It’s been said that Ali never met a camera he didn’t like. And as the greatest, prettiest, heavyweight champion of all-time, why should he? So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of his close friends and confidants was professional photographer Howard L. Bingham. Mr. Bingham recently passed away at age 77. Bingham first met the then Cassius Clay in 1962 when he was assigned by the L.A. Sentinel, the newspaper he worked as a photographer for, to cover a press conference announcing an upcoming fight for the heavyweight challenger. After the press conference ended, he invited Clay and his brother to take a ride with him. They hit it off instantly, and from there Bingham began photographing Ali regularly about a 100 days a year. His work was noted for capturing Ali in unguarded moments that reflected the real Ali. Bingham attended L. A.’s Compton Community College, but despite failing a photography class he managed to get the photographer’s job at the Sentinel. However, he was fired after eighteen months due to spending more time on personal projects instead of the paper’s. So, he turned to photographing Ali and doing freelance work. Bingham was the first black man in the Hollywood Cinematographers Union for working on the first Bill Cosby sitcom “The Bill Cosby Show” in 1969. In 1998, SI profiled Bingham in an issue with the cover photo of him with Ali that was captioned, “Who’s that guy with Howard Bingham?” Bingham had said he believed he was the only one in Ali’s inner circle who could always be completely honest with the champ at all times since he took no money from Ali. Staying with the theme of Ali and his fondness for the camera as well as the camera’s love for Ali, his appeal as an artistic subject is also being displayed in a pair of exhibitions at the New York Historical Society. The flamboyant watercolors and sketches of renowned sports artist LeRoy Neiman and the photos of George Kalinsky, the official photographer of Madison Square Garden are on display in “Muhammad Ali, LeRoy Neiman,and the Art of Boxing” and “I Am King of the World: Photographs of Muhammad Ali by George Kalinsky.” Though the two artist were close friend for abut fifty years, the contrast of their works was equal to the contrast of their very different personalities. Kalinsky was as low-key and unassumingly simple as his black and white work while Neiman was a loud, flamboyant, self-made celebrity ever bit as explosive as the wild colors in his art. Yet, both of their careers revolved to an extent around their fascinations with Ali and boxing. Neiman met Ali prior to his fight with Billy Daniels in 1962, while Kalinsky first photographed the young champion in 1965.
“ODES ON ALI: A Tribute to the Greatest” has recently received two more five star reviews from readers at Booktips!
Allene Jackson wrote: “I recommend this book to everyone especially poetry lovers and Ali admirers. I was surprised by how delightful the book read.”
Nayaab Khan wrote: “Throughout the pages of this magnificently written book, it is visible that the author is truly fond and devoted to the legendary Muhammad Ali.”
You can read both reviews in their entirety on amazon.
On Saturday, November 19th, Readers’ Favorite held their 2016 International Book Awards ceremony in recognition of excellence in writing. I was proud and honored to take the stage along with my fellow award-winning authors that night. Although, due to my ongoing recovery after surgery, I was unable to take part in any of the other events held prior to the awards ceremony. I felt fortunate to at least be able to take part in the Saturday night ceremony. I met some great people and talented writers that night. I was also glad to put faces to some of the people from Readers’ Favorite who I had previously only corresponded with online or over the phone. And I was able to exchange cards with several of my fellow writers. Although I had to keep the night short due my early rise the next morning for my day at the Miami Book Fair, I did get to share a cold beer and some good conversation with a couple of my fellow attendees. As I said before, it was a great event. I’m so glad I was able to attend.
The Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards, in recognition of excellence in writing, is held each year in conjunction with the Miami Book Fair. During the three day Street Fair held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the Miami Book Fair, Readers’ Favorite maintains a booth at the Street Fair which features the award-winning books from that year’s book awards. Each award winner is asked to donate three copies of their book for Readers’ Favorite to sell with the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. I was more than happy to donate the three copies of my award-winning book “ODES ON ALI: A Tribute to the Greatest” for such a worthy cause. Muhammad Ali loved kids and was a most charitable and giving individual. So, I felt it most appropriate to include a book about him in a charitable effort benefiting children’s health. Being that I only had a booth on Sunday, after setting up and settling in, I walked over to the Readers’ Favorite booth to see how my book was being received. When told that the last of the three copies provided had just been sold, I happily told the gentleman manning the booth that I would send down a couple more copies for the cause. He said that would be fantastic and thanked me for my generosity. Upon return to my booth, I asked my assistant to take a couple more copies down which she did. By the time I left that evening the Readers’ Favorite folks were already gone, so I’m not sure if the other two copies sold or not. I surely hope so, for as I stated previously, St. Jude is a truly worthy cause and I was proud to provide a small portion to add to what Readers’ Favorite donates to them each year.
As I’ve written in previous posts, due my accident and subsequent surgery, my attendance at the Miami Book Fair was not looking promising. But thanks to my overall general physical fitness, doing my due diligence in physical therapy, my above average tolerance for pain, and having an excellent assistant there to help out, I was somehow able to make it through the long day while still hobbling around on one crutch. And believe me, from the rising before daylight for the commute down in order to register and set up before opening, to the packing up and loading up for the long, slow, heavy traffic drive home well after dark, it was a very long day. Oh yeah, and did I mention the minimal sleep gotten the night before due to my attendance at the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards which had also required a down south to Miami commute through and back through the congested madness that is typical I-95 Saturday night traffic. But with all the previous being said, it was a great day and a great experience. I didn’t sell a large number of books but I met a lot of great people who happily shared their stories about, and memories of, the great Muhammad Ali. And even most of those who didn’t even bother to stop would point, smile, and shout, “Ali!” when they saw his face on the book cover. My favorite customer of the day was coincidentally also my first customer of the day. The first couple of hours had been window shoppers, browsers, and others who rushed by so fast they looked like they’d made a wrong turn and were desperate to get back into the road race being run down the streets just outside of the book fair. And as I sat and watched what appeared to be a young brother and sister walking tightly on each side of an elderly grandmother figure, she reminded me of Cicley Tyson playing the part of Miss Jane Pittman, approaching, I honestly would have bet the farm there still wasn’t a sell forthcoming. But as they stood at the table glancing at the copies of my book, I watched as the young lad eased around from behind his grandmother’s skirt to reach out and pick up a copy of the book from the table. Staring at the cover, he glanced up at his grandmother and mumbled, “I want this one.” Looking down into his face, she asked, “Will you read it?” He shyly looked down while nodding vigorously. “Are you sure?” she asked. Once again, he nodded. “Well, all right, if you sure.” With that the young lad clutched the copy tight to his chest as his grandmother reached inside her purse and came out with a crumpled up $20.00 bill. I informed her that as my first and favorite customer of the day he would be receiving a discounted price which I’m sure pleased her. I also convinced him to briefly return the book so I could sign it for him. I then watched as he proudly clutched his new possession to his chest as the three of them walked away through the crowd before vanishing from view. I still wonder what made him choose my book from the thousands on display at the book fair that day. Especially with him appearing too young to know much about Ali. But who’s to say. Ali always had that kind of magical effect on people from all ages and backgrounds. As I wrote in my book, people in far away countries where Ali’s fights were never telecast, many of them born well after he had long been retired would point and shout, “Ali, Ali!” when he walked down the streets of their country. Whatever the reason, I glad he got the book, hope he enjoys reading it, and maybe it will inspire him to write one of his own someday. The overall mood, along with interest and sales picked up from there. And as I said before, many people stopped and shared their memories and stories about Ali. And a few even tried to play stump the writer by questioning me about certain Ali fights or wrongly stating factoids about Ali’s life. But I was up to the challenge, despite my sleep deprived state, and answered all their questions and corrected all of their errors. While most just smiled and wished me luck with the book, after sharing their stories, picking the book up one more time to glance at the cover again before setting it back down and wandering away, a few did buy. And as I was leaving I even did a little old-fashioned horse-trading with another author, swapping straight-up a copy of my book for one of his. It was an altogether great day, and I enjoyed my experience as an author at the 2016 Miami Book Fair tremendously.