Mary Bacon, the abrasive 26-year-old blond mother who ranks among the best female jockeys in the U.S., has always been unpredictable. She has told wildly differing stories about her life to interviewers. Her appearance in the buff in Playboy and her embittered view of the male-female relationship (“If they ever legalize marriage between horses and human beings, then I’ll get married again”) jolted the Thoroughbred racing establishment. But all her previous erratic behavior seemed almost conventional alongside her recent admission that she has been a long-time member of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I think the Klan is a very misunderstood organization,” said Mrs. Bacon, who is now riding second-rate horses in Omaha, Nebr. Last month Mary, dressed in a derby hat and trench coat, spoke at a large Klan rally in Walker, La. Says her TV agent, Merrill Jonas, “I regret that it happened.”
Because of her appearance with the Klan, she lost a profitable TV commercial for Dutch Masters cigars. And although some stable owners say she will have no trouble getting mounts so long as she wins (“Her only problem now is that she’s new,” says one track observer), there were indications that Mary would be in for rough riding in the months ahead. At Pimlico in Baltimore, one veteran reporter said, “She’s bad news—most trainers and owners try to stay away from adverse publicity.” At New York’s Aqueduct an authority said, “It will affect her mounts—there are a lot of colored fans here and they are not going to like seeing her out on the track.”
Mary remains confident. “People will only worry about what I do from the starting gate to the finish line—not about what I do in my personal life,” she says. “I’m paid to win races.”
Mary feels the Klan is not racist and that she isn’t either. “All the records I buy are Motown records,” she says stoutly. “Some of my best friends are blacks.” Nevertheless, preaching to the Klansmen in Louisiana, Bacon said: “When one of your wives or one of your sisters gets raped by a nigger, maybe then you’ll get smart and join the Klan.”
There is speculation that all this could merely be a sad attempt on Bacon’s part to focus renewed public attention on herself. “Once I was called the Bunny Jockey because of Playboy,” she slyly admits, “now I’ll be known as the one in the white sheets.”