Board Briefs (2007-06)
The Year In Review, by CAC President Nick Bockwinkel
As we close another year, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the last 365 days in the world of the Cauliflower Alley Club.Â Itâ??s been quite a productive year and we look forward to more in 2008.
Our Reunion in April was a great success, returning to the Riviera and honoring a fine group of wrestlers and affiliated persons.Â It was a pleasure to see so many first-timers there including Steve Williams and Bret Hart, with whom I worked during Calgaryâ??s Stampede Week so many years ago, and it was great to see so many people return to the Reunion after extended absences.
The event was, of course, bittersweet as we bade farewell to Red Bastien who has served faithfully as our President for seven years; however, I have the honor of stepping into the position and working to fill Redâ??s shoes.Â With Redâ??s departure came some changes to the Board of Directors as we welcomed Charlie Smith and Wes Daniel to our Board, both of whom continue to serve the Club in many ways and have proven to be tremendous assets to the organization.Â At this meeting, we also elected Bishop Jason Sanderson to fill Redâ??s vacant spot on the Executive Board.Â Jason has been a life member of the Club for several years and is one of our biggest supporters.Â We are looking forward to the ideas and changes these new faces will bring to our Club.
The CACâ??s sister organizations, Gulf Coast Wrestlerâ??s Reunion (in Mobile, AL), the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame (in Schenectady, NY) and the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame at the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute & Museum (in Waterloo, IA) all drew outstanding crowds for their events.Â It is refreshing to me to see that so many people are willing to come out and support the history of professional wrestling.Â It is also great to know that so many of the â??boysâ? are active in the various organizations and are dedicated to keeping their own histories alive.
Just because these events were successes, though, doesnâ??t mean that there wasnâ??t a misstep here and there.Â The one that comes immediately to mind being Wrestle FanFest in San Francisco which may have been the largest faux pas of them all.Â I was fortunate to have received my plane fare and had the opportunity to attend and help sell memberships to the CAC.Â Unfortunately, many of our members werenâ??t so fortunate.Â Stories abound of cancelled plane tickets, bounced checks and false advertising.Â Itâ??s unfortunate that some people will take advantage of the publicâ??s obvious desire to support the history of our sport.Â To all of those burned by this event, fans and wrestlers alike, I encourage you to come visit us at a CAC Reunion and see the difference.Â While we canâ??t pay for you to attend, you will have an opportunity to sell your merchandise, renew old friendships and make quite a few new friends.
In October, the CAC appointed Bob Leonard to its Board of Directors.Â Bob, who the Club honored earlier in the year, will serve as our Director of Canadian Affairs and has assumed the responsibility for coordinating all events related to our neighbor to the north.Â Also in October, Karl Lauer, Wes Daniel and I met with the Riviera Hotel & Casino event staff to review all of the Reunion event details.Â We have our floorplan laid out, the events are all in place and the week is shaping up to be, perhaps, one of the best events weâ??ve held.Â Between the memorabilia fair, the â??Members Onlyâ? hospitality area, the seminars, the Baloney Blowout, karaoke events and the Banquet, we hope to put on three days of festivities that will call each of you back year after year.
November saw me wind up in the hospital with triple heart bypass surgery.Â What started as a hearth cath turned into several weeks of painful recovery, but Iâ??m nearly well now and should be insulting the humanoids again in no time!
Finally, with sadness, we look over the names of those who have passed this year.Â With, once again, over 50 names on the RIP board, it really brings home the frailty of life and that we must make every moment valuable.Â To those who suffered loss, we again offer our condolences.
To everybody reading this, thank you for your support of The Club.Â I look forward to seeing you in Vegas in June.Â Have a happy and safe holiday!
Guest Commentary, Jeff Sharkey
While I’m quite proud to be affiliated with the Cauliflower Alley Club right alongside alongside some of the legendary stars I grew up watching as a fan, I am quite content to hear their stories of the hard-knock life that you had to live sometimes to carve out a career in professional wrestling. I did my share of travels and had my relative successes and moderate failures over the years, too… but nothing compared to what my heroes like Mad Dog Vachon, Baron Von Raschke and Nick Bockwinkel experienced.
Cleaning out some old boxes recently, I ran across a number of photos that have yet to find a home in any albums. Two pictures reminded me of a tale from almost 15 years ago that I hope qualifies for recollection, and that some of the readers can sympathize.
September 1993: As I worked my way through my tenure of that “cushy” office position with Nu-Age Wrestling in Wisconsin, I found myself working as a ring announcer, commentator, matchmaker, public and media relations, and anything else that needed to be done before or during a card. So many hats, and wearing none particularly well. One of the headline matches we had booked was a return match in Waupaca, WI between our Light Heavyweight champion Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell, and the former champion, The Cobra. Jim had captured the belt in the same building the previous April, and the feud had expanded to include Cobra’s fellow masked man in mayhem, Texas Hangman Killer (Mike Moran). On Jim’s side was a locally-trained powerlifter, Stephanie VandeWeghe, who wrestled as Stephanie Star. Steph and Cobra had their own history as they worked a number of grudge matches. So we booked a tag match that went about 20 minutes and was a real donnybrook from start-to-finish.
Stephanie was slated for some powerlifting tournaments in the near future and needed a reason for her disappearance from upcoming shows. The finish was booked to where Brunzell would be cut off from helping Stephanie fend off Cobra and Hangman Killer’s double team by getting handcuffed to the ropes. In the wonderful world of advance planning, though, I was given two assignments. Originally, they asked me to do a post-match interview as Stepahnie was helped to the dressing room, where Brunzell would issue a fiery challenge for either man to face him. That was the easy part, as I was the host of the TV taping and had control of how things were timed.
The other task was the daunting one. As the match got started, I was slipped the key to unlock the handcuffs and told to handle that duty after the match as well. With nobody to pass along to, and commentary occupying my time, followed by the interview, I had no way to appoint someone else to handle the task without drawing attention to this obvious lapse in judgment.
The match itself went off without a hitch, and the chaos that ensued as Brunzell frantically tried to escape the cuffs was a fever pitch that really charged up the fans and left everyone involved in the bout pleased with the outcome. As Cobra and the Texas Hangman departed, Brunzell gave what I feel was his most empassioned promo that I had witnessed to date, outshining anything in his “major league” career where other partners were considered the promo half of the team, with Brunzell being the athletic, solid worker whose science spoke most loudly.
From the apron, I turned away from Brunzell and wrapped up the segment, still not sure how to segue between being the neutral commentator and the guy who “just happened” to have Brunzell’s key to freedom. So I had to buy some time, and I walked back to the announce desk, where I finally eyed a ring crew worker who I could sneak the key to. Meanwhile Brunzell paced the length of the ring, selling the cuffs angrily even long after the cameras were off (and perhaps wondering if he was being ribbed by this point).
As I started to whisper my plan to the ring crew guy, my back to the ring, he said, “Oh, look; someone got him out.” That someone happened to be the plain clothes police officer working security, also a holder of the same type of key. Brunzell stormed back to the dressing room, presumably to check on his partner’s condition. To this day, I haven’t asked Jim if he was told “the announcer will let you out” like some apartment building superintendent with a huge complement of keys on my belt. Like I said wearing many hats, and none of them very well. But at least this time there was some humor from it; at least… looking back.
I have been busy finishing up my 20th book — this one a biography titled, “Oklahoma Shooter: The Dan Hodge Story.”Â I’ve been working on the book, off and on, for about five years, compiling information and notes and expect the book to be out early next spring. I’ve known Dan since writing a book in 1976 entitled, “Two Guys Named Dan,” which was about Dan Hodge and Dan Gable. There are three companies interested in publishing the book, which will have lots of great photos from Dan’s amateur and pro wrestling careers, as well as his time spent boxing.
Also, Paladin Press will be publishing another of my books in April of 2008. It is about Frank Gotch, focusing on his career in catch as catch can wrestling. Paladin is a large publishing house located in Boulder, Colorado, that has moved into the martial arts and wrestling market in the past couple of years.
The book is scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gotch’s historic victory over George Hackenschmidt on April 3, 1908. Gotch’s victory over Hackenschmidt, considered virtually unbeatable at the time, changed the style of wrestling in the pro ranks from the slower, classic Greco-Roman style to the wide-open catch style. Many sports historians feel that Goth’s popularity helped kick off a movement among the nation’s high schools and colleges to begin wrestling programs.
In addition, the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum, where I serve as the executive director, has commissioned an oil painting called “The Match of the Century,” showing Gotch and Hackenschmdit in the ring on April 3, 1908. Just 100 prints signed by the artist will go on sale, on April 3, 2008, at the museum.
Time really does fly.Â The Holidays are almost here, and how many said a few years back, “I’ll never see the year 2000,” and here it is 2008. I can remember thinking that 70 was ancient age, and in 8 months I’ll be thereÂ .Doesn’t seem so old anymore.
Last time I shared 3 of my favorite swerves by 3 of my favorite people Vic Christy, Ray Stevens and Antone “Ripper” Leone.Â This time, lets talk about the ones that as a young boy, 1947 through 1956, I really admired and respected., for they took good care of me and helped me understand what friendship and caring for each other was all about. I wanted to believe all that went on in the ring was real, and while I watched, it was to me.
I was at the Hollywood Legion Stadium, one of the early Mecca’s of Pro Wrestling in Southern California, the night the Alex Kasaboski died in the ring, during a match with Danny McShane. I do not remember the year (editors note: it was June 13, 1952) but will always remember the locker room and the way the wrestlers felt, I could see, even as a young boy, these guys had a fraternity and a true respect and caring for each other. Other matches were cancelled that night when the announcer said he had died. Even the fans respectfully and quietly stood bowed their head and slowly left the building, no one yelled or asked for their money back. It was announced the next day on TV, radio and papers that he died from a brain aneurysm. The point here though is the attitude of the fans and the wrestlers. Kayfabe was alive and well back then, but the love and respect the boys had earned from the fans was something that will never be again. Wrestlers were real celebrities and actually the first major TV stars, they were important and gave back.
it was not uncommon the see the likes of Clark Gable, Jim Cagney, Claudette Colbert, Glen Ford and a host of movie stars there in the first row, and if Gorgeous George was on the card, the stars came out in crowds, movie stars stood in line to get THEIR picture taken with George.
