Jim Brown is shilling for sick thrills

March 08, 1994|By Mark Kriegel | Mark Kriegel,New York Daily News

On March 11, Jim Brown -- the greatest of all football players, and a self-proclaimed apostle in the war on violence -- will provide color commentary for something called The Ultimate Fighting Championship II. For $14.95, cable viewers will be able to gorge themselves, a visual feast of broken bones and blood. There are no gloves allowed, as these are bare-knuckled contests between experts of various fighting disciplines.

The fights, staged in a ring enclosed with chicken wire, are nothing short of gruesome. You can open up a guy pretty good with an elbow or a knee, a head-butt or an uncontested, bare-fisted haymaker. The promotional video is heavy on defenseless fighters getting stomped on the canvas. "Each match will run until there is a designated winner," according to the accompanying press release, "by means of knockout, surrender, doctor's intervention or death."

It is not by coincidence that the site will be Denver, where there is no state athletic commission and no rules. Unlike the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, this time fighters will be allowed -- encouraged, perhaps? -- to kick and punch each other in the groin.

Ultimate Fighting exists as the game Mortal Kombat come to life, something that strikes at the dead heart of a violent video culture. This isn't fake wrestling. This is real, and as such promises to be as brilliant as it is lowbrow.

The brains behind Ultimate Fighting is Campbell McLaren, who studied film at Berkeley and MIT. "Is the violence selling this? Yes," he says.

Ultimate Fighting I aired last November just as the attorney general was holding hearings on the effects of violence on television. "We picked up a little controversy with that," said McLaren. "That never hurts."

About 100,000 households bought the last show, the highlight of which was a Sumo wrestler who suffered a terrible gash over his eye and had to be taken from the ring after 26 seconds, minus two teeth.

"It's conceivably the most brutal thing ever on TV," says McLaren.

Enter Jim Brown, football player, action hero, much-- accused woman-beater, crusader.

"We got Jim Brown involved very purposefully," said McLaren.

He'll be doing more than the color commentary. He'll be there, along with two Bloods and two Crips, to promote his Amer-I-Can program, which is supposed to rescue city kids from gangs and guns.

"I've never heard of a drive-by kicking," said McLaren.

No, but the culture of violence has roots in the arcade and video versions of Mortal Kombat. It's about kids who mistake Pacino's "Scarface" and Schwarzenneger's "Terminator" for documentaries, who have been rendered numb and dumb by all the kung-fu flicks, who have come to worship violence, about children who have lost the ability to distinguish between real and fake, right and wrong.

McLaren has a right to make a buck, however distasteful or even perverse. No one will be forced to pay $14.95.

But Jim Brown is the worst kind of fraud here.

Jim Brown says he's trying to stop the violence. While getting paid to promote it.

A portion of the proceeds are supposed to go to Amer-I-Can. But that doesn't exactly qualify Jim Brown as a role model. No fluffy chat with Roy Firestone changes the truth; Jim Brown is hyping and helping the worship of violence.

Jim Brown did not respond to a request to be interviewed Monday. So all there is to judge him by is his resume. Before inventing Amer-I-Can, he was by various turns the greatest football player, an actor in the "Dirty Dozen" and a big Hollywood party guy who had quite a way with the ladies.

In 1965, he was arrested for beating and sexually molesting two teen-age girls. One of the kids dropped charges. Brown was found not guilty of attacking the other.

Three years later, he was arrested for assault with intent to commit murder after his girlfriend was found semiconscious under his apartment balcony. The girlfriend also dropped charges. Brown got off with a $300 fine for resisting arrest.

In 1978, he served a day in jail for beating up a golf partner after an argument over ball placement on the greens.

In 1985, Brown was charged with beating and raping a woman in his home. Prosecutors later dismissed the case.

A year later, Brown was busted again for beating up another girlfriend. She dropped the charges, too.

You get the picture. Maybe after he rids the streets of gang violence, he can sign up for another public-service campaign: Don't Dis Your Sis.

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