The first time Harvey Martin threw a party, he was still Beautiful. That was back in '78, before that little ripple of bad luck when the IRS demanded a quarter of a million dollars in unpaid taxes and threatened to throw him in jail, and his nightclub and five restaurants collapsed and the 11 lawsuits were filed against him and he went nearly $612,000 in debt and he declared bankruptcy and he was fired from his sports casting job on Dallas' Channel 5 and lost his defensive captaincy of the Cowboys and his engagement to Sharon Bell was broken and he was accused in print of snorting cocaine.
Weren't you at that first party, when he had waitresses serving hors d'oeuvres and alcohol gurgling everywhere and so many people in the Jacuzzi and swimming pool that there was hardly room left for the water and so many cars outside that two streets and a couple of neighbors' lawns became parking lots and somebody began swiping knickknacks and Harvey's chess set for souvenirs and somebody else kicked open the front door to make a grand entrance and shattered the full-length mirror on the back of the door? God, it was so much easier being Beautiful back then. . . .
Now it is midnight on a Friday in early May of 1983, and Harvey Martin is throwing his first party since the universe chose his head to cave in on. No, not throwing it—just a nice little underhand lob this time, only 60 people or so. It's a party for the people involved in the production of Damn Yankees, the play at Granny's Dinner Playhouse in Dallas, in which Martin is performing the role of Applegate, the Devil.
People are walking around his house in little gaping groups, like Japanese at Disney World. Some are watching a videotape of the old Damn Yankees movie on the four-foot living-room TV screen and some are watching it in Harvey's massive bedroom and some are running their fingers over his new brass chess set and some are admiring his statuette of The Thinker and some are oohing over the suit of armor in the garage and some are aahing over the waterfall cascading over the rocks from his Jacuzzi into his indoor pool and some are tapping their toes to the rhythm pumping from the waist-high stereo speakers and some are studying the 17 pictures of Martin in his bedroom and some are plunging their fists into the ice buckets of champagne and the plastic crater of fresh shrimp.
September 11, 1983
Mostly, though, everybody is rooting for the six piranhas to eat the 25 goldfish.
The piranhas are assembled in a sullen squadron on the right side of the aquarium set into the stone wall in Martin's living room. The goldfish are in the opposite corner, working at inconspicuous-ness. Misty Rowe, the blonde dumpling who took time off from Hee Haw to star as Lola in Damn Yankees, watches the face-off and feels an analogy coming on. "The piranhas remind me of the Hollywood producers, and the goldfish on the other side are all us starlets," she says. "No wonder Harvey went bankrupt, feeding them all those goldfish. You know, I just can't imagine my Harvey, with that big grin of his and so gentle, having piranhas in his house."
In the bat of a Misty eyelash, a straying goldfish becomes a link in the food chain.
"Harvey!" she screams. "Don't let them do it now! HAR-VEE! Don't let them eat those poor goldfish when I'm here! HARRR-VEEEE! You promised!"
"Hey, that's life, Misty," Martin booms. "If I don't feed 'em, someone else will."
Martin hugs her and suddenly remembers something he needs to do in another room. He picks up a plate of strawberries and cheese and circulates to serve them. He empties ashtrays. He struggles to get Damn Yankees wired into his third TV, out on the pool deck. He pours champagne for guests. He kisses girls. He cannot stand still.
Guests keep trying to draw him into conversation. "You're a natural," declares Brian Baldinger, a backup offensive lineman on the Cowboys. "I saw Joe Namath act at Granny's and he was all right, but he was just up there being Joe Namath. You were acting, man."
Too Tall Jones stops him. "Harvey, you're a natural," he says. "You blew me away!"
"I can't believe it," responds Harvey. "My first play in Dallas and it's a hit."
Too Tall is about to expound on the art of Thespianism—having performed in Diff'rent Strokes himself just last year—when Harvey remembers he needs to go out back to turn on the Jacuzzi.
Two girls jump into the pool with their clothes on. Like a six-foot-five whisper, Martin disappears and returns with two women's swimsuits. "If they don't fit," he says, "I've got more."
"Harvey is a smart guy," says Too Tall admiringly.
Martin hurries off. swigs a shot and then goes in search of a dust cloth. On the four-foot screen the Devil is singing his big number, and everyone in the living room is begging Harvey to do it, too. He starts to mouth it while polishing an ashtray, but the picture cuts out. "They cut my scene!" he yelps, and then suddenly remembers he needs to go serve more barbecued beef.
"Harvey's always been a hyper kind of guy," says Too Tall, "but now you can't talk to him for more than three minutes before he's moving on."
Now Martin is outside, walking his sister, Mary, to her car, shocking her by kissing her for the first time since she can't remember when, happy that she came early because that meant there was one person there that he Anew loved him. And now he's back in the house, disappearing behind curtains into the kitchen. He keeps moving that way until 5 a.m., when the last guests leave.
