It all began at the Baronâ??s Castle Buffet Restaurant in Los Angeles, with weekly get-togethers comprised of Mike Mazurki and Al Baffertâ??s wrestling and movie friends, plus promoter George Parnassusâ?? boxing friends. Mazurki owned the restaurant, which was in the Los Angeles Elks Club building.
At the core of the Cauliflower Alley Club was the friendship of Art Abrams and Mike Mazurki, which dated back to the 1950s, when Mazurki was becoming a film icon and still taking a lot of wrestling dates. Abrams was a printer by trade, and was for many years employed by the old Los Angeles Examiner. During the early years on the club, the CAC newsletters and reunion banquet programs were printed in his garage on an old Examiner press.
“He was, from the beginning until his death, the executive vice-president and treasurer of the club,” recalls todayâ??s executive vice-president, Karl Lauer, of Missouri. “Art was responsible for everything. He did it all from his home in Eagle Rock (a Los Angeles suburb).”
A boxing promoter, Marshall Wright, served in the early years as managing director.
The first CAC banquet was an informal affair held at Baron’s Castle, honoring â??The Golden Greekâ? Jim Londos. The menu was comprised of hot dogs, coffee and Cokes, but the turnout of legendary champions of wrestling and boxing made for a memorable occasion. Mazurki was chosen president and Lou Nova was selected as vice-president. There were approximately one hundred members at the time.
In the years to follow, several other banquets were held, again with all-star casts of famous folk from the ring and Hollywood screen.
In 1977, the Cauliflower Alley Club was accorded nonprofit status. The club name and Mike Mazurki’s cauliflower ear were registered as trademarks. Weekly Wednesday luncheon meetings continued into the early 1980s, with a multitude of sites playing host to the “ring of friendship”: the Masquerâ??s Club in Hollywood, the Hollywood Legion Stadium building, the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, the Old Spaghetti Factory and Dunes Restaurant. These events took place, rain or shine, with an occasional banquet honoring various champions. Eventually, though, the weekly meetings were canceled due to declining attendance.
Not long before he died, Art Abrams recalled the above origins of the club and listed other highlights of the CACâ??s history. To wit:
R.M.S. Queen Mary, Long Beach (California) â?? CAC banquet held on board, honoring Gene Fullmer, Sugar Ray Robinson and others. City of Long Beach later offered the Royal Salon for use by CAC for meetings and banquets, and space was allotted for installation of a CAC Museum on board the famous ship. Everett Sanders was the first Museum honoree at the installation banquet. Alas, a change in ship ownership canceled all plans.
In 1980, the CAC was forced to reorganize due to legal problems with the directorship. A new board of directors and revised operating procedures were installed. Membership at the time was considered questionable by many, until assurances of corrections were made. Among these was the establishment of the CAC as a nonprofit organization, dedicated to preserving and enhancing the “ring of friendship” throughout the world. (The old club hierarchy, under Wright, became the Golden State Boxing & Wrestling Club.)
1983-84 â?? Banquets for the first reunions under the newly reorganized CAC were held at the Valley Hilton Hotel in Sherman Oaks. The limited size of the banquet room prompted a search for a new location.
1985-98 â?? The Sportsmenâ??s Lodge in Studio City became the longtime home of the Cauliflower Alley Club reunions. Membership eventually grew to 3,000, worldwide (although there were a great many who neglected to send in their modest, $25 dues; todayâ??s global membership, fully paid-up, is approaching 1,000, with another 2,500 listed as “retired” members).
September, 1994 â?? The first East Coast reunion banquet was held at the Sheraton Monarch Place Hotel in Springfield, Mass.
1995-1998 â?? Annual East Coast reunions took place at the Holiday Inn Jetport Hotel near Newark, N.J.
October, 1996 â?? Just three weeks after a Newark “East Coast” reunion, the CAC staged its third reunion of the year in another region of the country, with the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Tampa, Fla., playing host to the globetrotting membership.
April, 1999 â?? The inaugural induction ceremony at the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Newton, Iowa., lured the CAC to the Heart of America for the first time, with a sellout banquet highlighting the weekâ??s festivities.
February, 2000-2001 â?? The CAC directorship, in an effort to find a “destination” city for its annual West Coast reunion banquets, chooses Las Vegasâ?? Riviera Hotel. Record crowds attend the glittering affairs.
2003-2004 â?? The CAC moves the reunion to the Plaza Hotel/Casino on Freemont Street, as the attendance sets new records.
2005 – The CAC returns to The Riviera for its 40th reunion.
2006 – Back to the Plaza for the last time.
2007 and 2008 The CACÂ returned to The Riviera.
2009 brings us to a new host hotel, The Gold Coast.
2010 – The Sapphire Event – Celebrating 45 yrs! The Gold Coast Casino