When he saw how embarrassed Doug was when his PR plan didn’t work, Ali agreed to a similar shot. We tried a couple of stationary positions on the cliff edge with the three of them. But for personal and professional reasons Ali did not like to get close to the cat. If he did get close he always had his eyes on Rebel, and would not look at the camera…
Ali showed his magnanimity by recognizing Doug was an up and coming new star looking for PR, something he had done himself. They were kindred spirits there. He reluctantly agreed to let Doug chase him with Rebel. Muhammad set it up. They ran up his jogging path next to the road. He wasn’t so sure about Doug’s animal handling capabilities and was not impressed with me running alongside just out of camera. I believe his words went something very much like… “What’s going on here???…he says its alright and you say you’ll get the cat!!!!…give me some space…”
The camera was set for a perfect port aft quarter beam shot. Muhammad Ali running, looking back at Rebel dragging Doug…The shot appeared in an NYC sports paper within a week.
Ali dismissed the cat as soon as the shot was taken. I was advised to immediately get Rebel out of there. Doug wanted to stay for fan publicity shots using Rebel. I told him the wise thing was to get the cougar quiet for the ride home and the show the next day…
Doug stayed with the limousine and I took Rebel home with the McAuliffes. All the way back we talked about the close one we had…Merle has since told me she remembers the ride home; feeling like they had had a very long, stressful, exhausting day. A combination of embarrassing moments and near misses mixed up with beautiful weather and a lot of fun.
Merle defended him and chalked it up to Doug’s naivety… A big part of me feels very fortunate to have gotten away unscathed. A day you laugh about and cry over at the same time.
Doug Henning and Muhammad Ali were friends for the rest of their lives. It was a very successful day. That was also the last time I ever saw Doug short of magic for the crowd.