Earnie Seiler didn't really want to be the Orange Bowl, he just wanted to start it. For Miami's sake. Earnie Seiler loves Miami. At the first game he stood in the middle of 36th Street—whip-lean body gyrating under a flop-brim white Panama hat, melon-colored face grappling with a huge cigar—and flagged down passing cars, trying to get people to come in to fill the bleachers he had poached for the occasion. Miami was not the metropolis it is now. Everyone knew Earnie Seiler. "Get the hell out of the road, Seiler," they yelled at him and blew their horns.
It was a precarious birth, requiring round-the-clock care and some financial plasma from local bookmakers. In infancy the Orange Bowl suffered long periods of acute indifference (one Miami sports editor chose the afternoon of an early game to cover a swim meet) before good health was achieved and Earnie Seiler could afford to really open up, which is his disposition.
This Is the Bowl that Earnie Built, no doubt about that. And most of it he did singlehanded. Take 1939. Seiler coerced unbeaten Oklahoma into the Orange Bowl game with half the money offered by the Sugar and Cotton bowls by stealing through the campus at Norman in the middle of the night writing ON TO MIAMI! in chalk on the sidewalks and then educating the Sooners with a morning lecture that featured huge posters of girls reclining on the sugary sands of Miami Beach in the barest excuses for bathing suits the '30s would allow. "I'm a great believer in visual aids," said Seiler.
As the games got better, Seller's parades got longer and more glamorous; and the parties (pregame, postgame and so forth) extravagant and more clamorous. His beloved halftime shows came to be drenched in orange-blossom perfume, gallons of it drizzling down from the bowl's rim. Queens and princesses rode in chariots behind white stallions, and, their faces pale with fright, perched high on the rolling backs of elephants painted purple and pink. Squadrons of bogus flamingos flew across the width of the stadium, strung on a tautly pulled quarter-inch cable. "If that cable snaps," said the engineer, "you'll wipe out 500 fans." "Yeah, but it won't," said Seiler, blowing smoke from his cigar. And it didn't.
Doves of peace (white fantail pigeons) fluttered up from the base of a huge replica of Uncle Sam and settled pell-mell into the ever-larger Orange Bowl crowd, and then roosted for weeks in the stadium's steel webbing. The ASPCA issued a formal protest. Seiler shrugged. Seiler was a tough act for Seiler to follow; some risks were unavoidable.
From the earliest days Seiler was not willing that his game be a repository for second-rate teams. He claimed he would march through fire to sign the best. In Philadelphia Stadium, leading a delegation of Orange Bowl Committee members to beat rival bowls to a talented Navy team, he bolted through the women's powder room. Witnesses say he never broke stride but that the smoke from his cigar left a prodigious trail that day.
The Orange Bowl became the place to spend a New Year's afternoon. President Kennedy came, and sat in Seiler's big leather chair, which the Secret Service hauled from his office and put in the presidential box on the 50-yard line. Seiler offered to have special lunches sent in from Wolfie's. Kennedy elected to fly in his personal chef, who set up a sandwich kitchen in a tent beneath the south stands. When the game was over, Seiler went around to the chef and asked if he could have "one of those $2,000 sandwiches." He said it tasted the same.
Eventually, inevitably, teams like Nebraska and Alabama were flown in to play for the national championship. At night, now. Another Seiler first. Live, before 80,000 people. In color, on national television, before 50 million more. The networks dumped money on the Orange Bow!. The Orange Bowl guarantee grew to be the fattest east of Pasadena, a whopping $900,000. Coaches like Bob Devaney and Bear Bryant could hardly wait to spend New Year's in Miami.
