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Friday, March 6, 2009

Wit and Wisdom from my Dad

My dad recently sent me a written account of a few of his boxing stories he's told me over the years, which continue to be relevant to our lives today. As always, he writes with a lot of wit and color (some maybe a bit edgy for gentle readers).


Athletes using performance enhanced substances continue to be exposed in the media. A recent LA Times article reported that some swimmers wear buoyant suits allowing them to ride higher in the water with less friction. This “technological-doping” has resulted in a hundred plus new world records in 2008.

Other athletes in our sporting past were quite creative in their so-called abuses, but far less sophisticated. The most outrageous was a wacky pole-vaulter decades ago who seriously claimed his highest vault came from flatulence that aided his thrust. A most unique sort of user abuser, he called two bean burritos his secret boosters.

My abuse, a one time situation, has festered in me for half a century. Time to “fess up.” I owe the Los Angeles Times and an opponent an apology for the performance-enhancing stimulant used on me over fifty years ago when I entered the 1954 Western Regional Golden Gloves boxing championships. The Times sponsored the popular tournament at the old Hollywood Legion Stadium. A big deal then. SRO. TV, too.

My confession here is tempered by being an unknowing victim of a mad practioner of special potions that helped my inspired performance in my final title fight. This was long before steroids and other drugs. My then trainer-manager was ex-pro fighter, Frank Muche. He’s passed on. I miss him. Over the years I sometimes called him,“Merlin Muche.” He had big magic at his command.

I’d met Muche at Pasadena City College. We were students. They had a boxing program back then. He saw me sparring. I’d had considerable Navy boxing experience. Muche, a soft spoken nice guy thought I could win the Golden Gloves and suggested I go for it.

Golden Gloves fighters (all amateurs) had to endure four fights in three days. The fights were three round matches. The semifinal and final were both on the last night of the competition. Days before I’d won two hard fought qualifying bouts. Both close decisions.

I won my semi-final bout the next night but was very tired. I had about an hour before the finals. I lay on a dressing room table as Muche applied Atomic Balm, a hot analgesic to my stiff lower back muscles. The balm slid under my trunks and down my backside. He mumbled, “Oops, sorry.” I didn’t understand his apology. He quickly pulled me up.

As we moved toward the ring, I squirmed, now realizing he’d poured Atomic Balm down where the sun don’t shine. I was on fire! I growled, “What in the hell did you do to me?” I danced a crazed Twist down the aisle. Yes, my performance was stimulated and enhanced by the Atomic Balm. I figure my substance abuse was not covered by the rules of the day. I plead no contest. I won the light heavyweight title by a unanimous decision.

I later confronted Muche about the Atomic Balm incident. He shrugged, grinned sheepishly, adding, “Figured ya needed some help.” He was right. However, half a century has passed since then. Isn’t that beyond any acceptable statute of limitations?


Here’s another example of Muche’s resourcefulness. This was also an essential factor in that same long ago Golden Gloves championship victory:

In the first round of the finals, my southpaw opponent knocked me on my rear end in my own corner. Dazed, I sat there considering quitting. Muche leaned in, his face only a few feet away and he angrily swore at me, “GET UP, YOU S.O.B!”

Startled by his profanity at me I struggled to my feet, clutched and clinched my opponent to finish the round. Muche glared hard at me, adding, “He’s gonna quit in the middle of the round.” Sure enough, he stopped attacking and stood there, sucking air. Recovered now, I pushed on to win the second and third rounds and I became a champion.

On my way back to the dressing room a half drunk gal in an aisle seat reached out to pat me on the back, but only managed to grab the backside strap of my jock under my trunks. She pulled, stretching it. I tried to grab it but my boxing glove wouldn’t let me. The strap wound up looped over my forearm. The crowd howled. It was my first comedy role as a then wannabe actor. Chaplin would have approved. I loved the crowd’s acclaim.

I understand today how some special acts of providence arrive in odd ways to shape our lives. After five decades of coping as an actor with a couple hundred credits and raising six kids I believe Muche’s daring choices were often with me. His benign simple use of the Atomic Balm and contrived angry words helped guide me down life’s rocky road. I’m indebted to his imaginative motivational ploys that helped me find new courage.

In these my dwindling down days, mixed with ambiguous health, I’m compelled to look in my mirror and call out Muche’s words in its now acronym form of, G.U.Y.S.O.B. The word has also become a part of our family’s lexicon. When someone in the family or, a friend struggles to cope with life forces, the word, “GUYSOB!” will again be heard.

Oh, and I’ll share “Merlin Muche’s” magic with whoever wants to use it. Kind of goes to the core of survival in today’s hectic world, eh? It’s forceful, empowering, “GUYSOB!”

And you won’t need any Atomic Balm. Not sure if the stuff’s still around. It’s definitely not on any list of banned substances. No blood or urine test is needed. Any medical diagnosis of note would be easily revealed with a swipe of a swab in the right place.

In my current, long in the tooth life, all I’m looking for now is to hear the bell ring once in while in whatever arena of life and work may lie ahead. I’ll do my best with a little help from family and friends. “GUYSOB!” Yeah! I’m already considering a comeback…


Warren VanderSchuit
(PKA Warren Vanders)
Home 626-403-1393

Your prayers are always appreciated for my dad, who is battling cancer for the second time in his storied life. -Blaine

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