My oldest and best friend of that era is Leo Garibaldi. Before Elvis, there was Leo, the first true Teen Idol. With the 14 plus arenas we had running WEEKLY Leo was only available once or so a month and the promoters wanted him. If he was on the card you knew you would have 300 plus girls there. probably one of the most colorful and exciting wrestlers of the time, at 18 years of age, it was reported that his fan club exceeded 10.000 female members, maybe a partial work, but every time we went to the matches together, we left early or waited to be last, or he would need a new shirt. One time they actually pulled some of his hair out just to have some. Leo now lives in Vegas and if his health permits, we will try to get him to the CAC next June. After an injury caused Leo to quit wrestling, his fantastic mind and knowledge of the business learned from his dad Gino Garibaldi and 3 uncles John, Chick and Ralph, he became one of our major bookers. Ask anyone who ever worked the Carolinas or Southern states, or Texas or California in the 70′s, and they will tell you they all made good money when Leo ran the book.
California was a great place to grow up as a wrestling fan or a wrestler, our WEEKLY shows in the 40′s through the 60′s ran on Monday in Pasadena, Hollywood and Redondo Beach; Tuesday in San Diego and South Gate; Wednesday at the Olympic Auditorium in Downtown LA and Victorville; Thursday in Long Beach, Bakersfield and sometimes Palmdale or Northridge; Friday in Huntington Park and Santa Monica; Saturday in Valley Gardens and Oceanside and Sunday in San Bernardino. Plus there were various spot shows at high schools and lodges. Another HUGE event was a softball game played twice a year, when the wrestlers took on the Hollywood Stars minor league team and then later in the year the Hollywood Movie Stars, that was almost impossible to get a seat for, and it was 100% for the children’s hospital in Hollywood. One year Roger Mackay struck out Randolph Scott, and part of the show challenged to a quick draw contest, Roger lost and then Ricky Starr did a complete ballet dance around the bases when he hit a homer, it took him about 5 minutes to make it around.
Monday was live on TV from Hollywood, Wednesday from the Olympic and Friday from Ocean Park and they were always full. How did they have it on TV and still sell out 80% plus?Â There always a good angle match that was after curfew, TV curfew was 9:30, so to see this match you wanted to see more then anything, you had to go to the arena. So you went.Â Plus, in person you got to talk to the wrestlers, get pictures and autographs.Â Wrestlers loved it because the longest drive was 100 miles to either San Diego or Bakersfield. you were home every night and the pay was pretty decent also, plus you could work every night if you chose to and were good enough.
The wrestlers that I saw every week for 10 plus years were Baron Leone, Danny McShane, Pat Fraley, Brother Frank Jares, Vic and Ted Christy. Great Bolo, Tom Rice, Zebra Kid, Angelo Martinelli, Honest John Criteria, Jim Mitchell, Woody Strode, Billy McDaniel’s, Freddie Blassie, The Garibaldis, Mr Moto, Great Togo, Terry McGinnis, Sandor Szabo, Hans and Fritz Schnable, George and Bobby Becker, Ray Stern, Bob McCune, Andre Drapp, Billy Varga, John Tolos, Johnnie James, George Temple and Shiek Lawerence to name a few, and every year we got Argentina Rocca , Johnny Valentine, Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers and the touring super stars from the magazines.
These were truly the golden years, and in the early 50′s I watched our President Nicky Bockwinkel break into the business. I still have one of his first autographs on the very first article ever written about him in a wrestling magazine. He was a real challenge to Leo Garibaldi’s female membership.
Hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday season, and is planning on a trip to Vegas next June.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Hattiesburg on Thursday nights. We would always go up early and make the radio interview. We got to the motel early enough before the interview so the yardman, his name was Carl, could wash our car before going downtown. Most of the time Bobby and I would stay in the same room with two beds. This day they put us in separate rooms with my room being about 5 or 6 rooms on up from Bobby’s, so I parked my car in front of my room. Carl would have to pass by Bobby’s room getting to my car to wash it. Bobby told me to stand out by the car with the trunk up and when I saw Carl coming to close the trunk, so he could jump out on him and scare him. A guy that was checked in was coming back to his room, so I closed the trunk. Bobby jumped out and scared the wrong guy. It Scared Bobby Too!!!!
FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR WAS RIGHT ON!
Granted, it was a speech at a professional wrestling themed event, and, granted, the audience consisted of veteran wrestlers, promoters, bookers, referees and wrestling fans, but dang it, Jesse Ventura really hammered on a point that was dear to my heart. He said, “…professional wrestling is the only pro sport that brought the event to the people.”
Sure, we had our weekly house shows in big metropolitan areas, but sometimes the rest of the week consisted of performing in “tank” towns throughout the territory that really only saw town parades, art fairs, or once-a-year traveling carnival shows as “out-of-the-area” entertainment.
As a professional wrestling promoter in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960′s and 1970s, I can assure you we ran mat shows in just about every incorporated town in Washington State, and maybe even a few that actually didn’t qualify as honest to goodness towns.
Promoting the event in small towns was really as easy job, because if the town had a (weekly) newspaper, we would always get front page coverage. No town resident wouldn’t be aware that wrestling was going to be there on such and such a night.
Late in 1973, I had booked Wilbur (Washington), a sleepy farm town about 60 miles off the interstate and about 95 miles west of Spokane. There was one motel in the community, (the Wilbur Inn); one school that was subdivided for elementary, junior and senior students, no movie theaters, one drug store, one hardware store, a huge grain factory, three taverns and dozens and dozens of empty store fronts with “For Rent” or “For Lease” signs plastered freely about.
We worked in the school gymnasium that had a double set of bleachers on both sides of the gym floors and after covering the wood floor with our carpet, we were allowed to place our 540 ringside chairs as well as our 18′x 18′ ring.
The wrestlers on the card that night, true professionals, knew they had to work slightly differently, because they realized that every person attending the matches that night, knew each other. There wasn’t a stranger in the house, except for us.
Man, can you get heat when you belittle the most popular person in town.
About 15 minutes into the show, an alarm went off and nine volunteer fire fighters jumped up out of their seats and raced out of the building on their way to battle a fire someplace in the nearby hills. The town mayor, a lady of about 85 was sitting in the front row and before the start of the next match I called her to the ring and gave her an envelope with instructions to refund the monies these firefighters paid for their wrestling tickets. That got over, big time!
Yes Jesse, you are so right, we took wrestling to the people no matter where they lived, and they were grateful for it…and don’t tell anybody, but we enjoyed it as much, if not more, than they did.
Cowboy Bob Kelly
It seems that my bear story was popular, so here’s another one.Â Same bear, only earlier than the Bob Dalton deal. This happened about two or three weeks after I had brought the bear to Lafayette. I was riding with Terry and Ronnie Garvin back from Morgan City, when we cooked up this little rib.
As I told you, the bear trailer was behind Bill’s trailer. I could tie the bear up in the front end of the trailer so Bill could see the door on the back open from his window, but couldn’t see the bear. Terry let me out of the car before we got to Bill’s trailer. I tied the bear and left the door open. Walked back to where Terry and Ronnie could see I had the bear ready. I lived right behind the arena in an apartment.
Bill did not know I was with Terry Garvin. They Drove up to Bill’s trailer, blew the horn, got out and knocked on Bill’s door. As Bill opened the door Terry jumped off of the porch and yelled, “My God! What’s that?Â It’s the bear! It’s the bear!!Â Bill, the bear is loose!!”
Bill looked out his back window and saw the bear cage door open. He was yelling and asking who let him out and where is Kelly. Terry said he didn’t know where I was. Bill told him to go over to the apartment and see if I was there. Ronnie stayed where Bill could see him, until Terry and I came up. I started asking, who had been messing around with the bear, Bill said he didn’t know, but I better find him.
Terry yelled, “Here he is, Kelly, here he is!” I ran out asking where, to which Terry replied it was under the trailer.Â Then Terry yelled, “Hey Bill, come down here on this end, jump up and down and run him out.” Bill started jumping up and down, then Terry yelled, “He’s heading to the other end, Bill, come down here, hurry hurry.”
Bill ran down there and started jumping up and down. I tell you, Ronnie and I were about to laugh ourselves to death. Terry yelled, “He’s coming out Bill, Kelly, the bear is coming out! Keep jumping Bill.”Â Bill was jumping up and down as hard as he could. Terry yelled that the bear was going back
under the trailer and to keep jumping. Bill jumped a few more time then came to the door, looked out and saw us laughing and he knew he had been had. We all had a big laugh together. Rest In Peace Bill and Terry, I love ya.
I was at the Cow Palace two week ago for the now infamous Wrestle Fan Fest. We all know what a mess it turned out to be — for the fans as well as the wrestlers, it was a rip-off on a grand scale. But knowing what the original concept for the event was, it was even more disappointing for me.
I first learned of what was to become Wrestle Fan Fest about 8 or 9 months ago. A building constantly in peril in an area in love with re-development, the Cow Palace’s land was now eyeballed for condos. The fellow who claimed to be a promoter (who will remain nameless, since I don’t even know what his real name is) wanted to collect all the major stars that appeared there for one last hurrah. As a wrestling fan who grew up in the Bay Area, it was something that seemed perfectly appropriate.
The initial card was going to feature performers and matches that had a direct relation to the venue. Moondog Ed Moretti and Steve Pardee, both of whom started their careers there in 1978, were going to have their final match against one another, refereed by the man who broke them in, Playboy Buddy Rose. If the rest of the card followed this pattern, there would have been some definite emotional resonance with the older wrestling fans in the area. That, coupled with a few of the headline names that are still nationally known, would have made for a very special event. I don’t think it would have been a monster draw, but it would have been a show that everyone would fondly remember.
Things sadly went in another direction, and the “promoter” got delusions of grandeur that ended up swallowing him. It became “the world’s biggest fan fest,” with every major star in the business not under contract with WWE to be in attendance. Hall & Nash, Steve Austin, Goldberg, Great Muta — they became the focus. What could have been the main event was now relegated to curtain jerker status.
Several wrestlers did appear there who were key figures in the local scene, and none of this was played up. For example, Roddy Piper battled Moondog Lonnie Mayne in some terrific battles in the late 1970s, but instead of making mention of that, most people only thought of his matches with Hulk Hogan. Nick Bockwinkel lost the AWA World Heavyweight title to Curt Hennig thanks to the interference of Larry Zbyzsko. Jimmy Snuka. Harley Race..So many missed opportunities.
Countless performers who were major stars for Roy Shire still live in close proximity to the Cow Palace. Most were not used. It broke my heart to see Woody Farmer looking around the nearly empty event in his wheelchair, with scarcely a notice of who he was or what he accomplished in that very venue. Thankfully I was there to see him talk with the gentleman from Horwinski Printing, who had a few vintage posters for sale featuring Woody’s exploits from around the Bay.
