FROM THE ARCHIVE: Jim Brown for The National

Posted on November 28, 2011

Former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown poses for a portrait outdoors in “the Jungle” in Los Angeles, California in 1991. (Photo by Brad Mangin)


I just finished another large update to my online archive, uploading 510 new captioned scans form old slides last week. I have a very short attention span, so I hire my good friend Dave Bonilla to make me awesome scans. He sent me this last batch on multiple DVD’s back in May, and I just did not have time to caption the stuff during the baseball season. Being able to add these beautiful 50 megabyte TIFF files to my online archive (powered by PhotoShelter) makes me very proud. I am doing all I can to take control of my images. I ain’t messing around.

One of my favorite subjects that I have had the chance to photograph over the years is now well-represented in my archive. This is a man who NEVER messed around. Today I want to share with you some pictures I shot of legendary NFL Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown 20 years ago.

Former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown plays chess in his home in Los Angeles, California in 1991. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

One of the great things about being a photojournalist is all the cool people you get to meet and photograph. The best staff job I ever had was during 1990-1991 when I was the Bay Area staffer for The National Sports Daily. Before we went out of business in 18 months I shot the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and World Series all in one year. I was 25-years-old and living the dream. I also shot several feature stories for the glorious daily paper edited by Frank Deford, and one of my favorites involved spending a day with the greatest running back who ever lived, Jim Brown.

Former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown poses for a portrait outdoors with former gang members in “the jungle” in Los Angeles, California in 1991. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

Our Los Angeles-based staffer Chris Covatta was on vacation, so I went down south to shoot this awesome assignment. We were doing a big feature on Brown because he had started a new program in 1988 to work with former gang members to improve the quality of their lives by equipping them with life management skills to confidently and successfully contribute to society. Amer-I-Can was an organization that Brown was very proud of and I had a chance to experience a meeting at his house in the Hollywood Hills that included many former Crips and Bloods. Even though Brown’s living room was full of former gang members, the 54-year-old Brown was the baddest cat in the joint. This is why he could relate so well with the young men he invited into his home.

This is the cover of The National Sports Daily featuring our story on Jim Brown on April 26, 1991. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

After spending several hours in his home I wanted to take him somewhere in order to shoot some portraits for the story. Of course this was when we were shooting beautiful Fujichrome RDP and the late-afternoon light was gorgeous on the clear Saturday in February. We hustled down the hill in Brown’s spectacular 1966 Mercedes convertible and headed for “the Jungle” in the Crenshaw district. This was a very sketchy area, but I felt very safe with Brown and his friends as we tried to capture the last of the golden sunshine setting into the Pacific Ocean.

Brown, the former actor, was an amazing subject. He knew how to look the part and donned his signature hat and Delta Force jacket for me. How could I miss? After a few quick images of Brown by himself we did a group photo (see above) with him and some of his most trusted peace makers. All the guys were super cool, and one of them was named “Fruity.”

By the time my day was over I was so excited about my experience. I could not wait to see the film! As I drove down the hill from Brown’s house in my Hertz red Thunderbird (Covatta taught me to always rent a red T-Bird) headed towards my plush hotel room with an ocean view I knew this was an experience that I would never forget. Now, thanks to my archive this day 20 years ago seems like it just happened. The power is in my archive!

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