LET’S start the appraisal of boxing and New York City icon Jimmy Glenn, laid low at age 89 by wicked COVID-19, with the true story of the “money tree” which stood in front of his always packed, no social distancing allowed, saloon, Jimmy’s Corner. Just steps from Times Square, where he operated the city’s most vibrant fight gym, there was a scrawny excuse for a tree. It’s twiggy, forlorn branches had U.S. currency, cash money, clipped to the sagging limbs. This was the late 1970s, the Forty Deuce shoot, stab, pimp and plunder era of grime and wanton crime in the heart of midtown Manhattan.
It would be years before they turned the area into a Disneyfied clean tourist mecca. Eighth Avenue had a pocket of runaway teenaged girls commonly known as the Minnesota Strip. Dingy hotels were populated by crackheads and the hot sheet rooms were rented by the hour.
Muggings took place in broad daylight and discarded hypodermic needles and used condoms filled the side streets.
It was the guttermost not the uttermost of periods.
Yet through week after week the “money tree” was not molested. Miscreants were more fearful of proprietor James Glenn than overworked police so the tree remained until Jimmy and his day drinking regulars tired of it.
The point had been well made, this urban pocket was a no steal zone.
I had the good luck to meet Jimmy before I shifted newspapers, Las Vegas Sun to New York Post, in late 1978.
Jimmy was like a walking encyclopedia and, beyond his resolute wife and children he loved nothing more than discussing other boxing people, dead or alive, long into the three or four am hour when the bar would briefly shut down for a mop down ahead of the new day.
Anyone could talk about Madison Square Garden matchmaking giant Teddy Brenner but Jimmy enjoyed stories and anecdotes about Brenner understudy Duke Stefano even more. Similarly, he liked to hear about the lowercase but influential Vegas fight mob guys such as colorful Irving “Ash” Resnick and Mel “Red” Greb or zany Tony “Mister T” Trudnich.
Badmouthing others was something Jimmy eschewed. From Angelo Dundee to Floyd Patterson (who Jimmy sparred with regularly) to Eddie Futch or Emanuel Steward, Jimmy would never knock another fight guy. Ditto for Don King, Cedric Kushner or Bob Arum.
Any promoter might employ one of Jimmy’s boxers or need a cornerman some night. Jimmy did not blow his own horn but he was an elite level cut man and an inspiring, always calming voice between rounds.
When I worked for Howard Cosell at ABC we needed a boxing guy soundbite. I suggested Jimmy and the mercurial Cosell lit up.
“Ah, the good man, the honest man, go get it from him,” Cosell said. I took a nicely autographed Cosell photo with me and it still hangs in Jimmy’s habitat.
This one may be too much info but … one night bombastic Johnny Bos and I, both well lubricated, made a bet.
Bos dared me to strip to my skivvies and dance on top of the bar.
I did, Bos stripped down and we danced on the bar top.
Jimmy came flying out of his backroom office, charged us and broke up laughing.
There were no knockdowns and we were gently 86ed.
There was no ban, no punishment.
After all, Bosdal (his real name) and I were considered family to a point.
We were fight guys and Jimmy was our avuncular protector, especially at his home away from home.
Like the “money tree,” Jimmy is gone. The saloon has long been an anachronism and it doesn’t fit into the Times Square zeitgeist so it may not endure.
Jimmy was about inclusion, not social isolation or distancing.
It was privilege to be included by this legendary but so modest giant.
Thank you, Uncle Jimmy.
Knowing you has been a pugilistic and otherwise privilege.