I always refer back to the old saying “To know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve been.” The memories that permeate the walls of the Cow Palace are a drawing factor in themselves, and if you promote everything with a proper hand and an eye for detail, you have really got something. But if you don’t choose to acknowledge what transpired at the Cow Palace at all, then why even promote there?
I would love to see a proper reunion of the people who made the Cow Palace great. However, since Wrestle Fan Fest was such a disillusioning experience for everybody involved, I can’t see it ever happening. What a crying shame. It’s pathetic that somebody who clearly had no love or knowledge of professional wrestling came into town and poisoned the waters, but the damage is now done. More than all the money lost at that event, it’s that so-called promoter urinating on the legacy of professional wrestling that hurt me the most. But, it’s like my friend Percy Pringle likes to say, “That’s rasslin!”
“The Day I Knocked Lou Thesz On His Arse”
That’s right. You read it right. I did the unthinkable, the impossible: I knocked the great Lou Thesz right on his keester. And I’d do it again.
I was all of 17 years old and, at the behest of my father, Warren, Lou had agreed to work out with me. We were on live television from the Santa Monica Arena and my father and Jules Strongbow were standing on the ring apron. Lou had turned to talk to them and turned around right before the bell rang.
The bell rang and I, with the enthusiasm and zeal that only a 17-year old can have, came running to the middle of the ring. I wanted to prove myself, to show that I had what it took and to make a good impression. My intention was to come nose-to-nose, chest-to-chest with the champ.
Unfortunately, I had a little too much enthusiasm and zeal. While Lou was also expecting to meet me in the middle of the ring, I overshot my target and ran directly into him knocking him on his tailbone.
Fortunately, Lou liked me and recognized that my enthusiasm was a good thing. But, I will forever be able to tell others about the day that I put Lou on his back.
I spent the summer of 1962 in the Calgary territory. I had been in the business about two and a half years at the time, and it was a learning experience and fun for a 21 year old youngster most of the time. But one of the trips around the loop was an experience that is still relatively fresh in my mind even 45 years later.
I am sure, if you counted them all up, the mileage I have covered as a pro wrestler would be in the millions; but this, my first trip around the famed Calgary loop, was one of the all time worst.
That summer the loop began on Tuesday as we headed to Edmonton, then drove all night an arrived in Saskatoon early morning Wednesday, checked into the hotel and slept till late afternoon and headed to the arena. We spent Wednesday night there and drove on to Regina for the Thursday night matches, and then the plan was another all night drive arriving in the wee hours of the morning in Calgary for a Friday night show.
This was my first time in Calgary and the driving on the loop was done in a Cadillac Limo owned by Hans Hermann. Also sharing the ride this trip were Dennis Hall, Jim Grabmire, and Mike Valentino (Baron Scicluna).
Everything went as well as can be expected until we hit the last leg of the journey from Regina toward Calgary. After driving for a couple of hours Hans decided it was time to eat. After our meal he mentioned to Hall that since Dennis also owned a Caddy and understood these great automobiles (remember that for later) he would like him to drive a bit since Hans had driven the entire loop up to that point.
So off we went, headed toward Calgary, Dennis in the driver’s seat, Hans riding shotgun and the rest of us in the back. Well, about 45 minutes into the trip we began hearing a squealing noise coming from the rear of the car. After a few minutes of this Hermann tells Dennis to pull over as he wants to investigate what the problem is.
After checking around, it was discovered that the emergency brake had not been released and we had been running about 70 MPH with it on. Hans went on a rant at Dennis saying he thought that Hall understood the Cadillac automobile. Hall’s retort? “I never put my emergency brake on!”
It was time to once again shift the seating with Hans driving, Mike in the front, and from left to right facing forward are Grabmire, myself, and Hall. Herman is not sure how much damage has been done and takes off running no more then 30 MPH with the axle squealing away. At this speed we were anticipating arriving in Calgary about noon Friday!!
As we went along, the noise at the rear subsided and Hans decided to speed up just a little. First, up to 35, then 40 and then finally he got to 50 MPG!Â By this time Jim on my left has pulled his turtle neck over his head and gone to sleep and I was busy ragging on Dennis about being a Caddy expert.
All of a sudden, the right rear of the car dropped and we could hear and feel the frame and undercarriage of the car dragging on the highway. As Hall and I both looked to our right out the rear door window, we saw the right rear tire passing us on the road!!
Herman was trying to control the big car and bring the speed down and in seconds we are at about 20 MPH. Hall, thinking the same thing me, saw that the gas tank was dragging on the rough pavement and could explode at any point. Dennis threw open the rear door and leaps out of the car while I elbowed the sleeping Grabmire and slid over toward the open door.
I remember looking back and seeing Jim’s head come popping out of that sweater like a turtle’s head out of its shell with a “What the hell is happening?!?” expression on his face.
Just as I began to jump following Hall out of the still moving car, Mike grabbed the wheel trying to help Hans control it and cranked It HARD RIGHT! Now I was not just trying to jump, land and keep my balance, but also trying to reposition myself in mid-air as that open door was coming back at me and the last thing I wanted to do was slam into that.
I cleared the door all right but in landing I lost my balance and ended up skidding a few feet on my hands and knees. By this time, the car was stopped, everyone had bailed out and we were all lying in the ditch like commandos waiting for the big Caddy to blow up.
Mike raced up to the trunk of the car, popped the release button and threw our bags down in the ditch (he had the presence of mind to save our wrestling gear) and then dove back into the ditch with the rest of us.
After all this craziness, as we lay there, the only thing that happened was the severed brake line dripping fluid on the hot axle housing made a flame about the size of a candle.
Once we figured out that the car wasn’t going to blow up, we started to assess the damage. What had happened was the rear axle had sheered from the heat of the brake being on so long and released the rear tire which dropped the car on the axle housing. In my bump, I had peeled the skin off the heels of both hands, cut both knees open, and torn the knees out of my slacks and the toes out of my loafers. Other than that, the major problem was the car was now immobile.
We were still a couple of hundred miles from Calgary, and the other cars on the loop had passed us when we stopped to eat. Believe me when I tell you this was not a well traveled highway at 3 AM!
Realize that this was in the days before cell phones, so we had to wait for someone to come along and hope they would stop. After about 30 minutes a rancher came by in his pickup truck and we flagged him down. As luck would have it, he was headed into Calgary for the day and said we could ride along. He took us to the nearest truck stop which was a good 50 miles and made arrangements for them to tow Hans’s beloved Cadillac in for repairs while I had a chance to wash out my cuts and put some bandages on to stop the bleeding.
The last two hours of our trip had Hans in the truck cab with the rancher and the rest of us shivering through the morning chill in the bed of the truck at about 70 all the way.
Dennis, Grabmire and I were staying at The Calgarian Hotel and the rancher dropped us about four blocks away at 8 that morning. Boy, were we a motley looking group as we trudged the sidewalks carrying our bags, looking like three bums just arriving in town. I looked the worst, with the holes in the knees of my pants and bandaged hands.
As we entered our hotel, the desk clerk looked at us in astonishment and before he could say anything, I said, “Just don’t ask!”
That was my introduction to the infamous Calgary loop. Thank God the rest of my stay there that summer was without problems.
HIT AND RUN…
It was a grand spring day and I was traveling with Bull Curry, Golden Boy Mike Madison and Walter “Killer” Kowalski to New Haven, Ct for a meeting with the program director of Channel 8 to promote our TV show, Bedlam From Boston for possible telecasting at their station.
There was a parking garage next to the TV station.Â Walter was driving his brand new Lincoln Continental.Â We entered the garage and were in line to get a ticket from the ticket machine.Â The car in front of us decided to go in reverse and hit Killer Kowalski’s car.Â The driver, a young man about 20-22 or so, stepped out and started to yell.Â Walter stepped out of the car and the kid looked at him, had some second thoughts but then started to scream again.Â Bull stepped out of the car and the guys head was like a tennis ball going back and forth until he just darted off.
A police officer was coming down the ramp and we flagged him down.Â He took notes and when he asked for ages, Bull Curry said to him, â??I am 49.â?Â The 3 of us just looked at each other and smiled but had a good laugh about it on the way home.
We found out that the car was stolen thus the other reason the fella left.
PAGING BORIS K FABIAN
I worked for seven years in New York City at the Port Authority Bus Terminal as a dispatcher and every once in a while I would see some of the boys standing in line ready to board a bus.
When I would see them I would get on the PA system and make the following page:
“Will Boris K. Fabian please report to Gate ###.Â (Where ever they were standing). I would watch Lou Albano, Joe Turco, Paul Vachon or the late Dr. Jerry Graham start looking around in a state of total bewilderment.Â I then would walk down the aisle and say hello.Â They then realized that I had just pulled a rib and we got a good laugh out of it.
Flea Market Flim – Flam
A couple of years ago when I was at a flea market I noticed a dealer had a framed photo of a wrestler with a price of 30.00.Â I was looking at it and he asked me if I was interested.
I told him I was and that it was a very neat photo.Â I then asked him who the wrestler was.Â He said it was a world champion (no belt in photo). I said to him well the photo is not good unless I have a name.Â It only took a second for him to tell me it was a wrestler named Cyclone Brown.
I looked at him said, “Come on, you just made that up.Â I know who he is and there are probably only a dozen or so people that would recognize him.”Â He said, â??Well, tell me who he is then.”Â I replied that it was Jack Pfefer and he quickly wrote the name down.Â Of course it was not Jack Pfefer, but one of his champions, Jack Sherry.
THE BIGGEST RIB EVER PLAYED ON ME
The name of Bobby Shane was responsible for the biggest work ever played on me. It happened in 1975 and I was ready to inflict injury on the offender. Today in hindsight, it was choreographed so well that we still roll on the floor in laughter when bringing it up at wrestling reunions.
I guess the work actually started in 1962. That was the year I first met a newcomer to the business named Bobby Shane. Prior to our introduction, I thought I was a wrestling freak. If there was information to be found about wrestling, regardless of how trivial, I had to know about it. Wrestling was my life, so in my mind, I had convinced myself that it was important to know useless facts like the name of the timekeeper for the matches in Kansas City, or what company printed tickets for the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Then I met Bobby Shane… and I discovered there was another wrestling zealot besides me. Bobby Shane not only knew the name of the timekeeper in Kansas City… he new his wife’s name. He knew not only the name of the printing company that printed tickets for the Olympic Auditorium, but he knew how the Olympic numbered their seats and assigned names for each section.