"You stand still, somebody might get close to you," he says. "I don't stand still much anymore."
Ten minutes!" bellows the stage manager at Granny's. "Ten!"
"This is it," says Harvey Martin. "Laaaast time. Last Applegate. Damn! Kinda sad."
He walks across the wooden floor backstage, making the planks groan like the deck of an old ship. He buries two Michelobs under the ice of the theater's salad bar, for later; this play is too important to him to guzzle them now.
"Great party the other night," someone shouts at Martin. "They'll be talking about it for a long time."
"Gooood," booms Martin.
In his dressing room he ties a red scarf around his neck and puts on a pair of glasses and a red hat for his last performance of the month-long run. "Applegate is here!" he announces, rubbing his hands. "It's amazing. I put these things on and poof, I feel like I'm the Devil."
His laugh seems to come from the bottom of a wine cask, his head thrown back and his tongue hanging out over his lower teeth to make more room for the flow. The way his eyebrows hop over the top of his glasses and that grand-piano grin shines from under them, the way he stretches his words, exaggerating and overlapping them with inflection, and then rewards himself with that belly laugh from the barrel when he sees that he has you . . . surely, thinks the world, surely here swaggers six-feet-five inches of uncontainable happiness.
"Five minutes!" calls the stage manager. "Five!"
"I love this acting stuff," he says. "It's just like sex—the first time is best. Acting like the person I'm supposed to be has always been the easiest thing for me."
For Harvey Martin, acting like the Devil has been a one-month reprieve from hell. The day he got the role he walked outside the theater, thrust his arms to the clouds and shouted, "Thank God!" That was not acting. The offer had come just when he was certain the world had junked him in its rubbish heap of ruined celebrities. He was still reeling from the IRS battle and the humiliation of bankruptcy when the cocaine accusation hit the papers and suddenly, at age 32, the phone had stopped ringing and the TV and radio and personal-appearance requests had disappeared for Dallas' highest-profile Cowboy.
A man whose ballast was inside him might have been able to haul down the sails and sit out the stillness, but all of Harvey Martin's ballast was out there, with those who had rejected him.
"Three minutes. Three!"
And now, in two more hours, Damn Yankees would be finished, and in the wings stillness waits for him again.
"C'mon to Acapulco with me," he says. "I've been planning to go down there the day this play is over. Costs nothin'. Peso's still fallllin' through the ground.
"I heard a few years ago they took a poll down there and voted me the most popular player, and so I just had to go down and find out. Know what? It's true. No whispering behind my back down there. It was just, 'There goes Harvey Martin.' I felt so refreshed."
The exaggerations of voice and grin go away. "I'm getting the hell out of this town," he says. "I need to go where I feel loved. This city is full of hypocrites. I spent half my life bending over backwards being nice to people, and then someone says I used cocaine and they turn their backs on me. One day this city will have to learn I'm a human being."
He thinks the dark cloud has passed on, but it has not. Two months after the play, 1983 training camp began and a whole new round of drug rumors circled him with the leaking of a story that federal agents were investigating the alleged use of cocaine by five Cowboys: Martin, Tony Hill, Tony Dorsett, Ron Springs and Larry Bethea. Martin's playing condition was questioned by Coach Tom Landry, and there were whispers that Martin might even be cut. He survived and played in the Dallas opener in Washington on Monday night, but it seems apparent that his life span in the arena is running short.
"Places!" calls the stage manager, and Harvey Martin jogs into the blackness of the theater, once more to play the person he's supposed to be.
Martin grew up with women—strong, caring, domineering women. They showered him with affection and sheltered him from the shock of the streets. He spent summers with his grandmother in Mabank, a small town an hour or so from Dallas, and he was day and night to her. "You are my baby, you are so pretty," she would tell her only grandson over and over. He spent the rest of the year in Dallas with his mother, who took him with her when she went to scrub the floors of the wealthy and stood up for him whenever he felt threatened.
The man of the house was seldom around in Harvey's early years, and then not at all. Harvey's sister, Mary, says she remembers one story about him: "He took Harvey to the barbershop once, then walked out and left him there."
Helen Martin got through each week by filling up on high-octane religion. Her son became president of the ushers and the youth department and the choir at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church. "We churched that boy to death," his mother says.
Life was a very different proposition whenever Harvey was away from the house of God, his grandmother or Helen Martin. First there was the matter of his ears. "They used to be outstanding ears," says Mary, flapping her hands from her head. "They were out here saying 'Hi!' He had to grow into them."
Then there was his height. "All legs, just like me," says his mother. "Harvey hated his height. He'd kinda stoop down."
