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      The Soap Opera Actress Who Captured Chuck Blazer's Heart

      The Soap Opera Actress Who Captured Chuck Blazer's Heart

      From the forthcoming book AMERICAN HUCKSTER: How Chuck Blazer Got Rich From-and Sold Out-the Most Powerful Cabal in World Sports by Mary Papenfuss and Teri Thompson. Copyright © 2016 by Mary Papenfuss and Teri Thompson. To be published on April 26, 2016 by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Excerpted by permission.

      Mary Lynn Blanks was stunned to receive a letter out of the clear blue from long-ago lover Chuck Blazer offering sunny birthday greetings when she turned fifty. Blazer boasted in the October 2002 note that he had achieved "most of my goals, both professional and personally." He expressed the hope that she was enjoying a good life too.

      The last time Blanks had seen Blazer, to her great relief, was twenty-five years earlier, as he stomped out of their bedroom in the East Side Manhattan condo they shared. She was left trembling and spattered with her own blood. Moments before, Blazer had bellowed at her to clean the apartment; she was making a protein shake in the kitchen and yelled back that the place didn't need it. Furious, Blazer grabbed her by her hair and arm, dragged her into the bedroom, threw her on the bed and punched her, hard, in the face, shattering her glasses and cutting her cheek. He stopped only when she was able to wriggle free from his grip.

      His rage apparently spent, Blazer left, slamming the apartment door behind him. Blanks quickly contacted a friend for protection and to help her pack. "She was in bad shape," recalled her pal Cynthia Georgeson. "She was bloody and frightened. Her cheek was cut and swollen, her eye closing up and turning black." Georgeson urged her friend to call the police, but Blanks—hurt, scared, and embarrassed—wanted to put the ugly confrontation behind her as quickly as possible. She moved back into her old apartment on the Upper West Side and resumed her former life. Aside from a short note from Blazer, blaming her for the violence, and an odd phone call years later to say hello after her marriage to another man, Blanks hadn't heard from Chuck—until now. She had no idea where he lived or what he did for work.

      "In my mind's eye you will always be captured as the exuberant and beautiful 25-year-old beginning a career and, ultimately, what I hope has been a very good life," Blazer wrote in the birthday letter, as if the two had parted the best of friends. "My running off on Saturdays to coach the kids' soccer games ultimately moved me into a new professional forum and facilitated the pursuit of a political career in sports. I now, as the only American in history, have a key leadership role on the world body of soccer, FIFA and the World Cup. I have dined with kings and presidents while averaging over 200,000 miles a year globetrotting and having fun. It has been a great ride."

      Soon Blanks would be along—again—for the Blazer ride. But first, he'd have to sell her on the idea. And Chuck Blazer was very good at selling.

      Blazer was twenty-eight when he first met Blanks in 1973. He was a rakish, six-foot, two-hundred-pound marketing consultant on the move. Blanks, a Florida native living in Manhattan, was a twenty-one-year-old aspiring actress who worked between auditions as a cocktail waitress, model, and at trade show gigs. She would have a unique view into the personality and early days of the future master of the soccer universe.

      They met while she was modeling for a print ad for the Seagram's liquor company, one of Blazer's clients at the time. She was to pose in a bikini next to a giant inflatable whiskey bottle; the shoot took place at a studio in Chelsea. Before the session, the photographer called Chuck and urged him to meet Blanks because "I think you'll like her." So Blazer arrived and leaned against the doorway of Blanks's dressing room, chatting with her as she sat with a bathrobe over her bikini. "I told him I moved to New York to be an actress, but was mostly waiting tables at night, handing out cosmetic samples, and spraying shoppers with Norell perfume in department stores, and working at trade shows," Blanks recalled. "He told me about his businesses. He was fascinating. That beautiful voice, those eyes—only a few pounds overweight then. He wasn't the kind of guy I was typically attracted to, but his voice got to me. And he asked me a lot of questions; he was interested in me, in my life." He was also married, with a wife and two young kids at home in Westchester. "I was living with my boyfriend, and I had no intention of cheating on him," said Blanks.

