RIP Photographer Howard Bingham by Joe DiMaggio

To All the Ships at Sea,

© Kenneth Lambert, AP

I’d like to share a story. My son Dylan came home from school from 4th grade class with a unusual request. He asked that I get Muhammad Ali to call all the kids in his class.  I told him that would not be easy.  He said please, “I’d like you to do this.” I called my good friend Bert Sugar – “Mr. Boxing”  and the “Bertster” tried to reach out to Ali, but was unable to connect.  He said, “Joe on a conference call we will phone Howard Bingham” (Ali’s photographer.)  I had met Howard a few times but we were not close friends.  We spoke to Howard and he said he’d see what he could do. He asked me, what time and on what phone number?”  I told him approximately 1:05 on Thursday afternoon & gave him the number. I figured there was a very slim chance of this happening.  I was told the call went through the speakers and sure enough It was Muhammad Ali talking to all the kids in Dylan’s grade class.

There are very few people and this goes for Bert Sugar, Howard Bingham and Muhammad Ali that would extend themselves for a bunch of kids.  I’m blessed knowing people like this.  I might add, it is mainly due to people I’ve met through photography.  Bert Sugar died on my birthday a few years ago, Muhammad Ali died this year and now Howard Bingham died December 15 this year.  I casually mentioned this story to my friend Sam Garcia and he insisted I do a blog on Howard, which I was going to do anyway.  He said you can tell your people from me, that Howard was one of the sweetest most self effacing people he had ever met.  He always remembered everyones’ name, was a genuinely sweet individual, and one hell of a great photographer.

We’ll have a 10 count tonight for Howard.  Attached you will find a short video I did in Cuba a few weeks ago at Kid Chocolate Gym.  https://vimeo.com/193916645

© Joe DiMaggio All Rights Reserved

© Joe DiMaggio

Sam by © Sam Garcia

 

“Talking Trash With the Louisville Lip”

Gatti vs Leija Fight Actor Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts Gaultieri from HBO Sopranos)

Gatti vs Leija Fight
Actor Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts Gaultieri from HBO Sopranos)

Johnny Iacono, one hell of a great photographer. To all the ships at sea, not only is he a great photographer but does he have some great hair or what? I was fortunate enough to have Johnny as a next door neighbor for about twenty years. He has a beautiful, lovely family and is pretty much recognized as the nicest photographer in the world. Off the record, he is a sweetheart- but dont cross him, that would be a bad idea. He is one tough son of a bitch.

“John Iacono

Talking Trash With the Louisville Lip

In December 1966 I was a 25-year-old working for LIFE magazine and helping Neil Leifer, a childhood friend, for an SI photo shoot at the LIFE photo studio on 54th Street in Manhattan. Neil asked me to take a picture of him and Ali together. I said sure, and did so. Then I said, “How about me?” So right before Neil took the picture of Ali and I, Ali raised his hand over his head and looks at me and goes, “Boy, if I ever hit you you’ll wish you wee in Vietnam with a BB gun.”

I said, “Champ, if I ever hit you by the time you get up your clothes will be out of style.”

He started laughing and said, “I like that one, I’m gonna keep it.”

iacono-ali-leifer2

                                                                     Photo: Neil Leifer

When he left I went in the dressing room where he changed to make sure he didn’t leave anything behind. On the table was this big diamond ring. I said, “Oh my god he left his ring here.” He calls and says, “I left my ring up there.” I said, “Oh was that yours? I sold it.” He sent one of his guys up to pick it up.

Not long after I became an SI photographer. In about 1983, I was with my wife, Nancy, my daughter, Alexis, and her friend Claudine, in Atlantic City where I was getting ready to photograph a fight. The night before the fight there was a knock on my hotel room door. It was Ali’s wife at the time, Veronica. She says, “I see your daughter has been running up and down the hall. Ali loves children. Do you mind if he says hello?”

I said of course not, so Alexis and I went over to his room, and I took a picture of her sitting on his lap. There was only one lamp on and it was very eerie lighting. I said, “How you doing, Champ?” He says, “Did you call me chump?” Afterward my daughter asked, “What happened to him?” I said he was very sick. This was right before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. You could see it in his face, and he had been stuttering. It was sad to see. But for that night at least he was still a joy to be around. I always loved his sense of humor.”

