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Thread: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

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    Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    By Peter “The Emperor” Stitt
    Ringside Report.com

    On January 8th 1935, a baby was born in Tupelo, Mississippi into a family struggling through endless poverty, just “white trash” in the minds of the white middle-class, a kid with no future. He went on to become the most important figure in entertainment history and, in the process, completely destroyed the established barriers of race.

    On January 17th 1942, a baby was born in Louisville, Kentucky into a family struggling through endless poverty, just another “black kid” in the minds of the white middle-class, a kid with no future. He went on to become the most important figure in boxing history and, in the process, completely destroyed the established barriers of race.

    A quality these two iconic figures shared was instinctive intelligence, much of the seemingly apocalyptic disruption they caused to the white status quo that then existed came not by design but as a result of their personalities and upbringings. They didn’t, at least initially, seem to know what they were doing, they were being themselves. Muhammad Ali displayed an increasing self-awareness as he matured but Elvis Presley drowned in a sea of material success, cronies and complacency.

    It is hardly surprising that Ali and Presley became good friends, their backgrounds were so similar and they became the two arms of the pincer movement of civil rights within entertainment and sport. Given that the civil rights in question were those that should have always belonged to all in America, it was crucial that the movement was supported by prominent figures from both black and white communities. Elvis, less articulate than Ali, preferred not to comment on politics but songs such as “In the Ghetto” and “If I Can Dream”, and of course his friendships with BB King, Fats Domino and others, make it clear where Elvis stood on civil rights. Muhammad, possibly less aware than Elvis of the McCarthy Witch Trials of the ‘40s and ‘50s that wrecked the careers of so many within entertainment who held “liberal” views, just wore his heart boldly on his sleeve.

    During the height of Elijah Muhammad’s influence upon him, Ali spouted some decidedly segregationist ideas on UK TV that led to accusations of racism. In 1957 Elvis was accused of making a racist remark (in a place he had never visited and at a time he was clearly somewhere else) and was similarly accused. Muhammad later rejected that area of the Nation of Islam’s teaching whilst many black friends leapt to Elvis’ defense. Blues man Ivory Joe Hunter said: “He showed me every courtesy. I think he’s one of the greatest.” whilst pianist Dudley Brooks declared: “He faces everyone as a man”. We all knew Ali wasn’t racist and Michael Parkinson, the man who interviewed him on TV, cites Ali as the greatest interviewee he ever met in a career of nearly half a century.

    Ali and Elvis shared the pressure and loneliness of being “the greatest” in their respective professions and they came to represent America to the world in a way that no politician could ever achieve. Later, Muhammad would fulfill Elvis’ last engagement after his friend had died. The Las Vegas Hilton Hotel’s new Pavilion was supposed to open with a special Elvis show in October 1977 and, as Hilton’s then Vice President, Henri Lewin put it: “We wanted it to be the greatest opening ever. We considered him so great that what we replaced him with was the Ali-Spinks fight. When we lost Elvis, we knew we had to get Ali no matter what it cost. No one else was big enough.” Opening delayed, Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks in February 1978, whilst helping his old friend out again.

    Elvis fell in love with Gospel music, and his family’s move to Memphis in November 1948 was a natural one for the young Presley, it gave him access to Beale Street, the best black music and the best black clothes. It was probably more innately natural for Elvis to sing blues than Dean Martin stuff, he had lived in similar poverty to most blues singers and had seen the disdain with which he, too, was viewed by middle-class white America. Presley had been brought up with blues around him as surely as any black kid because he was on the same social level as his black neighbors, they were all in hell, with the world looking down on them. When Elvis recorded those classic Sun Records tracks he was playing his music, our music, for black and white, for everyone and anyone. The new hybrid music sounded so fresh and natural because it was fresh and natural.

    At the Memphis WDIA fundraising event of 1957 for “needy Negro children”, Elvis was happy to take a back seat whilst Ray Charles and other R & B and Gospel stars played. He only came out on stage, at Rufus Thomas’ request, to show his support for the cause at the end of the show. He was later heard profusely thanking BB King for the musical education he had picked up from the old master. Carla Thomas recalled Elvis staying with her and the other black kids after the show, fooling around on piano, “He stayed that long, and we were just having a lot of fun. I remember that Elvis.” The year before this event, Elvis had actually broken the law in attending a Memphis fairground on a designated “colored night” because he simply felt “at home” with people whether they were black or white. Later Rufus Thomas would state, "Well a lot of people said Elvis stole our music. Stole the black man's music. The black man, white man, has got no music of their own. Music belongs to the universe." I agree with that sentiment.

    Elvis and Jackie Wilson were simply a huge mutual fan club. Elvis adored Wilson’s voice, technique and exuberant live performance style whilst Jackie said of Elvis "A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis" which sets the notion of Elvis “stealing” black music on its head. This interaction with black artists was not publicized at the time by any of the involved parties but, when Elvis first appeared on national TV on the Dorsey show on January 28th, 1956, white middle-class America was outraged by the appearance of a white black man. By the Milton Berle show and the legendary performance of “Hound Dog” that caused so much trouble in June that year, the establishment were convinced that Elvis was part of a black conspiracy to undermine civilization as they knew it. In some ways he was, and he did, because things would never be the same again. As Little Richard put it "Elvis was an integrator. Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn't let Black music through. He opened the door for Black music." Ernest Withers concurs: "Elvis was a great man and did more for civil rights than people know. To call him a racist is an insult to us all."

    Elvis’ 1968 NBC TV Special allowed us all to forgive him for the endless run of Hollywood drivel he had allowed himself to be contracted to. Just prior to the historic TV show he had hit us with “Guitar Man”, US Mail” and “Big Boss Man”, following the gig he gave us “Suspicious Minds” and the “From Elvis In Memphis” album which, for me, would be a good contender for the title of greatest rock/soul album ever made, right up there with “Otis Blue.” The man was back and we loved him.

