There’s an old saying, that a picture is worth a thousand words.
But there are also occasions when a picture isn’t quite all that it seems.
That’s the case with an eerie photograph in the corner of the Caesars Palace poker room. This photo (above), taken by legendary photographer Neil Leifer, shows former Heavyweight Boxing World Champion Sonny Liston popped up at a blackjack table. The photo was taken here at Caesars Palace in 1969. Liston was signed as a host and promoter for the casino, which lasted only a short time.
Sonny Liston was a deeply troubled man. He would be dead less than two years after this photo was taken.
* * *
I’ve been working the World Series of Poker Circuit stop here at Caesars Palace. This marks the seventh straight year I’ve covered the event.
One of the many things that makes the Caesars Palace poker room unique is its collection of classic sports photography. Most of the photos upon the walls are instantly recognizable to any sports fan. Iconic images of Muhammad Ali, Vince Lombardi, Joe Namath, Casey Stengel, George Forman, Secretariat, Sonny Liston, and many others adorn the walls while cards are dealt, chips are stacked, and money cycles from pocket to pocket.
Most of the photos show moments of triumph and jubilation. But one grave image reveals something far more disturbing.
The photo sadly and brilliantly captures Sonny Liston as he must have been at the precise moment it was taken. This is a frightened man This is a man who has lost all hope. It’s a haunting portrait of a man staring sheepishly into the camera lens — his eyes seemingly crying out, help me.
Look closely. Look into those eyes. This is not the picture of a boxing champion. Rather it’s the image of a busted and broken man who was used and ultimately discarded by those who profited from his talent and toil.
Sonny Liston’s story is the working man’s story.Read More