The Fighting Muse
Juli Crockett Interview
To call her a “muse” may appear misleading. But she is a muse, although one meant in the original sense as an artistic inspiration. It’s not “muse” as the contemporary pop interpretation as an object of erotic fixation. Dr. Juli Crockett, wife/mom/political activist, would resist that vehemently.
Here is a transcript of the video interview from a couple of years ago or so at Pappy & Harriett’s in Pioneertown. The video is posted at the bottom of the page:
Rob: And now we’re back with Juli Crocket from the Evangenitals. And I’ve been wanting to ask you this for a long time– let’s like face the light so we can get the light better– okay, so she is a former professional boxer.
Rob: Undefeated, you did like how many fights?
Juli: 3 and 0. (unintelligible) I was also the L.A. district champion and the national champion as an amateur.
Rob: Such a lovely face and you would never guess that she was like duking it out–
Juli: Good defense, good defense.
Rob: Yeah, really. [laughs] Um, but you were the inspiration for the Hillary Swank character in the movie Million Dollar Baby. And not a lot of people know that– I mean it’s been out there, but tell us–
Juli: Well the character was an amalgam of several things, it was a real story of a girl who was actually in like an ultimate fight championship who hit her head and became paralyzed, so he took that and then he took aspects of other people but a lot of the– some of the character aspects of– he said, her perseverance, that she started late, that she came from the south– I mean I didn’t have–
Rob: You came from Alabama right?
Juli: Yeah I was born in Alabama.
Rob: Where in Alabama?
Juli: In Coffee County Enterprise, Alabama.
Rob: Coffee County, okay.
Juli: But I did not have a super dysfunctional family or a crazy mom, or anything like that.
Rob: You didn’t grow up in a trailer park?
Juli: No, that was not my story. [smiles]
I was like a Ph.D. student when he met me, but I was also boxing.
Rob: Yeah, you came to L.A. and you told me one time that you were, that you could take two (unintelligible) at the time, you were in L.A. you said and you wanted to fit into the scene, you could either go to the gym and work out and start stripping or you could go to the gym and work out and become a boxer.
Juli: My background was in experimental theatre so I wanted to get my finger on the experimental theatre pulse of Los Angeles and the two most far away things from who I am as a person that I could think to do, because at the time I was this incredibly shy, overweight pasty theatre director from New York, so I was- my first idea was I’ll become a stripper because that would just be crazy! But I started training at the YMCA and took boxing lessons to get in shape and I had a trainer named Micky Jones who this amazing like, poet, prophet, storyteller, preacher, boxing coach– and he suggested that I take boxing seriously because I showed a lot of promise, so then I went to a gym and started training and went through the amateurs and had a really great amateur team and won a lot of awards and when I turned pro I started training with a man named Dub Huntley–
Rob: Who wrote the–
Juli: No, Dub Huntley was my trainer. The book of short stories is called Rope Burns that the Million Dollar Baby short story appears in, and it was written– the pen name is F.X. Toole but it was written by a man named Jerry Boyd, who was Dubs best friend. There’s actually a story in there called Black Jew, and that’s about Dub. And in the story of Million Dollar Baby, the characters in the movie would have been inverted because Dub, would be like the Morgan Freeman character, where he was this incredibly angel hearted old black man who trained you know, lots and lots of champions he was Lela Ali’s trainer in fact, as well. But he was actually the trainer, where in the movie Morgan Freeman was the cup man and Jerry was my cup man who he was– if you got cut he would be the first one to fix your eye, and was corner man and he would have been the Clint Eastwood character but he inverted the characters because he wanted to be the trainer.
Rob: Okay, so– this movie Million Dollar Baby has won an academy award for um–
Juli: I think it won best picture and I think Hillary Swank got best actress, I think!
Rob: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you never got mentioned! She didn’t thank you at the awards ceremony! [smiles at camera]
Juli: No, well what had happened was Jerry wrote the short story and then it was years later, I mean a couple years later I think it got option to be a motion picture and when they were starting to make the movie he had sent pictures of me, my fight tapes, and information about me to the producers. because he was like, “This is the girl, this is the Million Dollar Baby.”
And actually we were supposed to meet with them and there was talk of me actually being in the movie but um, I was prepping for a fight and I didn’t have time to meet and Jerry actually had a heart attack and ended up in a coma for three weeks and he died. So I mean, I just kind of went on boxing I retired from boxing I didn’t think anything of it. And then when the movie came out I hadn’t seen it yet, but all these people started calling me and they’re like, “Oh my god have you seen this movie, she’s like– she looks like and she wears her hair like you and she has the same shorts as you.”
Rob: All your friends were like, what’s going on?
