But they attract extraordinary media attention, the kind any publicist in the city would kill for. A recent database search of the combined Daily News and Inquirer archives pulled up more than 270 articles mentioning Damon Feldman. He’s been on Angelo Cataldi’s morning show on WIP, by Feldman’s own count, “more than 100 times.” Feldman’s events get nationwide — worldwide — attention. The Rodney King tussle has seen advance coverage in London’s Independent newspaper, on Time magazine’s website, on the Howard Stern show, and of course in tabloid papers and on websites everywhere. Surely more than a million people know Rodney King is about to fight a cop. Feldman is hoping to get 800 of them into a function room at the Ramada.
Inside, at baggage claim, after a bit of confusion, we find King and his fiancée, Dawn. At 44, King looks fantastic — thin, lucid, nothing like the blurry victim the LAPD pummeled on a 1991 video, or even like the scared man in the ’80s coif who wondered “Can’t we all just get along?” during the 1992 L.A. riots. For a long time after the riots, King laid low, but lately he’s given in to the inevitable and resorted to making a living Being Rodney King. Over the past year or so, he’s been on the VH1 reality shows Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and Sober House. Feldman is paying King a $5,000 appearance fee, plus airfare and six nights at the Ramada.
In the car, Feldman shares an idea: King should trademark “Can’t we all just get along?” Boxing announcer Michael Buffer has “made millions” from “Let’s get ready to rumble!,” Feldman says.
“I know,” King shrugs. “It may be too late.”
King has been telling everyone that this celebrity fight isn’t about revenge. There was talk a few years ago that King might box Laurence Powell, one of the officers at the beating. That could have been intense. Now King is at peace. He won’t stop smiling. He’s just flown from L.A. to Philadelphia, and he won’t stop smiling.
“Not to take anything away from what happened in 1991, but you have to have a life,” he says in the car. “You have to have fun. It’s a sporting event. This guy just happens to be ex-police. The beating will be going through my mind. But that will probably just help motivate me a little bit more.”
IT’S KNOWN IN Philadelphia boxing circles that Damon Feldman’s father Marty was a successful middleweight and in the 1970s became a hard-ass old-school trainer who turned mediocre fighters into champions. Marty, now 76, and Damon are close today. But it gets weird and scary when you ask about Damon’s childhood.
Marty and Dawn Feldman had two children, Damon and David, but a troubled marriage. Shortly after they split in 1974, Dawn was brutally attacked, it’s believed by a boyfriend, and her neck was broken. The assault left her a quadriplegic. Damon, just four, was too young to comprehend what happened, but his mother never lived at home again, heading to a rehab facility in Oklahoma and then to Inglis House near City Avenue. “We never actually lived together that I remember, ever in my life,” he says.