One reason the Luxor signed Gene Kilroy as head of casino VIP is his uncanny knack for attracting men of character from sports and entertainment.
"I have a couple of great track and field Olympians in town, who have a story to tell," said Kilroy, best known from his many years in boxing with Muhammad Ali. "I knew these guys from our younger days in Philadelphia and they don’t come any better."
Don Bragg and Josh Culbreath were the very best in world track and field in their day. Bragg won the 1960 gold medal for the pole vault in Rome at the Olympics. Culbreath had been the world record holder in 400-meter hurdles and won a bronze medal at the ’56 Games in Melbourne, Australia.
This was an era basically free of steroids, though performance enhancing drugs were available to the athletes.
"If you took the top performers in track and field, and compared them with any other professionals, the percentage of use is minimal," Bragg said. "With all the medical problems I had, I would have loved to have used steroids to improve my condition. I’m for legalization under the right guidelines."
Culbreath and Bragg agree that commercialism has side tracked their sport and argue only a select group test positive for steroids.
"Track has had nothing but pot shots taken at athletes from day one," Culbreath said. "You don’t say anything about (Mark) McGuire when he was popping 70 homers. Marion Jones was tested 70 times and has yet to come up positive. We have been guinea pigs."
Bragg, a physical specimen in his prime at 6-foot 3Â½, 240 pounds, has since seen his right knee degenerate to the point that surgeons don’t want to operate. And, he’s angry on two fronts.
One, that the International Olympic Committee "abandoned its past stars." Second, that the gold medals awarded since the 1940s "are not gold at all."
"I’m really upset about the gold medal sham," said Bragg, who had operations through the years on his spine, shoulders and varicose veins. "To find out that the gold medal I trained day after day for 12 years is probably worth $1.80 teeded me off. They can have it and give me the $50,000 athletes made today for winning."
Culbreath is close friends with Bragg and was part of a group that toured Africa in the 1950s, much as the famed Harlem Globetrotters barnstormed across the U.S. and the globe to promote basketball, equality and good will.
"Don was like a little brother to me," Culbreath said. "We went to Africa and the Middle East doing what Martin Luther King did for civil rights. Don had a gun put in his back when he refused to see the black athletes seated in the back of the bus in South Africa. It’s a friendship that has lasted."
Said Kilroy, "Don and Josh were pioneers in human relations. The Luxor is proud to be their host. "