One of the gentlemen at right is Benjamin Harrison, pictured here on the head of a cane in a collection of presidential books and memorabilia in Ossining, N.Y. The other is the collector, Herbert Lazarus, 76, author of the YESTERDAY (page 108) on his brother Joe's experiences as a boxer in the Paris Olympics of 1924.
The brothers' interest in the sweet science dates from their childhood in Bayonne, N.J., where they grew up in a house their father had designed, which included a bowling alley, a billiard table and a gym. It was in that gym that Joe Lazarus, "a remarkable, outgoing personality," according to his younger brother, flowered as a boxer.
Herbert was a lad of 17, between his freshman and sophomore years at Yale, when he accompanied his brother as his trainer to the '24 Games. He recalls it as a time very much like that portrayed in Chariots of Fire. Along with several U.S. team members and assorted movie stars, he visited the U.S. Olympic headquarters at Chateau de Rocquencourt. Herbert took a snapshot of Joe with Mary Pickford, but it came out blurry—and, yes, he witnessed the storied 100-meter victory of Britain's Harold Abrahams, from a seat beside 14-year-old Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
After the Games both Lazaruses became lawyers. Herbert, a law secretary for a New York Supreme Court judge until 1933, subsequently was a corporate attorney for Paramount Pictures and ABC, and in 1958 became president of Parmelee, a company that operated taxicabs in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. He retired in 1977, but still practices law amid the presidential paraphernalia in his Ossining home. "Old lawyers never die," says Lazarus. "They just lose their appeal."
May 6, 1984
Joe attended Fordham Law School and was talked into captaining the university's boxing team. He became an insurance broker, but at least once in his adult years the family had to talk him out of turning pro in the ring. "We didn't want him to be a pro boxer."
His story ended in bitter irony, on a Manhattan street corner in 1943, when he was killed while acting as a peacemaker in a street fight. One of his clients had gotten into a barroom brawl with two British merchant seamen and, when the fight moved into the street, the client spotted Lazarus and appealed to him for help. Lazarus had calmed the group and made all parties shake hands, but then one of the sailors took a wild swing that sent Lazarus through the plate-glass window of a drugstore, severing an artery in his thigh, and he bled to death.
Herbert's love of boxing survived the tragedy. He collected books and prints on the subject until 1965, when he ran out of storage room. He donated the entire collection—57 prints and 695 books dating back to 1727—to the Beinecke rare-book library at his alma mater.
Lazarus has written much as a lawyer—opinions for judges, briefs, official documents, correspondence—but this is his first foray into magazines. "After writing so many things for so many people," he says, "this is the first time I've really written something under my own name, and it's gratifying."