    In Muhammad Ali’s life controversy also came quickly. As the Heavyweight Champ a conversion to the Nation of Islam was a horror story for white America. Muhammad seemed brainwashed and, even when Malcolm X told him they had all been sold a pack of lies and there were white Muslims in Mecca, Ali took the side of Elijah Muhammad against his former friend. Ali became public enemy No.1 and his subsequent refusal of the draft for Vietnam pushed everything “over the edge” and brought direct confrontation with the US government. However, as the civil rights and anti-war movements gathered momentum, Ali gained a new support base comprised of students and hippies that seemed at odds with his strict Islamic views.

    Ali’s performances in the ring at the time were those of the most gifted heavyweight in history. The drama and controversy of the Sonny Liston fights, the anger and bad blood with Floyd Patterson and Ernie Terrell, the ease with which he raced through the division, Ali was clearly special as a fighter, immensely complex as a human being. The man was an artist in the ring, speedy and artistic, unlike any heavyweight since Jack Johnson, and yet he still had the grit to demolish a Cleveland Williams. Outside of boxing he was a black leader, a young man who feared nothing and nobody, including the US government. To black America, he was their son, their Heavyweight Champion, a high earning black celebrity who would get out of the car and walk into black areas just to meet the normal people in any city he visited.

    What won Ali respect and, more importantly, affection from the white mainstream, however, occurred as a result of the events following his glorious 1960s rampage. The world looked at what he had sacrificed when he was stripped of his title and license and realized that his “political” and “religious” convictions were sincere, looking at the conflict in Vietnam afresh. When he returned to the ring he fought Jerry Quarry and Bonavena, top contenders, after a layoff of three and a half years! Perhaps the most significant event in the “rehabilitation” process that Ali underwent in the eyes of white America without, himself, taking a backward step was the first defeat of his career against Joe Frazier at Madison Square Gardens on March 8th 1971. Ali fought his heart out, took a pounding like we’d never seen him take, and then showed grace in defeat. We had all wondered how the great man would handle a defeat and he showed class, humility, grace. Muhammad had now won all of his battles with the world due to the character he displayed there and then, he was back at the very top of human achievement and he had not compromised at all. THE man was back and we loved him.

    Later Muhammad would defeat the “unbeatable” George Foreman in 1974 in Zaire to reclaim his title, truly internationalizing the Heavyweight Championship of the World in the process. One year earlier, Elvis had performed in the “Aloha from Hawaii” satellite show, broadcast to possibly the biggest TV audience in history. Elvis and Ali were the two most recognizable human beings on the planet, known for providing pleasure and entertainment for people regardless of nationality, race, class or religion.

    I think mutual respect is the best description of the nature of Ali and Elvis’ relationship. Ali speaks fondly of Elvis: "Elvis was my close personal friend. He came to my Deer Lake training camp about two years before he died. He told us he didn't want nobody to bother us. He wanted peace and quiet and I gave him a cabin in my camp and nobody even knew it. When the cameras started watching me train, he was up on the hill sleeping in the cabin. Elvis had a robe made for me. I don't admire nobody, but Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you'd want to know." The robe mentioned refers to the one Elvis presented to Muhammad before he fought Joe Bugner the first time and upon the back it says simply and truthfully “The People’s Champion.” That is probably the closest you will ever get to Elvis Presley expressing an opinion of anyone, his management rigidly controlled pretty much everything he said and did. On the few occasions he broke free he would produce something like the album “From Elvis in Memphis” or the ’68 TV special.

    Ali also recalled taking Elvis out to a club one night dressed in a disguise because, had the clientele known it were Elvis, he would have been mobbed whilst Ali was a familiar face there. They must have been like two big kids together and I think it is a tragedy that Elvis didn’t get to spend more time with Muhammad. Maybe Elvis would have learned better to cope with fame and been able to walk freely with normal people, in contact with reality.

    Ali was a wild, free spirit and could not be contained whilst Elvis seemed to enjoy the Colonel’s enforced containment. Success early in life must be difficult to handle and, whilst Elvis enjoyed hanging with the “yes men” and being able to blame bad artistic moves on the Colonel, Ali had more of an innate intelligence for seeing the truth within a situation. Muhammad was perhaps more inherently honest to himself because he was not frightened of what he might find while Elvis did not wish to hear bad news. They were like brothers who could behave like children sometimes when they were together but, as occasionally happens, the younger man turns out to be the more rounded and more complete person.

    It’s all done and dusted and, whilst it could be argued that Elvis neglected his God-given talent for most of his career and underachieved, who wouldn’t want to be able to claim the commercial and artistic record of Elvis Presley? That voice and charisma touched the world intimately in a way no other artist has ever come close to. That is how good Elvis Presley was and is. He cut across race and religion.

    Ali, meanwhile, went on fighting and ended up “damaged” as a consequence. It may seem stupid to ask the question but: is this a bad thing? None of us could have stopped Muhammad fighting on, it was entirely his choice. Is it not, also, true to say that Muhammad’s found more peace with his current condition than he would have in perfect physical condition? And have the great man’s great achievements stopped due to his medical condition? I remember American hostages being freed during the first Gulf War, I know that crowds still gather whenever Muhammad is around. Maybe this was all just meant to be and perhaps Muhammad knew this and that would explain the dignified and quietly confident way in which he has accepted his medical state.

    The word Allah simply means God in Arabic and I believe that we are sent these gifted and beautiful people by God to entertain us, take us along with them on their emotional and physical roller coaster careers and, ultimately, to teach us lessons. There is a great deal to learn from the lives of Muhammad Ali and Elvis Presley, some negative things but, overwhelmingly, the experience of them has been a huge positive for mankind.

    (The quotations used here largely come from Peter Guralnick’s “Last Train to Memphis” and from the official site of the Elvis Presley estate.)