And then there was his jaw. The bottom half began to outgrow the upper half, and soon the underbite was so bad that Harvey could clench his teeth and slip a toothpick through the gap without scraping wood. That was kind of a neat trick until he found he couldn't eat pizza or apples, or talk without a lisp. One day at school he laughed, and a girl looked at him oddly and said, "Your teeth don't come together when you laugh." He began talking and laughing with a hand over his mouth.
With his ears growing east and west, his legs growing north and his jaw growing south, the other kids pointed and called him "Monkeybear." Who could blame Monkeybear for keeping his mouth shut during school and his front door shut after it? "I didn't have friends," he says. "I was always alone."
His sister, a year younger, was one of those children whom God kisses and gently blows from the womb. She was the prettiest girl in school—and the fighter of Harvey's battles. Once, as they walked to school, a boy smaller but older than Harvey kept taunting him. Harvey kept taking it and taking it until Mary began fighting the boy. "Harvey stood there the whole time just watching," recalls Mary. "I won, and then he told me I really did a good job. He was like a son to me, even though I was younger."
If there was a way to detour a problem instead pf meeting it head on, Harvey would find it. He hated outdoor physical labor, so he got a job after school washing dishes at a department-store restaurant for $40.25 a week, then paid $5 of it to an old man to cut the grass for him. His boss at the restaurant would go around the kitchen asking each boy if he could work late, but when he came to Harvey he would say, "Harvey, I'll call your mother," and all the boys would laugh.
He attended eight different schools in Dallas, being switched several times because of integration. In the first two weeks of his sophomore year, he saw a schoolmate pull a man off a bus and beat him with a crutch, and he was challenged by another to fight after classes. He transferred to another school.
In his early grade-school years his mother married Sylvester Martin, a quiet man who had grown up on the streets. Sylvester fidgeted when he saw the way Helen shielded her son. When the couple argued over the boy's life of housework, homework and church work, Harvey screamed, "Stop it! STOPPPITTTT!"
Sylvester spent all day driving trucks for the city and all evening driving Titleists on the golf course. Even if he was home at dinnertime, he rarely ate with the family. He was a provider, not a participant. He would give the kids money to buy a kite but would not go out with them to fly it. Helen Martin tried to fill all the gaps. "To us," says Mary, "my mother was the water, the food, the worker, the healer, the defender."
Still, a part of the boy yearned for a father's love, a father's affirmation. Whenever Sylvester came home with a golf trophy, Harvey seemed to come home soon afterward with some scrawny school trophy of his own. Then one day, at the beginning of Harvey's junior year in high school, Sylvester came home and complained, "All my buddies have sons playing football or some other sport. My boy's bigger than any of 'em, and he doesn't do nothin'."
Harvey just frowned.
Two weeks into preseason football practice he tried out, the last player to do so. He was handed the last helmet and pair of shoes. The shoes were a size too small and the helmet had an uncovered screw on the inside that drilled a hole in his forehead. He practiced for two days with blood trickling down his nose and blisters breaking on his feet, and said nothing. Then he asked the coach if all football players lived that way.
New equipment was obtained, not because the big kid had talent, but because South Oak Cliff High had just integrated and no one wanted to ruffle its blacks. "We were actually trying to get rid of him," confides Norman Jett, at that time the school's line coach. "I told the team that Harvey looked like a dying calf in a hailstorm."
The coaches buried Martin in the depth chart at defensive tackle and waited. He hated football and wanted to quit every day, but something would not let him. "I must have had things inside me I don't know about," he says.
"We beat one team 77-7," says Jett. "He might have got in that game."
One day Harvey's sister saw him running punishment laps after practice. When he finished, he came over to the car they drove to and from school and slammed the steering wheel. "They said I didn't hit the blocking sled hard enough," he snapped. "Heck, I didn't wanna hit it. It hit me back!"
Jett figured Martin would not continue in football his senior year. The line coach took one last longing look up Martin's six feet and five inches and rolled a final grenade under the boy. "If you don't beat out Phillip Bangs for the starting job next year," said Jett, referring to a strapping Golden Gloves boxing champ a grade behind Martin, "I'll be the laughingstock of the coaching staff."
Harvey, as usual, just frowned and said nothing. He had never heard the whisper of the challenge from within, but he was an all-day sucker for the challenge from outside.
"I began to play a role," he says. "I became a football player."
By the third game of his senior year Martin was a starter. By the end of the season he was the best lineman on a 12-1 team. Still, he was so skinny and so late-blooming that no college waited on his signature. Jett called Boley Crawford, the offensive line coach at East Texas State in Commerce, and convinced him that he should offer Martin a scholarship.