Well, I guess you could say the two of us hit it off. We went on the road together (he wrestled, I either sold programs or reffed), but during the countless hours of road travel, all we talked about was wrestling. Shane left the area after awhile, but we kept in contact daily. When he returned a year or so later, we continued our relationship where we left off and this mutual admiration for us two peas in a pod continued for the rest of his life.
He helped me more than I helped him, giving me ideas and finishes for the territory I ran in the 1970s. He even helped me with talent sending in people like Ricky Gibson and Eric Pomeroy to spruce up some of our cards.
I made a lot of friends in wrestling, but Bobby Shane was my first and closest.
That was the genesis for the work.
In 1975 I got a phone call from a wrestler calling himself Carl Best.Â Although I had never heard of him, he told me he was from St. Louis and had been trained by Bobby Shane and even had some of Bobby’s ring robes. He said the right thing and I gave him a starting date in Seattle.
His starting day arrived and I was in the dressing room with the boys, and in walks Carl Best. He looked like a stout Bobby Shane. He had that same boyish look, same walk, and he had a robe that I saw Bobby Shane wear at the Omni in Atlanta.
I thought to myself that I would use this boy good and give him the push to bring out his talent. He was on the opener that night against Goldie Rodgers, a Canadian who was a good solid worker and always added credibility to the card. Goldie, Carl Best, and the referee Johnny Dupree and I had our little talk and I went on to other pre-match chores.
Right at eight o’clock which was match time, Referee Dupree came up to me and asked, “…have you seen this kids list?” I had no idea what Dupree was talking about
Best was standing there wearing Bobby’s boots and Bobby’s robe and he was concentrating on a piece of paper in his hand. “Whataya reading Carl?” I asked with authority. When he showed me, I needed smelling salts.
It was a list of five things to do that night and he told me he was having trouble memorizing them. I still have his list:
#1: Walk to ring.
#2: Yell at crowd.
#3: Get in ring.
#4: Take off robe.
#5: Yell at referee.
It was only a feeling that a promoter could get. It wasn’t a sell out that night, but it was a good house. I was sending out a complete mark, who obviously had never ever been in a ring before, and he was going to win.
I assumed he didn’t speak carny so as Goldie Rodgers and Johnny Dupree left the dressing room to answer the bell, we were able to secretly “adjust” the program.
Goldie beat him by throwing him over the top rope and maybe the ref made a fast twenty count, but he didn’t have to. Carl Best was still lying on the floor outside the ring nursing a banged-up elbow and bruised knee he suffered in his first (and last) bout, some five minutes after his contest ended.
The late Bobby Shane got me…but I still love him.
Bishop Jason Sanderson
Wrestling is a sport that is designed to foster egos. This is necessary as a wrestler who doesn’t have a healthy self image doesn’t do much to promote himself or make an attempt to get over with the crowd. This is ego in a positive sense. In a negative sense, it leads to us believing in our own press and loosing sight of what matters.
This lesson was driven home to me during a wrestling card at my old high school. At that time I had one of our belts and was supposed to be defending it in the semi-main event. I won’t deny that I was thrilled. My family was there, many of my former teachers were going to be there, old friends I hadn’t seen in…well, awhile, were going to be there. It was going to be a dream come true.
Unfortunately, fortune had other ideas.
Two weeks before, I developed a severe infection in my knee cap. It swelled up to the size and color of a beef steak tomato and was so painful I seriously considered taking a chainsaw to it. A quick trip to the hospital, and a brief stay, resulted in me being put on a powerful antibiotic for at least 6 weeks. So powerful in fact, that it had to be taken through a tube inserted into my arm because it had to filter in through the muscles.
“Under no circumstances are you to do anything to damage that tube,” the doctor told me. “The results could be serious.”
“It would require major surgery to remove it if it broke in there.”
Needless to say, wrestling was out. To say that I was disappointed is putting it mildly. I still showed up, made sure I had my gear on and conducted myself like a professional. Even when it was announced that due to doctor’s orders, I would not be allowed to wrestle that night. So, instead of defending my belt in my high school gym, I was in the center of the ring handing it over until a new champion of the now vacant title could be determined. I didn’t say anything when I did that. I didn’t say anything when I noticed the look of disappointment on the faces of my friends and family. I didn’t even say anything when I overheard people in the balcony suggest that the reason I wasn’t wrestling was because I was a coward. I didn’t say anything, but boy was I thinking a lot of stuff!
I did not want to go out to sign autographs during intermission, I didn’t want to interrupt my personal pity party. But, I did have a lot of people that had come to see me, and I might as well say hello to them. While I was out there, a group of young kids came over to meet me and get their pictures taken with me. One of them, a boy of about 6, noticed the tube sticking out from my bandage and became very excited.
“I know what that is!” he cried, pointing and jumping up and down. I noticed what he was pointing at, and rather self consciously tried to pull the bandage down over it. Shut up, kid; I thought to myself. I didn’t want anyone to see it.
“It’s nothing,” I said impatiently. “Nothing to worry about.”
“That is so cool!” he said, opening his shirt to show a similar tube in his chest. “I’ve got one too! I use it for my chemo. Do you take chemo too?”
Before I could answer him, he turned to his mother.
“You’re right mom,” he told her. “It must really be OK to have this if the Wolfman has one too.”
That brought everything into perspective for me, and I realized that what had happened had done so for a purpose. I felt life was unfair because I couldn’t stroke my ego. This little boy was fighting cancer. I couldn’t get over in the ring, but I helped that boy get over his fears. I might not have been the big shot hero in a lot of people’s eyes, but I only needed to be for that one little boy.
What I’ve Learned: Killer Kowalski
Professional wrestler, 80, North Andover, Massachusetts
Doctors say take an aspirin every day. Don’t. Cayenne powder is better.
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a professional wrestler. I wanted to be an electrical engineer. I was a big, strong kid, working at the Ford Motor Company. Fixing machinery. Guy told me, “Take up professional wrestling.Â You’ll make enough to pay your way through college.” “Oh,” I said, “okay.”
When I started, I was Wladek Kowalski. My name changed on one day — all because of a cauliflower ear.
You know what a cauliflower ear is? Good. I was wrestling a guy in Montreal. Yukon Eric. I used to jump off the top rope and put my shinbone across my opponent’s chest. So I tied Yukon Eric up in the ropes. Then I climbed to the top turnbuckle and jumped. He saw me coming and tried to turn away. But my shinbone scraped his cheek so tight, it caught his cauliflower ear. The ear flew off and rolled across the ring like a little ball. The referee picked it up. It was still throbbing. He looked over at me and said, “That’s his ear.” Then he looked around for Yukon Eric. Yukon Eric was already headed back to the dressing room with a towel wrapped around his head.
The ref put the ear in his pocket and said, “What should I do?” I said, “Raise my arm. I’m the only one left.”
A few days later, I went to get paid at the wrestling office. They asked me to go to the hospital and apologize. Apologize? I never apologized in my life. But I went to the hospital. There were a bunch of newspaper reporters in the hallway. But I got inside his room. Yukon Eric was sitting on the edge of the bed with bandages wrapped around his head.Â What could I say? All I could think of was, “Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall.” It was the first thing that came
to mind. He looked up and smiled. I started to laugh. What else could you do?
But the only thing the reporters outside could hear was the sound of my laughter. The next day, the newspapers were filled with stories of me laughing at the sight of Yukon Eric’s missing ear. When I walked to the ring the next week, people were throwing bottles at me. “You’re nothing but a killer!” someone screamed. From that moment on, I was Killer Kowalski.
I had more than six thousand matches. As I walked into the ring before every one of them, I meditated. I visualized an image of Jesus casting his light over the ring and the crowd.
Someone once threw a pig’s ear at me. A woman once came up to me after a match and said, “I’m glad you didn’t get hurt.” Then she stabbed me in the back with a knife. After a while, I got police escorts to and from the ring.
I’ve been a vegetarian fifty-three years now. Lots of vitamins. No milk. Little or no cheese.
Here’s how I invented the Iron Claw. I would drive between matches with a tennis ball in my lap. I’ve got the wheel in one hand and I’m squeezing the tennis ball with the other. Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. Then I’d switch hands. After a couple of months, I had a tremendous grip. I’d put my thumb in the guy’s solar plexus, and he’d scream in agony.
People said, “Yeah, but how’s the Iron Claw gonna work on Haystack Calhoun?” He was about six hundred pounds. I’ll tell you what happened. I got him on his back in the middle of the ring. I’m on my knees, and I put a claw hold on his stomach. I put it on so hard to get through all that blubber that I was screaming. Well, he farted. The fumes were so devastating, I started to pass out. He rolled over, jumped on top of me, and pinned me. It was the best move he had.
A lot of women proposed to me over the years — from all over the world.Â I was in Australia once. A woman said, “Take me with you.” I said, “I can’t.” She said, “Why not?” I said, “You don’t fit in my suitcase.”
To be a professional wrestler, you’ve got to be able to talk. I learned by arguing with the radio as I drove between matches. The announcer would say, “It’s a beautiful day. Eighty-two degrees.” And I’d start screaming back, “Lies! Lies! Lies! Never has the temperature been lower than it is today!” I’d be going at it with the radio all day long.
Classical. Mozart especially.
Of course I can show you how to do it! Is there a steel chair around here?
A sad thing happened to Yukon Eric. He was always on the road. Some guy convinced Yukon Eric’s wife to take all his money out of their account and take off. After he found out, he went to the church where they’d been married and committed suicide.
I got married for the first time last year. On June 19. People ask me, “How can you get married now? You’re seventy-nine years old. And Theresa will be seventy-eight in September.” I say, “What could I do? She told me she was pregnant.”
Our honeymoon? We’re still on it.
If I had to do it all over again — I’d be an electrical engineer.
Cowboy Bob Kelly
This happened in 1967 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Lee Fields bought a bear in the city of Opp, Alabama with a trailer and all. I went by Opp after Dothan TV, picked him up and brought him to Lafayette. I became good friends with the bear who was not trained and did not have a muzzle. He still had his claws and tusks, so you had to be real careful with him. I was the only one that could mess with him and I watered, fed, and bathed him. He had a leather collar on and I could snap a chain on him and take him out of the cage and walk him around.
Bill Golden lived in a house trailer behind the Sports Arena where we wrestled and we kept the bear’s trailer behind Bill’s trailer. Bill was scared to death of the bear, getting mad when I would take the bear out of his cage. He would say, “Kelly, one of these days that bear is going to get loose and kill someone.”