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    thanks for the post... it was a window into both figures that for the most part has been ignored or unrevealed...

    it would be nice to see this article get more mainstream distribution, b/c I find both figures have been so iconclasted, that parts of their real personality and character seem hidden in that large shadow of Legend.

    my quess is, a lot of people would be surprised to see how close ali & elvis were... infact, w/ a fair share of people, its become an assumption that both ali & esp elvis were racist...

    I always felt that was an unfair characterization that had much more to do w/ cultural & political politics between races that this country still seems to want to fight out... both sides guilty... truth jettisoned for hype & embellishment.

    both figures, if one wqants to view it narrowly or w/ malice, could easily be labeled & stereotyped based on rumors and cultural assumptions... however, under closer view & analysis (such as articles like this) its clear that both were actually solicitous of heart & open minded (similiar to the type a young person in their teens holds). Yet at the same time, both also paradoxical & complex carrying more depth & intelligence then ever portrayed in the popular press...

    when one examines & considers that both grew up & came of age in the manacles of deep south jim crow, w/ all the negative baggage that could dump on either races psyche... it becomes clear that both of these major cultural stars, early on, before stardom, possessed a strong spirit of optimism, energy & individual freedom... infact, it seems to be the catalyst that allowed them to unleash their very special talents that would later light up the public...

    keep in mind, it was that bouyant state of mind, on a collective level, that would launch a cultural revolution some 10-15 years after they came of age as young men... yet, both of these cultural leaders held onto it, strong in their own youths, clearly a decade before they were famous or before that mindset was embraced as a cultural symbol...

    in other words, rather then be cast in the die of jim crow hate or victimhood, both deferred to their own internal dream & voice... a spirit of freedom that would later become fashionable on a collective scale in the cultural revolution of 1960's... a decade they certainly had a part in either opening the door for or shaping.

    on a personal level, probaly as far back as the very early 1960's, before any revolutions, this is something they probaly sensed & admired in each other ... that sense of optimistic, freedom & individual courage... qualities that transcend race & bridge friendships.
    Last edited by HandToMouth; 10-24-2007 at 07:02 PM.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Man, do I find this article terrible. This is by far the worst piece of garbage I've ever read on this site. The guy who wrote it knows NOTHING about Ali and Elvis, it seems. Some of the trash this writer spouts just seems so off base factually. Also, it always makes me wonder when I hear Brits explain how "white America" perceived Ali, as if Britain was ever clean of white racism. Or, for that matter, clean of the black racism of Ali and the "Black Muslims."

    Some of the "facts" noted in the article that are untrue, as far as I know:

    -that the "white middle-class" is so bigoted, and that it was so toward these two guys -- Ali and Elvis made out quite well, even as YOUNG men. One or two or three racial or class slights doesn't make them damaged victims. Most everyone has had problems with other people, and in Ali's case, he caused his own with his mouth at the beginning of his career, and then with the conversion not to Islam, but to the Nation of Islam, a racist, segregationist sect, who ended up murdering at least one of their own (Malcolm X).

    -that Elvis was "the most important figure in entertainment history." MAYBE in Rock & Roll, which isn't even considered the most important music.

    -that Ali was "the most important figure in boxing history." Maybe the most well known, but Joe Louis and Jack Johnson fought in more monumental fights (Louis-Schmeling II, Johnson-Burns, etc.), and Ali didn't accomplish anything outside of boxing that made him more important. He was a draft dodger who claimed he was a Muslim minister, when in reality he was no such thing, he dodged the draft because he felt the country was racist, and he cheated ad nauseum on his wives . . . I like him personally, but don't see how he's the most important figure in boxing history. A great fighter, maybe the greatest of the heavies or among the 3 best, but not more important than the other two mentioned above.

    -on Ali: "He went on to become the most important figure in boxing history and, in the process, completely destroyed the established barriers of race." What??? What barriers did he "completely destroy"? Is this guy just making up whatever he feels like??

    -"Muhammad Ali displayed an increasing self-awareness as he matured but Elvis Presley drowned in a sea of material success, cronies and complacency." Whoah! No, actually Ali had his trashy cronies, too, such as Bundini Brown, his own brother, and many other hangers-on, and he was a womanizer par excellence.

    -"On January 17th 1942, a baby was born in Louisville, Kentucky into a family struggling through endless poverty" - No, every account says Ali's family was not dirt poor, it was a 2-parent household with both parents employed. Ali didn't steal the bicycle, it was his new bike that was stolen by another.

    -"Elvis, less articulate than Ali, preferred not to comment on politics but songs such as “In the Ghetto” and “If I Can Dream”, and of course his friendships with BB King, Fats Domino and others, make it clear where Elvis stood on civil rights."- What?? Elvis less articulate than Ali ("I don't know what truculent means...")? Ali was NOT articulate, he was funny. Big difference. Friendships with a few blacks automatically make it clear where one stands on civil rights? Elvis was no bigot, but where is the evidence of his stand on civil rights??

    -"Ali spouted some decidedly segregationist ideas on UK TV that led to accusations of racism." - Uh, if you're a segragationist, it's because you're a racist, usually, and Ali and the Black Muslims were blatently, unhesitatingly racist (all whites were "blue-eyed devils," remember). Also, the world isn't only the UK, pal, and Ali spouted those same views in the US and in many other places.

    -"In 1957 Elvis was accused of making a racist remark (in a place he had never visited and at a time he was clearly somewhere else) and was similarly accused." - A well known story had it that Evis bought a new Cadillac for a black woman he saw admiring one in a showroom. I am unaware that anyone (of any race) seriously ever considered Elvis a racist.

    -"We all knew Ali wasn’t racist and Michael Parkinson, the man who interviewed him on TV, cites Ali as the greatest interviewee he ever met in a career of nearly half a century." - How does being a great interviewee prove he's not a racist??

