Woody Strode's extraordinary career led him from football field to wrestling ring to Hollywood. In 1939 Woody, Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington led UCLA to its first undefeated football season. After World War II Woody and Kenny Washington became the first blacks to play in the NFL. In 1950 Woody became pro wrestling's first black star, After that it was a small step to Hollywood where he appeared in such films as The Ten Commandments, Spartacus, and The Cotton Club. Sam Young and Woody Strode met while working on a televisions production. Their relationship grew until after three years, countless hours of conversations and interviews, Goal Dust was completed.
Enjoyable reminiscences of the black athlete and film actor who, along with Kenny Washington, broke the color barrier to become the first black to play in the NFL. Strode tells of growing up in L.A., then of being recruited by UCLA, where he and teammates Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington were known as the "Goal Dust Gang" and, in 1939, led the Bruins to their first undefeated football season. After a stint in the Army during WW II, Strode turned pro as a member of the Rams - an experience he recalls with some bitterness. Fired from the team after his second season, he played for a while with the Calgary Stampeders. In the 1950's, he became professional wrestling's first black star; his anecdotes about the show-biz world of Gorgeous George and Barone Leone are amusingly told here. From the half-nelsons to Hollywood was a short step, and Strode was soon in demand for fight scenes with the likes of Johnny Weissmuller and Kirk Douglas. Playing a gladiator opposite Douglas in the Stanley Kubrick epic Spartacus, Strode was forced to crouch during his fight scenes with the star; Douglas was five-foot-seven or eight, while Strode stood six-feet-four. It was while making Sergeant Rutledge for John Ford that Strode and the director became longtime friends, a relationship the author celebrates with great feeling. Strode also writes of his 40-year marriage with his Hawaiian-born wife, Luana, and of the problems they encountered as an interracial couple. When Luana died of Parkinson's disease, Strode was devastated. Written with a simplicity that captures the author's pride in his race and his accomplishments, this is a worthwhile memoir of black life in America during the past seven decades. (Kirkus Reviews)