      Over the next few years, Blazer continued to seek out Blanks at trade shows in Manhattan's old New York Coliseum, a squat, tan brick building at Columbus Circle that then served as New York's convention center. Blazer was there plugging products, keeping an eye on the competition, and drumming up new business. He worked primarily in corporate incentives marketing. His Cavalier Production Company sold motivational giveaways used by businesses to reward salespeople, such as golf balls bearing the slogan "Thank You, Paine Webber" for stock brokers, or branded beach towels for agents selling Holland America cruises. He also did product promotions for Hula Hoop creator Wham-O, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Kodak. He arranged "fly-ins" with local radio stations to distribute free Frisbees at events. In one cross-marketing scheme, Blazer used Frisbees as covers on buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken; in others, he shrink-wrapped Coppertone tanning lotion or rolls of Kodak film with Frisbees.

      Blanks worked as a model and spokeswoman at the Coliseum during car and boat shows, as well as technology and medical supply exhibitions. She was a regular at General Aniline and Film (GAF) booths, hawking the company's toy View-Master, dressed as a gypsy reading fortunes. She also showed off GAF's film cassettes used in X-rays, dressed, far more popularly, as a nurse. GAF and Blazer client Kodak frequently shared exhibition space, and Chuck took those opportunities, and others, to cozy up to Blanks. "He always said hello, asked me how I was doing. He focused on me," recalled Blanks. "He could cast a spell."

      It was the same gift that made Blazer a sales wizard. "Chuck could sell ice in Alaska in the middle of winter," said one longtime CONCACAF employee. He first acquired the sales bug as a preteen working at his family's businesses, including Blazer's Spa Luncheonette on Queens Boulevard, a street crowded with mom-and-pop stores. The Blazer shop, in the Forest Hills neighborhood, was an odd mix of café, candy store, and drugstore items. By age twelve, Chuck was traveling to work from the family home in Flushing that he shared with big brother Barry, his mother, Edna, and his father, Abe. He ran the cash register at the luncheonette, flipped burgers, and chatted up the customers. He also helped out at the counter at Blazer's Stationery & Gifts in Rego Park. "He was incredibly personable," recalled Madison Avenue lawyer Sherwood "Woody" Salvan, who lived next door to the stationery store as a boy and was a high school classmate of Blazer's. "He was outgoing, always friendly."

      "He was a boy entrepreneur," said express delivery manager Kirby Sales, who knew Chuck when they were junior high school students: "He didn't run with my crew. He was a loner. But he was a hard worker and go-getter. He was thinking business while the rest of us were hanging out."

      After junior high, Chuck landed a treasured spot in the Bronx High School of Science, one of the city's elite public schools that requires a rigorous entrance exam. But once accepted, he transferred almost immediately to Forest Hills High in September of his freshman year. He would complain years later about the long commute from Queens to the prestigious Bronx school, which left little time for him to work in the family businesses. Once he switched to his local school, he was again able to spell his father each day at the Spa Luncheonette. But the job limited his social life. The only extracurricular activities he could fit in involved playing saxophone for the high school band and checking hall passes as a member of the Marshall Club. Both were viewed by most students who bothered to notice as the diversions of a geek at a time before geeks were popular.

      Blazer played no sports, including soccer, even though Forest Hills was one of the first high schools in the country to field a team. He considered himself an excellent bowler, however, and once boasted that he won a trophy at Hollywood Lanes on Queens Boulevard. Yet no one on the Forest Hills High bowling team, which practiced and competed there, remembered ever seeing him.

      Blazer wasn't so much awkward at school as he was simply out of sync with his peers. He was younger than his classmates, having skipped at least a grade because he was in a "Special Progress" program to advance especially bright students. He graduated at fifteen, two years ahead of most of his classmates. He was a handsome, strapping kid with a thick head of curly hair, but he was still the baby of his class; the girls paid no attention to him. "I really had nothing to do with guys my age," recalled classmate Rhoda Berke. "I always went out with the older ones." Younger boys in her class didn't have a prayer.

      But in many ways, Blazer was more mature than his older classmates. He had worked independently for years before many of them had their first job. And he was a young man in a hurry. He didn't wait around for the others to catch up to him; he graduated in January of his senior year, eager to move onto the next phase of his life.

      The invisible student would win sweet revenge decades later when he hosted a cocktail party at Trump Tower for his graduating class. When he learned of the planned fiftieth reunion festivities in 2011, Blazer contacted former classmate Murray Vale, a New York sales executive who was one of the event organizers, saying that he wanted to "give something back" to his class. He offered an all-expenses-paid fete on a lower level of the Trump lobby the night before the official reunion party at the Edison Ballroom ten blocks away in midtown. By then, he had already served on the FIFA executive committee for twelve years, and had been general secretary of CONCACAF for twenty.