    -"Ali and Elvis shared the pressure and loneliness of being “the greatest” in their respective professions and they came to represent America to the world in a way that no politician could ever achieve." - Ali was the least lonely man alive, and always engaged with people everywhere he went. Elvis was kept away from the public, but never Ali. And Ali had close family and friends in his life always.

    -"The new hybrid music sounded so fresh and natural because it was fresh and natural." What??????

    -"but, when Elvis first appeared on national TV on the Dorsey show on January 28th, 1956, white middle-class America was outraged by the appearance of a white black man. By the Milton Berle show and the legendary performance of “Hound Dog” that caused so much trouble in June that year, the establishment were convinced that Elvis was part of a black conspiracy to undermine civilization as they knew it." - What is this guy's issue with "white middle-class America"??? He sounds like a non-white BIGOT. For one thing, poor whites and wealthy whites had their bigots, bigotry wasn't the sole province of the middle class. Second, these TV performances were all break-through performances for Elvis, making him a nationwide sensation. Whatever bigots may have complained were drowned out my throngs of adoring new fans. His sexuality (grinding hips, etc.) caused a bigger stir than the fact that his music had black roots.

    -"Ali became public enemy No.1" - this is ridiculous and patently false

    -"To black America, he was their son, their Heavyweight Champion, a high earning black celebrity who would get out of the car and walk into black areas just to meet the normal people in any city he visited." - So Ali wanted to meet "normal" people, and found them only in black neighborhoods? Nobody else is normal in the eyes of the author?? Who's the bigot, "white middle-class America" or the author??

    -"Ali fought his heart out, took a pounding like we’d never seen him take, and then showed grace in defeat." What planet is this guy on? Ali bitched that he was robbed in the first Frazier fight, for years. He showed little grace in that defeat. Maybe had he taken back all the Uncle Tom slanders at Frazier, that would show grace, but no, he didn't do that.

    -The robe said "“The People’s Champion.”?? No, the robe said, "People's Choice."

    -"The word Allah simply means God in Arabic and I believe that we are sent these gifted and beautiful people by God to entertain us, take us along with them on their emotional and physical roller coaster careers and, ultimately, to teach us lessons. " - For the writers among us . . . why bring up what "Allah" means to open this sentence (and paragraph). It was not mentioned before. It is completely illogical here, but then, the article seems like it was written by a 5th grader who is in love with Ali, nearly so with Elvis, and makes up his facts to fit his thesis.

    What garbage. Kikibalt, why post such a poor piece?

    A suggestion for another article: "Why do Europeans all seem to think Ali was perfect?"
    Last edited by Michael Frank; 10-24-2007 at 10:58 PM.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    m frank... some of your points in re to some hyperbole and perhaps some sweeping generalizations are fair swipes... however, in re to his main points, I really think your looking at the trees & missing the forest here... in the spirit of not belabouring valuable time & space on this thread, I'll only comment on a couple of takes where I think you missed the authors target.

    -that the "white middle-class" is so bigoted, and that it was so toward these two guys -- Ali and Elvis made out quite well, even as YOUNG men. One or two or three racial or class slights doesn't make them damaged victims. Most everyone has had problems with other people, and in Ali's case, he caused his own with his mouth at the beginning of his career, and then with the conversion not to Islam, but to the Nation of Islam, a racist, segregationist sect, who ended up murdering at least one of their own (Malcolm X).

    I'll grant you ali found breaks & support early on that any young man of any race would find beneficial. However, ali, also very early on, realized he had major potential. thus w/ an ego such as his, it was only natural for him to quickly start to contemplate his horizons. so when a late teen kid as himself can see the real possibility of stardom, yet he also knows that level of stardom will be tainted & fixed in it's potential w/ the jim crow codes of his day.... then an understanding of resentment & anger makes sense.

    thus, how can you not see that the insult of racism stood as a direct barrier to being fully embraced as a man & instead left him more w/ the possibilty of being a pet novelty to patronize. it reminds me of the scene in the movie glory, when denzil tells the black friend of the col., "no matter what you do, you'll still just be a monkey in a blue suit to them".

    To think that awareness doesnt sting deep, is to view culture w/ blinders imo. The mouth that roared, sure was to some degree crass naked ambition. but it also seems clear it sldo masked an insecurity, fear & anger towards barriers wh/ were much deeper then what black athletes face today in regards to full acceptance w/ fans..

    the conversion to the Nation of Islam as oppossed to Islam imo was inexperienced youth seeking justice.

    -that Elvis was "the most important figure in entertainment history." MAYBE in Rock & Roll, which isn't even considered the most important music.

    when one considers how rock transformed pop music, culture and the media & is still one of its major revenue streams, I think the guys point as validity.

    -that Ali was "the most important figure in boxing history." Maybe the most well known, but Joe Louis and Jack Johnson fought in more monumental fights (Louis-Schmeling II, Johnson-Burns, etc.), and Ali didn't accomplish anything outside of boxing that made him more important. He was a draft dodger who claimed he was a Muslim minister, when in reality he was no such thing, he dodged the draft because he felt the country was racist, and he cheated ad nauseum on his wives . . . I like him personally, but don't see how he's the most important figure in boxing history. A great fighter, maybe the greatest of the heavies or among the 3 best, but not more important than the other two mentioned above.

    imo, your view on his stand on Nam, agree or disaagree, is fair game.

    However, your slighting of his fights & his place in the sport speaks to a subjective issue you seem to have w/ him as oppossed to an honest objectivite analysis on the sport.

    sure louis, johnson & I would add dempsey were certainly near the same level of impact & in some ways = ... but to say ali's reign in the ring & its influence outside of it were less, is a poor cultural & sport evaluation.

