The Comeback of Harvey Martin

Eighteen months ago, the former Cowboys hero was drinking and drugging his way to disaster. Now he's clean, sober, and planning to stay that way.

But that didn't stop Martin from getting involved in even more money pits after that. Then again, he was always quick to give his name and a few bucks to anyone who promised easy fortunes. Pearson recalls that during their days playing together, he often became jealous of all the business opportunities being thrown Martin's way.

During the 1977 season, when Pearson was separated from the woman who would soon become his ex-wife, he moved in with Martin. He recalls the day Martin showed him a handful of business cards with his name on them.

"He told me, 'Drew, my goal is to have a hundred of these,'" Pearson recalls. "He thought by being involved and having these business cards--and people would just make them up and give them to him and make it look like he was involved--that made him feel like he was involved in these businesses. I said to myself, 'If he thinks that's what it's all about, he's going to find out the hard way.' It's not about how many businesses you're involved in, but how they're doing."

In 1987, that truth would hit Martin. What began as a business venture with noble intentions ended with his losing everything, including a mansion in Carrollton that came complete with an indoor swimming pool.

Martin wanted to bring a Sam's Wholesale Club to Oak Cliff; he thought folks in the old neighborhood would appreciate the bargain-shopping. So he hooked up with a local real estate developer, flew to Arkansas to meet with Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, and provided his own money and property as collateral--more than $100,000, he says. The Sam's was to be built at Loop 12 and Ledbetter Drive, and Martin left his partner in charge.

Martin didn't have time to stick around: He was due in Minnesota, where he was filming a small role in the Jamie Lee Curtis-Alex English children's film Amazing Grace and Chuck. By then, Martin had appeared in a handful of films (including No Safe Haven) and local stage productions (including Damn Yankees and The Odd Couple) and was eagerly pursuing his acting career; his idea of tending to the big picture was making movies, not taking care of business. It would prove his undoing: When Martin returned from shooting, he discovered that the Sam's deal had soured and that his money--not to mention his Jaguar, his Mercedes-Benz, and his house in Carrollton--was gone.

Martin didn't sue his partner for the money. He did nothing, except drink, snort, and try to forget the whole awful affair.

"I was a lost person," Martin says. "That, to me, was a turning point. My self-esteem went through the ground. All of a sudden, for the first time in my life, I was defeated, and it was such a defeat that I couldn't get back on my feet. I didn't fight, and I should have. That was the beginning of my end."

Over the course of the next decade, he would start and stop a number of unsuccessful businesses: He opened a collection agency and started selling pre-paid phone cards. Those and other fly-by-night operations emptied his pockets. He was never broke, but he was on the wrong side of rich. Among his biggest chunk of revenue is the more than $180,000 in workers compensation he has received for old football injuries--to his hands, legs, shoulder, you name it.

One local sports memorabilia dealer says Martin would show up to hock whatever he had remaining from his playing days. Martin says he still has many souvenirs remaining--including his Super Bowl MVP trophy.

He ended up taking a job on the KKDA morning show, working as a sort of sports anchor-personality. Sometimes he'd show up to work; other times, well, if he didn't make it, that's just Big Harv. His life degenerated into one long cocaine high and whiskey low. In 1989, he was pulled over for an expired inspection sticker, and cops found pot in the car; two years later came the assault on the live-in and yet another marijuana bust.

Two years ago, he withdrew from his family and friends and gave up on work. He decided he needed some time to himself, as he explains now with a sad smile--more time to sleep, to get drunk, and to throw away whatever remained of his life. He'd kill time at the Stoneleigh P bar, concealing his troubles from patrons who'd ask for autographs. Even his teammates and family didn't know the extent of his problems.

"I knew there was something wrong, but I didn't know exactly what it was," says Devincent Robertson, Martin's 26-year-old son. Robertson's the child of Martin and Blanche Robertson, a woman Martin dated while at East Texas State. The two have not spoken in years, communicating only through Devincent, a former Army soldier and now a salesman at Prestige Ford. "As a kid, nobody's going to sit you down and say, 'Hey, I know you love your daddy to death, but guess what...?' They did a good job of keeping it from me, and he did too. When we met with each other, I would be able to tell something was wrong, but he would say he's OK, and you take your daddy's word for it."

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