      Blazer's information to U.S. Department of Justice officials eventually led to Sepp Blatter's ban from FIFA. Photo by Frank May/EPA

      Instead of showboating his success, though, Blazer was gracious and impressively humble as the evening's host. His former classmates enjoyed an open bar and copious hors d'oeuvres while being entertained by Harlem blues saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood. Youngblood and his fellow musicians were Blazer's go-to band for CONCACAF events. Chuck and Lonnie had first met at the fabled Manhattan restaurant hangout Elaine's, and Chuck subsequently flew Youngblood and his wife and band to the tony Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas to perform at a FIFA gala. "Chuck knew how to throw a hell of a party," said Youngblood. "He was second to none when it came to that."

      Throughout the cocktail party, Chuck sat in the back of the room with Blanks and his own coterie of friends, including sex therapist and media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Shep Messing, a well-known soccer broadcaster and former goalkeeper for the old New York Cosmos. He "looked like Santa with his elves," recalled Berke. Westheimer, a longtime pal, also accompanied Blazer to the official reunion the following night. Former Forest Hill students came to his table to thank Blazer for the party. Almost no one remembered him from high school, and he didn't know most of his guests. But many were impressed with him. He had a "quiet power," remembered Vale. "And he wasn't a bragger. If I had made one-tenth of his money, you couldn't even talk to me."

      Vale was also surprised that Blazer didn't work the crowd at the party, which would have given him an opportunity to underscore and maybe capitalize on his generosity. What Vale didn't realize was that Blazer was often reluctant to abandon his mobility cart to navigate his way through throngs of people. He couldn't see his feet when he walked, and he risked treading on toes or tripping on some unseen obstacle.

      Blazer marked the event on his blog, Travels with Chuck Blazer and His Friends, by quietly underlining both his alienation from his classmates and his own success. "While I have had very little contact with my fellow high school graduates, it was a refreshing opportunity to hear the stories of the roads people have taken to the present," he noted, calling the reunion a "celebration of a half century of memories and accomplishment."

      After high school, Blazer earned a degree in accounting at New York University, graduating in 1965. His studies would serve him well in his CONCACAF work as he set up budgets and massaged the books. Soon after he graduated, he married the woman he considered the "prettiest girl at Forest Hills High," Susan Aufox. They had a daughter, Marci, in 1968, and a son, Jason, two years later.

      Blazer had dreamed of becoming a psychiatrist, but was steered into accounting by his pragmatic mom. Morbidly obese at a relatively young age, Edna Blazer was largely homebound, but nevertheless a take-charge parent. She urged both of her boys to focus on a field of study that was guaranteed to bring home a paycheck. Blazer's brother, Barry, was interested in becoming a geologist or metallurgist, but his mother insisted he become an actuary, which he did.

      Chuck took a different approach to probability than Barry. He often boasted that he paid his NYU tuition with money won playing gin rummy against fellow students. Gambling would become a theme in his life. After he split with his wife in the 1990s, Blazer hosted Thanksgiving for friends and extended family at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, Queens, giving each person $100 to place wagers. In a story he liked to tell, his daughter, Marci, asked for tuition money for law school at the festivities. He promised to give it to her only if she won her bet. If she lost, her mom had to pay. He never revealed who ended up footing the bill. He prided himself on being a "systems" player, whether it was gambling or trading shares on the stock market. He relied on Oswald Jacoby's book How to Win at Gin Rummy for playing cards, and used graphs to time the market when he traded stocks using commissions and kickback money from the various CONCACAF contracts he negotiated. Chuck rarely made the stock profits he claimed he did, according to his Merrill Lynch records. Most people who knew him assumed he was independently wealthy because of the trades that he boasted made him as much a $1 million in a single day.

      From the beginning, Blazer eschewed a conventional work route. The hustler from Queens concocted several marketing companies—at least on paper—usually registering them in Delaware to capitalize on the state's liberal corporate tax laws, where it's easier to form hard-to-trace shell corporations than in most states. He devised a new entity for every idea, starting a pattern that would shape Blazer's reputation as a sharp-eyed opportunist who was never at a loss for a moneymaking venture.

      When Blanks told Blazer that she worked for an exhibition booker who kept close to two-thirds of the fees that companies paid for Coliseum work, Blazer created Narrators & Models Inc. He was convinced that he could organize a solid stable of talent and pay models more but still make plenty for himself. Blazer later told Blanks that the operation was also a way to keep him in her life—and to check out other available "talent." (He also told Blanks that he was selling mail-order sex toys in the 1970s through one of his ventures with a guy named Pinky, who Blazer claimed ended up in prison.)