    Again, agree or disagree w/ his stand on Nam, but to say it wasnt a important gesture to his generation, is blindness. ali instantly became one of the 2-3 biggest lightening rods of resistance to the war & inturn a large share of amer., who still in '67 supported the war. Not to mention how many young people saw him as an opposite symbol of courage and hero worship for agreeing w/ them.

    politics is a nasty game, & w/ that one move, ali found himself right in the middle of a political maelstrom. that alone made him more simultainously hated & loved then louis & even johnson (whose conflict was social not policy political).

    in the ring he was already vital & vastly viewed if only for his new innovative style & brash manner. yet, after the draft evasion, the first frazier fight took on dimensions as strongly evoked as the fights you mentioned above. frazier became the hard hat & establishment's man... ali, everyone else who wasnt. that fight was charged by much more then just a great matchup. there were seas of people in this country who wanted to see ali's face & mouth trampled in the ring for what he stood for outside the ring.

    furthermore, the fight vrs foreman carried a racial & hope message overseas in Africa that had amazing impact in Zaire.

    -on Ali: "He went on to become the most important figure in boxing history and, in the process, completely destroyed the established barriers of race." What??? What barriers did he "completely destroy"? Is this guy just making up whatever he feels like??

    established barriers implies preconceived notions & entry barriers. he didnt mean destroying the entire race issue... instead, changing the landscape of what could newly be accepted by ali's impact on the issue.

    -"Muhammad Ali displayed an increasing self-awareness as he matured but Elvis Presley drowned in a sea of material success, cronies and complacency." Whoah! No, actually Ali had his trashy cronies, too, such as Bundini Brown, his own brother, and many other hangers-on, and he was a womanizer par excellence.

    there I agree w/ you. ali was not fundamentalist when it came to personal choice and action.

    -"On January 17th 1942, a baby was born in Louisville, Kentucky into a family struggling through endless poverty" - No, every account says Ali's family was not dirt poor, it was a 2-parent household with both parents employed. Ali didn't steal the bicycle, it was his new bike that was stolen by another.

    agree again. ali was brought up lower middle class. dempsey, louis & johnson all grew up much poorer. ditto frazier.

    -"Ali spouted some decidedly segregationist ideas on UK TV that led to accusations of racism." - Uh, if you're a segragationist, it's because you're a racist, usually, and Ali and the Black Muslims were blatently, unhesitatingly racist (all whites were "blue-eyed devils," remember). Also, the world isn't only the UK, pal, and Ali spouted those same views in the US and in many other places.

    in fairness, young naive & desperate indiv's of his generation, like ali, were drawn to the more militant movements more out of frustration and naivette, then hatred for all those different then yourself.

    -"In 1957 Elvis was accused of making a racist remark (in a place he had never visited and at a time he was clearly somewhere else) and was similarly accused." - A well known story had it that Evis bought a new Cadillac for a black woman he saw admiring one in a showroom. I am unaware that anyone (of any race) seriously ever considered Elvis a racist.

    actually many buy into it... the hip hop culture for ex unfairly alludes to it & they weren't the first in the black community.

    -"The new hybrid music sounded so fresh and natural because it was fresh and natural." What??????

    he's pointing to the freshness & innovation of the new art form elvis strongly helped put on the map. his rock-a-billy form of rock in '54-'55 was a new mixture & amalagation of older amer art forms in music (gospel, blues, & hank williams country). what came out of that was a new down beat & electrical pulse that crackled. when it first hit it was indeed fresh & natural, not to mentioned intoxiating to the masses. elvis granted wasnt its sole inventor or innovator, but he was their main siren.

    -"but, when Elvis first appeared on national TV on the Dorsey show on January 28th, 1956, white middle-class America was outraged by the appearance of a white black man. By the Milton Berle show and the legendary performance of “Hound Dog” that caused so much trouble in June that year, the establishment were convinced that Elvis was part of a black conspiracy to undermine civilization as they knew it." - What is this guy's issue with "white middle-class America"??? He sounds like a non-white BIGOT. For one thing, poor whites and wealthy whites had their bigots, bigotry wasn't the sole province of the middle class. Second, these TV performances were all break-through performances for Elvis, making him a nationwide sensation. Whatever bigots may have complained were drowned out my throngs of adoring new fans. His sexuality (grinding hips, etc.) caused a bigger stir than the fact that his music had black roots.

    he didnt say racism was solely white-middle class... hes pointing out that milton berle was marketed and targeted to that middle-class group of people wh/ made up a lot of what mainstream culture was. many of the parents of the kids who saw & loved elvis on the berle show, were indeed shocked and fearful of this new phenom known as elvis.

    -"Ali became public enemy No.1" - this is ridiculous and patently false

    agree, its a hyberbolic statement. however, for many older & over 30 sports fans & even cultural observers , ali indeed was a powerful symbol for their fears.

    -"Ali fought his heart out, took a pounding like we’d never seen him take, and then showed grace in defeat." What planet is this guy on? Ali bitched that he was robbed in the first Frazier fight, for years. He showed little grace in that defeat. Maybe had he taken back all the Uncle Tom slanders at Frazier, that would show grace, but no, he didn't do that.

    the admitingly cruel uncle tom remarks by ali towards joe, were in ali's mind mostly about selling tickets. joe knew this also and early tolerated most of it b/c of it. It was only when ali took it deeper into class & race humilition that joe indeed festered a deep resentment.

    -"The word Allah simply means God in Arabic and I believe that we are sent these gifted and beautiful people by God to entertain us, take us along with them on their emotional and physical roller coaster careers and, ultimately, to teach us lessons. " - For the writers among us . . . why bring up what "Allah" means to open this sentence (and paragraph). It was not mentioned before. It is completely illogical here, but then, the article seems like it was written by a 5th grader who is in love with Ali, nearly so with Elvis, and makes up his facts to fit his thesis.

    Allah is used imo b/c part of the controversy & makeup of ali was his conversion to the muslim faith. he's trying to point out that even though he was muslim, a more open mind can transcend their own faith & see the same accordances that both the muslim & other faiths share.
    Last edited by HandToMouth; 10-25-2007 at 04:10 AM.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    test

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Frank
    What garbage. Kikibalt, why post such a poor piece?
    Am I to post only articles that you like and agree with?

