chin left his apartment--with Brown’s car--and went to stay with a girlfriend. He talked Bohn-Chin into returning home; they planned a playful evening with three other women.
Unfortunately, while Bohn-Chin was on the phone with this girlfriend, Brown started getting jealous. And they started fighting. And the neighbors called the police. While Brown was trying to persuade the police, at one point with his forearm, that it was just a minor domestic dispute, Eva Bohn-Chin “kind of freaked” and tried to vamoose over a rear balcony, but fell and rolled under it.
The police, meanwhile, handcuffed Brown and took him to the station, and despite the lack of any allegations from Bohn-Chin, threatened to charge him with attempted murder. The police leaked the incident to the press but didn’t charge him with striking her. “And the toughest thing I did to Eva was slap her.”
And he knows that was wrong. “I have also slapped other women,” he wrote. “And I never should have, and I never should have slapped Eva, no matter how crazy we were at the time. I don’t think any man should slap a woman. In a perfect world, I don’t think any man should slap anyone. . . . I don’t start fights, but sometimes I don’t walk away from them. It hasn’t happened in a long time, but it’s happened, and I regret those times. I should have been more in control of myself, stronger, more adult.”
He knows how to defuse potentially explosive situations better now, he said, and for this knowledge he credits Vital Issues, a self-improvement program for which he is executive director. The program now operates in 18 California prisons, he said, helping people in a “practical, holistic way.” He gives an example:
“Recently I ordered some food delivered to my house. I gave the guy a $100 bill. He comes back at me with this ‘I don’t have change’ thing, you know, with a real attitude. So I could see that this could easily develop into a bad scene. Instead I said, ‘OK, you have three options: You can go find change. You can take a personal check. Or you can take the food back.’
“So he thinks about it. Then he said, ‘Can I use your phone?’ And he came back and took a check. . . . The main thing is to avoid the negative at all costs. That’s the monkey. The next is to find the bottom line, the ‘it.’ The fact is not personal. The third thing is to evaluate the options and pick the best. In that situation, the negative could have led us in all kinds of directions. . . . Now I keep my goals in mind.”
New Set of Goals
Those goals now include a low-budget film company, Ocean Productions, and the knowledge that more negative press is not good for business. Ocean Productions is about to release its first film--intended primarily for overseas distribution--a $300,000 action adventure starring Brenda Vaccaro and Frank Stallone (Sylvester’s brother).
At the same time, Brown believes that he is a special target of the police, and that the FBI and the CIA have followed his activities because of his associations with black militants. While he admits to having done some bad things, “none of the stuff they charged me with I did.” He thinks his activism was the primary reason his acting career derailed as well.
Brown was almost a film company president once before, and that was with Richard Pryor, who was once his friend.
He writes movingly of how he urged Pryor, subtly, to stop using drugs (Brown says he has never touched cocaine, heroin or LSD, although he has on occasion used marijuana in the bedroom). When Pryor set himself on fire, it was Brown he called for, and it was Brown who spent weeks by his side in the hospital, who was given his power of attorney, who helped him to the bathroom and with his physical therapy.
Brown also screened visitors (a great one, he writes, was Marlon Brando, who arranged for a cable hookup so that the three could watch a closed-circuit fight one night). He screened out most of Pryor’s family because to him all they seemed to be interested in was money, and they didn’t like that. Ultimately they sneaked into the hospital before Brown arrived and convinced Pryor--or so he said to Brown--that Brown should butt out. He was abruptly sent away.
Took Hurt in Stride
Brown said he took that hurt in stride, trying to be considerate of the pressures Pryor was under.
A few years later, he and Pryor agreed to start a film production company, part of Brown’s campaign to get successful black artists to plow some of their money back into black communities. Plans were well under way, staff hired, when Brown once again was abruptly dismissed.
For reasons he is unclear about, but probably have something to do with editing, Brown decided not to include this last episode in the book. But it undoubtedly fuels his scathing assessment of Pryor in the book as a man “who can’t love anyone.”
“I knew a lot about Richard’s tricks when I was dealing with him. I knew what the drugs and the idolatry were doing to him, I saw how he treated people. And yet he fooled me. He’s the only person who has ever fooled me about emotions.” All that remains of their friendship is the bit in Pryor’s rap about his use of drugs when he pays a kind of comic’s homage to Brown by making him a Jiminy Cricket figure beckoning him away from “the pipe.”
“That’s how he thanked me,” said Brown. “He never said it to my face.”