As the Rams Turned

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's not much excitement in this town of 7,700, across Lake Pontchartrain about 45 minutes north of New Orleans. There might occasionally be a rowdy party in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn on a Saturday night, but otherwise things are quiet.

There are no big corporations with boardrooms filled with people obsessed by profit margins, and that suits Steve Rosenbloom fine.

Rosenbloom, 55, and his wife, Shelly, who have two young children, have lived in Covington since 1991. It is linked to New Orleans by the 24-mile Causeway, the world's longest single-span bridge.

It seems an appropriate place for the son of former Los Angeles Ram owner Carroll Rosenbloom. For Steve Rosenbloom, a lot of water has gone under the bridge.

Oil is the primary business here, and Rosenbloom owns a small company, Bulk Tank Industries (BTI), which supplies containers used for storing and distributing chemicals used by oil drillers.

He likes what he does, and he likes his life.

Besides running BTI, he's involved with three partners in a new venture, Sea-Therm, which has developed what Rosenbloom says is a revolutionary insulation for drilling equipment.

"If this goes, it's going to be big, really big," he said.

Like winning the Super Bowl?

"Yeah, like winning the Super Bowl, only more fun."

The anger and bitterness over what happened more than two decades ago, when he lost his father, then lost the Rams, have long disappeared.

The Rams, some people say, should have been his team. If they were, he said, he would never have moved them away from Southern California--to St. Louis or anywhere else.

"Why would you?" he asked. "My dad made the deal for the Rams to get to a bigger market. So why would you go to a smaller market?"

Carroll Rosenbloom, a former University of Pennsylvania running back whose family had made millions in textiles, bought the Baltimore Colts in 1953. Steve, the younger of two sons, showed interest in football and by the time he was 12 was working for the Colts. He started in the locker room.

"My job was basically picking up jocks' jocks," he said.

It was part of a long grooming process. The assumption was that someday Steve would take over. He got a degree in business administration from Georgetown in 1967.

In 1972, Carroll Rosenbloom swapped the Colts for the Rams in a deal with Robert Irsay, who had bought the Rams from the estate of Dan Reeves. Reeves had died the previous year.

Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984.

The Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995.

Now, as the usually downtrodden Rams and Colts prepare for Super Bowl runs, Rosenbloom represents a bridge between the teams.

"I guess I'm the last living connection," he said.

There are other connections too. Rosenbloom's oldest son, J.C., was a high school teammate of Peyton Manning, the Colt quarterback. And Manning's father, Archie, was the Saint quarterback in 1980, the one year Rosenbloom was the Saint general manager. That job brought Rosenbloom to the New Orleans area.

Rosenbloom felt he had to get out of Los Angeles.

"I got run over by a semi a few times" is how he describes his life after his father mysteriously drowned while swimming off the Florida coast north of Miami on April 2, 1979. Carroll Rosenbloom's will left 70% of the Rams to his wife, Georgia, Steve's stepmother, and the remaining 30% to his five children--6% for each.

Instead of inheriting a team that today is worth about half a billion dollars, Steve Rosenbloom, after much turmoil, got about $2 million for his 6%.

The will called for Steve to run the team, but Georgia, who in 1980 remarried to become Georgia Frontiere, fired him two weeks into the 1979 exhibition season.

Steve, along with Dick Steinberg, Ram director of player personnel, moved on to the Saints, where, after a 1-15 season, they resigned.

These days, Rosenbloom doesn't even watch much football.

"I have found other things to do with my Sundays," he said.

Asked if he was rooting for the Rams, he said, "I root for cities, and since I lived in Baltimore and Los Angeles, those are the cities I root for."

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Carroll Rosenbloom had three children with his first wife, Velma, now 92 and living in Margate, N.J. He had two children with Georgia, Lucia Rodriguez, 38, and Dale, 35. Lucia and her family--she has four children--live in Brentwood. Dale, a filmmaker and writer, lives with his wife and two children in West Los Angeles.

Steve's brother Dan, 15 months older than Steve, lives in Florida and is in investment banking. Steve's younger sister, Suzanne Irwin, died six years ago in Palm Springs at 45 after battling a crippling form of arthritis most of her life.

"She was the toughest, most courageous person I have ever known," Rosenbloom said. "She came down with what is called juvenile arthritis when she was 10. She had 32 operations. Most people would have been in a wheelchair. She not only walked on her own, she water-skied, took part in other athletic endeavors, and danced, all against her doctors' advice."

She died after developing a blood clot during surgery.

Suzanne was married to Georgia's younger brother, Ken Irwin, and they had three children.