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Frank


    -that Elvis was "the most important figure in entertainment history." MAYBE in Rock & Roll, which isn't even considered the most important music.

    -that Ali was "the most important figure in boxing history." Maybe the most well known, but Joe Louis and Jack Johnson fought in more monumental fights (Louis-Schmeling II, Johnson-Burns, etc.), and Ali didn't accomplish anything outside of boxing that made him more important.

    Michael, I thought the article was very very good. Yes it did romanticize Elvis and Ali, but nobody is perfect and people like to remember Elvis as the greatest performer in history, which I believe he is and Ali was IMO sports greatest and most significant athlete. He was IMO more significant in SPORT than any other athlete, without doubt.
    Was Ali perfect? NO, was Elvis? NO....But who was and for all their faults, they had many more great traits and are a credit to the human race......
    The details in the article I thought were very descriptive and interesting.
    Were they completely accurate? That's up for debate, but I wouldn't read into it too much

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Both had enormous charisma and big hearts for people. Both loved their Momas. Both had the ability to back up the hype. But Ali was a racist for many years publicly. Elvis had too much class and brains to embarrass his people and himself that way.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by kikibalt
    Am I to post only articles that you like and agree with?
    Frank, you keep right on posting all the things you post!! Its all food for thought.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by rocky111
    Both had enormous charisma and big hearts for people. Both loved their Momas. Both had the ability to back up the hype. But Ali was a racist for many years publicly. Elvis had too much class and brains to embarrass his people and himself that way.
    I disagree. He stood up for serious injustices in an era that he was engulfed in.
    What was he supposed to do. He never said he hated white people.
    He basically was trying to get across the message that it was OK to be black and proud.....

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by raylawpc
    Frank, you keep right on posting all the things you post!! Its all food for thought.

    Thanks Tom; don't worry I will keep posting, Mr Frank don't have to read them if he don't want too.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    HandToMouth, I appreciate your point of view.

    I AM a big fan of Ali, have all his broadcasted fights on tape, read all the books and articles as a kid, and followed his career then. But, I find that Europeans just LOVE this guy no matter WHAT he says or does, since it's not them he was slamming when he said things like "no Viet Cong ever called me nigger." Problem is, a) there are a ton of racists all over the world, including in Europe (where the Holocaust occurred, among other things), b) I don't gather from Ali's own accounts that he was on the whole damaged by racism or suffered due to it, and c) most of us NEVER called him racist slurs or thought them, at any time in his career. Most people in the US liked Ali throughout his turbulent career. Despite his own constant racist and anti-American remarks. But I note that non-Americans rather enjoy it when he puts down his country.

    Yes, I recall he has pointed out some awful things said to him and done to him by bigots, but my God, in the US, the violent crime that occurs, when inter-racial (since most is actually intra-racial), is 10:1 black on white, not the other way around (figures from the US Dept. of Justice under Bill Clinton). My point being that if one really wanted to shout racism every time it occurs here, the really bad things (more than just name-calling: murder, rape, armed robbery) seem to happen in just the opposite way of the perception of Europeans. Ali grew up when there was still Jim Crow, true, but what violence did he experience? Even the story about throwing his gold medal off the bridge has been disclaimed by him. So he lied about a racial incident just to make himself look good.

    "barriers wh/ were much deeper then what black athletes face today in regards to full acceptance w/ fans.." - What racism today are you saying black athletes experience? The NBA is predominantly black, and the NFL and baseball are loaded with people of color. Quite a few are criminals who embrace the hip hop gangster culture, have criminal rap sheets, etc., but are given free passes repeatedly by the press, the fans, the league . . . everybody. Until Michael Vick. Where is this racism toward athletes today you speak of?

    "However, your slighting of his fights & his place in the sport speaks to a subjective issue you seem to have w/ him" - I said no fight of his was as monumental as the other two, which transended boxing and sports, and involved race, race riots, the German "master race" propaganda, and the onset of WWII, etc. Ali's fights were all simply boxing events, though Ali-Frazier #1 had such large billing due to Ali's own aura of controversy. Within boxing, yes, his fights were often big events.

    "the admitingly cruel uncle tom remarks by ali towards joe, were in ali's mind mostly about selling tickets. joe knew this also and early tolerated most of it b/c of it. It was only when ali took it deeper into class & race humilition that joe indeed festered a deep resentment." --HandToMouth, "Uncle Tom" remarks ARE race humiliation!!! And no, I disagree that Frazier ever understood and agreed with the nasty slights of Ali's, Joe is on record as saying they were guaranteed their money, so there was no need to sell the fight for greater payment. As to Ali's place in the sport, I said in my post "I like him personally, but don't see how he's the most important figure in boxing history. A great fighter, maybe the greatest of the heavies or among the 3 best, but not more important than the other two mentioned above."--I don't see how that assessment reveals ANY slighting of his place in the sport, zero.

    "he (the author) didn't say racism was solely white-middle class... " - Well, yes he did. He repeats the phrase several times throughout: "white middle-class", ALWAYS in a negative light about feelings towards blacks. It's such a dumb phrase, when you think about it, since the KKK tended to be from poor classes and the wealthy people tend to have the power. The middle class whites included many of the students who LIKED Ali, for crying out loud.

    I could go on and on, but my point still stands: the article is full of falsehoods and hyperbole, and I wrote better stuff (about Ali!) when I was in the 5th grade. My teachers THEN wouldn't stand for just making things up, or saying that the "normal" people of the cities live in black neighborhoods. I'm sorry, but my intelligence level is just not as low as that of the author, who seems quite the racist and anti-American himself. No teacher in any writing class I took would consider this article anything better than a weak, "C-" effort. NOT EVERYONE WHO WRITES ABOUT ALI IS NECESSARILY A GOOD WRITER.

