Monday, January 08, 2007

Jethro Lives!

I once saw an interview with Max Baer Jr. about the time he produced and appeared in a very nice little B picture called Macon County Line. Baer, in case you don't remember, played Jethro on The Beverly Hilbillies. There was one problem with the interview. Max is a terrifying dude. He just sat there, amiable enough in conversation, but looking lethal--as if he wanted to bite the head off a hawk ala Conan the Barbarian. Because of the interview I always wondered what happened to him.

The LA Times answered my question yesterday:

Mad Max
Heavyweight champ Max Baer Sr. was unable to defend himself against 'Cinderella Man.' The job fell to Max Jr., who's going down swinging.

By J.R. Moehringer, Times Staff Writer
January 7, 2007

Max Baer Jr.

He walks into the coffee shop and heads turn. He's that type—the type who looks as if he must be famous, or else was famous once. No one walks that way, frowns that way, unless he has some inside knowledge of fame.

He wears billowy black sweatpants, a red windbreaker, a sleeveless black muscle shirt and Uggs. Not your typical outfit for Lake Tahoe in late fall—nor for a 69-year-old man anywhere in any season. But he makes few concessions to age. Against age he'll never stop punching. For instance, he's had three hair transplants and doesn't care who knows it. Blow-dried, delicately molded across his head, his hair is also tinted black to match his razor-thin mustache.

On his waist rides his most telling fashion statement, a small black fanny pack in which he usually keeps a loaded 9-millimeter Glock. But not today. Today, thank God, Jethro is unarmed.

He looks mad, which is good. That's how I pictured him. That's why I came up here to Lake Tahoe in the first place, because I'd heard Max Baer Jr.—who played Jethro in the 1960s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies"—was mad as hell about Ron Howard's 2005 boxing movie, "Cinderella Man," which Baer Jr. felt desecrated the memory of his late father, Max Baer Sr., the great heavyweight champion of the 1930s.It was a big story, for a few days, because it was such a kitschy contretemps—Jethro vs. Opie. In dozens of TV and radio interviews, Baer Jr. excoriated Howard and vehemently defended Baer Sr. Then the story went away, since there was nothing more Baer Jr. could do. The dead can't claim libel, so their kin can't sue. Baer Jr. was left to deal with his rage, and "Cinderella Man" was free to go into the world as the most widely and readily available depiction of his father.

For the rest of the interview go here,0,4406121.story?coll=la-home-magazine


Anonymous said...

As long as Jethro I mean Max knows his gizintas he'll be able to cope.

Vince said...

Great article. No surpise, though, as it was written by J. R. Moehringer, whose memoir The Tender Bar is a terrific book.