Anyway, one hot summer day I had the bear out, tied to a telephone poll by the arena giving him a bath with a hose. The bear liked to bathing and letting the cool water run over him. Johnny Long, aka Bob Dalton, came up before I was done and took the hose out of my hand and said, “Let me show you how to give this S.O.B. a bath!” He turned the nozzle to where it was spraying hard and was spraying him in the face. The bear backed up and Bob walked closer.Â The bear got a lot of slack in the chain. Bill came out of his trailer just as the bear lunged at Bob. When he hit the end of the chain the old, dry rotted collar broke. The bear was loose and after Bob Dalton. Bill yelled, “I told you this was going to happen”.
Bob was heading for Bill’s trailer with the bear right behind him. Bill went back in the door and
locked it. Bob couldn’t get in so he had to keep running. I took the chain from the post and ran between the bear and Bob, got him stopped and got the chain back on. Its hard telling how far Bob Dalton ran before he realized the bear wasn’t behind him. But I can tell you, that fat boy could sure run. The bear never had a chance!!!!
Over the years in the wrestling business and the CAC, there have been so many memorable minutes. Wrestlers of the earlier days loved to pull swerves on each other; 99% were harmless and just fun, even when it was pulled on you. Momentarily you were maybe upset, a little mad and felt silly, but then you realized that a buddy thought enough of you to take all the time to set it up and then you laughed along with everyone else, waiting for your chance to get even. Probably the 3 best ever at ribs were Vic Christy , Antone Ripper Leone, and Ray Stevens. All 3 were close friends of mine and more then once I was involved with their antics. Here are my three favorites.
Vic Christy, when ill and in the motion picture home/hospital in Woodland Hills, CA, called me at home and in a sorrowful voice almost crying asked for me to come and see him.Â His request was simple: please bring some REAL apple juice (not the canned stuff but the real stuff from a health food store), because he was craving it and they had none there. Later that day, I bought some six little bottles and went to see him.Â As I walked in, Vic yelled, “Shut the door, and give me the juice!” I thought for sure he was not suppose to have it, so I pulled back until he assured me it was OK.Â He proceeded to pour a whole bottle into a specimen bottle and called for the nurse. He explained by having company he was now in good spirits and was able to fill the bottle for her.
She looked at it, shook it and exclaimed “Awfully cloudy Mr. Christy!” Vic responded and said “Let me see,” grabbed the bottle and said, “Okay, let’s run it through again” and drank the whole bottle down.Â The nurse ran from the room calling for the doctor and yelling, “He’s a mad man”. Vic almost fell out of bed laughing and holding his sides. When the doctor came in he just shook his head knowing Vic had got away with another one. Vic passed away only a few weeks later, but into his 80′s he loved every minute of life and never missed a CAC luncheon or banquet that he was able to attend. He was respected and loved by his fellow workers, but you knew if you were on a card with him you might be next.
Antone “Ripper” Leone was, more often than not, on the receiving end of a Christy swerve, but was able to pull some good ones also. He, along with two guys from Italy, owned a chain of Pizza parlors in Southern California called “Chico’s Pizza.” He lived above the one in South Gate and that is were we all regularly went for a good meal and some fun. Ripper never charged the boys when they in, even if they brought their families (everybody knew, though, to not show up more then once a month for a freebee). Gory Guerrero and I were co-promoting shows with Antone in the early 80′s, and some of the wrestlers were taking advantage of the free meals. One night we all went there after hours and our show in Anaheim, so Ripper had the guys he was not too happy with sit at a certain table and the rest at his own table. He said he had called ahead and ordered his signature pizza’s for everyone and beer.
We noticed the guys not sitting with us had a special pizza with lots of everything on it and some large chunks of meat that were not on ours, they scarfed it down and asked for more. Antone was ready, and instantly came out with two more large pizza’s, but with no meat evident. The guys complained and asked for ones with meat, Antone happily responded that since they liked it so much, they could have all the meat they wanted and the waiter brought out 4 warmed cans of ALPO dog food. Antone told them that when they learned to say, “Thank you,” they would get pepperoni.Â Gory and I ate there regularly, making sure that we said thank you and knew what we were eating, until he sold out and moved out of state.
Ray Stevens….Â I’m sure that Nick can tell a lot on this guy also, probably one of the ten best ever to put on tights. He was a pilot, a true cowboy with rodeo experience and the first to do moves that today have made super stars. Ray loved to laugh and could laugh at himself as well as at or with you. His driving was only equaled by Harley Race with both had a huge collection of traffic tickets. He told me that one time, at a show in Sacramento, he and a pal went and took the license plates off of several of the boys’ cars and put them on cars parked in “No Parking” zones and then before the show ended put them back on the right cars with the tickets on the windshield. About 5 or 6 of the guys complained to the promoters about getting parking tickets, he called the police chief who came down and asked why they get a ticket parked in their own lot.Â He called the patrolman who wrote the tickets to com and explain why all the plate numbers were right but the make of the car did not match up. By this time the fans who really got the tickets had left, and the wrestlers knew someone had set them up and that it could only be Ray. Of course, Stevens denied it with a passion. The chief tore up the tickets and told the poor cop to be more astute in the future.
Ray said he never did admit to it, because it was a private joke between he and his buddy, Jay “The Alaskan” York. The week that Ray died from a heart attack he was due to spend a week here at our ranch in Rolla MO. When Therese called me with news, it was one of the saddest days ever. Ray was a man’s man, a wrestler’s wrestler and a friend’s friend.Â Truly one of a kind.
“The Boys” used to really enjoy the business and the friendships that were life-long. I have been privileged to know so many like that.
Remembering Wrestlingâ??s Past Greats with George Schire
Fans that followed Texas wrestling in the late 1960â??s and in the AWA thrilled to the always popular Wahoo McDaniel. He hailed from Midland, TX and graduated from Midland High School.Â While attending the University of Oklahoma his feats as a linebacker in football gained him fame. Football contracts were offered upon his graduation but Wahoo wanted only to wrestle which was his first and foremost love.
McDaniel did; however, play professional football for several of the top teams in the country. In 1960 he played for the San Diego Chargers and the Houston Oilers. From 1961 to 1963 he played for the Denver Broncos, in 1964 and 1965 he went with the New York Jets and in 1966 the Miami Dolphins received Wahoo in the expansion draft from the Jets.
In 1966, wrestling saw Wahoo join forces with his long-time friend, Jose Lothario, to capture a tag team championship from Sputnik and Rocket Monroe, and later in the year the popular Indian and his Mexican partner were forced to give up the crown when Wahoo had signed to play football with the Dolphins and Jose Lothario was injured. After this incident, McDaniel gave up football for wrestling.
When he hit Texas, he quickly became the stateâ??s most popular wrestler and he proved to be a main eventer. After racking up a 35-match string of victories, he received his well-deserved chance at the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Champion, Dory Funk, Jr. Though he didnâ??t win the belt in that match, there was no doubt that fans believed he could have. They were solidly behind him in his effort tot unseat the champion.
After seven months of wrestling in the Lone Star State, McDaniel was still undefeated and he met two of the gameâ??s top stars in Apache Bull Ramos and the Mongolian Stomper (Archie Gouldie), which fans learned was only the beginning. As time went on, Wahoo formed a very successful team with the masked sensation Mil Mascaras of Mexico. The night they met Killer Karl Kox and Boris Malenko with the American tag team title at stake is still considered one of the wildest battles ever staged in Texas rings.
Malenko had a donnybrook feud with Wahoo in singles matches and their matches are fondly talked about to this day by long-time fans, wrestlers and promoters. Another regular opponent and enemy in the ring of McDaniel was blond bomber Johnny Valentine of Seattle, WA. They, too, had a bloody riot after every match they worked. Others to face defeat at the hands of the popular Indian star were Baron Scicluna and Killer Karl Kox. Veteran giant Killer Kowalski entered Texas at about this time and the first order of business was to have him face McDaniel. Kowalski had won the Brass Knuckles trophy and defended it against Wahoo in a torrid no-contest decision. As their feud raged on, Kowalski was joined in his war with McDaniel by his other nemesis, Boris Malenko. This forced Wahoo to again seek a partner and he got the best in Fritz Von Erich.
McDaniel was so popular in Houston that fans started a petition to get him another match with NWA Champ Dory Funk, Jr. When he did eventually meet Dory, the campâ??s younger brother, Terry Funk, interfered in the bout causing Dory to be disqualified, thus retaining the championship. From this bout, though, a feud was waged between Wahoo and any of the Funk family clan. Even daddy Funk, Dory, Sr., took his turn attempting to halt the winning ways of McDaniel.
Besides all of the above-mentioned grapplers, Wahoo also took the measure over ring notables like Professor Tanaka, Thunderbolt Patterson, Mike â??The Alaskanâ? York and Stan Stasiak. He also tried, with several partners, to unseat the unholy team of Chris Markoff and Bronko Lubich and their infamous manager, George Harris. Wahoo even joined forces with rival Johnny Valentine in one such effort to dethrone the tag champs.
In the early 1970â??s, Wahoo found his way to the AWA, and battled the likes of Larry Hennig, Lars Anderson, Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch and Blackjack Lanza. He also battled the AWA World Tag Team Champs, Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens with top-flight partners like Red Bastien, Billy Robinson, Crusher Lisowski, Cowboy Bill Watts and even AWA Champ Verne Gagne. To AWA fans, Wahoo was always a hero they could count on.
Wahooâ??s battles with Greg Valentine and the legendary Ric Flair are considered classics. If you should talk to fans in Florida, Atlanta or any other major wrestling territory that Wahoo McDaniel ventured to, they always thrilled to his wild, all-out style and will have a story to tell about the great Indian grappler.
When his wrestling days were over, McDaniel remained one of the sportâ??s most popular figures at conventions around the country. Sadly, Wahoo passed away a few years ago, but his memory will live on forever in the minds of all those he thrilled during his colorful and celebrated career.
CAC Trivia Time!
Last week we played CAC trivia.Â Here are the answers:
1. Specifically related to the CAC, what do the following four men have in common?
Buddy Rogers, Fred Blassie, Gene Kiniski, Killer Kowalski
ANSWER: These four men have been documented to have each beaten all four wrestling CAC Presidents (Mike Mazurki, Lou Thesz, Red Bastien, Nick Bockwinkel).
2. Of those four, what unique distinction does Fred Blassie have?
ANSWER: Fred Blassie also holds a win over the 5th CAC President, Archie Moore.Â (October 23, 1964, Olympic Auditorium, Handicap Match, Fred Blassie beat Cowboy Bob Ellis & Archie Moore).