    Kikibalt, you can and do post whatever you want, of course, but as a presumed expert in the sport, you should have noticed (I'd think) the falsehoods and inaccuracies in every paragraph (indeed, in most every sentence), so I figured you would choose to post something by someone who knew what he was talking about and not this. And not something made up by what appears to be a child or VERY-low-tier writer. I guess I shouldn't have assumed that you'd evaluate before posting. Just because someone says something positive about Ali, that doesn't mean it's correct, or that the article is good.

    Walsh, my friend, I feel the article is only "very very good" as you say if one is an Ali lover who couldn't care less if clear lies are told to make Ali look like some incredible romantic figure. (I.e., "if it's positive about Ali, then it MUST be good.") Ali DID so many good things, and was such a great fighter, why is LYING needed to make him seem better. Also, I have a problem with any published writing when it has even grammar and spelling errors; it's hard for me to get past them and enjoy the material. But when the content is repeatedly false or dumb, it's even harder for me. My problem.

    If this article didn't have at least 20 falsehoods, I could enjoy his worship of Ali. But, this would NEVER be published "as is" in any decent magazine because the fact-checkers would tear it apart . . .

    I am pro-Ali, not anti-Ali, and I feel frankly that my criticism of the article is therefore less biased than you might think. I see no bias in ferreting out the falsehoods and the hyperbole.
    Last edited by Michael Frank; 10-25-2007 at 03:38 PM.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by walshb
    I disagree. He stood up for serious injustices in an era that he was engulfed in.
    What was he supposed to do. He never said he hated white people.
    He basically was trying to get across the message that it was OK to be black and proud.....
    You don't have to "hate" to be a racist, you just have to believe you are a member of a superior race. (I've always claimed that humans are superior to canines - with justification, I hope - but I loved my dog; I just thought I was superior to him.)

    I can't claim to be an expert on the NOI or Black Muslim theology (I'm Lutheran) but, until the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, the NOI had a theology that called for the separation of the races and a belief that African (Black) people were the original humans and a superior race. (I recall Louis Farrakhan stating that, "White people are potential humans…they haven’t evolved yet.") After the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, his son and successor, Dr. Wallace Muhammad, moved a majority of Black Muslims to a more traditional Sunni theology. (Farrakhan adheres to the older more radical NOI theology - thus the reason for the current split in the Nation of Islam.)

    So Ali was a very public member of a religion that had a stated racist theology until 1975. Whether Ali agreed with all the tenets of his religion, well, who can say? (I don't agree with each and every tenet of Lutheranism.)
    Last edited by raylawpc; 10-25-2007 at 03:59 PM.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Mr. Walsh, Ali said publicly that blacks should separate from white people. Had a white person said that, he would have been skewared worldwide.

    The Black Muslims in general said much worse things than that (whites are "devils," "whites are responsible for all the evils in the world," etc.), and Ali was an adherent, in fact was a member of the "Fruit of Islam" (those willing to defend it with violence). Farrakahn is a rabid anti-Semite, was influential in the murder of Malcolm X, was one of the inner circle to Elijah Muhammad . . . and Ali was his friend.

    Though they killed his friend Malcolm.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Frank
    Kikibalt, you can and do post whatever you want, of course, but as a presumed expert in the sport, you should have noticed (I'd think) the falsehoods and inaccuracies in every paragraph (indeed, in most every sentence), so I figured you would choose to post something by someone who knew what he was talking about and not this. And not something made up by what appears to be a child or VERY-low-tier writer. I guess I shouldn't have assumed that you'd evaluate before posting. Just because someone says something positive about Ali, that doesn't mean it's correct, or that the article is good.
    Michael, I would appreciate it very much if you would lay off Frank. Frank isn't a presumed expert - he IS an expert, and has probably forgotten more boxing than you or I or most of the folks on this board will ever know.

    Frank is a retired gentleman who spends alot of time on the internet looking for and posting boxing items he thinks folks will find interesting, not items he necessarily agrees with. He spends hours at it, and he does it generously and selflessly for the good of this board. His articles have invoked a lot of discussion among members of the board - which is exactly what this board is about. So please don't rip him for the content of the articles that he posts; he posts items that he thinks might interest people - and, in my opinion, thank goodness he does.
    Last edited by raylawpc; 10-25-2007 at 10:50 PM.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by raylawpc
    Michael, I would appreciate it very much if you would lay off Frank. Frank isn't a presumed expert - he IS an expert, and has probably forgotten more boxing than you or I or most of the folks on this board will ever know.

    Frank is a retired gentleman who spends alot of time on the internet looking for and posting boxing items he thinks folks will find interesting. He spends hours at it, and he does it generously and selflessly for his friends on this board. His articles have invoked a lot of discussion among members of the board - which is exactly what this board is about. So please don't rip him for the content of the articles that he posts; he posts things that he thinks might interest people - and, in my opinion, thank goodness he does.
    Ray, I think the article is rubbish. I have nothing against Frank. The word "presumed" was not meant offensively, Ray, I'm saying that I presume he is an expert, but actually I don't know him at all. I didn't think I "ripped" him. And Frank, I intended no offense to you.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Frank
    Ray, I think the article is rubbish. I have nothing against Frank. The word "presumed" was not meant offensively, Ray, I'm saying that I presume he is an expert, but actually I don't know him at all. I didn't think I "ripped" him. And Frank, I intended no offense to you.
    Then I would get to know Frank, if I were you. You won't find a smarter boxing fellow, or a nicer guy. Getting to know Frank is one of the highlights of my membership on this board.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Frank
    Kikibalt, you can and do post whatever you want, of course, but as a presumed expert in the sport, you should have noticed (I'd think) the falsehoods and inaccuracies in every paragraph (indeed, in most every sentence), so I figured you would choose to post something by someone who knew what he was talking about and not this. And not something made up by what appears to be a child or VERY-low-tier writer. I guess I shouldn't have assumed that you'd evaluate before posting. Just because someone says something positive about Ali, that doesn't mean it's correct, or that the article is good.
    "Presumed expert?" Mr Frank; I myself never claim such a thing, please don't give me any such credit that I myself don't claim.

