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.
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.
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.
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.
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.