Stillman, Louis

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STILLMAN, LOUIS ("Lou " Ingber ; 1887–1969), U.S. boxing gym manager and owner. In 1921, Stillman was hired by businessman Alpheus Geer to manage his Marshall Stillman Movement gym, despite Stillman's knowing nothing about the sport of boxing. Shortly after his appointment, an antisemitic incident at a nearby gym led to a mass transfer of the disaffected Jewish clientele, amongst them a number of quality fighters. Now calling himself Lou Stillman to simplify things, he started charging admission not only to those who trained, but also to those who wanted to watch. The scheme led to a cycle of increasing numbers of attention-hungry fighters and trainers, followed by more spectators willing to pay the famous 15-cent entrance fee. In 1931, Stillman purchased the gym outright from Geer and moved it to 919 8th Avenue in Manhattan, where it became a magnet for America's greatest boxers. Located two blocks from the old Madison Square Garden, "the University of 8th Avenue" boasted the likes of Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rocky Graziano. The attraction of Stillman's Gym was magnified by the regular presence of entertainment stars such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, and Tony Bennett, who were all boxing enthusiasts. When asked to portray Rocky Graziano, Paul Newman spent many hours studying Stillman's Gym, and in the resulting film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Matt Crowley played the role of Lou Stillman. Those who remember the gym in its heyday were struck not only by the quality of the fighters and constant stream of vips, but equally by the physical dilapidation and filth of the gym that Stillman relished as the perfect environment for grooming the next generation of toughened prize fighters. Stillman himself was remembered as a colorful if irascible character who always wore a .38 pistol at his side and who treated everyone with equal contempt, but who also enjoyed hosting unskilled boxers if their banter was particularly humorous. When Stillman finally sold his gym in 1959, over 35,000 boxers had trained in its legendary confines.

[Robert B. Klein (2nd ed.)]