Casino marketing veteran Gene Kilroy has been around a lot of tough guys in his life. Kilroy, after all, was once Muhammad Ali’s "facilitator."
But for Kilroy’s money, Wayne Newton bodyguard Michael "Bear" Forch was one of the toughest and gentlest men he’s ever met. Forch died Wednesday in a local hospice of pancreatic cancer. He was 61.
"It’s not the destination, it’s the journey," Kilroy says. "Bear had a great journey. He had so much love for Wayne Newton. He called Newton ‘The Chief.’ There’s an old saying in life about how many people you’d want next to you in a foxhole. Bear was the type of guy Wayne would want in that foxhole. Bear always had his back."
Bear had a reputation for toughness that usually was enough to quiet any difficulty that surrounded Newton. Occasionally, a reputation wasn’t enough.
"You’ve heard of ‘Big Bad John?’ He was ‘Big Bad Bear,’ " Kilroy says.
"When he was intensive care, I told him, ‘Bear, you hit harder than Sonny Liston and Ernie Shavers.’ He said, ‘When I had to.’ He was an outstanding guy."