Jun 1, 2014

Primo Carnera: Plus-Sized Bisexual Boxer

Primo Carnera (1906-1967) was big -- maybe not the giant as he seems in the publicity photos that deliberately pair him with short guys, but tall, thick, and built -- 6'7", 265 lbs, with a bicep the size of a basketball.  And, judging from the bulge that was impossible to hide, also gifted beneath the belt.

Born in Italy, he came to the U.S. in 1930 as a boxer, and won his first seventeen bouts by knockout.  In 1932 and 1933 he became the tallest heavyweight boxer in the world.  Later he fought such greats as Max Baer and Joe Louis (both of whom knocked him out).  By the time he retired in 1945, he had 89 wins and 14 losses.

In 1946, searching for a second career, he became a professional wrestler, and continued to draw the crowds through the 1960s.

His film career began in Hollywood in the 1930s, where he played himself in The Boxer and the Lady (1933) and Mr. Broadway (1933). 

In 1940 he began appearing in Italian sword-and-sandal films, usually playing the bad guy who is much bigger than the hero.  In 1949, he fought Steve Reeves in Hercules Unchained. 

Did I mention that he was bisexual?  Among his lovers were, reputedly, boxer Emile Griffith and Joe Louis, and  the exiled king of Italy, Umberto II.  In 1946, Umberto invited him to his palace in Cascais, Portugal.  Carnera thought he was just another fan, until Umberto invited him go to swimming.  "But I didn't bring a swimsuit," Carnera protested.

Umberto found a way around that little problem.