And so it was that Earnie Seiler came to be known as the Mad Genius. He did not object, not to the noun, not even to the adjective. Actually, he thought it had a nice ring to it. Jimmy Burns, The Miami Herald columnist, started it. "Seiler is mad," said Burns. They were fishing buddies, at least until the day Seiler was driving Burns home from a snook expedition on the Tamiami Trail, driving at his customary breakneck speed when one of the tires came off and rolled up alongside the speeding car. "Isn't that one of your tires, Seiler?" said Burns, looking out the window. "Yeah, I guess so," hissed Seiler, his teeth clinging to his cigar as he wrestled with the wheel. The tire kept them company for a while, then took a tremendous bounce into the Everglades and was never seen again. And on subsequent Seiler fishing trips, neither was Burns.
The festival, as Seiler calls his show, has spread like lava to cover such widely assorted goings-on as fashion shows and horse shows, regattas and grand balls, tennis, fishing and soccer tournaments and massive fireworks displays. For Seiler it is a magnificent juggling act. He drops only what fails to show lasting quality. He keeps his hand in everything. Sometimes it is the back of his hand.
Although Seiler is 71, nothing about the operation escapes his piercing blue eyes; no flaw is spared his spectacular wrath. He punted an NBC television cameraman squarely in the low-angle stance last year when the camera blocked an oncoming parade float. "Dammit, you're blowing your own show!" Seiler yelled. On a day when the LSU team came to practice at the bowl, Seiler was summoned down to the field to find a city of Miami work crew roping off the area, getting ready to paint a decorative orange at midfield. The foreman said it was the only opportunity they had without going overtime. Seiler was furious. "Get off the field," he stormed. "Eighty thousand people aren't buying tickets to see that orange, they're buying tickets to see this football team."
Seiler goes to war regularly with city officials over what he considers their shortsightedness and bureaucratic meddling (they don't always give him the funds he needs). Seiler is executive vice-president of the Orange Bowl Committee, but the city owns the bowl itself, and Earnie says he gets reminded of that fact in 100 petty ways. "It was easier in the old days when we didn't have anything, just a few slush funds here and there a man could get into." He despairs that "anytime you want something done it's 'five o'clock' or it's 'so-and-so's day off.' Ninety-nine percent of my problems are lazy people."
As the game itself has grown, Seiler has become more and more protective of its quality. This year at least he seems satisfied, with No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Alabama. But not every Orange Bowl game has been played for the national championship, or even a reasonable facsimile. There was one, in 1953, that was played as a bad example for hiring the handicapped. The score was 61-6, Alabama over Syracuse, and as it mounted Seiler grew more and more distraught. At last he could take no more. Midway through the fourth quarter he ran onto the field imploring Red Drew, the Alabama coach, to let Syracuse die in peace: "Do something, Red! Run out the clock! Fall on the ball!"
"I can't stop 'em, Earnie," shouted Drew above the noise. The noise was coming from the Alabama bench. The crowd was dead silent. "They're fighting the Civil War out there. They want to murder those damn Yankees!"
Seiler then tried to get the timekeeper to look the other way, and because most of the witnesses had gone into a stupor long before, no one is sure to this day that he did not succeed. Seiler just smiles and blows smoke when you ask him.
Even as he did when it was a runt, Seiler personally marshals the gigantic King Orange Parade on New Year's Eve. He is the first to arrive, the last to leave; he dashes around screaming for precision, waving his arms for order, as you would naturally expect a Mad Genius to do. As a result, his parades are always punctual, and invariably beautiful. He will not allow it to rain on his parades. He argues with the weatherman about unfavorable forecasts. He audits the parade like a mechanic, listening for pings, watching for breakdowns. When one float could not make it over the curb into the parade line, Seiler jammed two-by-fours underneath the wheels to form a minibridge. "Can't anybody do anything?" he grumbled. One particularly lovely transport, loaded with lighting effects, blacked out at the head of the route on a night Seiler had promised television officials they were "really going to see something." Seiler's immediate reaction was to rail at the float and curse its makers. And then, being a man of action, he dove into the bowels of the contraption to seek out the offending mechanism.