3. There is a Cauliflower Alley Club song.Â Recite the lyrics.Â (Tie breaker/Extra credit if you make an audio file of you singing the lyrics and submit it!)
Bless us all….. Bless us all…
The heavy, the light and the small.
Bless our flat noses and cauliflowered ears,
For we are the ones whom
They stood up and cheered.
Now we’re saying, ‘So long’ to us all,
The long, the short and the tall.
May God keep us busy,
We’ll see you next Wednesday;
Stay cheered, guys and dolls,
Bless us all.
4. In the modern/recorded history of the Club, one person has been honored more than any other.Â Who is that person and how many times has he/she been recognized?
ANSWER: Danny Hodge.Â 1992 – Special Presentation, 1998 – Wrestler Award, 2004 – Art Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award, 2007 – Lou Thesz Award
5. Name the future wrestler in the following photographs:
ANSWER: Leo Garibaldi
A few years ago, I was reffin a main event in a small town in North Carolina where 150+ fans witnessed not just an exciting match, but also a near career ending match for yours truly. The match featured CAC member Garry “MADD TRUCKER” Stevens who, for some reason or another, always goes ballistic if things don’t go his way. Anyone in the ring suffers the consequences and, as it turned out, Stevens attacked me at the end of the match because he didn’t win.
I was standing in the corner arguing with another ref that saw something I didn’t when I counted three. As I turned around to raise the winner’s hand, Stevens caught me with a perfectly executed power bomb. He grabbed me, flipped me upside down (at this time I we hanging on for dear life) and, when he started to go down, I used my right hand and reach for the mat…..DUMB MOVE! Of course that threw my right shoulder up in the air. Stevens was grabbing me anyway he could to protect me from injury. When we hit the mat, Stevens felt my shoulder and immediately got up knowing that my shoulder was dislocated. He then came off the rope with a billy club and pouned my chest while asking me if I was okay.
Now, beforehand he told me that once this went down I was to not move at all or he would kill me for real. So I laid in the ring without moving. Stevens whipered, “You SOB! Answer me.” I opened my eye and winked at him and said ,”This is fun!” Once again, DUMB MOVE! He went of the deep end again until finally several wrestlers and security came to the ring. Annette, my wife, who always worked concessions and NEVER got involved in the matches, came running out to the ring (while in the concession area she rubbed onions for the hotdogs in her eyes) and was screaming (not out of concern for me, but because of the onions in her eyes) and “crying” for them to help me.
You could hear the crowd just mumbling. Fans had came down to the ring to witness firsthand something went wrong that night.Â They bought this angle hook, line and sinker. The security supervisor went to a gimmick table and took all the gimmicks off of it and brought the table to the side of the ring.Â Meanwhile, I was thinking, they gonna slide me off this ring down to the floor this is gonna hurt! But, as it turned out, the table with the legs unfolded was even with the ring and they slowly slid me of the ring on to the table. The carried me to the back and Annette stayed right by my side all the way into the locker room. Stevens’s wife took over the concession job until everyone left that night.
Several of the fans stayed around waiting to see if I would appear. I never did. I was not even in the building. I was sitting out front in a conversion van in the back seat with Annette watching the crowd as they left. We even let some of the fans go in the locker room (we had heel and baby locker rooms) to let them meet some wrestlers but at the same time let them realize I was not there; that I had been rushed to the hospital. The next day the local fans were a buzz on the internet. We had taken a copy of an x-ray showing a collapsed lung, doctored it up with the local hospital call letters and had made a big deal about how Morgan Dollar was at the hospital. I “authorized” the hospital to release the x-ray so the fans would know this was a legit deal. Even workers that weren’t at the show were calling Stevens and several other people wanting to know if he really done that to me. We played it up with the fans for a month and the workers for a couple of weeks. I told Garry Stevens, “That’s the way it used to be!” That episode made the MADD TRUCKER that much more of heel.
The building we was renting had no time limit on what time we had to be out. So after all the fans had left that night we went back in the building and Annette and Trucker’s wife fixed country ham, gravy, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and we had coffee, orange juice & soda.Â About ten workers stayed over that night and it was 3 in the morning before we left the building.
So many times the boys have came back into the locker-room after their match and said, “That crowd is dead!” Stevens would look at them and simply ask, “Ya think? How come?” They didn’t know! Stevens would respond, Well, we’ll see when I go out.” Sure enough, when he went out he pissed the fans off as soon as he walked through the curtains. He had them cussing till the end. When he got back to the locker-room the boys would say, “I cant understand that!” Garry would try to keep his cool and tell them, “Learn the business! If the crowd is dead, its your fault.” You would be surprised that some of the young talent finally realized what Stevens was saying and then you never heard them say “the crowd was dead”. But you did hear them say, “Man that crowd is popping tonight!”
ENCOUNTER WITH A MASKED MAN
I had just turned 13 years old and was attending my first wrestling card at the Holyoke Valley Arena in Holyoke, Massachusetts, December 27,1959.
Intermission came and I had to take wicked release of a full bladder. Not knowing the venue too well. I saw the sign, â??Menâ??s Roomâ? and just as I was about to enter I heard my name being called. A school friend was there. I waved and then darted into the room. However, I missed the men’s room and ended up in the dressing room. A rather large man was on a bench wearing a mask. He looked at me and yelled, “Get the hell out of here kid!” With that warning and a flying boot, I ran out and, well, my bladder released from fear. Years later I would tell that story to the masked man, The Zebra Kid when I met him in another dressing room in Colonge, Germany in 1967. He laughed and bought me a beer after the match.
WORKING A WORKER AT A FLEA MARKET
Three times a year the small town of Brimfield in western Massachusetts becomes the largest Flea Market in North America. I go every year and am able to find some wrestling odds and ends now and then and other items that interest me.
A few years ago I spotted a pile of old Ring Magazines. The year was 1955 – a complete set. Ring Magazine would be 60 pages with 4 pages on wrestling. I was looking at the magazines and scanning the wrestling sections making mental notes. When I got to the month of May the dealer says to me, “This is not a public library.”
I looked up and him and said, with a straight face, â??Sir, my aunt and uncle were professional wrestlers and if they are mentioned in any of these magazines I would purchase the complete set.â? (Asking price listed at 150).
He looked at me and asked who my aunt and uncle were, to which I responded, â??My aunt wrestled as Kay Fabian and my uncle wrestled under a mask as The Great Mezark.â?
He looked at me and replied, “Yeah, I heard of them. Maybe they will be in one of those issues. Keep looking.” I thanked him and continued to scan the pages of those issues of Ring magazine.
RIDING WITH BULL
I used to drive Bull Curry to various cards when fellow CAC member, Walter “Killer” Kowalski was running in New England. Walter was running a card in Lowell, MA and Bull and I drove up to the town.
We get there and as Bull and I were walking into the building a woman said, “Bull Curry, I thought you died.” Bull looked at her and said, “Lady, you look like death walked all over you.”
Around 1956, as in most territories, the Southern California territory ran the same towns each week. San Diego was every Tuesday. Well, Vic and Ted Christy were part of the crew and were living in Woodland Hills, in the San Fernando Valley, about 135 miles from San Diego.
This one particular Tuesday, Ted was booked to work the 3rd match and Vic had the night off. Ted had only been gone from Woodland Hills on the way to San Diego for about 10 minutes when the phone rang and the office asked Vic to make the first match because one of the boys couldnâ??t work.
Now, instead of going the usual way, Vic decided to take an alternate route and he hustled to get to the arena before Ted. Vic got to town, went to the dressing room and told the rest of the boys to make sure that Ted didnâ??t know he was there and to keep Ted busy during his (Vicâ??s) opening match. Vic went to the a secluded area to get dressed, worked the opening match and then went to the front of the house until Tedâ??s match started. While Ted was wrestling, Vic showered, dressed and left for home.
When Ted made it back to the dressing room, all the boys started talking about Vicâ??s match and how good it was to see him. Ted thought the boys were losing it and reminded them that Vic wasnâ??t on the card that night. They continued to insist he was there, so, on his way home, Ted drove by his motherâ??s house where Vic lived to find Vicâ??s car in the garage. Vic had the car washed when he got home, so even the engine was cool. Ted asked their mother about it and she insisted that Vic had been home all night.
Finally, Thursday night, in Bakersfield, the group let Ted in on the fact that he had been, like so many others, on the receiving end of a Vic Christy rib.
Remembering Wrestlingâ??s Past Greats with George Schire
They joined together for the first time as a tag team combination on October 11, 1959 in Indianapolis against Ray and Roy Shire. They lost! In their second match in Boston on October 24, 1959, they battled Verne Gagne & Wilbur Snyder. They won! Then on February 18, 1960, they again lost to the Shire brothers.
It wasnâ??t until August 20, 1963 in Minneapolis that Bruiser & Crusher would become one of the most beloved tag teams in wrestling and also one of the all time top money making combinations in history. Billed as â??cousins,â? they won the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Tag Team Championship from the hated Russians, Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff. It was the first of twelve championships they would capture for their fans.
Dick â??The Bruiserâ? Afflis entered the professional wrestling ranks in 1954, and quickly carved out a reputation as a ring bully. He was known for his brute strength and all out style that was equal to no one else in the business. Dick was barred from several territories in the country because of the destruction he caused in many of the arenas he wrestled in. And, he received a suspension in New York in 1957 that was never lifted. Promoters were always assured of a packed house when â??The Bruiserâ? was on their cards. He met the best of the best for nearly four decades, earning billing as â??the Worldâ??s Most Dangerous Wrestler.â?
Reggie â??The Crusherâ? Lisowski was active for most of the 1950â??s as a top draw in the Midwest and the East Coast. He became a tag team partner to veteran Art Neilson in 1954, and they quickly gained recognition as champions by many promoters. After Reggieâ??s stint with Neilson, he hooked up with Stan Holek and they wrestled as â??brothersâ? Reggie and Stan Lisowski for several years. They, too, gained title recognition in most of the territories in which they competed.
But, when â??The Bruiserâ? joined â??The Crusherâ? and billed themselves as look-alike â??cousins,â? they became one of t he most in-demand tag teams in wrestling history. Promoters would constantly try to sign them for their cards, but their individual schedules often prevented them from appearing together. Nonetheless, Bruiser & Crusher managed to wrestle as a tag team, on and off, from 1959 until 1985.
They would stomp, punch, kick and maul other tag teams and the fans loved every match! Their feuds with teams such as the Kalmikoffs, Larry Hennig and Harley Race, Mad Dog and Butcher Vachon, The Blackjacks (Lanza and Mulligan) and the Dillinger Chain Gang are still talked about and remembered today when fans, fellow wrestlers or promoters discuss the great tag teams of the past.
