Jerry Orbach and wife Elaine
with host Gerry Cooney.
FIGHTERS INSTITUTE FOR SUPPORT
Gerry Cooney Attracts Celebs
To Benefit Indigent Fighters
Text and Photos by JULES PEIMER
T was Gerry Cooney's Celebrity Golf Classic Tournament at the Sea Oaks Golf Club in Atlantic City. Naturally, Dick Capri came with an appropriate story.
Every time this golfer sees a water hole he panics and is incapable of playing," Capri said. "He doesn't know what to do. His caddy says he knows a hypnotist who can cure him so he'll never see water again.
"The day after being hypnotized, he goes out to play golf. He looks around and doesn't see any water. He feels wonderful and his game improves immediately.
Don Comforti and Gabe Kaplan.
“He gets up to the tee and hits the ball 300 yards down the fairway. He’s amazed he doesn't see water. He walks to where the ball is, lifts the club up for the second shot…and drowns."
More than twenty-five celebrities participated in the tournament hosted by the Sands Casino & Resort. The event benefited the Fighters Institute for Support and Training (FIST) which Cooney founded to help needy fighters.
Among the celebrities were such as Jerry Orbach of Law & Order; comedian Dick Capri, boxing legend Jake LaMotta, boxing champion Carlos Ortiz, former New York Giants football player Curtis McGriff, New York Jets defensive end Rick Lyle, comedian/actor Gabe Kaplan, and Giants player Billy Taylor, and many other greats from the fields of horse racing, baseball and basketball.
"At the age of 16 or17, fighters enter the boxing world dreaming of becoming world champions," Cooney said.
Friar members Jerry Orbach and Dick Capri
with football great JT Turner.
"Fifteen years later, even though they failed in their attempt, they're still fighting to survive. Many fighters have no 'safety net.' Many lack an education. Others are hurt and unable to continue fighting and some end up on drugs. They've been knocked down many times.
“I know what it's like to be knocked down but the fighting game has been good to me. That is why I started FIST. We help to get them back on their feet."
Jerry Orbach turns out to be an excellent golfer.
"As a youngster I played a great game of pool," Jerry said. “As I grew up I became aware that I also excelled at golf and I could have easily been a golfer. All I needed was more time.
“I'm sure you know that the game requires a great deal of time and since I became an actor, I just couldn't spare the time it required."
I noticed a gentleman wearing the loudest colored pants I've ever seen on anyone. He turned out to be Tony Veteri of the National Football League who refereed seven Super Bowls. I asked him what was the most controversial call he had ever made.
Gerry Cooney and wife Jen and son
"I made many controversial calls but the game between the Cincinnati Bengals, coached by Paul Brown, and the NY Jets, coached by Weeb Ewbank, was the worst," he said.
"Richard Casper of the NY Jets, who was standing just passed the goal line with his back facing the goal posts and arms outstretched in front of him, had just caught a pass from Joe Namath. Thinking it was a touchdown the crowd went wild.
“I took the ball from Casper and placed it on the one-yard line and signaled it wasn't a touchdown. The stadium went wild.
“Paul Brown said that I had made the best call that he had ever seen. Weeb Eubank was furious and he chased me off the field. I'm sure he would have killed me if he had caught me.
“All through the game I was constantly booed."
“The next day when the films were shown, everyone then realized I was right. When Casper caught the ball with his arms outstretched in front of him the ball had not crossed the goal line."
The game now has instant replay, which would have negated a possible riot. The officials' call would have been made within 90-seconds.