Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom

In August of 1959, Skaneateles hosted Maxie Rosenbloom, a legend in two professions. Rosenbloom was in town in pursuit of his second profession, that of actor, appearing in a touring company production of Guys & Dolls at the Lyric Circus tent. He stayed at the Sherwood Inn, dined at the Krebs and provided good copy for the Skaneateles Press.

In his first profession, that of prizefighter, he was light heavyweight champion from 1930 to 1934. Although he fought 299 times, he had just 19 knockouts to his credit; he later said, “I always hated to hit hard.” His open-gloved style, slapping and cuffing, frustrated other fighters and inspired a disgusted Damon Runyan to tag him “Slapsie Maxie.”

In his four-year reign as champ, Rosenbloom fought 106 times — a fight every 15 days — including 8 title defenses. It seemed he would fight anybody, anywhere. He fought in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field and Boston’s Fenway Park. One night in Indiana, he fought for a percentage of the gate and made $87, less than the loser.

His most significant bout took place on March 10, 1933. In 15 rounds at Madison Square Garden, Rosenbloom defeated Adolf Heuser, the German light heavyweight champion. Rosenbloom’s victory over the “Bulldog of the Rhine” took place less than two months after Adolf Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany; stung by the Aryan fighter’s loss, Hitler issued a decree against German athletes competing against Jews (especially Jews who might win).

Rosenbloom’s punch-drunk persona, which he came by honestly, was the making of his second career. Starting in 1937, he appeared as a lovable lug in movies such as Mr. Moto’s Gamble (1938), Submarine Patrol (1938), Each Dawn I Die (1939), Passport to Alcatraz (1940), To the Shores of Tripoli (1942) and a great many comedy vehicles, of which Wine, Women and Bong (1951) has the most intriguing title.

Marie Wilson, Rosenbloom and Arline Judge in Harvard, Here I Come (1941)

On television, he was praised for his dramatic performance as a washed-up fighter in Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956), and appeared in more customary comic roles on The Donna Reed Show, The Munsters, The Man from UNCLE and I Dream of Jeannie. And Rosenbloom’s friend Jackie Gleason paid homage to him in a Honeymooners episode, in which Ralph Kramden read aloud a TV listing, “Fights Of The World: Maxie Rosenbloom vs. Kingfish Levinsky.”

Between 1951 and 1961, Rosenbloom toured often as Big Jule in the musical Guys & Dolls, including a stint at The Dunes in Las Vegas, with Dan Dailey and Betty Grable in the lead roles. And in 1959, one of those touring companies brought him to Skaneateles.

A gracious guest, Rosenbloom told the Skaneateles Press reporter, “You sure got a pretty little town here. I couldn’t help thinking that as I looked out on the beautiful Skaneateles lake across the way from my room at the Inn.”

But he saved his best material for The Krebs:

“When I arrived last night I’d heard so much about Krebs’ food I decided to go there. A horrible place to go if you’re on a diet — which reminds me of the days my mother used to cook for me. I kept eating and eating and eating and when I got sick I stopped. So — after leaving Krebs 10 pounds wiser — I met my friend who asked me to do this column. If you enjoy this column call me at the Sherwood Inn and invite me to your home for dinner.”

There is no record of whether anyone took him up on the offer.

* * *

Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom’s column was “translated into English by Arlene Gaston” and appeared in The Skaneateles Press, August 21, 1959. And in the Guys & Dolls program, this ad promised something special for theater-goers at the Sherwood Inn:

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