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New York Bon Vivant Glenn O’Brien Turns Boxing Commentator for a Battle of the Sexes
The athletic Belgian model Hannelore Knuts challenges Ghana-born American boxer-turned-trainer Kwame Davis in the surreal Douglas Keeve-directed short that casts art writer, style guru and Warhol acolyte Glenn O’Brien as an excitable pundit. Creatively directed by Victoria Bartlett and written by O’Brien, the film celebrates the opening up of a sport that has long been considered a men-only concern. “Boxing was the last holdout, the sole all-male fixture in the Olympics until London 2012, when women's boxing was first allowed,” says Keeve, whose previous work includes Unzipped, a 1994 documentary that spotlit designer Isaac Mizrahi and included cameos from Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Kate Moss. “This fantastical and comedic bout between Hannelore and Kwame gives a nod to women who continue to break boundaries,” says the filmmaker. NOWNESS asked O’Brien to muse on his long-held fascination with the pugilistic practice.
I grew up with boxing. It was on TV all the time. The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports sponsored Monday Night Fight and the Friday Night Fight—the latter running 14 years straight. Men and women crowded around their TVs to watch athletes pound each other in the ring, trying to knock the other unconscious, sometimes as us kids looked on. Huge cuts emerging around their eyes. Punches shot blood and sweat into the third-row spectators. Knocked-out men hitting the canvas or slumping onto the ropes where, if the refs didn’t stop it, their opponent might kill them. I saw Emile Griffith kill Benny “The Kid” Paret on live TV in 1962. He didn’t actually die until ten days later. Griffith was enraged since Paret called him a maricón [derogatory Spanish slang for a gay person] at the weigh in. There were no ‘out’ athletes then and Griffith has since owned up to swinging both ways outside the ring too. He felt very bad about Benny Paret. Those were very macho days and boxing was even more savage than today's ultimate fighting.
I could still sing you the Gillette “Look Sharp March,” which every marching band in the country played. “Look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp.” I also happened to be watching when Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, a colorful lightweight champ killed South Korean fighter Duk Koo Kim in the ring in 1982. We were and are a nation of brutes. I can’t imagine that the Roman arenas were more brutal, and nobody smoked cigars there. But I appreciated many fighters like Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, I liked their personalities and their footwork. My performance here is based loosely on Howard Cosell, the great cliché sportscaster of my youth.