, boxing in the middleweight
divisions as "Kid McCoy," lost only six fights in a 166-fight career at the turn of the twentieth century. By the time he retired at the age of 24 he’d made half a million dollars, often by cheating in the ring. He threw thumbtacks
under the bare feet of one opponent and sprayed ammonia
in the eyes of another. Once, fighting a deaf
boxer, he pointed to the man’s corner, indicating that the round was over, and when the boxer turned, McCoy decked him.
McCoy said he arrived at his moniker The Real McCoy thus:
"I’m in a saloon with a charming young lady, as usual. A drunk is making passes at her. I try to brush him off without too much fuss. 'Beat it,’ I says, 'I’m Kid McCoy.’ He laughs and says, 'Yeah? Well I’m George Washington.’ I have to clip him a short one, and down he goes. He wakes up ten minutes later, rubs his jaw and says, 'Jeez, it was the real McCoy.'"
McCoy opened a club in New York with his earnings, but his short temper, saloon fights, and wandering eye soon cost him the club and his fortune. He was married eight times.
At the age of 51 he moved to Los Angeles where he played bit parts in movies—usually a bad guy—while he also worked as a security guard. Finally, on August 12, 1924, a drunken Kid McCoy killed his girlfriend, who happened to be married to an art and antiques dealer at the time .
After continuing to drink all night, McCoy decided to kill the husband too. He went to the husband’s shop, found the man to be out, and held eleven people hostage while he waited for his return. In the throes of a serious hangover, McCoy decided finally to go looking for a bit of the hair of the dog that bit him and was eventually shot and wounded by police after a chase through what is now MacArthur Park.
McCoy’s lawyer, the famous celebrity mouthpiece Jerry Giesler, got the conviction reduced to manslaughter and McCoy served eight years of a 24-year sentence. He was working on a prison chain gang one day near William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon mansion when an airplane crashed right in front of him. He helped save the injured pilot and was awarded an easier job—tour guide at San Quentin Penitentiary.
He was eventually pardoned after General Douglas MacArthur, actor Lionel Barrymore and others petitioned the governor on his behalf.
McCoy moved to Detroit in 1932 with his bride (his ninth wife), where he became "Athletic Director" for the Ford Motor Company. In 1935 he rescued several people whose boat had capsized on Lake Michigan.
In 1940, at the age of 66, Norman Selby AKA Kid McCoy committed suicide by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. He left a note: "I can’t endure this world’s madness any longer."
In probably his most comfortable role—that of prison mentor and elder confidante— he had once warned a young convict:
"Remember that the bright lights go out the quickest. Kid McCoy knows."