At Commerce, a very small and very dry town about 60 miles northeast of Dallas, the sheltering of Harvey Martin continued. When he lived at home in the summers, through his last year of college, he still honored his mother's 1 a.m. curfew. He didn't enter a nightclub until his rookie year in the NFL. His first two college seasons were undistinguished. "Harvey," remembers Dwight White, the ex-Pittsburgh Steeler defensive end who roomed with him, "was a thousand percent different than now. He was a big Baby Huey. He was so gentle, small guys used him as an ego-builder. Take his name, even—Harvey is not exactly a thundering name. Guys would push him around, and he felt so bad about himself it was easy to embarrass him. Everybody borrowed money off him. He was more or less a chump."
The shove, once more, came from outside. White got drafted after Martin's sophomore season and came back to campus flashing seven $100 bills. Martin's eyes widened. "He got a glimpse of paradise," says White. "Money is a remarkable motivator."
His senior year, Martin became an NAIA All-America defensive end; he started practicing his autograph. In the spring of 1973 he was drafted in the third round by the Cowboys. "Can't believe it," he kept saying to himself. "Dallas!" He felt warm inside, and safe.
There were two places where Harvey Martin discovered he loved playing the role of a football player. The first was on the Texas Stadium field during his rookie year. Jogging into a game as a pass-rushing specialist, he heard applause. He looked around to make sure. Yes, they were cheering for him! "I thought, 'Wow, ain't that somethin'!' " he says.
The second was outside a movie theater, where he was waiting in a long line to see Young Frankenstein. The theater manager approached him and asked, "Are you Harvey Martin?" Martin nodded and suddenly found himself being whisked past everyone else into the theater. "I said, 'Daayaam. This is worth being good.' "
Harvey would flip through the morning papers each Monday, hoping they had published his picture. When they finally did, he framed it.
He had paid a steep price for the rewards. His first few years in the pros, Cowboy Defensive Line Coach Ernie Stautner often stared at Martin in disgust. "When things got tough he'd look over at me for a way out," Stautner recalls. "I told him he had to stop trying to avoid every bump and bruise. I told him he had to get mean."
The little boy who had watched while his younger sister fought for him bit his bottom lip and nodded. If that was the kind of person it took for them to like you so you could like you, by God, Harvey Martin would be it!
One day in 1976 a Cowboy rookie offensive tackle, Greg McGuire, declared that Martin was not all that strong. The next day, the first time he faced McGuire in drills, Martin blasted out of his three-point stance. The heel of his hand cracked against the side of McGuire's helmet like a pistol shot. Eight minutes later the rookie regained consciousness.
On nights before road games, Martin's hotel roommate. Wide Receiver Drew Pearson, would watch i while Martin would project game films of his opponent on the wall, slam the table and talk himself into the role. His physique became hard. His nickname became Too Mean. But his radio show became The Beautiful Harvey Martin Show. Beautiful!
In 1977 the Cowboys drafted Tony Dorsett, and a thought occurred to Martin: All of America's eyes are upon us now. When the offense is on the sidelines, people will have to watch someone else. Why not Beautiful Harvey Martin?
He uncaged the kind of year that—with the subsequent changes concerning offensive holding—no defensive lineman may ever produce again. In a 14-game season he totaled 85 tackles and a league-leading 23 sacks, throwing his arms out and his head back over each felled body.
The Cowboys advanced to the Super Bowl, and all week before the game in New Orleans, Martin was telling the media, "I dream of security. Being black and growing up in America, let's face it: I have to move when I can, because when I'm not Harvey Martin, all-league, it could be tough. I think of Duane Thomas. When he was a star with the Cowboys, people bragged they knew him. Then he got caught with some grass and it was like he didn't exist."
The Cowboys beat Denver in that Super Bowl, and the finest feeling Harvey had ever known came when it was announced over the P.A. system that Harvey Martin and Randy White were co-MVPs of the game.
Now he had it all—The Seagram's Award as Defensive Player of the Year, a concensus All-Pro selection, the Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy, the Orange Crush commercial, the Mercedes-Benz and the Cadillac El Dorado, the requests for endorsements and personal appearances in Dallas, and a beautiful, intelligent, down-to-earth woman named Sharon Bell, who just happened to love him for none of those reasons.
But there was still the jaw. He was finally starting to let his friends and teammates see the humor he'd bottled up all those years, but sometimes he still heard jokes about the jaw in the locker room and felt the old pain. He had grown a beard to cover it, but he still did not feel Beautiful.
Six weeks after the Super Bowl he lay down and let a doctor cut out an inch and a half of jaw, break and reset the bones, clamp braces on his teeth and wire them shut until everything healed. Waking up from the operation, his first thought was, "Now life's gonna be a breeze."
His only nourishment for two months came through a straw. His weight plummeted from 260 to 214. His off-season conditioning suffered and his coaches wondered about his priorities. He had a friend save him a seat in the back of movie theaters, and then she would rush out to his car to tell him the house lights were out, so no one would see him. He scooted back to the car the instant the credits flashed on the screen.