© John Iacono

© John Iacono

The Day the Greatest Passed

Bert and Khalid © Joe DiMaggio

Bert and Khalid © Joe DiMaggio

To all the ships at sea,

I was scheduled to shoot a 20 minute interview with my boxer, Khalid Twaiti, last Saturday at Gleason’s, the same day Muhammad Ali passed away. Bruce Silverglade gave approximately 24 interviews to every TV station across the country. Being at Gleason’s that day was must have been an omen. I interviewed people that never saw Ali fight or didn’t know that his slave name was Cassius Clay, but they all looked up to him, loved him, and respected him even though they were kids. Once we have the interview edited I will post them. Take the photo of Khalid with Bert Sugar.

The Greatest

 

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

To all the ships at sea,

I have started this blog ten times and ten times I could not write it, I could not see it, and I could not feel it. It just didn’t work. In 1971, I scalped a ticket for the first Ali-Frazier fight. In 1974, I had a credential for upstairs but was thrown out and then had to move around the Garden every half round from one vomitorium to another. (Yes, it’s a vomitorium.) I would love to tell you that Ali was a very close friend of mine, but if I did that then I would be lying. I photographed him three or four times. I ran into him in Vegas and Atlantic City. One time I met him with Bert Sugar and he went right past Bert and said, “Hey Joe D., how are you?” just to tick off the Bertster. Like many great people, Ali transcended all boxing, sports, religion. Conscientious objector, the man had amazing intellect, speed of hand and eye,  and a huge heart. He was absolutely the greatest and still is. I called Bert 17 years ago and asked him if we could call Ali to call to my son’s fourth grade class. Bert said, “Let me see what I can do.” Sure enough, he got Ali to call. Amazing stuff, amazing memories. I will miss him and the world will miss him, too. I guess he’s going to have a field day with Angelo Dundee, Bert Sugar, Budd Schulberg, and Joe Frazier. They won’t be drinking (okay, except for Bert and Budd) but they will be talking boxing. I wish I was a fly on the wall in heaven. You know what I find interesting? I laughed when he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. After that initial giggle, I never gave it another thought.  I hope that makes sense. Rest in peace, Muhammad.

Please see the video (linked below) by an old friend of mine from Sports Illustrated, Bill Nack- it says it all. He’s a professional writer, I am not.

http://espn.go.com/sports/boxing/ali/news/story?id=3171301

Angelo Dundee © Joe DiMaggio

Angelo Dundee © Joe DiMaggio

Bert Sugar © Joe DiMaggio

Bert Sugar © Joe DiMaggio

Budd Schulberg © Joe DiMaggio

Budd Schulberg © Joe DiMaggio

Joe Frazier © Joe DiMaggio

Joe Frazier © Joe DiMaggio

 

 

 

 

Smokin’ Joe

 

© Joe DiMaggio

I remember the first day that I photographed Smokin’ Joe Frazier; March 8 1971. Frazier was the heavyweight champion of the world, fighting the great Muhammad Ali (off a three year hiatus from boxing). To say the least, it was considered  the fight of the century, with Frank Sinatra shooting ringside for Life Magazine. I’ve been known to say “The next time I’m in Vegas, I’m gonna jump onstage and grab  a microphone—not”. over the years, Frazier and I became casual acquaintances. Joe was a true gentleman. There are very few people that ever had a bad word to say about Joe. I asked him if he would be kind enough to allow me to interview him for my documentary In This Corner, and he agreed. We met at the iconic Gleason’s Gym. Honesty is the best policy, and as far as the interview went it was two warriors talking about the good old days, and from that we talked about the future of boxing in the new decade. The interview became very personal, and that is not the proper way a documentary interview should go. I looked at it yesterday and a tear came to my eye. When I get my head put on straight, I’ll do a second and a third blog with some action photography. Yes, I know this should have been done November of last year, but it took me that long to actually find the images I was looking for. So much for my filing system. To all the ships at sea, some photography, for that matter all photography, is timeless. On that note, go out and make some great photos. Joe D.

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio