Politics & Policy

The Legend of Primo Carnera

The Politician and the Lady.

I have a great idea for a movie. I’ve already written most of it, but I have to admit I’m a little hung up on the ending.

Remember back in the 1930s, when boxing was the biggest sport in America? Well, of course, I don’t and neither does my dad, “Che” Kahane, nor even his older brother, “Uncle Joe” Kahane, but you catch my drift. Anyway, back in those days of racial segregation, the oppression of women, and the wanton destruction of our environment, there was this fighter from Italy named Primo Carnera.

#ad#Primo was big, very big — 6’6”, 265, at a time when men were pretty much shrimps and you never saw the Wal-Mart widebodies that deface our precious American landscape today or, even worse, stand outside Koi on La Cienega, hoping to catch a glimpse of Brooke Burke and other big celebrities after they’ve dined on California Asian-fusion at a couple of hundred bucks a head.

Primo came out of nowhere in 1930, plowing his way through the ranks of tomato cans, bums and mugs. True, there was an unfortunate bout in 1933 against Ernie Schaaf, who died two days after being knocked out, but Carnera’s rise to the top was unstoppable and he won the heavyweight title a few months later by KO’ing Jack Sharkey.

There were only two problems with the legend of Primo Carnera. No. 1: Carnera was owned and operated by the Irish gangster, Owney Madden, who fixed all of Carnera’s fights. Madden, a fight fanatic, also owned Russell Crowe — excuse me, James J. Braddock! — during his long run in Manhattan as the Duke of the West Side, before retiring to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to help homeschool Bill Clinton in the finer points of Tammany-style politics. It’s pretty easy to win when your opponents have already been taken out before the fight even starts, but nobody let Primo in on the secret.

No. 2: Carnera had a glass jaw. Which was something else that none of Primo’s enablers, mollycoddlers, and media buddies had bothered to tell him as he accumulated his press clippings. But which, alas, the “Walking Mountain” discovered on June 14, 1934 against Max Baer — who himself had killed Frankie Campbell in the ring four years earlier, and who had pummeled Ernie Schaaf nearly to death in Madison Square Garden in September of 1930, thus setting Schaaf up for Carnera’s phantom blow. Baer knocked Carnera down at least twelve times and took his title: payback, courtesy of Madden and the Mob, who had tired of the big palooka.

Primo’s story was told in fictionalized form in Budd Schulberg’s novel, The Harder They Fall, and in the 1956 movie of the same name, which was Bogey’s last film. And since we in Hollywood can co-opt anybody, both Primo Carnera and Max Baer appeared together in the 1933 flick, The Prizefighter and the Lady, in which Primo played himself.

So here’s my idea. Let’s change the plot, update the dialogue, and remake that movie as: The Politician and the Lady.

Our story focuses on “Barry,” an idealistic young progressive whose promise is spotted by the Chicago media/mayoral/organized crime ring known as the “Axelrod of Evil.” He’s plucked out of the obscurity of rabble-rousing — excuse me! I mean “community organizing” — and packed off to Harvard where, thanks to his rare empathic powers and near-sociopathic need to be loved, he rises to become the editor of The Harvard Law Review, although he never actually has to write anything. The idea is to leave no paper trail, no record, so that his handlers can unload the young phenom on an unsuspecting world when the moment is just right.

Right it is when they enter him in a round-robin tournament against a collection of tomato cans, bums and mugs, who topple like ten pins before his majesty. And when the favorite, a tough old broad with a wicked cackle they call “The Beast,” takes an unexpected pratfall, all of a sudden our Barry winds up going for the gold. Every single man, woman and child will be cheering at our Act Two plot point, when the beaten Beast and her loving husband, Bubba, give Barry their teary benediction and tell him to go out and whale the tar out of the evil Bush.

Then, of course, the Lady arrives. I’m thinking of calling her “Sarah,” as in Sarah Connor, as in The Terminator.

Sarah is just as unknown as Barry was, but she’s twice as tough. And, man, does she pack a punch. In fact, she decks him with her first love-tap and down goes Barry, keister to canvas. The Axelrod of Evil is shouting from his corner to stay away from her, to keep backpedaling, dance with her but not to trade punches with her. It’s the classic boxer vs. the puncher story!

But Barry won’t listen (it’s his fatal flaw). Everybody else fell down, so why not her? And is he not a man? He takes a few wild swings, but she won’t stand still and let him hit her. Between rounds, sputtering and spitting teeth, he doesn’t register what his wily old trainer, “Plouffie” now reveals: that all his fights were fixed, the ones in Chicago and for the Illinois state senate and the U.S. Senate. But this one’s for real!

Well, you can imagine the tension and the suspense as Barry answers the bell and heads out for round two. He taunts her, he trash-talks, he starts droppin’ his “g’s,” talkin’ about “folks,” and adopts an O. J. Simpson-style loosey-goosey ghetto walk to really scare her. Sarah just smiles, and then she hits him right in his glass jaw with a left hook that has him seeing flying pigs wearing lipstick and babbling about stinky fish.

Dragged back to his corner, Barry sees the Beast and Bubba sitting in the front row, smiling and laughing. He realizes that she has set this whole plot up, to rid Herself of a pesky challenger, so she can waltz to the title later. “You did know she’s from Chicago, didn’t you, Barry?” asks Plouffie.

And that’s where I’ve stopped, because all of a sudden I don’t like the way this movie is going. Do you?

— David Kahane appreciates all his fellow liberals’ recent good wishes for his speedy death and/or suicide. He wants you to know that in addition to not being Dennis Miller, Rob Long, David Zucker, or a figment of Andrew Breitbart’s imagination, neither is he David Mamet nor Joe Eszterhas, although he would like to have their talent and their residuals.

David Kahane — Since February 2007, Michael Walsh has written for National Review both under his own name and the name of David Kahane, a fictional persona described as “a Hollywood liberal who ...

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