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COLORFUL COLLINS IN CLASH OF HIS OWN
Boston Globe, The (MA)
July 3, 2001
Author: BILL GRIFFITH
Estimated printed pages: 4

Columnists and commentators are always on the prowl for good material, and Bud Collins is no exception. Most of what he turns up winds up on the air (NBC), in the newspaper (Globe), or in a book.

However, some of Collins's best stuff gets treated quite differently. You could say he's the "Material Guy" when it comes to weaving the fabric of his public persona.
Whenever Collins comes across some truly outstanding material, he arranges to have it shipped back to Cambridge, to the attention of Charlie Davidson, owner of the Andover Shop. Davidson has been tailor, confidant, and coconspirator to the irrepressible Collins for nearly 50 years.
This material, of course, is the cloth that is transformed into Collins's trademark pants - and that's an awfully pedestrian term for these outrageous trousers, especially the ones that he annually dons for NBC's "Breakfast at Wimbledon" telecasts. Those will come out Saturday for the ladies finals (9 a.m.-2 p.m.) and Sunday for the gentlemen's finals (9 a.m.-3 p.m.).
You can expect Collins's traditional strawberry number for Sunday's men's match. That material was found a few years back while the peripatetic Collins and his wife, Anita Klaussen, were prowling the streets of Rome. She came to a halt in front of a drapery shop and pointed, almost speechless - neither she nor Collins has ever been documented as being completely at a loss for words - and mouthed, "Wimbledon."
"It was great material," said Collins. "And I knew enough Italian to ask, `Quanti metri per i pantiloni?' "
Now it was the shopkeeper who was speechless. This zany American wanted to know how many meters of drapery cloth for a pair of pants.
"He thought I was the ultimate foof," said Collins. "But the deal got done."
And the cloth was sent to Davidson, continuing a tradition that dates to 1966.
It was back then, said Collins, that Davidson looked at Collins in his traditional blue blazer and light trousers and said, "You look like a yachtsman. We've got to do something about that. Let's do something interesting. Tell you what. I'll make you a pair of pants. If you don't like them, you don't have to pay me."
"It makes a good story, doesn't it?" said Davidson. "And sometimes a story gets told so many times that it becomes accepted. I like it so much that I use it, too."
Whatever happened, the result was a pair of pants - a dazzling creation of the tailor's art in a red and white madras plaid.
"I can't go out in public wearing these," said Collins. But he did. He broke them out for the Davis Cup matches in Cleveland.
"7,500 people began to whistle when I walked across the court to the stands," he said. He had his shtick.
This past Saturday, he was back to a blue blazer when he joined Hannah Storm in studio to give his take on the day's happenings. Of course, under the blazer was a blue windowpane plaid shirt and he also wore a red and white bowtie that looked as if it had been made from a tablecloth from an Italian restaurant. Completing the ensemble were salmon-colored pants and purple socks. I thought my TV was on the fritz when he showed up on the set Sunday in an electric blue blazer, fuchsia shirt, yellow bowtie with red polka dots, not-quite-ripe lime pants, and orange/brown loafers, sans socks, of course.
We'll have to wait to see how he bedecks himself for Saturday's ladies finals. He could sport the pair of pants he had made in Bangkok on a recent trip that took him to Bhutan in the Himalayas.
But there are other options. Collins mentions something from a recent stop in Zimbabwe, and Davidson estimates he's sewn more than 40 pairs for his pal over the years. "And they all still fit him," said Davidson.
Truly, if you want to get the measure of this man, you have to chat with his tailor.
"It's been a labor of love," said Davidson.
The wildest pair? "Made out of Vietnamese flags," said Davidson. "It truly was the most incredible of fabrics. And the result was spectacular."
Meanwhile, Davidson revels in Collins's visits to the shop.
"He lights up the place," said Davidson.
In the old days, Collins could jump into his clothes and hit the tennis courts. Now, however, he's had hip surgery, so no matter how outrageous the pants, he's got to put them on one leg at a time.
 
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