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PROFILES IN SUCCESS: 'The Hammer:' thug with an intellect

PROFILES IN SUCCESS: 'The Hammer:' thug with an intellect

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In a world that strives to be politically correct, Fred Williamson is as blunt as an elbow to the head.

It's the only way he knows.

The Froebel grad played defensive back at Northwestern, spent eight seasons in the NFL, then became an actor/director/producer of popular Hollywood action films of the '70s and '80s considered to be of the "blaxploitation" genre.

"You can't kill me, I want to win all my fights, and I get the girl at the end of the movie — if I want her," Williamson said, laughing. "Those are my three Hollywood rules."

He has directed more than 40 action films.

Williamson also appeared in more than 60 films, including M*A*S*H, The Inglorious Bastards (1978 version), From Dusk till Dawn, Starsky & Hutch, Last Ounce of Courage, Being Mary Jane, and Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption.

"I've had an uphill climb and was able to capitalize on making mistakes," Williamson said. "Here I am, directing and producing movies on my own for a million bucks and competing with movies they have for 90 million.

"Their crowds are down and my lines are around the block."

As Williamson's films were being snubbed and ridiculed by high-brow critics, studio funding dried up and he was forced to go overseas, with Rome among his favorite locations to shoot.

"I still make my films at $2 million, a million-five, and they're all profitable," he said. "I couldn't live in Hollywood. I've lived in Palm Springs for 25 years.

"If I lived in Hollywood, I'd be slapping people around. I couldn't fathom that B.S."

At 79, life continues to be good for "The Hammer" — a nickname given him during his NFL career because he used his forearm to deliver karate-style blows to the heads of wide receivers.

In 1967, as a starting defensive back for Gary native Hank Stram's Kansas City Chiefs, Williamson played in Super Bowl I against the Packers after stints with Pittsburgh and Oakland.

He posed nude for Playgirl Magazine in October of 1973 and in '74, replaced Don Meredith on ABC's Monday Night Football — but was declared "unsuitable" (too outspoken) by the network after a few preseason games and quickly pulled in favor of former player Alex Karras, another Gary product.

The colorful Williamson has few equals when it comes to self-promotion, loves to talk, could lead a filibuster without breaking a sweat, and needs no teleprompter or cue cards.

He calls today's NFL "a joke," saying it's all about team revenue, a ridiculous salary structure based on position, and too much emphasis on players making political statements.

"Players are as good as their agents can negotiate," he said, adding he won't run for political office because he'd be too blunt, too demeaning, too condescending toward clueless constituents.

"And that doesn't go over in politics," he said.

The Hammer is still a frequent visitor to Gary and was an avid Trump supporter in the 2016 election.

Last July, Williamson set up cameras at his home, leaned back on a recliner, and gave a candid assessment of his life — basically interviewing himself — that went viral on YouTube.

"My whole life has been fun," he said. "I'm a ghetto boy. I'm a real thug from the Southside of Chicago. I used to wear a chain for a belt.

"Take this thug out of Chicago and put him in Northwestern University, one of the highest intellectual schools in the country. I graduated from Northwestern University as an architectural engineer with brains who also was an extraordinary athlete."

Williamson was just warming up.

"You put all this into one person and you gotta dangerous human being here," said Williamson, who also holds black belts in Kenpo, Shotokan Karate and Tae-Kwon-Do. "You got a thug with an intellect, an athlete, a guy who can talk (bleep). You got 'The Hammer.'"

And who is he?

"Somebody who had a plan his whole damn life," Williamson continued. "Not about fighting society, not about fighting white people. White people came to me because I was a star, a celebrity.

"So I don't know about closed doors. I know how to knock down doors. Ain't nuthin' they can do to me that hasn't already been done.

"I'm bullet proof."

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