      Blazer's luck with women changed radically after his high school days—to hear him tell it. As a young marketing consultant, he passed out joke business cards touting himself as a "sex education expert" available morning, "nooner," and night. He would later brag to Blanks that he was having sex with various partners several times a day while he was courting her. He was big and handsome, and his dark ringlets were now fully unfurled. He once thanked singer Tom Jones backstage for inspiring his new hairdo after he'd witnessed women throwing their underwear onstage while the curly-maned crooner performed.

      During this unorthodox wooing period, Blanks was introduced to what she would later discover was the Blazer "lore": a backstory accentuating Blazer's intelligence and creativity, and one that he advanced relentlessly. His often-repeated personal success stories were either exaggerations or outright lies. Bizarrely, he told Blanks that he was part of a high school student brain trust that was trying to predict Fidel Castro's plans to wreak havoc on America as well as determine, once and for all, who murdered John F. Kennedy. He also dropped hints that he had graduated from NYU Law School. He hadn't. If people began to question him about his law school experiences, he suddenly became a master of distraction.

      Remember the Smiley Face button? That was my invention, Blazer boasted while seeking marketing contracts. According to Blazer, he spotted the image on an insurance company's mailing envelope and thought it would make a great button. In fact, the Smiley Face was created in 1963 by graphic artist Harvey Ball for the State Mutual Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts to raise employee morale. In Blazer's version of reality, he manufactured versions of the Smiley Face button at five US factories he purchased expressly for that purpose.

      But when sales turned out to be lackluster, he created a smaller version that caught fire and made him a millionaire. He returned to business, he told Blanks, because his early retirement bored him. Why then, Blanks always wondered, did her rich boyfriend stay in bargain-priced Holiday Inns?

      Jack Warner, Mary Lynn Blanks, and Chuck Blazer at a fancy FIFA dinner. Photo courtesy Mary Lynn Blanks

      It's true that Blazer played a role in the Smiley Face fad, but not the pivotal one he conjured up. The button was actually created by entrepreneurial brothers Bernard and Murray Spain, who went on to found—and sell for multimillions—the Dollar Store. The Spains owned a group of Hallmark stores in the Philadelphia area, where they invented and sold various popular tchotchkes aimed at young people. During the Vietnam War, they sold buttons sported by Americans on both sides of the argument about continuing the conflict: US flag and "Support Our Troops" buttons, as well as peace-sign pins. The Spains aimed for a button they hoped could be worn by everyone, regardless of his or her position on the war. So around 1970, Bernie slightly modified the Smiley Face icon created by Ball, added the phrase "Have a nice day!" and stamped it on a dime-sized yellow button that sold for a quarter. "The buttons were a runaway success," he said. "We were shocked."

      Demand for the buttons quickly outstripped the capabilities of local Philly manufacturers, so the Spains turned to Blazer, who at the time was running an uncle's button factory in Queens. "Chuck was surprised the button was doing so well, though he was happy to start filling our orders," said Spain. "But he turned out to be a greedy son of a gun. We discovered he was selling our buttons to rivals out the back door for cash." The scam was exposed when the Spains' brother-in-law drove to Queens to pick up an order of buttons and watched the Smiley Faces being loaded into trucks from other companies. "When you go into business, you assume people are going to be honorable," remarked Spain, who said he "wasn't surprised at all" when Blazer pled guilty to tax dodging and taking bribes in the FIFA scandal.

      Hoodwinking the Spain brothers foreshadowed what would become Blazer's lifetime pattern of cutting corners and cheating. In 1982, after he was hired by Direct Marketing founder and Westchester County neighbor Fred Singer to do computer work, Blazer asked Singer for a ninety-day interest-free loan of $27,000 for "bridge funding" until receivables came in for his own marketing company, this one called Windmill Promotions. Or was it Sand Castle Distributors? Blazer named both companies as loan recipients when he responded to a lawsuit by Singer in 1984 after he'd blown off repaying most of the debt. Singer's attorney spent much of one afternoon quizzing Blazer about his income. Asked why the loan had not been repaid, Blazer responded simply: "Unavailability of funds."