Once inside, he discovered a faulty fuse box. The lights went on. The float jerked forward. Seiler let go. The lights went out. Seiler stayed inside, hidden beneath the tucks and folds of papier-m√¢ché, struggling with the fuses. He bade the driver continue. The float moved forward, Seiler vaguely aware of its progress. When at last he had the lighting system secured, he called to the driver through the frills: "I'm going to drop to the pavement now. Just pass on over me. I'll be all right." Seiler dropped to the pavement. The float passed. And there he lay, spread-eagle in the middle of Biscayne Boulevard, directly in front of the reviewing stand.
Earnie Seiler was not always a Mad Genius, of course. Before that he was a half-mad architect who was done in by his own imagination. He had arrived in Miami in the '20s, "when it was a pretty little place with clean bays," itching to build flying buttresses and free-form terraces with hidden arbors. He did not want to build Corinthian columns. But it was a conservative time. The women of Coral Gables looked down their noses at him and said, "Is that all the closet space we get?" Seiler strained at the bonds of architecture and gave it up as "too confining."
He turned his talents to coaching football. For a while he was doing fine because he could let his imagination run a little in football. From his college days at Oklahoma State (nee Oklahoma A&M), where he was a 160-pound single-wing quarterback, it was evident he had the makings. It is recalled there that little Earnie Seiler once broke into the clear on a long run, and with nobody within 20 yards of him dodged and dipped and stiff-armed imaginary opponents all the way to the goal.
Coaching at Miami High School in the fall of 1925, Seiler laid out a field for home games on a plot of land donated by the Florida East Coast Railroad. There were large coconut palms on the property. Seiler was told not to mess with them. He carefully laid out the field on a bias, but one tree still intruded, at the 20-yard line, 15 yards in from the sidelines. He asked the railroad once more if he could remove the tree. No dice.
So for the big game that year with Palm Beach High, he devised a play unique in the history of organized football. On the kickoff the ball would, and did, go to his star runner, Warner Mizell. Trailing blockers, Mizell headed for the palm tree, behind which lurked an inconspicuous but very fast little halfback named Ray Carter. Mizell lateraled the ball to Carter and, in the same motion, flipped off his helmet. "Ball!" yelled the Miami High players, and dove on the helmet, creating a diversionary pile-up of breathtaking proportions.
"I had told Carter to count five, then come out the other way and run like hell," says Seiler. "I counted myself: 'one, two, three, four...five.' No Carter. For a second I was afraid he wasn't coming out. 'Gawdamighty, he can't count!' Finally he did, and nobody saw him except one official who followed him down the field the entire 80 yards.
"Boy, what a rhubarb. The Palm Beach coach came screaming across the field, followed closely by a couple hundred Palm Beach fans. 'I protest, I protest,' he yelled. His face was red as a beet. 'It's against the rules,' he yelled. I was very calm. I said, 'Show me in the book where it says you can't have a palm tree on the football field.' "
Victories thus won were not enough to hold Seiler's interest in coaching, however. He found that teen-agers did not always share his vision. To get his thoughts across during a game, Seiler lined up three buckets next to his station at midfield. Visual aids for the quarterback. If he tipped the No. 1 bucket, it was the signal to run. No. 2 bucket was pass. No. 3 was punt. Once when his team had advanced to a point inside an opponent's 20-yard line and a touchdown beckoned, Seiler accidentally kicked over the third bucket. The quarterback dutifully punted the ball out of the end zone and into the second-floor window of the building across the street. "We had to stop the game and send a man to Burdine's to buy another ball," says Seiler, sighing hopelessly. Seiler quit coaching after that and went to work for the Miami recreation department. Yet his genius hungered for expression.
"I was always a dreamer," Seiler said one afternoon recently, semi-relaxed in the big leather chair in his suite of offices at the Orange Bowl. On the walls, framed montages of past Orange Bowls assailed the eyes with color; on the floor, an orange shag rug; on the huge desk, aclutter with papers, books and a spectacular assortment of Magic Markers, an orange phone connected to an orange intercom. "I pictured myself doing things. I'd daydream. Like now. I see things others create, and I enlarge them in my mind. I look and imagine it eight sizes bigger, for a football field. A couple of months ago I was watching my grandson pushing one of those squiggly-wiggly toys—a foot went out like this, then an arm, then another foot. A hundred different movements, and I sat there fascinated. I imagined it 100 times bigger. The next day I took it down to the float makers. We're going to have that kind of animation this year. It'll be the greatest thing you ever saw.
