23 Jan 65 : Muhammad Ali makes an impression : New York, USA

This continues the letter dated 17th January 1965, which began…

New York

Dear family,

Saturday 23rd Jan

Well, we finished our job in New Jersey and drove back to New York to spend the weekend here. We can stay where we like at weekends so we thought this would be the obvious place to stay.

We are at the same place as last weekend, and as we swept in, in grand style, the manager said ‘Ah, back again’ – so we felt quite superior!!

The weather is a lot different from last weekend, at about 47 F in comparison to last week’s 10° F and it’s certainly noticeable. Last week New York was dead, this week it’s very much alive again.

Last night there was a great programme on TV. In it were Gracie Fields, Terry Thomas and Bernard Levin – an almost all-English cast. It’s a great programme. It’s called the ‘Les Crane Show‘ and is on every night, Monday to Friday from 11:15pm to about 1:45am.

It’s done ‘in the round’, the audience being all around him, and rising up, so in effect he is in a circular ‘pit’. It’s all completely unrehearsed, and he chats to the audience with a special mike, which shoots out a beam to the person in the audience.

He starts off by saying ‘Who wants to talk to me?’ And this often it proves to be very entertaining. He then has guests to come in and sit with him and talk.

Last night he had Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali) talking about his change of name, and his colour, and his reputation. He was a very intelligent and deeply religious man, and stressed heavily that his ‘big mouth’ reputation was all an act while he was campaigning for the fight. He proved to be a very modest and likeable fellow, which was a surprise to us.

On the same programme, Bernard Levin had a debate with one of the top space scientists of America.

To be continued…

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NOTE: I found this fascinating obituary for Les Crane, who seems to have been ahead of his time in his attempts to introduce viewers to LGBT people and people of colour. I particularly loved his quote, said on-air to racist pro-segregationist Governor of Alabama, George Wallace: ‘I wouldn’t vote for you for dogcatcher.’

Nb In a later letter, Tony describes how he and Colin actually met George Wallace while in Alabama.

Crane later made a fortune by developing computer software in the very early days of home computing.

NB The times on the advert below are different to those cited in Tony’s letter, but I liked it a lot, so I wanted to include it!

les crane display ad

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