Juli: Yeah, yeah, and then Dub even, my trainer, was like, “They must have had spies in the gym.”
Because there are conversations and lines of dialogue about the training which are literally conversations the Dub and I had.
Rob: Okay so this is great, so your trainer was the scriptwriter– now who was the scriptwriter?
Juli: Jerry, who was my corner man.
Rob: And he died?
Juli: He died.
Rob: He died of heart attack, okay. So in the movie, you were saying this before we started rolling video that the scriptwriter would have been corresponding to Clint Eastwood’s character, or?
Juli: The writer would have been Clint Eastwood’s character and my trainer would have been the cup man but those roles were inverted. Because in the movie Morgan Freeman isn’t the trainer. But in my life, the black dude was the trainer and the white dude was the corner man.
Rob: Okay, okay, wow.
Juli: And then it came out because when the movie was about to come out– or was up for an academy award and all that was going on and actually Sports Illustrated was doing a story about Million Dollar Baby and was interviewing my trainer, Dub, and I wasn’t even boxing anymore I had retired, I had started a band, I was doing other stuff.
Rob: And you were going to school. [looks into camera] She was a doctor!
Juli: A doctor of philosophy. Um, and they– Sports Illustrated called Dub and was like, as a throwaway last question, “Is there a real Million Dollar Baby?
And he says, “Yes, Juli. Everybody knows that.”
And I’m just– I’m sitting at work, I have a job at the time, I was working at the adult toy company.
Rob: Oh yeah, that’s right! The Stockroom. She was also in charge of like porn products at the Stock Room on Sunset Boulevard.
Juli: [laughing] And I’m just at work and all the sudden the phone starts ringing, I’m at work and suddenly it’s like Sports Illustrated is calling! And then it was like, U.S. news and then it was Extra, and then it was like Entertainment Weekly, and all these people started calling because they’re like, “Oh my god, there’s a real Million Dollar Baby!”
And at the time– I mean it’s funny because in hindsight I probably could have like played the situation a whole lot more but I just really downplayed it. Because I was like, “No, no, no, it’s fine.”
Rob: Too cool. Too cool.
Juli: I was just like, “No, no, no, I don’t want to talk about it.”
I mean for me it was all really tied up too because it was just so unfortunate that Jerry as a writer like–
Rob: Right after he died, yeah.
Juli: Right when his work was finally getting that kind of acclaim and attention and it was getting turned into a movie and it was just so– I mean it’s wonderful that his work is going to be carried on in that way. And we used to argue about the story all the time because I personally hated it. I thought that it was– I did not like the storyline. Because he was very much against women boxing and that whole story is his justification for why women shouldn’t fight. And it’s all about him! It’s all about– he’s gonna meet a girl and then he’s gonna care and somethings going to happen to her and he’s going to have to kill her and his Irish Catholic self is gonna go to hell because he had to like help somebody do an assisted suicide.
Juli: And I found it so unfair that it couldn’t be a story like a Rocky, or any other story where it was like actually a woman in charge of her own destiny.
Rob: So it’s pretty sexist.
Juli: It is! Because in the story I mean he says whether she can train or not, he says whether she can fight or not, and he says whether she can live or die. And I was like, “That’s bullshit.”
Rob: Yeah, I mean, you’ve lived that life. You were undefeated. You’re a scholar now, you’re a doctor, you’re a mom, you’re a homeowner in Los Angelos. You’ve got a good band and everything.
Juli: Yeah and it’s like the big compliment in boxing when you’re accomplished as a woman is that you fight like a man.
Rob: Well– what’s your take on that.
Juli: [smiling] Well I think I understand the sentiment but I also understand that that sentiment has to change, I mean there was just that great video with Serena Williams about like, playing tennis like a woman. [laughs] Where it’s like I think we’re moving beyond the point where it’s like people have to express that they can be completely capable athletes regardless of gender.
Rob: Didn’t something happen like 2012 or 2013 right before Ronda Rousey got big– Oh, the Olympics! Women can fight in the Olympics now, is that right?
Juli: Yeah, that was a recent addition.
Rob: And you’re probably a part of that whole revolution, I bet.
Juli: I mean a lot of the women are, yeah.
Rob: I mean you were a part of the whole step towards it.
Juli: It’s amazing. And now a woman can even be president, What!
Rob: Oh yeah, that’s right. Hillary might make it to the white house.
Juli: It’s a good time to be a woman.
Rob: Well thank you, Juli, I’ll let you get back to your fans.
[Rob and Juli hug]
Juli: Oh yeah we’re gonna play, Yay!!!!
Rob: We’ll talk to you soon.
Julie Crockett was the inspiration for Million Dollar Baby from Reviewer TV on Vimeo.