RIP: Past CAC President,Red Bastien

It is what it was, to employ a slight edit of Red Bastien’s favorite phrase, it is what it is.  And what it was, was a wonderful life lived by a unique man.

Rolland Bastien to his legion of friends, and the uncounted masses who witnessed his ring exploits over the years  passed away in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the afternoon of August 11, 2012, at the age of 81.

The genial redhead capped a remarkable and lengthy wrestling career, that spanned carnival AT shows, professional rings from Madison Square Garden on down the list, training of young wrestlers and actively promoting his sport in California, with a seven-year stint as President of the Cauliflower Alley Club.  Through it all, he maintained an amazing zest for life, an infinite capacity to relate to people, an endless supply of good humor, and that unforgettable laugh.

Red with the Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame award

Born in Bottineau, North Dakota on January 27, 1931, young Rolland developed an interest in wrestling by his mid-teens. Though a promising swimmer, he foresook the pool for the mat, and bypassed the amateur side of the sport for the rigorous challenge of wrestling in the carnival AT shows against all comers.  He was trained well by several old hookers, the masters of submission wrestling, and in his latter teens went through several years on the gruelling carny circuit.  He was undefeated, depending on his deceptively-small size, rawhide toughness and natural competitiveness to carry him through.

Red, as he soon came to be known, had his first pro match in about 1950, by most accounts. His budding career was interrupted by a stint in the U.S.Navy, attached to a ship repair squad stationed near Naples, Italy.  Resuming his mat ventures, he trained further with old pro Joe Pazandak in Minneapolis.  He also worked on his aerial game particularly, becoming one of the highest-flying athletes of the day.Reds spectacular flying head scissors was one of a kind, and is said to have never been duplicated.

The Bastien Brothers – Lou Bastien (standing) & Red

Tag team wrestling became his forte as the 1960′s dawned.  He worked on top at Madison Square Garden with brother Lou (Klein)Bastien, defeating such teams as the Grahams and The FabulousKangaroos. Billy Red Lyons allied with him as The Flying Redheads, and Spanish strongman Hercules Cortez was his regular partner until he died in an auto accident in Minnesota on July 23, 1971 that Red miraculously survived.

Red became an exceptional wrestler early in his career. An average-sized man at 5′ 10″ and just over 200 pounds, he transcended his limitations to become one of the best of his era inside the ring, in the almost universal view of his contemporaries.

Wrestlers trained by Bill Anderson & Red in Northridge, Ca.(circa 1985) In this photo is Sting (Steve Borden), the Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig), The Angel of Death (Dave Sheldon), Strangler Steve DiSalvo, Garland Donahoe and Mark Miller

As Reds active career began to taper off, he worked closely with Big Bill Anderson in training promising new talent in California, including Sting (Steve Borden), Angel of Death (Dave Sheldon), Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig), Steve di Salvo and others. He began promoting as well, in both northern and southern California, and often used smaller men with different styles, such as luchadores, on his cards.

As well as being President of the Cauliflower Alley Club from 2001 to 2007, Red was installed in the WCW Hall of Fame in 1994, and the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame at the Wrestling Museum in Waterloo, Iowa in 2007.

“Flying Red” with a scissors lock on The Destroyer.

CAC introduced the Red Bastien Award at his retirement from the presidency, to recognize those very special fans who have never worked in any major capacity in the pro wrestling industry or been under contract to a major wrestling promotion, but should have demonstrated by deed and word over time a commitment to the people and the welfare of the industry.

Sadly, Red was stricken with Alzheimers Disease, and spent the last several years of his life in an excellent care facility in Minneapolis.  He is survived by the devoted lady in his life for many years, Carol McCutchin, and her daughter Tracy, and by a large extended family in the upper midwest.

The Cauliflower Alley Club extends its condolences to Carol and Tracy, and to Reds family and many friends.

Greg Oliver of Slam!Wrestling has a fine retrospective of Reds life at http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/2010/05/02/13796526.html , along with an interesting photo gallery.

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6 Responses to “RIP: Past CAC President,Red Bastien”

  1. Dean Silverstone August 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Red used to attend the Issaquah (Northwest)Reunions. In 1992, Kay Bell was one of the guests. Kay had been on top in the business when Red was but a teenager. When the two of them saw each other, Red completely “marked” out. Kay Bell had been Red’s idol when Red first got interested in wrestling and this was their first up and close meeting. I’ll always remember how excited Red was to meet his first favorite.

  2. I remember seeing the “Flying Redhead” (as DC/Baltimore TV commentator Ray Morgan used to call him) in some great battles back in the early ’60s. Red and “brother” Lou had many exciting matches with the likes of Eddie & Jerry Graham, the Fabulous Kangaroos, Skull Murphy & Brute Bernard, and many others. Red’s ring skills were superb, and I always thought of Red as one of the most likable wrestlers around, along with Ed Carpentier. Red will be long remembered as a great guy and a real credit to his profession. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet him live, but I’ll treasure the great looking “matinee idol” glossy 8×10 photo of the Bastiens that I bought at a live show at the Baltimore Colosseum back in ’61. Wishing you well on your next great adventure, Red… Love & Peace… Don

  3. I first saw Red Bastien wrestle in 1969 when he came to the AWA. He instantly became one of my favorites and it was so gratifying to meet him in person 38 years later and find that he was just as great a person as he was a wrestler. I had a chance to talk to him on the phone a couple of times previous to meeting him (a trip I made specifically to meet him) and he treated me like he had known me all my life. I will miss him knowing he’s no longer here.

  4. I was going to see a match with Red and Hercules vs Anderson and Hennig, in Duluth, MN, but the tragic car accident occured a couple of days before that. So, I had to wait until I was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in 1974 to see Red wrestle. His opponent was Billy Graham. My favorite wrestler, Red was the ultimate worker and what a thrill to watch. May prayers go out to his family.

  5. I’m very sad at the news of Red’s passing. From watching him as a fan growing up in the old NY territory to the thrill of being in the business and working with him leave me with many great memories. With a mix of so many different personalities in our business, Red stood out as a credit to wrestling as well as being a true friend to those who had the privilage of calling him friend. I will miss him very much.

  6. I never saw you wrestle in person just heard about how great you were it sad when anyone lose there love ones. I know Millions all over the world are missing you life without that bright smile and that strong voice will be miss I know your in a better place but you can’t tell my soul that because my heart is broking for your friends and family and Wrestling Family too. Give them hell RED I know your in that Big Ring in the sky saying “WHO NEXT” :(….