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'Skill' lifts hat to Spartan

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor --
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Allan “Skill” Cole, long-time Spartan Health Club member, is saddened by the announcement that the gym will be shuttered after more than four decades of operation.

Cole — former manager and confidante of reggae king Bob Marley — commended Mickey Haughton-James, principal of the Lady Musgrave Road facility, for establishing the venue as the premier training ground for Jamaica's athletes and beauty queens.

It produced two Miss World winners: Cindy Breakspeare in 1976 and Lisa Hanna in 1993.

“It's just sad, but life goes on. A lot of us used Spartan as a means of keeping in shape. Mickey did a great job. I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart. I do hope he gets some much-needed rest and enjoy his life. The business took a lot of work and took a toll, so he [Mickey] called it a day,” Cole, 69, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“People loved the camaraderie. It's a place you could socialise and you meet a lot of people there. Some great people passing through that place.”

Last week, Haughton-James took to social media and informed its members that due to the economic downturn brought on by the novel coronavirus, the fitness centre will close at the end of September.

“A crowded gym is a hot spot for the coronavirus, which is predicted to be with us for many more months. We predict that it will be years before large gyms are viable. This opinion seems to be shared by our bankers of more than 45 years which recently informed us that they view gyms as a high-risk investment at this time and would be reluctant to extend loans or provide overdraft,” said Haughton-James, whose company held the Miss World franchise for several years.

“It has been a long ride and we are happy that we were able to provide this service to members since 1976. We take this opportunity to thank you our members, past and present, for your support over these many years,” the release concluded.

Spartan's roster included singers Jacob Miller and Bob Andy, as well as reggae band Third World.

Miller died in 1980, while Andy passed away in March 2020.

“Usain Bolt, Courtney Walsh, [Yohan] Blake... di whole a dem man deh come through deh. You meet some great people... Bob used to pass through because a Cindy,” said Cole. “You know how many people pass through — footballers, track stars, professionals, pilots... Gerald Roach, the first Jamaican Mr Universe in the 1960s.”

It was Breakspeare's connection to Marley that spurred those now-famous photographs of him wearing the Spartan Health Club T-shirt. They were in a relationship which resulted in the birth of their son, Grammy-winning star Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, in 1978.

Marley died in May 1981.

Cole, who first played for Jamaica's national football team as a teen, introduced Marley to a fitness lifestyle. He is also credited with co-writing War with the reggae superstar.

He said, for now, he's going through his exercise routine at home.

“Mi nuh know where mi a guh go yet.... But Spartan was a haven for people who loved physical fitness — both male and female. I don't really know how to thank Mickey. Farewell and well done, Mickey,” Cole added.

Marley died in May 1981