Two days after the wires came off, he was filming commercials to be shown on national television. He grinned in the mirror and rubbed his hands. Harvey, my boy, he said without a trace of a lisp, it is time to preeeen!
He took his new ring and his new jaw to the nightclubs to see how much love a handsome young Dallas celebrity had coming his way. Sure, Sharon was a great lady, but funny thing about her, she didn't even come to see all his games and often as not hadn't even punched 1080 on her AM dial to hear The Beautiful Harvey Martin Show.
"I was a rude, inconsiderate bastard to Sharon," he says. "I lost all touch with reality."
Women loved him, giggling at his way with words and sensing the vulnerability just beneath the ever-ready grin. But one question ate at him. It was the one the people in the bars asked after they had squeezed his hand and slapped his back. "Well, what are you gonna do when your football career's over, Harv?"
Without football, he told himself, Harvey Martin is nothing. He remembered the days of nothingness and began to invest frantically. "When you're a pro football player you can't take it slow," he says. "You might get hurt. You might get left out. Your name might be gone."
In '73 Martin had lost $5,000 buying a piece of land that turned out to be at the bottom of Lake Ray Hubbard in Texas, and he had almost lost another 20 grand when a couple of sapphires that he was about to invest in, supposedly worth $350,000, turned out to be paperweights. He had also lost $10,000 on a nightclub named The Balls, which burnt down, and in '76 he had invested in a barbecue restaurant named Smokey John's. But he had just been warming up. In '78 he opened a nightclub named Lucifer's and a restaurant named Recipes, both in Dallas; in '79 a restaurant in Irving named Smokey's Express; in '80 a block of renovated restaurants and office space in San Antonio and a second Smokey's Express in Dallas; and in '81 a second Smokey John's in Dallas and a restaurant named Rib Cage in El Paso. After all that, he bought three houses and several chunks of above-water real estate.
He would play the football player and the TV-commercial personality by day and The Beautiful Harvey Martin at night. There was no time to play the businessman. He would write a check and drop it in the mailbox on the way to his new $32,000 Jaguar: Business closed for the day. Then it was off to an appearance and a quick $1,000. Sometimes he would even do them for nothing. He'd spend all day with retarded children at the Special Olympics, refereeing their games and signing autographs tirelessly. He'd pick up babies and laugh when they wet him. He'd show up two hours late, say, "Had a flat on LBJ," then toss out a quip, laugh that wine-cask laugh and watch everyone warm to him. Harvey Martin was an irresistibly nice guy.
He reminded people of a lovable, overgrown kid. He liked to drink Kool-Aid and watch cartoons. His favorite character was Wile E. Coyote; he had a large stuffed Wile E. in his bedroom. Wile E., he was the one who kept coming back, no matter how many times life left him in little pieces.
In June of '78 a friend picked Martin up at the airport and said the IRS had called while he was away. For the '77 tax year, Martin had filed only his personal return. His corporate return, which should have reported an income of approximately $45,000 from Superteams, radio and commercial income and the Seagram's Award, had never been filed.
Martin says his accountant, who had all of Martin's earnings sent to him and who mailed Harvey the monthly statements on how it had been disbursed, admitted the oversight and took the blame. Martin immediately agreed to pay up. The IRS agent shook his head. The Government began to audit past returns and decided Martin actually owed more like $250,000. He was read his rights and threatened with jail. Harvey's beautiful new jaw dropped.
The Cowboys' equipment managers began handing him messages when he walked out of meetings: Call Lucifer's. Call Smokey John's. Call Mercantile National Bank. He would walk on the practice field worrying about the broken heater at the nightclub or the waitress shortage at the restaurant. His loan payments lagged. His co-owners bickered. Harvey was never there enough to know what was going on.
Undercover agents stopped by Lucifer's to ask about alleged drug trafficking at the club. There were rumors of prostitution. Receipts were being changed; money kept vanishing from the cash register. Martin had opened the club with $25,000 from his '78 Super Bowl check, giving a one-third interest to two friends—brothers—who put up a mere $1,300. The $25,000 was gone in the first three months, and he pumped in tens of thousands more. He was handed an invoice for janitorial equipment for $12,000; the broom handle and the bucket must have been 24-carat gold.
Martin kept getting new bank loans. It was easy for a Cowboy, just smile and sign. Lucifer's went under after only six months when the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission demanded its percentage on every drink sold and there was no cash left to pay. Among the two co-owner brothers and Martin's sister and a girl friend, who had also helped operate the club, there was a four-way sword fight with pointed fingers. Martin was the one left bleeding red.
Even without Lucifer's, hell blazed on. Every moment between Cowboy meetings his teammates would see Martin on the phone and shake their heads. He started being late for meetings, and they began to grumble. He remained the team sack leader or co-leader every year, but his totals dwindled—to 16 in '78, to 10 in '79, to 12 in '80, to 10 in '81. Landry named Randy White the new defensive captain.
