Sonny

GQ 2-GQ-ES01.36

Way, way back in the day Esquire was a fantastic magazine. Just search some of their 50s and 60s images to see for yourself.

This 1963 cover is considered by many to be the greatest Christmas magazine cover of all time.

Here is what Esquire themselves say about it:

When heavyweight champion Sonny Liston appeared on the December 1963 cover of Esquire—just a few months before he lost his title to an upstart named Cassius Clay (soon to be known as Muhammad Ali)—he was regarded as the toughest man in America. Certainly Liston was as menacing a champ as we’d ever seen. Carl Fischer, who shot most of the famous Esquire covers in the 1960s, explains how he got a hard guy like Liston to deliver such a classic shot:
“Everybody knew Sonny Liston was a nasty son of a bitch. Make him Santa Claus? It was just the wrong thing to do. But that was the kind of cover that Harold [Hayes] wanted to do, and that was my assignment—there was no plan B. So I went out to Las Vegas, where Liston lived, and met him in a room at the Thunderbird Hotel, and I explained what we wanted. He said, ‘Forget about it. I’m not going to put on any goddamn Santa Claus hat.’ By the strangest coincidence, the manager of the hotel came into the room and brought his little girl, a six- or seven-year-old whom Liston took affection to. So after he refused to put on the hat, I said, ‘Well, let’s take a picture of what’s-her-name.’ He liked her. So we took a couple pictures of her. And then I said, ‘Let’s put a Santa Claus hat on her.’ So we put a Santa Claus hat on her. And then: ‘Let’s take the pictures with the two of you together, and let’s take the Santa Claus hat off her and put it on you. Just for one shot.’ Little by little by little, we took a whole bunch of pictures of the two of them. And then little by little got rid of her.”

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