      Singer claimed that the money was being used to prop up the Blazers' lifestyle (the family had moved from New Rochelle to more upscale Scarsdale by the time the lawsuit was filed) and not to keep Windmill running, as Blazer had claimed. According to Blazer's testimony, his wife paid most of their living expenses, including tuition for the children, life insurance on him, lease payments on three cars, including a Mercedes and a Lexus sedan, and the Westchester mortgage.

      He was also dodging his taxes, another lifetime habit. In pursuit of a document revealing his income, Singer's attorney asked if Blazer had filed a tax return in the previous three years. He answered: "Extensions; they are out on extensions," adding that "some" had expired. The IRS was coming after Blazer as early as 1983. The tax man attached several liens against Blazer's property from that year to 1987, according to Westchester County Court records. Social Security records show that Blazer had no taxed Social Security income from 1977 to 1986.

      Singer also charged that Blazer shifted assets to his wife to keep him "judgment safe." Susan, meanwhile, resigned as vice president of the two-person Windmill operation to sidestep liability, argued Singer's attorney. Singer would eventually get most of his money, but not until years later.

      While Blazer was cooking up schemes and fending off Singer, what would become his unimaginably lucrative future was taking baby steps at a most unlikely place: on the green soccer fields of New Rochelle. The amiable Blazer volunteered to coach his children's teams, beginning in the mid-1970s. He loved to boast of Marci's booming kicks when she played with the boys. Because of the sporadic nature of his work, Blazer's schedule was more flexible than many of the nine-to-five commuter dads. He had more time for practices, games, and organizing the local league.

      Though a mediocre coach, Blazer discovered that he had a knack for what he called "sports politics," soothing complaining parents and building a stronger league with more dues-paying members. He also found that the field belonged to the bold. As one of the few in his community to own a computer, he had the facility to organize tournaments, devise schedules, orchestrate fund-raising events, compile player and team data, and write newsletters—the kind of grunt work that the other parents were grateful not to do. Blazer created special soccer patches for events and teams much as he designed branded gifts for the high-performing salespeople of his client companies. He also boasted of arranging one of the first sponsors of a children's soccer team in the nation: Nike agreed to pay for uniforms on Jason's team.

      After the Nike deal, Blazer began wondering if soccer could yield an even bigger payoff. Where other parents saw endless practices, tournaments, and half-time snacks each season, Blazer spotted a growing market among the generation of children tearing across the suburban fields—and one more possible way to make money. The kids were the key; that's how sports flourish. "Get the little ones playing, and soon you'll have soccer in everyone's backyard," said Clive Toye, a former top London soccer reporter who famously brought Pelé to America when he was the general manager of the legendary New York Cosmos and later, in 1988, launched the American Soccer League (ASL) with Blazer. Then "start a league and grow it gradually."

      The energy that Blazer poured into the children's teams earned him a spot as vice president of the New Rochelle Soccer Club. He was then quickly elected to the board and became a vice president of the regional Westchester Youth Soccer League, for which he ran the Select Team program for top players. He was named president of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), which would induct him into the organization's Hall of Fame in 1998, dubbing him the "most powerful American in the world of soccer, both home and abroad." At ENYYSA Blazer met Sunil Gulati. The Columbia University professor would later head US Soccer and serve with Blazer on the CONCACAF board. After Chuck was nabbed by the feds, Gulati would replace him on the FIFA Ex-Co.

      His Westchester soccer experience would eventually become part of the Blazer myth. When asked, in FIFA circles, about his beginnings in the sport, Blazer would say that he "used to coach," failing to point out that most of his players had been in elementary school.

      As he was working his way up the soccer food chain, Blazer was also quietly but persistently courting Blanks within the confines of their trade show work for more than three years. In 1976, when Blanks returned to New York after eleven months caring for her dying mother in her hometown of Miami, Blazer arranged for her to work at a Coliseum trade show for Sony, one of his clients. They met to catch up at the bar in the Essex House on Central Park South. After a quick hello, Blazer blurted out that he had loved Blanks since the day he met her.

      He said his marriage was over and that he was only holding it together, barely, for the children. "He did the full-court press," Blanks said. "I had never been wooed like that by anyone. A few cocktails later, we were upstairs."

      Blazer, who already had an office a few blocks north of the United Nations building in the East Forties in Manhattan, rented a one-bedroom condo for him and Blanks in the same building. His office phone was moved to the apartment, and Blanks was ordered never to answer it, so that Blazer could field calls from his wife. That arrangement blew up six months later in the blood-spattered confrontation in the couple's bedroom.

