Throughout his controversial and eventful life, Jake LaMotta was married seven times. At the time of his death, LaMotta’s seventh wife, Denise Baker, was by his side. It was Baker who confirmed LaMotta’s passing to TMZ. The legendary boxer was 95. The gossip site reports that LaMotta suffered from pneumonia and that is condition had gotten worse over the last week.
Baker told TMZ, “I just want people to know , he was a great, sweet, sensitive, strong compelling man with a great sense of of humor, with eyes that danced.”
Here’s what you need to know about the woman who was by LaMotta’s side at the end:
1. There Was a 30-Year Age Difference Between LaMotta & Baker
On January 4, 2012, LaMotta and Baker got married in Bisbee, Arizona, reported Page Six at the time. Baker told the tabloid that the pair would most likely “take a nap” after the small ceremony. A few days after the initial nuptials, the couple held a larger party for friends and family.
2. In 2012, the Pair Appeared in a ‘Theatrical Tell-All’ About LaMotta’s Career
Around the time of their wedding the couple was starring in a “theatrical” tell-all about LaMotta’s career known as The Lady & the Champ. The show was written by Baker and starred the couple. It was also made into a movie. The filmmakers had to be clear that the movie had no connection to Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.
During that stage show, LaMotta says of his numerous wives, “My first wife died from eating mushrooms. My second wife died from eating mushrooms. My third wife died of a skull fracture. She refused to eat the mushrooms.”
In a November 2012 interview with Esquire, LaMotta made two references to married life. The former champ said, “Most of the time husbands and wives argue about stupid, foolish things. If it doesn’t meant that much to you, give in to your wife. If you don’t give in, you’re giving in to to not having sex.” LaMotta also said, “My wife never I knew I was a drunk till the night I came home sober. Some jokes come out when I least expect it. When I get the cue, the joke comes out.”
During the theatrical show, it was Baker’s role to sing as well as recount “a few ambiguous details of her life,” according to the New York Times. The Times review goes on to say that Baker “breaks into overworked standards” such as “New York, New York” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The review goes on to say that Baker is “the kind of singer who apologizes mid song as her voice cracks for the first of several times.”
The New York Post crucified the show calling it “mortifying.” The Post review adds that Baker was the one-time star of an erotic musical titled Let My People Come. According to Broadway World, that role was Baker’s only on Broadway.
3. The Couple Were Neighbors of Comedian Doug Stanhope in Arizona
LaMotta and Baker’s home life was the subject of a September 2016 feature by the Sierra Vista Herald. In the article, the couple talked about living nearby to comedian Doug Stanhope in the Bakerville section of Bisbee, Arizona.
Baker said of the town, “When I got here I just knew I found the right place.” Baker has lived in Bisbee since 1977. While Doug Stanhope described the town as “the middle of nowhere.” Bisbee is along the Mexico border about 200 miles south of Phoenix.
The couple was known to frequent Cafe Roka and the Copper Queen Hotel in the town while Baker was a regular golfer in Turquoise Valley, according to the Herald.
According to her Facebook page, Baker is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Baker attended high school at the Fontbonne Hall Academy in New York City. She attended college at Cochise College in Arizona.
4. Baker Is a Divorced Mother-of-2
Baker was identified as a divorce mother-of-two in a 2003 Observer feature on LaMotta. The New York Daily News named Baker’s daughters in their obituary of LaMotta as Meggen Connolley and Natalia Baker.
In the Observer article, LaMotta referred to Baker as his “fiancee.” The boxer goes on to say that LaMotta met Baker at PJ Clarke’s restaurant in Midtown Manhattan in 1993. The piece reads, “She’s been with him ever since, devoted, protective, ever by his side.”
LaMotta spokes about PJ Clarke’s in his Esquire interview saying, “Go to PJ Clarke’s and order a Cadillac. It may not be on the meu like that. But old-timers will remember. It’s a bacon cheeseburger.”
Baker is described also by the Observer as having a “lithe figure and shiny black hair belies her 53 years.” It was Baker who arranged the interview. She tells the Observer, “The Champ doesn’t have much money. And he’s always getting asked to do this sort of thing. He’s popular all over the world and his fans love him.” While LaMotta says, “I want to make her my wife; she’ll be lucky number seven. I’m still functioning, even at 80. Denise has got a great body. She excites me every time time she takes her clothes off. Hey, some guys can’t even function at 40.”
5. Baker Says LaMotta’s ‘Big Mouth’ Is What Prevented Him From Dating Hollywood Stars
In the Independent’s LaMotta’s obituary, it’s written that during a 2001 interview LaMotta said, “I was the number one playboy in Miami – I had dates with Hedy Lamarr, Jane Russell, Ginger Rogers, Jayne Mansfield and other, but I never got laid by any of them, something always happened.” Baker chimed in with, “Yeah, your big mouth is what happened.”
Robert De Niro said in a simple statement upon hearing of LaMotta’s death, “Rest in Peace, Champ.” During his career between 1941 and 1954, Lamotta won 83 fights, lost 19 and drew 4. LaMotta said about his career in a 2012 interview with Esquire, “I was able to convince my body that I could take it and nobody could hurt me. I might’ve gotten cut, stitches over my eyes. Broken nose. Broken hands. But I never really got hurt.”
De Niro told Time Magazine in 2013 that he trained alongside LaMotta in preparation for the movie. De Niro said, “He would say, ‘Hit me, don’t worry, don’t worry.’ He was 55 but he was really tough. I didn’t realize until I got to his age [how hard it is to] still take a punch.”