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Adding to Brando’s mystique

Jul 6, 2004 6:50 AM

Last week, the entertainment community lost Marlon Brando, one of its greatest actors. But executive casino host Gene Kilroy recalls a Brando far from the elusive, often enigmatic, film star the public saw.

"Marlon was often misunderstood ”¦ people thought he was strange or eccentric," Kilroy said. "But he was actually a warm person who cared about his family and his causes. He just didn’t have the time to be bothered with people."

One of those causes brought Brando and Kilroy together in 1974, when Muhammad Ali (whose business affairs were managed by Kilroy) was preparing for his fight with George Foreman in Zaire.

"We were training in Pennsylvania when I got a call from Marlon saying he wanted to enlist Ali’s help in a march on Washington," Kilroy recalled. "At the time, Marlon was organizing support of the American Indians and their quest to have lands returned to them."

The march was to begin in Phoenix and travel across country. Ali said he couldn’t participate in the march, but would join up with Brando and his group in Washington, D.C., Kilroy said.

Ali was true to his word when Brando arrived in Washington. But, not only did he meet Brando, he bought a new car for his Indian friends and called Stevie Wonder to appear in a benefit concert held after the march.

"There was a lot of respect and admiration between the two," Kilroy said. "Afterwards, Marlon said he would like to keep in touch, and indeed he kept in touch."

Over the years, Kilroy often crossed paths with Brando, sometimes at high-profile restaurants in Beverly Hills or at low-profile fundraisers for a variety of causes.

"He was a sincere and dedicated person," Kilroy said. "He would have scoffed at being called ”˜strange.’ Better yet, he would have gladly accepted it as a validation of his individuality."