      When Blazer reached out to Blanks again after her fiftieth birthday in 2002, she was in a desperate situation. Her husband, Bobby, had opted out of their twenty-three-year marriage and was seeing another woman. Mary Lynn was consumed with anxiety about supporting their two sons, Christopher, thirteen, and Nicky, nine. Checks were bouncing, bills were unpaid, they were in danger of losing their apartment. In retrospect, Blanks has often wondered if Blazer had somehow discovered her precarious financial situation—the eviction notices for the family home were public record, which Blazer could have found easily through a computer search. "Nothing's a coincidence with Chuck," said Blanks, who later learned that he kept tabs on most of his old girlfriends online.

      Blazer also needed an acceptable escort for FIFA events. He was the only single man on FIFA's twenty-four-member Ex-Co at the time. While some members of the Ex-Co board had mistresses, they weren't warmly welcomed at the tony dinners and official events that members were required to attend. Blanks was the perfect candidate for FIFA fetes: she was attractive, smart, and personable. She had grown up traveling the world for free because her dad was a Pan American Airways mechanic. She was even a licensed pilot should Blazer ever acquire a private plane. (He did later dream of his blonde companion, dressed as a chauffeur, driving him around New York in his newly purchased Hummer, paid for by CONCACAF.)

      Blanks remembered the good times with Chuck, and she welcomed the thoughtfulness of Chuck's birthday greeting at a low point in her life. She contacted Blazer after reading his letter, using the e-mail address he had included. Maybe he would finally apologize for striking her, she thought. Perhaps he felt so badly about it that he would help her out now, so long afterward, possibly with a job. They caught up on the phone and in a stream of messages. Blanks recalled incorrectly pronouncing FIFA as "fie-fah," and feeling badly for him because he was only a secretary after all those years. No, he corrected her, he wasn't a secretary of CONCACAF, he was the general secretary, "like in the United Nations," Blazer explained. He was tender and funny—the man she had fallen in love with.

      They exchanged photos, but Blazer's weight had ballooned so grotesquely that Blanks was unable to pick him out in the group shot he sent. He blamed the weight gain on various health problems. Within weeks, he persuaded her to visit him at Trump Tower. "He love-bombed me," said Blanks. "He seemed so infatuated with me and wanted to move so fast. It was flattering."

      Chuck Blazer received a lifetime ban from FIFA on July 9, 2015. Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA.

      Welcomed into his apartment at 49J by a CONCACAF assistant, Blanks was escorted down a long hall to the living room, which fronted Central Park. The curtains were drawn, and the room was dark; for a moment, she didn't see Blazer. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she beheld the mound of a man sitting in the shadows in the corner of a sectional sofa, wrapped in an enormous brown-and-blue-striped velour bathrobe. He didn't rise to greet her. He was sad. He was embarrassed about his weight, he said, and didn't know what to wear or how best to present himself to her. He couldn't adequately express his feelings to her, Blazer explained, so instead he played a CD he had made of songs that he believed spoke to the relationship they once had. One of them was "A Heart Full of Love" from the Broadway show Les Misérables; another, "All I Ask of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, with the lyrics "Then say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime, let me lead you from your solitude. Say you need me with you here, beside you."

      He told her, again, that she was the love of his life and that he wanted to make a home for her and her sons. He would treat them like his own, he vowed. By the end of the evening, they were embracing.

      Less than three months later, Blanks and her sons moved in with him. The lovers first traveled as a couple to Charleston, South Carolina. Then Blazer insisted that Blanks and the boys accompany him to the Bahamas (to an apartment paid for by CONCACAF) on Christmas Day. He always took his two crazy cats on trips to the Bahamas, but on that day, the airline wouldn't allow him to take both of them in first class, so the entire traveling party left, returning to fly the following day. "It was nuts, dragging my kids back home on Christmas Day," Blanks recalled. "There were warning signs about a life with Chuck that I ignored. Then we moved in with him. Dumb. Dumb."

      Their relationship became part of the Chuck Blazer myth. The couple had a once-in-a-lifetime love, he told friends and associates. They had split up when they were young only because Blanks demanded too much of his time—like all mistresses do, he explained—and he had a family to attend to. They finally got together again years later, he said, when he was divorced from his wife. At fifty, Blanks was the "oldest woman" he had ever dated, he made a point of saying. Blanks always joked that she had to wait until he grew up.

      Neither one of them mentioned the bloody altercation in the bedroom.

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