By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
As his condition worsened toward the end of 1991, Alzado's celebrity friends planned to come to his rescue with a January 11, 1992, benefit for something called the Lyle Alzado National Steroid Education Program. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagal, George Foreman, Pat Boone, Larry King, Mickey Rourke, Jerry Lee Lewis, Maria Shriver--all planned to attend the Beverly Hills gala. But two more tragedies struck: Alzado's business manager had a heart attack, and the gala was canceled at the very last second.
Alzado was crushed.
That May, the cancer finally killed him. He was only 43.
Perhaps no Bronco has slapped, slugged and screwed more women than The Vance. But he never kissed them.
Raging Bull may have been the last word in movies about domestic violence, but The Vance's self-published autobiography, published in 1994 just after his Bronco career ended, really hits home. On the field he was a speedy, graceful receiver who helped the Broncos land in three Super Bowls. Off the field, he beat women with his fists, his feet, golf clubs, cars and whatever else was handy.
Johnson's book was supposed to be an apology for his years of abusive behavior. But 90 percent of it is a proud and almost fond retelling of his thousands of sexual conquests. The Vance always knew how to turn around a bad situation and try to get sympathy. When he appeared naked on an HBO special on the NFL, Johnson threatened to sue. "Although I had shown my dick to a lot of women individually over the years," he wrote, "I was very embarrassed to have people all over the city and possibly the country talking about my dick."
In an appendix, Johnson lovingly listed the scores of flashy cars he'd owned. But as the late Greg Lopez noted in a News column about a Johnson book-signing party, The Vance couldn't remember the names of all the children he had fathered. (There are at least seven.) Johnson ended his book with the words, "I'm sorry." But in the rest of his book, Johnson never threw the first punch: He hit people after they hit him, and they would "trip" or "fall" or "run into" his foot.
He turned out to be the ultimate raging bullshitter.
"Being The Vance meant being a guy running around the city doing whatever he wanted to do," ex-Bronco Reggie Rivers, a Johnson confidante and ghostwriter, told a San Diego reporter. "Basically, it meant living the life of a 2-year-old rather than a 22-year-old."
With the fists of a 22-year-old.
Scenes from a life, courtesy of The Vance himself:
* While married to Chri, he threw a cassette case at her and cut her leg. She ran into the bedroom and cried. "I kept yelling at her to shut up. But every time I screamed at her, it made her cry even louder. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I ran into the bedroom with some paper, and shoved it into her mouth to muffle her crying."
* While he was with Angela, who was pregnant at the time: "I grabbed her and shook her violently while I yelled at her that I knew she was lying and that I knew she had fucked my teammates. I shoved her against the wall and against a closet door, and I kept screaming at her...I started slapping her, but slapping her just wasn't enough. So I pushed her and she fell into the closet." To revive her, Johnson splashed water on her from the toilet.
* While he was with Bettina: "At the height of the argument, she charged at me like she was going to knock the shit out of me or scratch me or something, and I stuck my foot out to stop her. She ran right into my foot, and the blow caught her in the stomach and knocked the wind out of her. She went down to the ground and was gagging like she was going to throw up."
* He impregnated Ana and then deserted her, but he kept returning to see her to have sex. Once he showed up at her workplace. As he tells it: "She screamed that I was never going to see my daughter again, and that just made me absolutely crazy. I lost control. I grabbed her by the shoulders and started shaking her and yelling at her. I shook her like a fucking rag doll. Then I threw her on the ground and told her that I would 'fucking kill her' if she didn't let me see my daughter."
* In 1990 the News tore the cover off his life by speaking with the women The Vance abused. "He knew where to hit you--where it wouldn't show," said Ana. "His favorite place was on the shoulder and arms--never the face." The Vance heatedly denied ever hitting anyone. He told the News: "I never beat anyone. Everybody has been slapped around a bit in their life...but I haven't beat up anyone--ever." He cried. He was humiliated by the bad publicity. Chri stood up for him, but they had a fight. "We were yelling and screaming and at one point she pushed me, so I pushed her back. She tripped over something, fell and hit her head on the corner of the dresser." Holly, who was later to become his third wife, recalled, "I knew that Vance was a really sensitive person and that an article like that would just destroy him inside."