    As for the article is it right or wrong? let the readers decide, I say read it and debate.

    And I don't give a hoot if anybody says any thing good or bad about Ali.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    I do understand that you do not have to hate to be a racist and I also believe that Ali
    did want to remain among 'his' people. But surely some leniency should be applied, due
    to Ali living in a very racist era in the US. This has to have some bearing and
    will naturally result in a certain dislike or 'hatred' for his oppressors. Ali has proved that he is a man of the world. He grew old gracefully and all the 'hatred' if you can call it that, he showed in the 60's, has definitely subsided now.

    Michael, you talk about all these inaccuracies and falsehoods?

    But aren't a lot of them very subjective. It's a matter of opinion really.

    None of them can be proved or disproved.

    Like I previously said, Ali was NOT perfect and could be
    quite nasty at times, but the article I read was IMO fair and accurate.

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    Personally Frank (Baltazar)

    Instead of debating about the actual article, I suggest we blame the Internet.

    Becuase after all, if the internet did not exist, than this site would not exist and if this site did not exist, than respected Knowledgable Boxing historians such as yourself would not post on Cyberboxingzone. And if you did not exist (in cyberspace), then you would not have posted this article on this site (that also would not exist) and then no one could chastise you about posting an article that you didn't even write.

    So I blame the Internet. Or (Tongue and Cheek here folks) Al Gore.

    Hawk

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    I think I'm pretty lenient, walshb. As far as I'm concerned, Muhammad Ali can believe whatever he wants.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by kikibalt
    "Presumed expert?" Mr Frank; I myself never claim such a thing, please don't give me any such credit that I myself don't claim.

    As for the article is it right or wrong? let the readers decide, I say read it and debate.

    And I don't give a hoot if anybody says any thing good or bad about Ali.
    Mr. Baltazar,

    I meant no disrespect to you, and it does appear that others treat you as an expert here, so I assumed it and don't doubt it despite your humility. I guess my feeling is that since anybody can write ANYTHING, it doesn't mean it should be picked up by the larger community and therefore given some credibility...

    There are people saying the US government blew up the World Trade Center on 9/11, the Holocaust never happened, etc., despite video and filmed evidence and testimony from hundreds or thousands of people to the contrary. This has shown me that anyone can say anything they feel like and some percentage of people will go along with it.

    I think highly of Ali as a fighter and as a man, but thought this particular article was unbalanced and factually highly inaccurate.

    But I will let this matter drop.

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    Re: Personally Frank (Baltazar)

    Quote Originally Posted by hawk5ins
    Instead of debating about the actual article, I suggest we blame the Internet.

    Becuase after all, if the internet did not exist, than this site would not exist and if this site did not exist, than respected Knowledgable Boxing historians such as yourself would not post on Cyberboxingzone. And if you did not exist (in cyberspace), then you would not have posted this article on this site (that also would not exist) and then no one could chastise you about posting an article that you didn't even write.

    So I blame the Internet. Or (Tongue and Cheek here folks) Al Gore.

    Hawk
    Hawk,

    Thank you, but I don't claim to be a boxing historian, i.e, I couldn't tell you who fought, say on June 21 1952 without looking it up on the record book, I just don't know why some people get carry away because some article is not to their likening.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by walshb
    I do understand that you do not have to hate to be a racist and I also believe that Ali
    did want to remain among 'his' people. But surely some leniency should be applied, due
    to Ali living in a very racist era in the US. This has to have some bearing and
    will naturally result in a certain dislike or 'hatred' for his oppressors. Ali has proved that he is a man of the world. He grew old gracefully and all the 'hatred' if you can call it that, he showed in the 60's, has definitely subsided now.

    Michael, you talk about all these inaccuracies and falsehoods?

    But aren't a lot of them very subjective. It's a matter of opinion really.

    None of them can be proved or disproved.

    Like I previously said, Ali was NOT perfect and could be
    quite nasty at times, but the article I read was IMO fair and accurate.
    Ok, just one more . . .

    Walshb,

    I thought the author's comment that the "normal" people live in the "black areas" was just crazy, racist, and shows the bias of the author.

    But, maybe it's just that the author is so unskilled at writing (which I believe), that he simply honestly chose the wrong word. Maybe he meant "people with whom Ali is comfortable," or "his people," or "a loyal part of his fan base," or something else that didn't imply racism on Ali's part or stupidity on the author's part.

    Yes, it's subjective Walshb, but such comments, while not easily disproven, seem unworthy even of the attempt because they show the author should not be taken seriously.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Heck, Frank, everybody knows that Manny Madrid fought Joey Gurrola to a ten round draw at the Hollywood Legion Stadium on June 21, 1952!! You were probably there!!!

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by raylawpc
    Heck, Frank, everybody knows that Manny Madrid fought Joey Gurrola to a ten round draw at the Hollywood Legion Stadium on June 21, 1952!! You were probably there!!!
    You're right Tom, I just looked it up, yes I was there because I went to see Al Cruz fight and Manny Madrid too.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    HA!! I knew it!!

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    And if you are PART of the History

    Well, that's good enough for me as far as the "Historian" designation goes!

    Hawk

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    I don't read and pass judgment on any article that I post here,I'll read it and if I think that its an article that can be debated I'll post it. I'm not an expert on Ali or Elvis though I did work in a movie with Elvis and met Ali a few times, but I don't know much about their personal lives, as for their professional live, well I like Elvis's music, never care for his acting, as for Ali, never did like his style of fighting.

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    Re: Elvis and Ali: Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Quote Originally Posted by kikibalt
    I don't read and pass judgment on any article that I post here,I'll read it and if I think that its an article that can be debated I'll post it.
    Frank,

    If anyone implies that Peter “The Emperor” Stitt is related to you I want first crack at him!

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