"In college," he continued, "I was a terrible student because I was always dreaming. History I could handle because I could use my imagination—take a few facts, make up a fabulous story. Physics was another matter. My physics professor wrote the book. He'd say, 'You'll find that answer on page 33.' He told me I was the dumbest student he ever had.
"But I was playing football and playing basketball and having a time. And then I got interested in the band. I envied guys who could make music. The band was about to make this big trip, and I wanted to go. I went to the bandmaster and said, 'I hear you need a cymbals player. I'm one.' I never played a cymbal in my life. But the drummer was my friend, and he said he'd nudge me when it was time to bang one out.
"So we're practicing and the director is yelling at me to look at him, but I'm looking at the drummer for the sign, and he'd give it to me, and bow, I'd let one go. The director would look, and 'I'd look, and bow. I fooled him until the final rehearsal, just a couple days before the trip. He got mad as hell. 'Can't you read music?' 'Yes sir.' I couldn't read a note. He marked the notes with a pencil. I couldn't read the pencil marks, either. I didn't make the trip."
As Miami's recreation director, Seiler found new areas in which he could express himself. The University of Miami had come into being, and then was knocked flat by the 1926 hurricane. Ways were being sought to raise athletic funds and promote the school. Seiler staged a Pan-American Festival. He went to Cuba and "invited everybody on the island to come up, and then worried myself sick that they'd come." He put together his first parade: 21 floats representing the 21 countries. "Built them myself because nobody had any money. Little old things with wooden wheels, and it rained and the wheels got wet and swelled up and we couldn't walk 'em down Flagler Street, we had to drag 'em."
Seiler spread his wings. Anything to promote Miami captured his interest, all the better if he could tie it to sports. A football game was suggested. "At the time, only the Rose Bowl was in existence. I thought if they could have a bowl in California, we could have one in Florida. Football in the tropics. What a great idea. I said that someday we'd be as big as the Rose Bowl, but nobody believed that part."
The first game, in 1933, was called the Palm Festival. Seiler ordered 3,100 bleacher seats for Moore Park on 36th Street, four miles north of the present Orange Bowl site. "We didn't have a dime to work with. They sent me the papers for the bleachers, and I signed 'em like it was nothing—'Earnie Seiler, recreation department.' I didn't have any authority. But I knew we'd work it out.
"Miami was the host team—the poorest team you ever saw. I mean poor. They had 14 pairs of shoes for 32 players. They had to swap around. We offered Manhattan College $3,000 to come down to play, with $1,500 in advance. We couldn't give Miami anything. To save expenses, Manhattan came by boat. It took three days, and half the players got seasick. Chick Meehan was their coach. He said if they didn't get the other $1,500 immediately they were going home. By train. He was smart. We hadn't sold enough tickets to meet the guarantee.
"So I made the sheriff my finance chairman, and he went around to some of the prominent bookies in town, like Acey Deucey. At 10 o'clock the day of the game our finance chairman came up with the guarantee. Well, you could do things in those days. I made promises I'd never make today. The red tape and the politicians slow you down, and the newspapers can tear you apart."
Seiler stood out on 36th Street and waved people in free to help fill the bleachers and make the pictures look good. He announced the crowd was 8,000, but it was less than half that. "We lied a lot in those days." His first halftime show consisted mainly of a drum-and-bugle corps marching around, and, as an unscheduled spectacular, the queen almost suffocating inside a cellophane football stapled to a float. "She was in there 25 minutes before we brought her on. She was drenched. Her hair was down over her face. The sorriest-looking queen you ever saw."
