Going out with Alex Hawkins usually meant staying up most of the night and, whether you wanted to or not, officially greeting the sunrise. You came home in the early dawn to the accompaniment of birds singing and alarm clocks ringing. The morning newspaper was on the stoop.
There has always been something arresting about Hawkins' personality and that, of course, can be taken literally because there was a time when he and traveling companions were apprehended by the Baltimore County Police Department for playing cards in the back of a barber shop at 4 a.m. Such scandal.
Now Hawkins has turned author for the second time and, take warning, picking up his latest book, "Then Came Brain Damage," will cause you again, under more sobering circumstances, to miss lots of sleep. The latest effort, unlike his earlier presentation, "That's My Story and I'm Sticking To It," dwells on his life after football, where he settled in Atlanta, became a network television announcer with a talent for getting fired and took up with an assemblage of characters that seems fictitious, except they are for real.
The Baltimore Colts and Atlanta Falcons were a part of his life for 10 years, but then he moved on to other pursuits. His best business endeavor, as to turning a profit, was when he was vice president of a waste collecting company and had, as a slogan, "Talk Trash With Us." After merging with a rival organization, he left with $200,000 and put it in a checking account.
He then tried to sell bricks, peddle board games, play in a movie with Burt Reynolds (cast incongruously as a policeman), manufacture tables made from cypress knees gathered out of the swamp, operate a restaurant, enter into a second mortgage on his house, promote an outdoor country music show, offer sweaters for sale out of the trunk of his car and, all the while, creating laughter in and out of bar rooms with playmates who were as bizarre as he is.
Hawkins introduces the readers to such living, breathing characters as John Hunt, Dan Davees, H.M. Hull, The Tall Lady, Country Lee Cummings and a reacquaintance with Norm Van Brocklin, who hated communists and sports writers with equal passion; Muhammad Ali, Jerry Quarry, Paul Hornung and others in the passing parade of unusual and even absurd personalities.
About Van Brocklin: "He was much feared and rightly so. His very presence put white caps on an aquarium."
And of Davees: "He could take both of your eyes out of your head and convince you that you looked better without them."
Regarding Reynolds: "He was naughty but nice, the man the ladies wanted to dance with and their husbands wanted to drink with."
As a broadcaster, Hawkins made an instant impact. He was fired three times by CBS, given extra chances by sports director Bob Wussler in an industry that isn't known for offering compassion for those who kick their lines or make statements that create embarrassing reaction -- like when Hawkins, at the network microphone, said Jake Scott, of the Miami Dolphins, with two broken hands, found out who his real friends were when he went to the men's room.
That verbal impropriety got him bounced by CBS. At a later date, he was announcing games of the World Football League and trying to describe how a new machine, called a "dickerrod" by its inventor, was automatically measuring first downs. While doing an NFL match between the Philadelphia Eagles
and New Orleans, he opened up saying:
"Ladies and gentleman, today we have the two worst teams in football playing on the worst field in the league. Stay tuned, this should be hilarious." On a badly overthrown pass, he was to explain, "Had it not been for the law of gravity, the ball wouldn't have hit anything."
Hawkins, irreverent with that perpetual look of little boy mischief in his eyes, talks about his ill-fated entrance in the restaurant business, the Kenesaw House in Marietta, Ga., where he found out that his two best nights were when he opened and food and drink were free and then at the close when everything on the menu went for $1. He gives a raucous account of trying to rid the premises of an infestation of roaches.
The exterminator drove them away, but to the third floor of the building. Then the proprietor of a magic show night club, located there, hired a company to do the same thing Hawkins had done. So the little pests were racing up and down the stairs, creating bedlam.
Alex Hawkins can write. The pages of his story, describing the ongoing escapades, bring a torrent of laughter. Like the man himself, the book is a gem.