Yes, he was David Kopay, the author. "I have a collect call," the operator said, "from Honolulu."
Kopay said no, thanks. "The last one I accepted was from Ohio," he said. "You have to draw a line."
Even if the book - the hard-knocking pro football player's "extraordinary self-revelation" of his homosexuality - has sold 50,000 hard-cover copies and the paperback deal calls for 350,000. (Kopay held still for a Penthouse interview, but turned down a money offer from Hustler. You have to draw a line.)
"I know the intrinsic value the book has had," Kopay said. "I know there's a 17-year-old kid in Ohio who's less afraid, less confused, more comfortable with himself since I accepted that call. He called me Mr. Kopay and promised he'd send me the money for the phone call after football season, when he gets a job after school.
"And that's great. But sometimes," Kopay said as the phone in his Capitol Hill pad rang again; "just for a little while, I think I'd like some small talk instead of life-and-death problems.
"This has been a really uplifting experience, but the responsibility . . . I guess I'm just tired."
Kopay was just out of George Washington University Hospital, an omega-shaped incision stitched from three inches above to about that far below his right kneecap, which the surgeons had lifted to remove calcium and bone spurs from old football damage. Kopay was reminded of his first surgery on that knee, when he was young and a San Francisco 49er.
"Bob St. Clair (offensive tackle) was the only player to visit me in the hospital," Kopay recalled. "I remembered that and I wanted to include it in my book. But I knew he was going into politics and I thought it might hurt him. Bob had 10 kids, so I don't think anyone would have suspected him of being gay.But the association . . . Well, you know how people are. I just thought it might hurt him."
Now, paradoxically if not ironically. St. Clair has asked Kopay to drop his name in San Francisco's Fifth District, where St. Clair is running for office. It is known locally as the Castro (Street) District:
"Not long ago just another decaying neighborhood. Nowadays, business is booming and rents have skyrocketed. About 40 per cent of today's Castro is gay. It is a thriving ghetto . . . One local realtor with a large gay clientele did $40 million in business last year. Money like that spells clout . . . "
The above is part of the narration of "Who Are These People and What Do They Want," a half-hour program shown on PBS television in the Pacific Northwest this month. The voce over (and for some minutes the face-on) is that of Dave Kopay, doing "the most difficult thing I've ever done." He tried to explain why:
"These professional people," Kopay said, "are able to separate their intellectual and emotional beings, and operate on asort of theoretical plane, without getting involved. I can't. In that narration I had to read about the young guy who was murdered in Seattle, by a guy who hated homosexuals. The killer is still at large. When I read it my anger would show through, and I had to do it over, and over, and over.
"Half my life, in football, I got myself ready for games not only phsically, but emotionally and intellectually. The forces in me all flowed together; it's hard to separate them now. Not get involved? I am involved."
Kopay had the involvement problem in an American Bar Association panel in Chicago, entitled "Homosexuals, Society and the Law." One of his antagonists was Robert Brake, counsel of Anita Bryant's Save Our Children, Inc. "He said I had a choice about my sexual preference, and as a role model I had no place in front of children.
"No place? He was telling me I had no right to exist. I wanted to knock his head off. No, I don't think I lost my cool, but I did tell him that the biggest fag-haters I've ever known were those who were most confused about their own sexuality. Hell, I was one. Yes, I used to participate in the jokes."
There are still jokes about Dave Kopay. Charlie Hall told him when they met in Clyde's recently. Hall, a 28-year-old defensive back cut by the Packers this year, was Kopay's teammate in his last pro season at Green Bay. The young guys, Hall told Kopay, made "sissy" remarks last summer, and Hall pointed out that they never knew Kopay.
It remains mildly amazing to Kopay that so few NFL teammates detected his homosexuality before he declared it. Why, for example couldn't Hall figure it? There was all that banter with Paul Gibson, when he and Kopay were roommates. "I'm going to put an electric fence around my bed," Gibson would say. "Don't flatter yourself," Kopay would reply.
"I guess," Hall said, "that it was my own total naivete the time."
The banter goes on. Watching a televised football fame at a tavern. Baseball Billy notes a player named LaVern. "Jeez, Kopay," says Billy, who represented all Washington fandom by dousing Bob-Short with beer, "good thing you didn't have a name like that."
Ron McDole and Diron Talvert of the Redskins are cordial to Kopay. On Pennsylvania Avenue there is a minimal greeting from another Redskin star, one of the half-dozen Redskins Kopay regarded as good friends. A Harvard-trained thinker at HEW calles to suggest readings for Kopay that will make his next book better. And you're only as good as your next work, a Cassandra at a party warns.
"That's bull," Kopay grumbles. He is not, after all, a first novelist. "The book was a statement I wanted to make, though I knew what would happen I don't have to prove anything; I just have to learn to be."
But book clubs that had declined it are now accepting the David Kopay Story, which was seven weeks on The New York Times best-seller list (when it had only 10 books on it) without ever being reviewed by The New York Times, which may be a record.
The little amazements keep coming Kopay continually receives requests for interviews from publications he never heard of. "I don't know that I can say that I haven't said," Kopay said with a shrug. "And it gets a little scary. I'm just me, but you do something on TV and you become a political force!"
Dave Kopay was eating in a restaurant when he first read a newspaper story about homozexuals in sports. A young matron had asked him to autograph his book "for my daughter," while the crew-cut father stood benignly by. "Well I don't know they're conservative," Kopay said, "but they're the kind of people I wouldn't expect . . . well anything."
The two men at the next table noticed Kopay's crutches and knee brace and surmised tht he may have been a football player. "A long time ago," said Kopay, 35. As they left, the two men approached Kopay, diffidently. "We both have you book," one said. "If we see you in here again would it be gross is we asked you to sign them?"
"No," said David Kopay, smiling that big smile, "there wouldn't be anything gross about that at all."