Bruiser & Crusher won the AWA World Tag Team Title on five different occasions and had six runs with the World Wrestling Alliance (WWA) Championship. They also won the International Tag Team Title in Japan in 1969.
Together as a team, their results record is lopsided with 143 victories and only 59 losses. Another 29 of their battles ended in either a draw or a no-contest. These outstanding numbers attest to the greatness of this rugged combination.
Bruiser & Crusher have now both passed on to the â??big ring in the sky,â? but live on in the hearts of all who loved them as, arguably, wrestlingâ??s all-time greatest tag team combination.
Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer
On Wednesday, July 4, I set up a wrestling ring on the back of a flatbed trailer to participate in the local Independence Day Parade. It was a lot of hard work but I do believe that everyone enjoyed the results. Two Indy pro wrestlers; one, my son, Kurt, the other a very good friend of Kurtâ??s, Andy Fish from Brooklyn, MI drove here just for the show. The two young boys that are going to Japan with me, Garrett Schultz from our home town of Akron and the other boy is Nick Tighe from down near Syracuse, NY (who also went with me last year for the All Japan Kids tournament) and several of the high school wrestlers from our high school here in Akron, NY along with their coach.
The two pros put on an exhibit, then the two young boys had a match, followed by the high school boys doing a match or two. We had a high school wrestling official in the ring and a fellow dressed in a Bear outfit. So it was quite a show. The young boys walked the crowd and collected tips for their trip to Japan during the parade and did pretty well.
At 10:00 am the morning of the 4th, there was a Bed Race held on Main St. in the village of Akron, in which I had two teams entered. One was the young wrestlers and the other was my swim team. The Swim team took 2nd place â?? not sure where the young wrestlers ended up but a fun time was had by all.
The All Japan Kids tournament is 10, 11, & 12 of August, they will leave on the 5th and have a couple Cultural Exchange matches in the week before the tournament, a couple practices with Noriaki Kiguchi’s kids at his Dojo (practice facility). A picnic at a friendâ??s home and possibly a baseball game. Then the return is on the 13th of August.
We certainly appreciate the donation made to us by the CAC, it helps a great deal.
Bishop Jason Sanderson
When you get started in a wrestling promotion you are usually expected to pay your dues in some way. In all organizations respect is earned, and especially earned by how well you are going to be a ‘team player’ and how you are going to act under various circumstances. This is definitely true in an indy promotion, especially one that is not very large and working on a shoe-string budget.
When I began working in my first promotion, it was made perfectly clear to me that it was like the small traveling carnival shows where everyone had more than one job to do, and that if you wanted to make sure you had a spot on the show the best thing was to prove you were not a ‘bag carrier’ (someone who just showed up for the booking, then left). I had different jobs ranging from ring crew, to working in the gym with the newer students, security at shows and advance man for the advertising.
We relied primarily on posters and newspaper adds to advertise the shows, but this sometimes proved problematic, particularly if you ran a show in a town that had an ordinance AGAINST postering on light poles (which we did, and on a regular basis). So regularly in fact, that the police knew when we would be out with the posters and usually were looking for us.
For one particular show, we decided that we would ‘blitz’ the town with posters and the promoter told me to meet him that evening, well after dark, and make certain I wore dark clothes and a ski cap if I had one.
He intended to hit the poles around the main intersections and traffic lights. By doing that, he could make sure that people going to work the next morning would see them before they got torn down again. Great plan, right? In theory, every plan is a great plan. In practice, it doesn’t always work out that way.
That particular night a sudden rain storm came up that soaked us. Since it was early November, it also chilled us. Not to mention getting the posters soggy. To top it off, the police had been cruising looking for us and once or twice nearly caught us. Since the penalty for what we were doing was a 50 fine for EACH POSTER (we had over 100 of them to put up and had gone through most of them) in addition to whatever else they wanted to charge us with, this was not a desirable outcome. I was already tired, wet and cold and had no wish to add ‘arrested’ to my litany of complaints, even if it did mean I would get a spot on the card.
So, we were able to stay one step ahead of them by working on all of the minor intersections first, and avoiding the main one. However, we knew we would have to do it eventually and so saved it for last. As we would find out, that was also the thinking of the police.
One of us would be the ‘lookout’ while the other one would be putting up the posters as quickly as they could. If it were a wooden pole, we could use a staple gun and be done quickly. If it were a metal utility pole, we had to use duct tape and it took longer. These poles were mostly wooden, so that should be easier. However, no sooner had we started, when a patrol car came around the corner.
Abandoning our project, we quickly dove into a row of bushes alongside the street, and tried to make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible. The police, who obviously hadn’t seen us but suspected that we couldn’t have gotten far, drove around the area flashing their spot lights into the trees and bushes looking for us. The rain was still coming down, and we were soaked to the skin. In addition, we were laying in the mud and refuse of the bushes, and covered in pine needles and bits of branches. The police made several more trips around the common before driving off.
As we pulled ourselves out of the bushes and tried to clean off, the promoter said to me:
“I almost forgot, welcome to the glamorous world of professional wrestling.”
First it was that down-home, grits and chicken, finger-lickin’ great Reunion in Mobile, then on to glitzy and glamorous Las Vegas for the renown CAC followed by the fabulous one and only PWHF in Amsterdam, NY.Â What a RING OF FRIENDSHIP we have!Â Life is Wonderful and we are all so blessed to be able to continue sharing our road stories and fun times with each other. One of these years I plan to make it to the prestigious Waterloo.Â Congratulations to everyone who was honored this year.
I had a surprise visit last week end…Rita Cortez Lee and Peggy Allen came up to visit me. Both girls are doing fine and send their best to all of their friends and fans. Speaking of the girls, I’d like to say how wonderful it was seeing Cora Combs and her daughter Debbie in NY.Â Cora was the 6th woman inducted into the Hall of Fame.Â Next year, our CAC Legend Award will go to the one and only Betty Niccoli, one of the two girls who fought the NY commission to allow women to wrestle there in 1970.
News for everyone is that my first tag team partner, Bonnie Watson, and her husband, Stuart Schwartz, are now officially “Tarheels.”Â They will be closing on their home here the end of this month. Unbelievable to think after all these years she and I will be together again’. She makes the third girl wrestler living here in Charlotte. Belle Starr, who was presented the Pioneer Award in Mobile, is still here. Think we’ll be doing some celebrations, and possibly traveling together to visit other girls around the country; Barbara Baker in Ohio for one.
Sad news is the passing of the 80′s and 90′s star “Sensational” Sherri Martel on June 15th.Â My deepest condolences to her fans, friends and family. RIP, Sherri.
I am still fighting Mr. C, but doing well.Â My tumor marker went down to 540 from 653 and now it needs to drop below 35. Thank you all for your good wishes and continued prayers.Â Speaking of prayers, my list for everyone keeps me in bed for an extra 10 min’s each morning as I’m sure yours does too.
God Bless and keep our men and women in harms way fighting for our freedom….
Although I get booed more often than not, this is what I chose to do and it is those very same people booing me, the fans, that drive the desire to do what I have been told I do so well. As referee Earl Hebner once said in a WWE Interview, “You get noticed for the bad things you do, but not for the good things you do, so that keeps us going. As long as someone’s hollering at us, we know we’re doing a good job”.Â Earl Hebner was at one time the Senior Referee for WWE with over eighteen years under his belt.
The training I went through with The Legendary Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant, was by no means a cake walk. The sweat, tears and pain I have gone through is nothing compared to hearing the fans cheering or even booing me when I’m doing what I love so much. If it’s in a building with just two people or two thousand you will still get your money’s worth!
When this part of my life first began, it was tough! I always reflect back to a rest area on Hwy. 81 (between Radford and Christiansburg, VA). I had worked a show in a little town west of Wilmington, NC the night before and my desire to get back to Shawsville, VA for BWC Camp training on Sunday to help out the new boys was all that was on my mind. I had been on the road for over 8 hours, and getting to VA ahead of schedule, I decided to sleep a few hours.
Three hours later my alarm clock went off. My first thought was, “Man, is this what I really want to do?” On the road, away from home, sleeping in a car, (Thank God for reclining seats!) bouncing from one town to the next. I stepped out of the car to stretch awhile and this kid walks up and asked me, “Mister, watcha doing all bent up like that?” I told him I was stretching! He looked at me again and said, “I know you! You â??wrassleâ??! I seen you in Mount Airy, NC.” I explained to him I was not a wrestler but I was the referee he saw. He proceeded to tell me that he didn’t like what I done to Jimmy Valiant at Mount Airy (he called it home), “But,â? he said, â??I like you anyway!”
If that little kid had only known what that meant to me… that’s why I was on the road, away from home, sleeping in the car. Thatâ??s why I was eating at Truck Stops or Waffle Houses at 3 and 4 in the morning. The Fans, that’s what it’s all about. If it wasn’t for the fans, there wouldn’t be wrestling.
After the little kid ran and got his parents. I told him, “Hey buddy! Hold on a second. I might have something in the car for ya! I went to the trunk and got him a Morgan Dollar â??Remember, The Ref has The FINAL SAY!” t-shirt, signed it and gave it to him. He put it on over his other shirt and was a happy camper! I left and went on to BWC and had a blast! Would I change things? NAH. Is this what I really want to do for the rest of my life? You bet it is! I wouldn’t miss this dance for nothing.
Till next time, Remember, the Ref has the FINAL SAY!
Earlier this year (2007), Ruth and I vacationed in Tahiti, French Polynesia.Â Now, to get there from Seattle, you take a five and a half hour flight to Honolulu, then you board another plane and take another five and a half hour flight to Papeete (Tahiti).
Since I had an 11-plus hour plane trip, I took along JJ Dillon’s book, “Wrestlers are Like Seagulls.”
Once in Tahiti, we boarded another plane, a 19-seat twin-engine otter, and took a third flight to Moorea, a small island west of Tahiti.
On Moorea, we rented a Deep Overwater Bungalow at a plush resort and one of the features of this room was that they deliver (room service) a breakfast to your room via an outrigger canoe skippered by a local dressed in Polynesian clothes.Â So, this muscular local Tahitian rows to our room and docks at the snorkeling dock balcony of our room and brings in our breakfast in a basket.Â Once in our room, he spots JJ Dillon’s book on our light table.Â A big smile comes across his face as he looks at us, gives us a peace sign and, in French, says, “…Go, Four Horsemen!”