Suzanne came to Los Angeles from Baltimore in the late 1960s to take art classes. Irwin was living in Culver City.

"My father asked Georgia's brother to look after Suzanne and they ended up getting married," Rosenbloom said.

They later moved to Palm Springs and opened the La Mancha Resort, which Irwin still owns.

Rosenbloom's only contact with Georgia since they parted company in 1979 was at Suzanne's funeral. And, yes, they did speak.

"It wasn't a long conversation," Rosenbloom said with a smile.

But Dale Rosenbloom, who was also there, said the two hugged, there were some tears and they were together when the whole family had breakfast.

"I was hoping it was the start of a better relationship," Dale Rosenbloom said.

It wasn't, but Steve, Dale and Lucia have since become closer.

"The older you get, the more you realize life is too short to have feuds and built-up anger, particularly with family members," Steve said. "You've got to look ahead and not back. I would like to have an even closer relationship with Chip [Dale's nickname] and Lucia. They never did anything to me, and they are my half-brother and sister."

Said Dale, "I could never say anything bad about Steve. I consider him my brother, and I love him as a brother. I'm also extremely close to my mother. I think they're both good people."

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The rift between Steve and Georgia was a long time developing.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other publications, Georgia was Carroll's mistress for nine years. When they were married in 1966, Carroll became Georgia's sixth husband.

Velma never knew of the affair until she was told by a friend. She filed for divorce not long afterward, and Carroll and Georgia were married nine days after the divorce became final.

Carroll and Georgia met at a dinner party at Joseph Kennedy's mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., in 1957. Carroll Rosenbloom was a major contributor to the Kennedy political machine.

When they met, Carroll was 57, Georgia 30.

Said Dale Rosenbloom, "My mom and dad had a great marriage. She adored him and he adored her, and they were very devoted to each other. Even Steve has said my mom gave our father 22 great years."

Georgia divorced her seventh and last husband, Dominic Frontiere, in 1988, not long after he had spent nine months in prison. He had pleaded guilty to tax evasion for his involvement in a ticket-scalping scheme involving the 1980 Super Bowl, in which the Rams played the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.

Requests made through the Rams to interview Georgia for this story were turned down.

Georgia, on the surface at least, was not the type of woman a son would embrace as a companion for his father. Making matters worse was that Georgia and Steve's first wife, Renee, did not get along. Renee would openly criticize Georgia to anyone who would listen.

Steve and Renee, after having two sons, J.C., now 24, and Skylar, 21, were divorced not long after Steve left the Saints.

His current wife, Shelly, came into his life soon after that. She was managing her aunt's restaurant in New Orleans, and they met through a mutual friend. Typically, Rosenbloom never mentioned his background to Shelly.

"I told a friend I was dating someone named Steve Rosenbloom," Shelly said. "The friend asked if that was the Steve Rosenbloom who was involved with the Rams. I said no because, I thought, he surely would have said something."

Rosenbloom and Shelly were married in 1985. When they moved to Covington in 1991, they lived in a remote area. Last July, with children Jonathan, 13, and Sarah, 4, they moved into a new home in a wooded area only a few miles southwest of town. It's a 6,800 square-foot, five-bedroom home.

"I couldn't afford this kind of home in L.A.," Rosenbloom said.

Last summer, Jonathan became ill with an infection and spent 11 days in a hospital.

"It was serious, very serious, before he came out of it," Rosenbloom said. "Chip called to ask if there was anything he could do and express his love and concern, which was terrific."

Said Dale, "I was very concerned, and I wanted Steve to know."

Said Steve, "I hope the relationship with Chip and Lucia continues to improve."

And what about Georgia?

"You trying to put me on the spot?" Steve said with a smile. "You know, she's never tried to contact me, but then I've never tried to contact her either."

It's understandable if this bridge is a tough one to cross.

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Tony Capozzolla, a lawyer who at one time represented former Ram coach George Allen, was a friend of Steve Rosenbloom. He took an interest when he learned Carroll had drowned, and investigated both the drowning and the will.

"There was a draft of a will that left the team to Steve," Capozzolla said the other day. "The problem was, it hadn't been executed.

"If Carroll had died a few months later, Steve would have inherited the team. He would have been the greatest owner in the world."

Said Rosenbloom, "My father would change his will every few years. It just so happened he drowned when the one that left 70% of the team to Georgia was in effect.

"My father left most of the team to his wife because of the widow's tax exception. He didn't want to give all his money to Uncle Sam. But I can't imagine he meant for her to run the team."

No, that was supposed to be Steve Rosenbloom's job. He was the team's executive vice president.

