“I’m going to kill that son of a bitch Al Hart,” Damone says he told a friend, who in turn called Frank Sinatra: “Vic Damone is on the way to kill Al Hart. He’s got a gun in his car. You better stop him,” the friend told Sinatra. A quick sit-down between Sinatra and Damone ensued.
“Dago, listen,” Sinatra told Damone. “You want to find how the fuck this guy ever did it? I mean, just how did he do it? You’re a good-lookin’ guy, you have a kid with her. And look at him. Jesus. How in the world did a guy like that manage it? I want to know how he got her away from you. Send him roses. Talk to him. ‘You son of a bitch, how did you do it? What did you say to her?’ And if you’re going to kill someone, kill her. But you know what? She’s not worth it.”
Two weeks after Del Mar closed for the season on Labor Day, 1953, Clint Murchison wrote Hoover with details of his scheme to buy the track using a charity as a front. “I have talked with my tax man as to the methods we should use to make this a tax-free organization,” he said in his September 15 letter, excerpted in Clint, a 1986 biography written by Murchison’s longtime personal secretary Ernestine Orrick Van Buren, who said she had exclusive access to Murchison’s personal files.
“Assuming I am successful in making proper overtures in Chicago, I want your permission to tell them that I expect you to head it on an honorary basis in the beginning and that when you arrive at the period of your retirement from the FBI, you expect to devote your every effort to the furtherance of this project. I do not want to use your name in vain, so I would appreciate it if you would give me permission to tell the owners of the tracks in Chicago that I expect to have your cooperation.”
On June 11, 1954, Murchison and Richardson staged a press conference in the Gold Room of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, where they appeared, flanked by Hart and Louis B. Mayer, to announce their takeover of Del Mar. Time magazine reported they were buying a 40 percent controlling interest for $1.2 million. On July 12, the New York Times reported that C. Ray Robinson, a Merced-based attorney for the Texans, had outlined a plan to take over a total of six racing operations across the nation.
“Del Mar would be the nucleus of the planned chain of tracks,” the Times said. Ninety percent of the operation’s net would be given to Boys, Inc., a nonprofit that had been incorporated in Delaware on June 3, 1954.
“The foundation would operate a chain of centers in underprivileged urban sections from coast to coast,” the Times reported. “These centers would have recreational facilities, guidance counselors, and vocational training facilities in which industrial concerns might participate.
“The sponsors would like to have J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, head Boys, Inc., whenever he sees fit to retire from the Federal Service. Mr. Robinson said Mr. Hoover had been approached on the matter and expressed enthusiastic approval of the foundation idea but had not committed himself on taking the position.”
“It was a racket, if you want to know what it was,” George Allen, a longtime Washington insider and crony of both presidents Truman and Eisenhower (as well as Murchison and Richardson), told Ovid Demaris in the 1970s. “You see, they could go in and buy the track with their foundation, the Boys’ Club deal, and there’s no taxes. They would lend the money, then get it back, but you see, they would then control the track. Sure the Boys’ Clubs would get something, but it was a tax racket. One time they wanted to buy all the tracks in the United States. George Humphrey, who was Secretary of the Treasury, wouldn’t let them do it.”
The board of directors of the new operation, according to Murchison biographer Van Buren, was composed of Clint Murchison and his son John; Sid Richardson and his nephew Perry Bass; and Dallas attorney George C. Anson.
On September 10, 1954, the state Horse Racing Board granted a one-year license to run the Del Mar racetrack to Operating Company, a corporation owned by Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson. But the controversy over handing the Texans control of the track had not subsided; if anything it had gotten more heated.
The state Senate’s Committee on Racing, citing a loss of taxes to the state and federal government caused by the charity setup, protested the move. When it became obvious that the Horse Racing Board would award the license anyway, Senator Harry Parkman told the New York Times, “We’ll propose new legislation to take care of a situation like this. We’ll amend the law to require the owners of a track to operate it.”
Parkman did not carry out his threat, and the state ultimately gave Boys, Inc., a ten-year lease to operate the track. But the protests continued, and the Texans were persistently rebuffed when they attempted to get the Boys Clubs of America to accept their money. In April 1957, according to Van Buren, Boys Club board member E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson, a frequent Del Charro guest, wrote his friend Murchison, saying, “…the National Organization would not accept directly or indirectly income derived from racetracks.”
“Not one cent has been turned over to Boys, Inc. I do not know where the money went,” said Gen. Holland Smith, a retired Marine general whom Clint had retained as a front man; they later had a falling out. “It is my considered opinion that no money will be transferred to Boys, Inc., for at least five years, if then. I hope I have given you a fair idea of what I think of Mr. Murchison and Mr. Richardson…”
Sid Richardson died September 30, 1959. John Connally, as co-executor of Richardson’s estate, replaced him as a board member of the Del Mar track; Sid’s nephew Perry Bass, who had inherited the bulk of Richardson’s empire, also went on the board. Murchison, who had suffered a series of strokes, was replaced by his sons John and Clint Jr.