Manhattan was the heavy favorite, a far superior team. Seiler prepared a post-game celebration at the Biltmore Hotel, complete with banners proclaiming Manhattan's triumph and a huge cake saying CONGRATULATIONS MANHATTAN. Miami won 7-0. When the game ended, Seiler made a mad dash to a phone and called the Biltmore. "Change everything to read MIAMI," he shouted.
But if you expected that humbling beginning to slow up Earnie Seiler, you don't know a mad genius when you read of one. In the months and years that followed, Seiler was everywhere, conning more bleacher seats, at $1 a plank, from the American Legion; moving them to the present Orange Bowl site off 7th Street, appropriating prisoners from the stockade to help build props and floats. "They loved the fresh air," said Seiler. And in 1935 the game officially became known as The Orange Bowl.
The bowl committee, composed of prominent citizens, came into being, and soon they dispatched Seiler to Washington to beg funds from the Public Works Administration for a permanent stadium. Other such requests had fallen on deaf ears.
"Well, you have to have luck," says Seiler. "The man in charge of getting money out of pigeonholes and into circulation was a Mr. Charley Gaines, the son of an Oklahoma oilman. But more important, an old fraternity brother of mine. I got him on the phone. 'Charley, you old rascal, this is Earnie.' 'Earnie! What the hell are you doing in Washington?' I told him I was just passing through, but we should celebrate his terrific job. Charley was glad to get away. Every Tom, Dick and Harry in America was after him for money.
"We met at the Mayflower Hotel. We drank to the old days. Then I said, 'Charley, I'm the biggest liar you ever saw. I'm in trouble, Charley. We want to build a football stadium in Miami. All we need is $160,000, a drop in the bucket. You can help us.' The next day we were in his office talking it over with the engineer in charge. This guy wanted to know how I knew it wouldn't be a 20,000-seat white elephant. I'd heard that from Miamians already. So I got a man from Florida Power & Light to call the postmaster general, Jim Farley, and give him a favorable report.
"Farley warmed to the idea. 'Who you going to get for the game?' he said. Farley was a big Catholic University fan. I never even heard of Catholic U. until then. I said, 'How about Catholic U.?' His face lit up. It was Catholic U. vs. Ole Miss that New Year's, and Farley must have been happy because Catholic U. won, and two years later we had our new stadium, 22,000 seats. They're still part of the Orange Bowl today."
But Seiler was not content to be stuck with Catholic U. forever. The "big breakthrough," as he calls it, was the 1939 game—unbeaten Oklahoma vs. Bob Neyland's unbeaten Tennessee team. It was freezing in Norman when Seiler arrived with his persuasion kit, which included a $20,000 guarantee and a picture portfolio of Miami. The Sugar and Cotton bowls were already in town, guaranteeing $50,000. "Look, I'll make it $25,000," Seiler told university officials. "Just let me talk to the boys after the game Saturday. Give all the bowl representatives equal time." That night he went around to the Kappa Alpha house and paid a couple of pledges $10 apiece to help him chalk ON TO MIAMI! on the sidewalks leading to the gym where the big meeting was to be held the next day. "When I came in," Seiler recalls, "the Sugar and Cotton people didn't even give me a second look. They weren't worried a bit. Then I brought out my pictures—palm trees, beaches, blue Atlantic Ocean. But especially the girls. I wasn't so dumb that I didn't remember what I used to play for. 'Would you rather go to Dallas?' I said. 'Come to Miami. We'll have ourselves a party.'
"The vote was big in our favor. Then the president of Oklahoma promised he'd call the president of Tennessee to get a match going, and I had a friend of Bob Neyland's call Neyland to get him to be there when the call came in so he could talk it up with his president, and all of a sudden we had two undefeated teams and our biggest game.
"Everybody probably thinks I was rooting for Oklahoma that day. But I got 8 to 5 and bet $500 on Tennessee. I sat with my Oklahoma buddies and yelled, 'Go, Oklahoma,' and under my breath I said, 'Hold 'em, Tennessee.' Tennessee won 17-0. We had a fantastic crowd, 32,191, a sellout. We put up big signs: SOLD OUT. Boy, we were happy to see that. When it was all over, we were broke again."
