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Two Sides of Same Coin : Manley, Rodman Have More Than a Simple Business Relationship

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Welcome to Dwight Manley’s strange, and sometimes incongruous, world. A surreal place, where he deals in rarities--from the legendary coin collection called the King of Siam to the legendary NBA eccentric called Dennis Rodman.

Tuesday, Manley was breathing the rare air of Superior Stamp and Coin in Beverly Hills. It’s almost perfect. No, wait, it is perfect. Not too warm. Not too cold. Juuuuust right.

This climate-controlled atmosphere surrounded Manley, 29, a reserved Orange businessman, who, without a doubt, looked as if he belonged--from the top of his well-groomed head to the spit-shine on his shoes.

But those lungs aren’t so pure.

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Last summer he was inhaling the stagnant air in the Viper Room in West Hollywood, where the second-hand smoke is so thick it merits a Surgeon General’s warning.

This unstable atmosphere engulfed Manley, who seemed out of place, except for one thing. Rodman was there. Yes, the Chicago Bulls’ Dennis Rodman, from the top of his often-dyed hair to the bottom of his liberally tattooed body.

Rodman is Manley’s pal, not to mention financial ward.

Said Manley: “We left the place that night and got to the 101 Freeway. Dennis stopped the car on the onramp and said, ‘I’m tired, you drive.’ There I was, driving a convertible Ferrari down the freeway. I had never driven a stick before. With Dennis around, you have some truly unique experiences.”

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Some are born to greatness, some have it thrust upon them in a Las Vegas casino. It was there, three years ago, that Manley, a nationally known numismatist, was introduced to Rodman.

The two hit it off and Manley became Rodman’s business manager--handling everything but the basketball. He keeps an eye on the money and swings deals that increase Rodman’s income.

“Basically, Dennis is Fort Knox and I’m the guy at the gate making sure people pay for the gold bricks before leaving,” said Manley, who was financially secure before meeting Rodman.

It’s a job that takes up so much time that Manley had to hire an assistant whose sole responsibility is to deal with Rodman. That includes calling him at 6 a.m. every Tuesday to wake him up for his Chicago radio show.

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Tuesday was pretty much a typical day for Manley.

There was a call about creating a 1-900 number for Rodman and another about selling Rodman hats. He also had to get Rodman’s cable TV turned on. And there were the endless calls for tickets to tonight’s Bulls-Lakers game. By 7:30 p.m., the deluge was over and Manley had time to himself. He attended a coin auction, where he spent more than $30,000.

This is an around-the-clock business relationship that has evolved from three years of friendship.

“I was in Las Vegas and someone asked, ‘Do you want to meet Dennis Rodman?’ ” Manley said. “Dennis was at the other end of a craps table with two girls. His hair was black then. My friend and I played for a while. We said, ‘Nice to met you,’ and left.”

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“I went back to Las Vegas a week later for a bachelor party and ran into him again. I said, ‘I thought you said you were leaving.’ He said, ‘Ah, I never made it,’ I had tickets to the George Carlin concert, so I invited him.”

Rodman went, and then attended the bachelor party. Soon, Rodman was calling every time he was in California. Then, last summer, Rodman stayed with Manley, who’s now divorced, in Orange.

“I don’t think my wife could deal with Dennis,” Manley said. “She left on July 1 and Dennis moved in on July 10.

“You can have some pretty wild times with Dennis Rodman. As you can imagine.”

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Manley has delivered a message to Madonna on Rodman’s behalf. He talked to the pop star on the phone another time. He even accompanied Rodman to the MTV awards last summer, where they ran into her.

And Manley was in charge of ordering a dress from a drag shop for Rodman, an outfit for his appearance on the Howard Stern show.

“We flew in a hairdresser too, the whole enchilada,” Manley said. “But Dennis didn’t wake up in time to put it on.”

It’s a world so foreign to him that Rodman took upon himself to change Manley’s wardrobe. (“I’m Polo and he wanted me to be more Melrose.”)

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But, as Manley proudly points out, there have been no tattoos and no part of his body has been pierced.

“I have to keep my individuality,” he said.

That, on the surface, would seem to be a rather dull one, considering Manley’s run-of-the-mill background.

He grew up in north Orange County, playing youth basketball. He graduated from Brea Olinda in 1984, where he was captain of the golf team. Standard stuff, except for one thing: coins.

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Manley began collecting when he was 6. A year later, he went to a coin shop, but the owner refused to sell him anything until he read a book on the subject. The hobby became an obsession and, then, a career.

Manley, who never attended college, is so well respected in the field that the IRS has used him to estimate the value of coin collections. Three years ago, Manley was the high-bidder on the King of Siam, a collection of coins minted as a gift for the king in the 1830s.

His knowledge can also border on the eccentric.

The Abraham Lincoln penny was first minted in 1909, to honor the 100th anniversary of his birth. The George Washington quarter first appeared in 1932, honoring the 200th anniversary of his birth.

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Yes, this is one of Dennis Rodman’s closest friends.

In fact, they were inseparable last summer. Manley accompanied Rodman to Chicago when the Bulls sent a plane.

Manley took Rodman to Newport Beach’s Big Canyon Country Club, where, as Manley puts it, “Dennis stood out.” Rodman, in turn, took Manley club-hopping and gave him tips on dating.

“I took care of business during the day and he took care of the social calendar at night,” Manley said. “I guess opposites do attract.”

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