Beautiful Harvey Martin felt ugly inside, but he tried to remain the grinning, drink-buying person he was supposed to be. He bought a full-length brown suede coat with a fur collar. At Christmas he would call a friend who sold jewelry and say, "Hey, man, need some presents." Harvey would spend a thousand bucks, and 10 or 11 sweet young things would be wearing gold around their necks on Christmas Day.
He lent money to relatives and friends and flat-out flunkies. He lent one friend his Mercedes and had to retrieve it with a tow truck. He let friends stay in his house and load his phone bill with long-distance calls. He bought expensive tropical fish on the advice of his fish salesman, who said the piranhas wouldn't eat them, and awoke to find hundred-dollar investments devoured.
Once, driving down Field Street in Dallas with a friend named Martin Marshall, Harvey suddenly jammed on his brakes and jumped from his car, leaving it in the middle of the street. "A bag lady was going through a trash can," Marshall says. "Harvey handed her $20 and said, 'Ma'am, please don't let me see you going through a trash can again.' "
Harvey trusted everyone. A woman claimed he was the father of her baby and he began paying child support. When she asked for more and threatened a paternity suit, blood tests proved Martin was not the father. He continued paying anyway. "Such a cute little kid," he said.
His phone number and house keys became common property. Girls called at 4 a.m. Calls to London were charged to his number from pay phones. Pearson stayed at his house for six months and left shaking his head. "I'd wake up and see people there who weren't there when I went to bed," he said.
Martin would find his clothes disturbed and could tell someone had gone through his drawers. His $2,400 watch disappeared; he replaced it with a $3,000 one. A girl friend bought him a $1,750 gold bracelet with 37 diamonds spelling "Harvey" and asked him to co-sign on the loan when she couldn't get credit. Martin ended up paying $1,450 of it.
The leeches kept coming, but Martin was too hungry for their warmth to pluck them off. Being a native-son Cowboy had become a curse: The man who had spent his boyhood alone now kept hearing from wonderful old school pals.
Martin's stomach tightened, and the hair on the crown of his head began to fall out. He stopped sitting on couches, and wore hats so no one would see the bald spot and make fun. He couldn't sleep. Finally, he stopped leaving his house. If he couldn't grin and make jokes, he couldn't be seen, for he believed no one would like him if they saw another side. His mailbox became gorged with pink registered-mail slips and letters from banks screaming for loan payments. He had an unlisted phone put in so he could talk to his family. The IRS terror went on and on, and he paid $25,000 in lawyers' fees to fight it off. At the height of his depression, he didn't phone his mother for a month. Some nights he sat alone and cried.
He began sitting on the pool deck, where the gurgle of the water falling over the rocks drowned the doorbell and the phone. And then even that shard of haunted peace was shattered. One evening as he sat at poolside he heard a crash. A girl he'd known had scaled his wooden fence, kicked in the Plexiglas in the back door and broken in.
Between the private and public life of Harvey Martin there no longer stood even a pane of glass.
In August of 1981 the horrific circus ride slowed for a moment and Martin saw his chance to jump off. Sharon Bell agreed to marry Martin and apply her Master of Public Administration degree to his devastated estate. They were to marry in the autumn—but Harvey hesitated. A piece of him still needed the Jaguar prowls down Dallas' bar-studded Greenville Avenue, and the 2 a.m. ego stroking from more than just one person's hand. He postponed the date until Valentine's Day of '82, and when that approached he again postponed it. "I just can't go through with it," he finally admitted to her, and the engagement ended.
"I didn't feel like a guy's supposed to feel when he gets married," he says. "I don't know what that feeling is, but I didn't feel it. And besides, I was in the middle of all my financial problems, and I never take my problems to anybody."
He couldn't guess that they would only deepen. In early August 1982, the largest drug raid in Dallas history netted 35 suspects, and Cowboy Vice-President of Personnel Development Gil Brandt informed Martin that pictures had been found of him with Danny Stone, one of the key figures in an alleged multimillion-dollar cocaine ring, and a barber who had cut Martin's hair. Martin tried to shrug it off; shucks, thousands of people posed with good ol' Harv. But the papers screamed it, and the rumors swirled. As he stood outside the Dallas practice facility one day, signing autographs for little boys, a reporter asked Martin about the cocaine once more. Martin looked at the little boys and then at the reporter. He slammed his car door and roared away.
He tried to slam the door on all of it, the drug stories and the unpaid bank loans and the IRS, and just go back to playing football, but then the players' strike was called and the paychecks stopped. Harvey Martin was crushed. In December he filed for bankruptcy, listing $611,987 in debts, 145 creditors and 11 lawsuits filed against him or corporations including his name.