Those who are closest to Seiler, who have worked with him for years and attest to his miracles, say that behind the lion's roar beats a lamb's heart—that he is a man so concerned with people he will not leave the Orange Bowl on a parade night until all the kids have been picked up by their parents; a man so loyal he will not accept a bonus unless his staff members get one, too (which they do, every year); a man so patriotic he weeps when Anita Bryant sings The Star-Spangled Banner, a man who prays every night, on his knees; a man who is so attuned to nature that every morning he tiptoes out in his underwear to tend his garden of prize roses. ("Better not say that," says Hal Fleming, his production manager. "Better make it his 'small but beautiful orange grove.' ")
Seiler is also so emotional that when one of his grand designs turns out beautifully—like the 20,000-light 40-by-60-foot American flag, complete with rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air—he actually cries with joy. And when one doesn't—like the night the queen's float did not light up in all its splendor and the princesses' floats did not light up, and national television captured it all in dying color—he actually cries with pain.
This does not mean that the famous Seiler tantrums are not real, of course. Says one of the faithful: "They're real, all right. You just learn to gear yourself, to steel yourself, and if he starts a conversation with 'old pal' or 'old buddy,' you know you're safe for the time being. In some ways he's a lovable old fraud, Seiler. At one time or another he fires everybody, but he has fired no one. Not for more than an hour or so."
Genuine incompetence, willingly per- formed, gets the full treatment, however. Seiler once had a publicity director who spent a lot of time "taking mail to the post office." His condition upon returning from the post office (usually in the late afternoon) was such to make him a risk around an open fire. Seller's foot-steps down the hall were a signal for the publicist to get on the phone to Joan Crawford ("Can't talk now, Earnie, Joan Crawford's calling long distance"). Seiler was on the publicist all the time about releases that weren't appearing in The Miami Herald. When one in particular didn't make it on the scheduled day, Seiler came roaring into the publicity office.
"Where the hell's the story?" he shouted, throwing the sports section down like a gauntlet.
"It's in here somewhere," said the publicity man, thumbing through the paper. "I saw it. Uh, no. I guess you've got the wrong edition. The Herald puts out 13 or 14 editions, you know."
"Then you better find it, and if it's the Latin American edition it better be in Spanish," yelled Seiler, and he threw an ashtray against the wall, barely missing the publicity man's right ear. After that Seiler wouldn't let the publicity man go to the post office anymore.
Seiler happened to be listening on an extension when another of his publicists—unlike the rest of his staff, they tend to come and go—called in to explain that a story hadn't made the Herald because the reporter who was writing it had collapsed at his typewriter. "But don't tell Seiler, he'll never believe it," said the publicist. Seiler intruded into the conversation. "That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard," he said, and began to laugh. "You're right, too. I don't believe it."
Production Manager Fleming has been fired regularly over the years by Seiler and never missed a paycheck. Fleming is a tall, ruggedly handsome man with graying hair, an ex-ballplayer Seiler took into the fold, first as a house-guest, then as a staff member, 26 years ago when, says Fleming, "all the tools we had around here was what I could get from Woolworth's with a $2.65 requisition from the city—a hammer, a T square and a saw. Everybody complained that I was spending too much money."
Seiler and Fleming have traveled many roads together, Seiler behind the wheel, gesticulating over his latest brainstorm, Fleming watching carefully in case Earnie should throw his cigarette lighter out the window. "He lights one of his cigars and out it goes. One time we were two miles down the road before he realized he'd done it."
Fleming is a true believer in Seller's genius. "He could promote anything," says Fleming. "A rock. A sidewalk. He could promote a sidewalk. When it comes to working with his hands, he's something else again. He can put anything mechanical out of whack quicker than anybody, and he can't build doodly. You ought to see the one major project of his life—the most cockeyed cabinet you ever saw. But his ideas are terrific. He knows what he wants, that's the thing."
