Where Are They Now?
Interview – Gwen Adair
Mando Guzman of ‘Lite-it Up Boxing’ caught up with boxing referee, Gwen Adair, at the Grand Opening of the “WBC Legends of Boxing Museum” in San Bernardino’s “American Sports University”. Following is an introduction and also the interview that he conducted with the female legend.
When discussing boxing Referee Gwen Adair, where should I start to describe this woman? She is well known in the boxing world, being the first woman to referee a world title boxing match. As one of the first, if not the first, female professional boxing referees, she is the first female referee to be inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and is currently on the WBHOF Board of Directors.
Her mother, Lovie Yancey, who recently passed away, was the founder of the famous “Fat Burger” hamburger chain. There were many times that famous fighters, movie starts and various entertainers would show up for hamburgers after the fight.
If you’ve seen the popular television series “MASH”, then you will recall seeing Gwen running up the hill to greet the MediVac helicopter when the show begins. Gwen Adair has had small appearances in other shows such as the original series “Starsky and Hutch”, and in movies such as “The Towering Inferno” and “Soylent Green”.
G. = Gwen Adair
M. = Mando Guzman
M. Hey, you’re the first interview for my new website. Thanks Gwen.
G. You’re welcome. I’m honored.
M. I haven’t talked to you in a while. You keeping busy?
G. Oh yeah. I’m always doing something.
M. Still judging? I haven’t seen you on TV lately. For a while you were doing all the big fights at Staple’s Center.
G. Well you know how that goes. But I’ve been doing plenty of the local shows.
M. How about the reffing? Are you done with that?
G. Oh yeah. I’m not fast enough for that any more. It was fun while it lasted and I’m still having a good time judging. But as a referee, you were part of the fight; right there with the action.
M. I’ve seen a lot of the California refs doing the big fights in Vegas. Why don’t you?
G. Some of the guys are moving out there and some guys are registered with other organizations. Bobby Byrd moved out to Vegas and he’s doing great. He’s had some big assignments!
M. Well, I’ve got to say, you’ve got to be pretty happy with the accomplishments you’ve made in boxing, which when you first got into it, was a “man’s only” world. The first female pro ref, refereed a heavyweight title bout with Bone Crusher Smith, first female ref to ref a world title bout, induction into the boxing hall of fame, and so on!
G. Yes (laughing), I’m happy about all of that.
M. So you plan to keep on judging?
G. Oh yes. For as long as I can. Boxing is still keeping me busy and I enjoy judging.
M. Well, I’m glad and honored to say you’ve reffed a few of my fights when I was on the LA Sheriff’s boxing team.
G. Oh, that was so much fun and interesting. You’ve come a long way yourself. Congratulations on having your first world title fight.
M. Yeah, it was for the “WBC Light Heavyweight” championship. Didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but it was an experience as a trainer.
M. You ever been hit by a punch?
G. Yes! I caught the end of a punch and went down from it.
M. Did you get hurt?
G. I felt it, but I got up and continued to do my job. The arena sure got quiet when it happened! (Laughing)
M. How do the fighters treat you when you’re working their fights? Have you ever been disrespected?
G. Not really. I do remember one time I was working one of the Ruben Castillos fights. He was in a clinch and I smacked him on the back. I said “Break!” He told me after the fight, “You hit me so hard, I got mad and knocked out my opponent.” (Laughing!) He still tells that story to this day!
M. What’s the story on your autobiography?
G. Well, the guy I was supposed to be working with came up with a lot of delays and postponements. It’ll happen one day soon.
M. Wasn’t there even talk of a movie about your life?
G. Yes, maybe it will happen, but who knows.
M. Well, you do have a good story to tell and not just because of the boxing. Your past relationships and the Fat Burger story- and I told you, the perfect actress to portray you in the movie would be Pam Grier. You have a lot of similarities, which we won’t get into. (Laughing!)
G. Oh, thanks!
M. Hey Gwen, how are you coping with the loss of your mother?
G. Oh, I really miss her. Some times I’m driving around and I tell her how much I miss her.
M. A lot of people don’t know that she was the founder of the famous Fat Burger hamburger chain.
G. That’s right, she sure did.
M. And boy! What a personality she had – never one to hold back her thoughts. I’ll never forget my first conversation with her. I had known you for a while already. You said, “Mando, my mom wants to talk to you.” I said hello and she said, “Hey, are you gay? How come you haven’t tried to sleep with my daughter?” Then she started laughing real hard. I was speechless. All I could say was, “Ma’am, we’re just good friends.” I’ll never forget that!
G. I can’t believe she asked you if you were gay! (Laughing!) But let me share one thing with you. One day when I was at the hospital visiting her, you know she was 96 years old, and the doctor said they couldn’t do much for her because of her age. So anyway, I told her “Mom, thanks for being my mother.” She said, “Thank you for being my daughter”, and smiled. So much more went along with those statements we made, but that was all that needed to be said. Do you know that even though she was 96 years old and in a hospital bed, she never stopped humoring people around her? One time it was shift change and a black male nurse came into the room and introduced himself. He told us that he was going to be Lovie’s nurse for the shift. My mom made it so obvious that she was flirting with him. He turned to me and said, “Your mom is something else. I think she’s flirting with me.” “Yes she is,” I told him.
M. What’s the story with Fat Burger? Are you ever going to open up another one?
G. Well, I can if I want to. I have the right to even though there are different owners now. But I have other ideas about a hamburger stand. I don’t want to say what they are right now.
M. I remember going to the Fat Burger on La Cienega after the Monday Night fights at the Inglewood Forum. They were so good. But they don’t taste the same to me.
G. Well they’re not the same as the classic locations we had. Those had a lot of history.
M. Who are some of the people you remember coming there to get burgers?
G. Oh man! I personally made burgers for Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, like Tyson, Don King, Elizabeth Taylor, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall. Oh, I can’t remember them all. They all came.
M. Well Gwen, I hope you had as much fun with this as I did. Thanks so much for doing this interview for my website. I hope the fans enjoy it too.
G. So do I Mando. You’re welcome. Any time!