4 Jan

“Hey, G!” a college student yelled up from the audience clustered for autographs and photo-snaps with G Gordon Liddy. Mr. Liddy had just spoken at DC’s National Press Club on a panel with radio hosts Sam Bohannan and Al Franken. Franken and Liddy had come together center stage to bear hug each other as men who really like each other do. On Liddy’s left hand was a big gold ring. Putting his hand out towards the college boy, he answered, “It is.” It is one thing to take a head shot but it is quite another thing to bring back a picture of Mr. Liddy’s fight ring, I figured, something my editor would relish.

It wasn’t as simple as all that. “Yes, you can take a picture of my fight ring,” said Mr. Liddy, “but first you must hear it’s story.” So I waited. And waited. And waited watching a man America loves greet each audience member who approached him with consistent courtesy and intent. Having photographed red carpet celebrities, I know the difference between a sincere man and box office buffos. And having photographed boxing in the UK, I was eager to hear his story.

When the last hand had been shook, Mr. Liddy turned his attention to me telling the story of his Fight Ring.

When Mr. Liddy was sent to prison he immediately was beset into brawls. That is the nature of prison. Men fight to establish respect. For the next thirteen months he was engaged in one scuffle after another. An earliest fight landed him in the hospital with his ear slashed and face ripped. He hadn’t seen his opponent carrying a knife or another weapon. He wanted to find out what caused his injuries. He was told. It was a fight ring. Fight ring? Yes.

He was told to go down into the basement and ask for a certain inmate. And for a carton, cigarettes are currency in jail, he could buy himself one ring from the inmates selection of metal rings sized to most any finger, and cut with squared edges pointed in each corner, fine to look at but dangerous in a mele. One carton later, Liddy had his ring rising through the ranks to where he remained respected throughout his incarceration until he went home.

The story just begins there.

It seems Mr. Liddy’s wife taught in SEDC. Students were giving her a hard time. So Mr. Liddy, always the protector, gave his wife his most prized prison possession. His fight ring. The twinkle in Mr. Liddy’s eyes is the best part of the story, describing how she walked into class on day, stood there, improvising the traditional fighter fist into palm motion. Didn’t take long before she had the best behaved class in the school. I could guess. You see, as Mr. Liddy tells it almost every student in that class had a family member, neighbor or relative who had visited prison and brought home tales of the fight ring. Never had a problem since. Except when Mr. Liddy made his and her fight rings out of gold. Plummers gold. Rings may be soft as a metal but the story is Liddy rock solid. 

Story continues. Left jacket front over his heart Mr. Liddy wore wings. From the IDF, Israeli Defense Force. After serving time for his country he came out with challenges waiting to be taken. Like parachuting. At age 60 for the first time with the IDF and again at 72. Talk about moments that make Mr. Liddy’s eyes smile, this was my second with him in one night.

 I dearly wanted to ask him about one more fashion detail he bore but didn’t dare. I’m leaving it to my imagination what he did to get those crocodile leather looking cowboy boots that bounced the TV shows lights at the audience all night. Bare handed, I bet, too.


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