" 'All it takes is a piece of angle iron and a two-by-four,' " says Dan McNamara, quoting Seiler. (McNamara is regarded as Apprentice Genius on the Orange Bowl staff, the man most likely to succeed if Earnie ever relinquishes his throne.)
"Yeah," Fleming continues, "Seller's mind races so fast he can't keep up. One year he had us put the queen on a big 12-by-12 screw-up prop that worked electrically. He's had props they said were engineeringly impossible—one was 60 feet across, and rotated, with bells and everything. He wanted it that way, and we did it. But this one was electrical, and we had it timed precisely for the halftime show: 50 seconds for the little platform with the queen on it to get to the top. Everybody was huddled under the prop for the big moment, and when it came, Slim Millard brought out the power line to plug it into the connecting cord. Seiler couldn't believe his eyes: two female plugs.
"He screamed bloody murder. He kicked an assistant. 'How can I do anything with you kicking me,' the man said. He screamed at Slim Millard to do something. Slim finally got a pen knife and started cutting one of the plugs off—the hot one. Pow. Down he went. Seiler grabbed it, and pow, down he went. And Slim grabbed it again, and Seiler was screaming, 'You are trying to electrocute me!' Slim said later he had been through World War II but was never so scared. Finally Seiler himself shoved the hot wires into the female plug from the prop. Sparks flew, but he held on, and up went the queen, just a minute or two off schedule. I stood there through the whole thing, and I laughed myself hoarse. Seiler fired four or five of us that night."
Earnie Seller's Orange Bowl Festival, the wild dream of half a lifetime ago, now covers 18 days and hundreds of hours of games and events; 14 of those hours get prime-time TV coverage, more than any bowl. The Orange Bowl games themselves frequently match the highest-rated available teams, and every ticket in the house that Earnie built is sold far in advance (except for the two on the 50-yard line that Seiler keeps in his wallet in case another President decides to bring his chef at the last minute). Every year more than 200 bands, some from as far away as Honolulu, request the opportunity to march in Seiler's parade. And every year the revenues increase, and the budget goes up until it is now almost $2 million, and the end of the spiral is not in sight. There is no telling what comes next.
Seiler, of course, is mum. But he admits to having visions: "If we could get a good enough P.A. system, I'd like to do a version of a Broadway musical like South Pacific, with real stars, except bigger than life. What a challenge that would be for a halftime show. Halftime shows are shows; they just aren't there to link up two halves of a football game.
"And then I would like to stage The Overture of 1812. In fireworks. And after that I...."
There was a time not long ago when Seiler would gather his troops together after the bowl game, "the workers," he calls them, the men who handle the ushering and the policing and the float making and the fireworks displays, and they would repair to the south-side dressing room beneath the Orange Bowl superstructure for a special party. It was private, and everybody let his hair down, and Seiler would say, "All right, it's no holds barred tonight." And before long he would make a little speech. "My philosophy," he would say, "is 'never look back—you can't live in yesterday.' " And when the party got wilder, Seiler would gravitate to the blackboard where football coaches show linebackers what they were doing wrong in the first half. And there Seiler would start making arrows and charts and crude sketches, and he would begin to explain his grand design for the next year's festival. "It'll be the greatest," he would say.
Those wild, wonderful parties are now all but forgotten, for in the Orange Bowl operation a considerable amount of sophistication has taken over where once bare enthusiasm ruled. But occasionally the old spirit returns, and there is a flicker of what it once was like.
The other day in Seiler's office, Dan McNamara and Hal Fleming were sitting around, and a couple others came in, and his secretary, Helen Brammer, was at the door, and Seiler began to crank up. "All right," he said in a loud voice. "Let's get back to where we had accomplished nothing."
"But, Silo," said McNamara soothingly, "we're No. 1, remember?"
"That was yesterday," said the Mad Genius, and he began scribbling on a blackboard.