OXNARD — One of those crews with the light man, the sound man and the interviewer's own makeup staff has just arrived in camp, and they're not from any mere jocko show like "The NFL Today," either.
They're from "Entertainment Tonight," and they've come to see Lyle Alzado. Out there in show biz, Lyle is happening in a major way.
What do they have in mind?
Would they like him to tear someone's lips off, as he once threatened to do to Dan Marino?
Is he going to give them his favorite on-the-field threat: "I'll kill you and everything you love!"
Now that would be entertainment, whether you'd need to rate it PG-13, R-40, or sell it as an underground video. Muscles and anger are hot, meaning that Lyle Alzado, the famous defensive end of the L. A. Raiders, is an idea whose time has just pulled up in the no-parking zone outside the bank.
They want biceps? Alzado has upper arms that would take an ant half a day to circumnavigate.
They want anger? Have you ever looked into those eyes? Have you ever been around on one of those days? This is the poet laureate of rage. If they want Conan, the defensive end, they've come to the right place.
And right now, they're lined up back to Route 101.
Here's Lyle, with his chest bulging in a black T-shirt, looming menacingly over a Sports Illustrated spokesman.
Here's Lyle, squinting angrily at the Burger King president.
Here's Lyle telling Honda riders to wear their helmets, as he does. (It's better to leave out the time he fired one at the Jets' Chris Ward. Might be mayhem on the freeways if that catches on.)
Those are just the TV commercials. There are deals working for a feature, or as they say in real life, a movie. Two more scripts were delivered to the Raider camp last night. Alzado's agent at William Morris is going through them. Alzado plans to start acting school as soon as camp breaks.
Is he having fun, or what?
"You should see him," said teammate Howie Long, who is as close to Alzado as safety permits. "He's got this white Rolls-Royce with a laser-disc player in it. He's got two motorcycles and he's just learning to ride them. He goes around the block at 5 m.p.h."
"Howie tell you that?" yelped Alzado. "I can ride my motorcycles. Howie makes fun of my Rolls because he doesn't have one. Howie's got nine Mercedes. He tell you that?"
For Alzado, who grew up so violently on the streets of Brooklyn, there is a chance for a happy ending. He has certainly paid his dues, as have some of the people around him, all of whom managed to keep their lips.
If barely . . .
Moody? I mean, he makes Sybil look like a common individual in society. --Howie Long So what is Lyle Alzado doing in Oxnard, which is not right next door to any sound stages, trying to bench press 500 pounds?
Practice is over. The rest of the defensive line, which is about 12 years per man younger than he is, has gone inside the dressing room to cool off, and Alzado is still out there pumping.
Maybe he isn't sure why, himself.
Long: "Every morning under the goal posts, he says to me, 'I'm 36 years old. What am I doing here?' "
Alzado: "What I tell him is 'I'm 36 years old. What the bleep am I doing here?' "
Looking for love in one more place, most likely.
There is a temptation in discussing Alzado to get lost in the anecdotes. Alzado recounts his gantlet of a childhood in such detail and with such good humor that it gets to sounding like a boy's carefree romp through a colorful but distant past.
But it wasn't. This isn't some cartoon. A childhood like his is a terrible price to pay for a line of great stories.
He was born in Brooklyn's Brownsville section, one of five children of an Italian-Spanish father named Maurice and a Jewish mother named Martha. Maurice was in and out of their lives, leaving for good when Lyle was 15, to Lyle's relief.
"Baddest mother that ever lived," Alzado says. "Or so he told me. I guess he's 65, 68 now. He still drinks and battles more than any five men I ever met.
"Did he ever hit me? Yeah. I've been knocked out. I got the bleep beat out of me. No one else could ever do that to me.
"He tried to be a good man. He just didn't know how. One Thanksgiving, he'd gone and bought us a turkey with all the trimmings. Then he came home drunk, took the turkey out of the oven, threw it out on the street and left my mother crying."
Martha worked as a florist, never earning much more than $100 a week. Alzado fought everyone who crossed his path, and some who were trying to get out of the way.
At 15, he was 6 feet 2 inches, 190 pounds and was a bouncer in a bar. He says he stabbed two men one night who didn't move when he told them to. In various fights, he says, he was stabbed four times.
"Look how I grew up," he said. "Without a father, no food on the table, no clothes to wear, teachers making fun of me. The only thing I had in my life, I could fight. Anybody messed with me in any way, I beat their bleeping ass. That was my strength and pride.