Jack Diamond, The Brush Man & The Sure BetSunday, January 28, 2007
In 1972 I had a teacher friend in Mexico City who had fled Cuba with his family during Castro's takeover. His name was Jorge Urréchaga. He taught English literature and was a fine operatic tenor. He had a system for betting horses. Every once in a while he would call me in the morning to tell me that he, Rosemary (my wife) and I were going to dine in the evening. I always knew what that meant. In the afternoon I had to accompany him to the horse races at the Hipódromo De Las Américas. His system involved meeting up with a Jewish man when they paraded the horses before the race. The man had a brush company. Most of his brushes used horse hair and he was an expert in determining when a horse was healthy or not. We would watch the races and we would never bet until Jorge would say, "¡Ahora, sí!" I never really liked to bet even when the bet seemed to be a sure one so my winnings were much more modest than Jorge's. We always won and we invariably celebrated in the evening with Champagne at Sep's our favourite restaurant, which served food from Alsace-Lorraine. It was on Tamaulipas street about a block from the house where Edward Weston had lived and photographed Tina Modotti nude on the roof. I am not sure if the brush man was part of the appearance and Jorge just knew which races were fixed. I never asked him. He never seemed to abuse his knowledge. He played excellent bridge and had the ability of being able to memorize instantly any deck of cards from minute imperfections on the edges or nicks on their backs. I never lost at bridge when he was my partner.
I supect my father was a burrero, which is the Argentine slang for someone who bets on the horses. He took me to the imposing hipódromo in Buenos Aires a few times and I was always impressed and intimidated by his friends who all seemed to carry a gun in the armpit.
It is perhaps for this reason that I have never enjoyed horse racing and boxing, another sport that seems to be seedy and subject to rules that exceed the mathematical ones on chance.
In October 1987 Harvey Southam dispatched me to photograph Jack Diamond at Exibition Park for his magazine, Equity. It had rained all week so when I indicated to Mr. Diamond that I wanted to photograph him on the race course he told me we were going to get dirty. We did.
I will never forget what followed my photograph. He told me, "Alex, let's go inside and get our shoes shined. I remember very well how he slipped the shoe shine man a bright red $50 bill.