The will also named Hugh Culverhouse, the original owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who died in 1994, as co-executor. Ed Hookstratten, Carroll's Ram attorney, was named the other co-executor.

Hookstratten said he doesn't believe there was ever a draft of any will leaving the team to Steve.

"Carroll always wanted to leave the team to Georgia," Hookstratten said.

Others close to Carroll at the time support Hookstratten's claim.

Of the draft Capozzolla mentioned, Steve said: "I've heard about it, but I never actually saw it. But it's irrelevant because it wasn't in effect. As I said, C.R. [Carroll] was always changing his will."

Hookstratten said Carroll wanted Tex Schramm, the longtime Dallas Cowboy president, to come in and run the Rams and offered Schramm the presidency six months before he died. Schramm turned him down.

So how did Culverhouse, who later became an advisor to Georgia, end up as the co-executor of the will?

Steve Rosenbloom said his father needed Culverhouse on his side because he was the chairman of the NFL finance committee, and could sway decisions beneficial to the Rams, particularly since they were in the middle of a move from the Coliseum to Anaheim.

"Culverhouse did everything he could to try and screw the children," Steve said. "It was Jerry Buss who helped us out. Figuring he wanted to get his foot in the door as a minority owner of the Rams, he made me an offer for my 6%. That made Culverhouse more responsible; he couldn't just put the kids under a rock.

"At the time, Culverhouse said, 'There goes that Steve, just looking out for himself.' But that wasn't the case at all. I was looking out for my brother and sister, and my half-brother and sister as well."

Rosenbloom said his father and Culverhouse at one time were adversaries.

"Culverhouse wanted to buy the Rams at the time my dad made the deal with Irsay. He was going to sue until my dad met with him."

Don Klosterman, Carroll Rosenbloom's general manager for two years in Baltimore and later with the Rams, said, "They met in Dallas. I remember that well. Carroll and Culverhouse later became friends."

Klosterman was fired by Georgia after the 1980 season.

"I've chosen to look back on my days with the Rams and just remember the good times and block out the bad," he said.

Klosterman does have one regret, though. Culverhouse wanted to hire him as general manager of the Buccaneers when he started the team in 1976, and offered a package that included 10% ownership of the team.

"I stayed with the Rams because Carroll told me I had a lifetime contract," Klosterman said. "Unfortunately, it was his lifetime, not mine."

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Rosenbloom would not discuss his father's drowning on the record, nor would Capozzolla.

A television news program, PBS' "Frontline," in a series hosted by Jessica Savitch, once offered evidence that Rosenbloom was not drowned by riptides, as officials said, but was killed by an electric shock from a diver a witness from Canada saw in the ocean.

No charges were filed, though.

A small funeral was held in Florida, then Georgia put on a wake at the Bel-Air estate she and Carroll had shared. There was a stand-up act by Jonathan Winters, and among the guests were Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton and Ricardo Montalban.

"It was Georgia's coming-out party," Steve Rosenbloom said at the time.

Renee Rosenbloom was quoted as saying, "It was the only funeral that could have played eight weeks in Las Vegas."

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Steve Rosenbloom, during his days as the Ram executive vice president, was popular among players, reporters, team owners and executives.

"Steve wasn't like you'd envision an owner's son to be," said former Ram quarterback Pat Haden. "There was a lot of depth to Steve. He could talk about anything. He was intelligent, had a quiet confidence and was retrospective.

"All the players liked him and respected him.

"What I remember most about Steve is one time in Philadelphia, I believe, our bus driver got lost and Steve made him get out of the seat and he drove the bus.

"Steve did a little bit of everything."

If there was one person who had a strained relationship with the boss' son, it was Klosterman.

"We got along great in Baltimore, but after Carroll made the deal for the Rams, he initially had Steve stay back in Baltimore and brought me out to run the Rams," Klosterman said. "That put stress on our relationship. But I always respected Steve. He always had a good heart."

Rosenbloom these days is still looking out for his relatives. Three of Shelly's brothers work for him. Shelly's sister, Tammy, is married to John Gerlach, the son of Steve's close friend, Stan Gerlach.

Said Rosenbloom, reflectively, "I guess my life really has been a soap opera."

NFC PLAYOFFS

Washington at Tampa Bay

Saturday, 1:15 p.m., Channel 11

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Minnesota at St. Louis

Sunday, 9:30 a.m., Channel 11

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AFC PLAYOFFS

Miami at Jacksonville

Saturday, 9:30 a.m., Channel 2

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Tennessee at Indianapolis

Sunday, 1 p.m., Channel 2

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