He came home one day during the strike, pushed the button in his Jaguar that raised the garage door, parked the car, then turned the knob on the door to his house. The door was locked. It seemed everyone in Dallas had a key to Martin's pad, except Martin. He pulled his right foot back and kicked and kicked and kicked, and then he walked through the splinters and shook.
Two weeks before the strike ended, Channel 5 took away Martin's sports-casting job. "People liked his work," says Sports Director Scott Murray. "But he was undependable. We'd have a camera crew waiting somewhere and he wouldn't show up, or we'd have a film editor on overtime waiting and he'd come three hours late. He was just such a nice guy and an easy touch that he'd allowed himself to get involved in too many other things."
At a post-strike game in Washington a few fans celebrated Martin's bankruptcy by pelting him with pennies. As he dropped into his three-point stance on a Washington extra-point attempt, a Redskin lineman hissed. "Hey, Harvey, need a loan?"
On a play late in the game, an interception thrown by Joe Theismann, Martin landed a forearm fraught with frustration on the quarterback's face. Then he took what was left of his rage and vented it on Wide Receiver Art Monk's skull. The two catharses gave the bankrupt defensive end one more creditor. He owed Pete Rozelle a fine of $1,500.
Still, Martin thought the storm had finally passed. He had shrugged off his debts through the miracle of Chapter 7, and his mother now controlled his finances with a cobra of a checkbook that snapped anytime Harvey's fingers came near. He registered eight sacks in the strike-shortened season, and many felt it was the best football he had played in three years.
In the week before the Cowboys' second-round playoff game against Green Bay, Martin saw men gathered around his locker after practice, whispering. They were news reporters who wanted Martin's reaction to Stone's testimony in court that day that Martin's involvement was more serious than a few friendly snapshots. "He would go in on it [cocaine] with me," Stone had said. "[He] would say, 'Here's [some money], I want so-and-so.' . . . I don't think he'd ever done it before [he knew me]. I think I talked him into taking a toot."
Martin was stunned. "Please believe me," he begged. "Somebody is trying to hurt me bad. I don't know why. My God, he lied on me. . . ."
Harvey went home, and all the pain and all the anxiety of all the years came galloping back to him on the heels of this hot-breathing new hurt. He remembered Duane Thomas. His heart pounded. He couldn't sit still and feel this anymore. He called his mother and told her he was quitting football that day.
At midnight a rap on the front door awakened ex-Cowboy Tackle Rayfield Wright, who as a veteran had helped Martin in his early years. Wright, in his robe, opened the door. "Just looking at Harvey," Wright said later, "I got chill bumps all over me."
"I'm quitting, Cat," Martin said. "I'm sick of people accusing me of things I haven't done."
"Man," said Wright, "you gonna quit because of that?"
"I'm tired of fighting."
"Man, life is a fight. No matter how weak or tired you get, living is fighting."
Martin began to cry. "You know what I think it really was, beneath it all?" Wright said. "It was the shame he had brought to his mama."
At 2 a.m. Martin went home. A few minutes later a telephone ring awoke Tight End Billy Joe DuPree, and Martin thrashed through it again. He didn't sleep all night. In the morning he didn't report to work. His sister dialed, and after 20 rings he answered, telling her he was going to drive to his late grandmother's old house in Mabank.
"He wanted to escape back to his old haven," Mary says. "I lit into him. I told him I was going to leave my kids and sit on his front step until he went to practice. I told him if he quit, he was admitting guilt. He said, I still don't know,' and I yelled, 'Then you're guilty!' He started screaming, and then he started apologizing, and I said, 'There you go again, apologizing to everybody for showing your real feelings.' "
His mother called. "You're not gonna quit," she ordered. "That's just what some honkie wants you to do."
Finally, Martin trudged to his car and went to practice. But the story ran for days, and his two remaining playoff performances were dismal. The Dallas police chief announced he would not pursue the allegations against Martin, but Harvey's friends stopped calling, fearing his phone was bugged, and the reaction of many of his teammates and coaches stayed with him. "I went through it all alone," he says. "No one called me aside to say, 'It's O.K., we understand.' That's O.K., but I'll remember it. Randy White—I love him, and he's a great player—is the only one who gets a pat on the back on this team.
"And it was all because some defense attorney wanted to take attention off his client. I, Harvey Martin proper, never did a damn thing. How much can one man take?"
"Hey," says Pearson when asked about Martin's feeling that his teammates didn't support him, "when you're talking drugs, it's stay as far away as possible. Guys have to do that just to protect themselves."
When the playoffs ended, Martin would sometimes sit for hours in a friend's office, not wanting to be alone. Finally, he stomped into the office of his agent, Sarah Norton, and demanded to know why she no longer arranged any appearances or commercials for him. "You know what I'm fighting," she told him.
