Paige One: Angie And The Don
By Tony Paige
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While Super Bowl XLVI has been dissected very which way imaginable, life and death continues just like taxes.
As taxing as the Super Bowl coverage has been, when death pays a visit, it makes you stop and give pause … and praise.
Two giants passed within days of each other. One is from the world of sports and the other from the world of entertainment.
Angelo Dundee, the great boxing trainer of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and countless other champions, passed this week at age 90.
Don Cornelius, the creator of the immensely popular and long-running dance and music showcase, “Soul Train,” died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 75.
I had the pleasure of talking with Angie on a couple of occasions and he was even on my WFAN show. He was one of those legends in the sport, where you asked him a question, shut up, listened and learned.
Whether he was talking about his memories of all-time greats like Ali or Leonard, or a former heroin addict, Pinklon Thomas, who became a heavyweight champ or working the corner of George Foreman when he knocked out Michael Moorer for the heavyweight crown, his stories had depth, purpose, a touch of humor and history.
Angie had that rare combination of class, integrity and politeness that few people have today’s society.
He had a great business card he used to pass out. It was a drawing of him with all his champions behind him. At the time the champs numbered 12.
I hope I still have it. Not to put it on eBay, but as a keepsake just for me.
There is no monetary value that I would want for it. It would be worthless if I tried to sell it.
With Dundee gone, another great icon in boxing has left too soon. Recently, Smokin’ Joe Frazier passed, now Dundee.
The late, great trainer Eddie Futch had Freddie Roach as his charge and the five-time trainer-of-the-year, is one of the most respective and wanted trainers in the business.
With Dundee gone, I don’t know who fills the void.
I don’t think there is a candidate to even carry his weathered spit bucket.
Don Cornelius thrilled generations of music fans with his larger than life “Soul Train” show.
Every big name from Aretha Franklin to Elton John graced his show. I still remember a young, Chaka Kahn, then with the group Rufus, doing an interview with Cornelius. Let’s just say that miss sexy, complete with bare midriff, fur-covered chaps and an Indian headdress, phoned in her answers from Pluto, if you know what I mean.
Dancers like Rosie Pérez and Fred “Rerun” Berry went on to make names for themselves as did Jodie Watley, who went from Soul Train dancer to become a member of the hit-making group Shalamar.
Not to be outdone by the singers and dancers, Cornelius wore some of the most outrageous outfits, this side of Walt Frazier, and like “Clyde,” he pulled it off.
In some old-school dictionaries, Cornelius’ picture is right next to the definition of “cool.” Plus, his Afro was bigger than anyone from the Jackson 5.
I can’t even count the number of weddings I’ve attended when the DJ would play Gamble and Huff’s TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) which was the “Soul Train” theme and the “line” would form.
It’s hard to forget watching 80-year-old grandmas grooving to the beat and dancing down the “Soul Train” line.
His tag line of wishing everyone “Love … Peace … and Soul!” should be around for a long time.
Dundee and Cornelius are both gone, but they will never be forgotten.
Next time I see a trainer bark out instruction to his fighter (“You’re blowing it son!”) or yet another grandpa sliding down the “Soul Train” dance line with a coolness all his own, I will smile and remember them both.
I have no choice. They are a part of me … the old school generation.