Not wanting to be the last photographer in the world to reminisce about shooting “The Greatest” I’ll recount the time US Magazine assigned me to photograph Ali in 1991. The setting was his parents’ home in Louisville, KY - a tidy, nondescript house decorated with vinyl covered furniture. With the exception of the two Rolls Royces parked in the driveway, the place blended in perfectly with their middle class neighborhood.
Ali’s parents and sister greeted my assistant and me at the door and I still remember that all three were incredibly tall people who towered over the two of us. Ali's Parkinson’s symptoms were obvious that day but his famous spark of intelligence, pride, and humor came through when he introduced himself by saying “Hi, I’m Joe Frazier.”
He was known for the practical jokes that he liked to play on people - and we were no exception. When my assistant asked to use the bathroom Ali escorted him there, waited for him to close the door and then gleefully motioned everyone else to come near while he turned a lock on the door handle which had purposefully been installed backwards, with the lock outside the door. A couple of minutes later we were all trying hard to hold back our laughter while my assistant’s attempts to escape the bathroom grew ever more frantic. Eventually, Ali quietly unlocked the door, releasing my sheepishly grinning, red-faced assistant who couldn’t complain about being Ali’s latest victim.