"It scared me," she admitted later. "He seemed desperate."
He returned to his house and watched the piranhas pursue the goldfish when they were hungry and ignore them the moment they were full. And he tried to understand what was happening to him. But the only thing he felt was the ache to live in the fishbowl once again.
Three months after the season he checked into the Hazelden Foundation, a center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation just outside Minneapolis. He stayed for a week. "We sent him there to evaluate the program for us," Landry claimed, "not to dry out. I don't feel he's involved [with drugs] right now."
The media and his teammates were quick to express skepticism. His mother became angry. "The best thing to come out of it all for that child," she said, "is that they are teaching him how to hate."
It is just past noon on the day after Damn Yankees has closed, and Harvey Martin finally appears from his bedroom, exhaling away the night in yawn after yawn. He greets the woman in the living room, whom the maids let in at 10:30, and walks back toward his bedroom. She follows him to the bedroom door, finds herself confronting another guest and pulls the hastiest U-turn you will ever see a woman in high heels make. She leaves the house, and Martin comes out cringing. He is wearing a shiny silver jacket with HARVEY stitched in blue across the breast. He drops off his other guest at a shopping mall and heads for Biffs, a bar-restaurant in North Dallas. As he walks in. Biffs father invites him to his table and a man selling home security systems hands him his card and Martin waves to everyone and finds an empty table and kisses the waitress, who whispers that a girl has called to say she left her pocketbook in his backseat. The hostess comes up to say someone wants him on the phone, and Harvey smiles like Snidely Whiplash and walks off with his arm around her shoulders.
He returns and talks about how he has become a loner. "I'm very lonely now," he says, "but I feel safer living this way. I'm drawing closer to the ones I know love me. I don't trust anyone else now. Suddenly you find out you only have your mother. And it'll stay this way until I get married, until I find the protection of a woman. Through all the hard times, all I've ever had to trust were women.
"Life used to be fun. It's not fun anymore. I'm more cautious. More afraid. I don't go to the meat-market bars. I stay to myself because I can't be ugly to people. I tried to make everyone like me, but there are people who don't like God. I realize now that every time my picture comes on TV there are people saying, 'I'm crazy about Harvey Martin' and people saying, 'I hate that sonuvabitch.' It's a cruel lesson. I can't wait for life to get back to the way it used to be, before anyone knew Harvey Martin."
The scowl of the man he is not supposed to be hangs like a dark wrinkled curtain over his face. "The fun's out of being a football player, too," he says. "Ever since Don Reese did that article on cocaine [SI, June 14, 1982], it's like there's an all-out effort to catch us at something. The public and the media don't understand what they're doing to the people living this life. You can't go out and drink three beers or meet a new girl. Now people feel like they have to bring you down if you're a celebrity, and if you happen to be black, too—oh, wow!"
He swallows a third of his beer and repeats three times, "This is the South, man. This is the South. This is the South'. With a white guy it wouldn't be the same. I'm sorry—no! They found a vial of white powder on a white guy on the team [Cowboy reserve Defensive Tackle Don Smerek] and nothing happened. If it'd been me, there'd have been a trial.
"Being a Cowboy is sugar-coated. But look at what happens when you retire. Who do you see on the commercials on national TV—the Walt Garrisons, the Bob Lillys, the Roger Staubachs, the Don Merediths. You ever see a black Cowboy? You ever see Calvin Hill or Bob Hayes or Cornell Green or Don Perkins or Rayfield Wright? They had great careers but somehow they didn't leave in good graces. It frightens me."
His friends say Harvey has become harder to get close to. He has given his Mercedes-Benz to his family because he doesn't want to risk leaving a second car in front of his house, where someone might plant drugs in it. He has changed his phone number and his door locks, and he swears he has begun the struggle to change his source of self-esteem.
His beauty is his resilience. "I'll be back," he says. "I'll be a leader on this team again." He leaves Biffs with the hostess' number and gets into his 12-cylinder Jaguar, which gets eight miles a gallon if he drives it right. The sun slices through for the first time all day, and he begs the lady driving in front of him to turn right on red—"Please turn, honey, please turn"—and she does and he hoots, "All riiiight! Ha-ha-ha!" and a blonde in a Corvette pulls alongside and he shouts, "Daayam!" and a song he loves comes on the radio and he cranks the volume and snaps his meaty fingers and croaks it out.
"Maybe we can try again! Tryyy! Tryyyyyy! Maybe we can try again!"
He pulls into the garage, complaining because he says he has seen 10 other Jags on the road that day and walks back outside to feel the putting-green perfection of his newly mowed lawn. "Damn, that's nice," he says. "Gotta be that way, you know. This is Harvey Martin's."
Beautiful Harvey Martin's?
"Yeah," he says, grinning. "Beautiful Harvey Martin's."