Joe Biden: The Tough Life Guard

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Aug 22, 2008 11:45 AM
This GQ article is very interesting ...

Here, Biden offers a shy sort of grin—he’s well aware of his reputation—and asks permission to indulge himself. And suddenly, he’s not talking about Kennedy anymore. He’s talking about Joe Biden as a 19-year-old lifeguard at an inner-city swimming pool in Wilmington who’s yelling at Ester “Cornpop” Williams, “Hey, Ester! Quit jumping up and down on the diving board!”

“He wouldn’t get off,” Biden says. “So I jumped in, took him out, and kicked him out of the pool. Well, so I’m closing the pool at dusk, and I always parked my Chevy convertible outside of this gate. The year before, there’d been a white lifeguard who’d gotten sixty, eighty stitches around the middle of his back because straight razors were the thing in those days. God, give me back straight razors instead of Glocks. Anyway. So Cornpop and some of his guys are waiting in my car for me with their straight razors. I say to the maintenance man, ‘Look, let’s call the park police.’ He says, ‘You do that, you might as well quit.’ I said, ‘Man, I’m not gonna go out there.’ So he took me out to the boiler room, got a great big roll of chain, and cut off six feet and said, ‘Wrap it around your arm, put a towel over it, and you go out and tell ’em you’re gonna wrap that goddamn chain around their head.’

So he’s watching, everyone’s watching, what am I gonna do? I go out. Six foot one, 155 pounds, right? I walk out, they creak their straight razors open. So I take off the towel and say, ‘Cornpop, you may cut me, but I’m gonna wrap this chain around your head and hurt you.’

“Or that’s what I was supposed to say,” Biden says, leaning forward now, smiling. “That’s Scoop Jackson. But here’s what I said: ‘I was wrong in calling you out, Cornpop. You were wrong jumping on the board, and I should’ve thrown you out, but I shouldn’t have called you Ester.’ He looked at me. ‘You apologize for calling me Ester? Okay.’ Puts up his razor, goes home. The point is, you gotta be prepared to use the chain—but there’s other ways to do it. You know what I mean?”