Kentucky Football Tales from the Dark Side: Charlie Bradshaw Part Three

Bear Bryant was Charlie Bradshaw's mentor. - Manny Rubio-US PRESSWIRE

This is the continuation of the Charlie Bradshaw story, and his time as head coach of the Kentucky football program.

This is about the scandal that was swept under the rug. If Bradshaw's seemingly "bi-polar" personality wasn't enough, some players seemed hell-bent towards unconventional behavior. It could have put Kentucky on NCAA probation for the first time because of improper financial benefits for the players who participated.

1962 was noteworthy because of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the suicide of Marilyn Monroe. There were other major events that foretold of things to come culturally and politically. For most high schoolers, though, this was the most important event. Today, the 1962 Corvette draws over $100,000 at Barrett & Jackson auctions. Cars were a big deal in terms of social status. I had the privilege of driving my dad's 1955 baby blue 4-door Ford station wagon...on the weekends. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Try as you might, you can't hide from reality. Shannon Ragland's book, The Thin Thirty, picked at the scabs of UK Football, and they began to bleed profusely for those who read the book.

Bradshaw, however, was first exposed by a writer for the Kentucky Kernel, the UK independent student newspaper. You've probably never heard of David Hawpe unless, perhaps, you went through courses in journalism at UK or have read the Louisville Courier-Journal for 40+ years. Here's his UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni bio.

Hawpe was a lone voice in the wilderness during the Bradshaw years. He was fed information about the inner workings of the Bradshaw regime from his high school classmates who were on the football team. David Hawpe graduated from Louisville's Male High School in 1961 with four Male scholarship football players who fed him information: Jim Bolus, Lindsey Able, Tommy Hedden, and Joe Blankenship. Billy Reed wrote in a June 18, 2008 article about Hawpe's relationship with the players,

Because of his friendship with Bolus, Blankenship, Able, and Hedden, Hawpe was getting information about what was really happening inside Bradshaw's program - and the reality was a far cry from what was being fed to the public throughout the Herald, the Leader, the Courier-Journal, and other mainstream outlets.

Billy Reed's piece is part of a series of articles provided by Michael B. Minix, Sr. M.D., a former UK player.  This collection of articles came after Ragland's book was published. There is a lot of interesting information contained in them that I've not included.

I don't believe average Joe UK Football Fan knows that movie star Rock Hudson was involved with UK football players. How this came about is an interesting story as sordid as any could be. I would say most people, by now, know that Rock Hudson was gay and died of complications from AIDS. Most people probably don't know that he visited Lexington often and, in the opinion of some, was a sexual predator of sorts. Rumors had it that he provided the financial backing for the Gilded Cage, the gay bar on Main Street near the Kentucky Theater. The Gilded Cage opened in the 1950s. Today, it is called the The Bar Complex.

When I was going to Henry Clay, some of the guys I ran around with told me about Rock Hudson and how he visited two gay guys on Lakewood Drive in Chevy Chase. They were simply known as Jimmy and Lonnie. They talked about some UK football players being over there and a few actually met Rock Hudson. Visiting Jimmy and Lonnie's was never something that was on my agenda.

Most of us were aware of gays in those days partly because one, Henry Faulkner, used to stand across Main Street in front of Jones Pharmacy after school. No one ever considered him threatening because he always had a smile. He would simply ask if you would like to visit his house. At the time, he had a prostitute living with him who went by the name of Cassandra Smith. Some of the Henry Clay boys would visit Ms. Smith so they could claim "experience."

The girls, back then, were considered virtuous and untouchable unless you were "in love" for many, many months. Most of the guys I knew weren't willing to "invest" that much time for something we really didn't know much about. As you know, talk is cheap. There was more talking than doing back then. The movie, Porky's, probably best captures the way things were in an exaggerated and comical way.

I didn't know that Faulkner was a rather famous artist until years later. I've tried to research Cassandra Smith to no avail. My reason for doing so is apparently there once was a real person named Cassandra Smith. How do I know this? My first wife was from Hixson, Tennessee (a Chattanooga suburb) and she lived on Cassandra Smith Road. I would like to know who this person was.

Henry was rather "unique" and spent his time living in Lexington and Key West. There are tons of of interesting stories about Henry, his life, and his art that can be found here.

The most famous of the gay men in Lexington at that time was James Herndon, known as "Sweet Evening Breeze." He may have been the only person in Lexington, other than Henry Faulkner, who was accepted for what he was. When he dressed in drag, he was simply known as "Sweets." When he walked down the street, drivers of all ages would honk their horns and wave. If I recall correctly, Sweets worked as an orderly at Good Samaritan Hospital. Sweets apparently had a wardrobe that any woman would envy.

It wasn't until I did my research for this article that I found out just who Jimmy and Lonnie were. I've stated before that I haven't read Shannon Ragland's book yet. Where I found out about the pair was a website called news.LawReader.com. You can read the same article that I read by clicking on the link.

It turns out that "Jimmy" was James E. Barnett, a professional wrestling promoter. "Lonnie" was Lonnie Winter who has been described as Barnett's long time companion.

Here's a quote from the Law Reader article:

Of particular interest to wrestling fans is the book's claims of a three-year period in Lexington, Ky., in which the erudite Barnett is purported to have provided numerous members of the team with perks in return for sexual favors. Barnett's posh residence, according to the book, became a home away from campus for a number of players and a place where the mat matchmaker could do his own "recruiting."

An entire chapter in Ragland's book, titled "Predators in Their Midst," is devoted to the sex scandal.

Barnett, who died in 2004 at the age of 80, was described as a man of small stature who wore stylish three-piece suits and horn-rimmed glasses. A worldly man of old money, the flamboyant promoter's passion for fine art, Mozart and penthouse living would lead a fellow Georgian, President Jimmy Carter, to appoint him to the National Council for the Arts during the 1970s.

It wasn't just UK players who had become involved with Jimmy and Lonnie. Some EKU players were also known to frequent the Lakewood Drive home. One EKU player was "discovered" by Rock Hudson at Jimmy and Lonnie's. You can read all about it here at Cyborg.com which is a United Kingdom fan site for Lee Majors.

If Bradshaw did anything right, it was putting an end to this scandal which had started in 1959 under Blanton Collier's tenure. There is no evidence that I've found that indicates that Collier was aware of what was going on. However, a couple of assistant coaches were aware. Even back then, this kind of "booster" activity was an NCAA violation because Jimmy and Lonnie were providing cash to the players who" visited" their house. If the Xavier game was "fixed" as Ragland claims, then it was probably Jimmy and Lonnie who instigated the fix. According to the book reviews, Ragland did not present enough convincing evidence that the game was fixed.

There was another scandal that did "earn" UK a one year probation penalty by the NCAA in 1964. That will be the focus of the next part of the Bradshaw series. I will also include some conversations I've had with a player who stuck it out and believes Bradshaw helped him survive a very traumatic time in his life.

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