For those of you who haven’t received the Summer 2007 issue of “The Ear,” be watching your mailbox for it!Â I received mine earlier this week and, once again, must hand it to our dedicated newsletter staff for producing a great issue.Â Loaded with pictures from our recent Reunion, remembrances of the recently departed Jim Melby, historical pieces and other articles, this jampacked issue will be one to read!
For those wondering about the picture above (and, perhaps more importantly, the picture below), The Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, CA will be closing on June 19.Â As those of you who follow the history of CAC know, this restaurant was one of the original meeting places for the Cauliflower Alley Club.Â This goes back to the days when it was a weekly get together of the boys.Â I made a trip up to Hollywood today to meet with Kurt Nielsen and tour the restaurant before it closes.Â Be sure to watch for more pictures and some reminiscing from our “seasoned” members about the days at this Hollywood landmark coming up in the next issue of “The Ear!”
CAC Board Members Wes Daniel and Kurt Nielsen visit The Old Spaghetti Factory before it closes
In 1973, professional wrestling was still a “secret fraternity” and kayfabe was the most important law all talent religiously followed.Â Workers were in character whenever they were in public view and it was fun times for all of us connected with the business.
I vividly remember one kayfabe moment that in hindsight was a hilarious incident.Â The wrestling crew was extremely well known in the mid-size southeastern Washington State city of Yakima.Â We not only had a house show every Wednesday night, but we did a TV taping every Wednesday afternoon in the same city so the boys were very recognizable throughout the community.Â One day, I went to a restaurant with heels Rip Tyler, Eddie Sullivan, the Great Gama (Jack Evans), and Rick Renaldo.Â This restaurant was a co-sponsor of our TV show, so we all had to be working when we ate there.
The Great Gama spoke no English and was controlled by his English speaking American supervisor, Rip Tyler.Â Gama always wore his gimmick outfit in public and due to his TV actions, people were very cautious of him and always gave him plenty of room.Â Well, the four of us were seated at a table and handed menus.
The waitress gave us a few minutes and then came to our table to take our orders.Â She knew who we were.Â When it came time for the Great Gama to order, Rip Tyler turned to him and said some fake sentences so the waitress could hear.Â Gama answered back in a fake language which was his “native tongue.” Rip turned to the waitress and said, “…Gama says he’ll have a hamburger and french fries.”
The waitress wrote down all the orders and turned to walk back to the kitchen.Â While still in ear range, the Great Gama stood up and yelled at her, “and don’t forget to bring me a bottle of ketchup!”
We are only 4 weeks from our 42nd get together, again in Las Vegas. Once again we will all pay respect to our departed friends and, in the tradition set by Mike Mazurki some 42 years ago, have a great meal and honor some very deserving members of the CAC for their years of accomplishment in the wrestling world. This year the list of honorees is outstanding along with many first time attendees, is to say the least most impressive.
There will be a lot of surprises for those attending, and with the new Friday night event to honor a certain country and the wrestlers from that country. To kick off this tradition, what country has had a huge amount of GREAT talent continuously? None more then Canada. To list them all would take hours. Canadians have held the NWA world title on several occasions. They have made a major and lasting impression on the wrestling business and set standards that are followed by and respected by everyone in the business.
One of my hero’s in my youth was The Golden Greek John Tolos, and when I started promoting I was a mark in my own company when John joined our crew. he was one of the best interviewers ever to take a mic, he made my job so easy to interview him, once he took over the mic phones started ringing and advance tickets were sold. I mention John Tolos here because after all these years we are still friends, and talk on the phone often. I hope he makes to Vegas this year, health permitting,
In closing I want to thank all those who sent emails some 300 plus and over 100 cards during my recent surgery. I look forward to seeing you in Vegas and by then should be back to almost 100%.
Guest Editorial, Donn Lewin
â??A Hell of a Jobâ??
A Hawaii vet who took part in the Iwo Jima battle praises the film for its realism.
There was some question at the time whether the battle for Iwo Jima needed to be fought at all. But in the lull between the battle of Leyte Gulf and the planned invasion of Okinawa, the Army Air Force’s B-29 bombers were operating at the extreme edge of their flight envelope, without fighter cover. A mid-ocean airfield was the answer and Iwo Jima fit the bill. The Navy and the Marines were sent to capture the island for the Army. The assault was expected to be vicious but short.
It instead became a horrifically drawn-out slugfest: nearly 20,000 Japanese troops killed, only a few hundred captured. The Allies had 26,000 casualties, with more than 6,000 killed. It was the only time the Marines suffered more casualties than the Japanese.
Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines for the invasion of Iwo Jima, the most ever given in a single battle. The rest of the Marines never forgot the experience.
Pro wrestling legend Donn Lewin, one of the few Iwo vets living in the islands, saw Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” last week at a viewing hosted by the Pacific War Memorial. A feisty old guy — a professional wrestler in his postwar career — he began the movie by chattering, but within a few minutes of the combat scenes, he quieted, eventually making a single shout-out. “Pull the damn trigger!” he yelled at one harrowing moment.
“I went expecting to see a Hollywood movie, but it was so real, it was like I was there,” he said afterward. “They did a hell of a job, one hell of a job.”
Private Donn Lewin, 18 years old, L Company, 3rd Division, 9th Marines, went ashore with the fourth wave, which was delayed until dawn, the second day of the landing. The Japanese defenders had allowed the initial waves to pool ashore before opening up on them with hidden artillery. The result was chaos and slaughter as the Marines hung on to a fragile toehold in the black sand. Within a few hours, only Lewin and one other from his squad were still uninjured.
“The movie likes to show people having nightmares about their combat experiences, but I’ve never had one, not one,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember every detail. And I think every day about the boys we lost.”
Lewin also praised the film’s dramatic construction, although he isn’t sympathetic to Adam Beach’s (possibly Oscar-nominated) portrayal of Ira Hayes. “Look, I’m sure he had problems. Not because of his experience or because he was an Indian, but because he was a … drunk. Never saw but one of my guys become a crybaby. Threw down his rifle and ran away screaming he wanted to go home. Had to chase him down and pound some sense into his head. Crybaby!”
Eastwood has filmed a companion film, “Letters From Iwo Jima,” showing the Japanese point of view, and Lewin wonders “how cleaned-up it will be.”
“We didn’t see many live Japanese,” he said. “They were underground. Every once in a while, they’d pull one of their idiotic banzai charges and the next morning there would be nothing but dead Japanese as far as you could see. They wouldn’t surrender. Sometimes I think the human race is out to destroy itself.”
Iwo Jima, in the North Pacific, was cold at night and warm during the day, said Lewin, and the movie accurately shows that. “I think old Clint looked at all the footage of the battle and did his best to reflect that. I think some of it was real newsreel footage, but I’m not sure.
“What he got dead right was the behavior of the Marines. I guarantee you Eastwood had a brass Marine or two there to make sure they did it right. The battles were — it was like I was there again. My god. Not Hollywood at all.”
Marines today are no different than those who stormed Suribachi, said Lewin, who was wounded three times in a half-dozen Pacific campaigns. “It’s a different mindset. We know there’s a battle going on and our buddies are in it, we want to be there. That’s why you see our guys going back to Iraq, back to Afghanistan. Wish I could go, too. There are no ex-Marines, only Marines.”
Guest Editorial, “Big” Bill Anderson
Wrestling in Mexico
In 1971, I was 15 years old when I moved to Goodyear, AZ. I was already a big fan of U.S. wrestling, but I soon discovered Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling. I would stop at a Rexall Drugstore and pick up the 3 top wrestling magazines from Mexico. They were Box y Lucha, K.O. and Lucha Libre. Every week I would study the pictures of the legends. Men like Mil Mascaras, El Canek, Karloff Lagarde, Enrique Vera, Los Brazos, El Matimatico, Fishman, El Rayo De Jalisco. El Santo, Blue Demon, Black Shadow, Hurican Ramirez and countless others. I loved the colorful masks and capes that these guys wore. They were my new heroes.
My first trip to Nogales, Mexico in July of 1973 was courtesy of the man that was training me to become a pro wrestler, Kurt Von Steiger. Kurt had heard that an old friend and tag team partner of his El Nazi was in the main event. We arrived at the arena in Nogales and saw that the main event was Adorable Rubi & El Nazi vs El Rostro & Rayo De Jalisco. That was the match that I remember most that evening. As Kurt went into the rudos or bad guys dressing room, I stood outside the tecnicos or good guys room. Out came El Rostro & Rayo to sign autographs and pose for pictures with there many fans. I took pictures that night with my ever faithful Polaroid camera. I stood with El Rostro shaking hands and admiring his mask and persona. The mask in Mexico is taken very seriously. That night laid the ground work for a big part of my future wrestling career that I would undertake in Mexico from 1982 through 1999.
Although I turned pro on June 16, 1974, it would take 8 long, hard years before I was able to start wrestling in Mexico. In 1982 I made my debut in a big six man tag team match in Tijuana, For the next 17 years I would wrestle in every border town that had wrestling, as well as trips to Mexico City and Guadalajara. My first 7 years in and out of Mexico, I wrestled all the stars. Men like Hurican Ramirez, Carlos Plata, Black Gordman, Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras, El Sicoldelico, El Fantasma, Dr. Wagner Jr., Negro Casas, Angel Del Silencio, Rey Mysterio Sr., Super Maquina, Ringo Mendoza, Atlantis, El Rayo De Jalisco Jr. & Sr., Septembre Negro. Lizmark, Herodes and dozen’s of others. I was working for the CMLL wrestling office out of Mexico City and for Benjamin Mora’s World Wrestling Association out of Tijuana. While working for Mora I captured the W.W.A. World Heavyweight Championship, beating legendary Tinieblas at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles on Oct 4, 1986. Our special guest referee that night was “The Golden Greek” John Tolos. Several months later I lost the title back to Tinieblas and eventually my hair in Hair VS Mask match at the Olympic Auditorium drawing over 8,000 fans. CAC Vice President Karl K. Lauer was co – promoter of this great show.
By 1989, I felt I needed a new look to freshen up my matches in Mexico. I created a masked team called Los Mercenarios or The Mercenaries. I brought in Tim Patterson and the late Louie Spicoli as my partners. We had these camouflaged masks made and bought the rest of our wrestling gear at army surplus stores! We used the name all over Calif. & Arizona and in Mexico. On July 4, 1989, Los Mercenarios beat Chavo, Mando and the late Eddie Guerrero for the W.W.A. Trios Tag Team Championship in Mexico City. We held those belts for 3 years, facing all the great Mexican teams of the era. We beat Los Villanos I,IV & V,, Los Brazos, Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras, & El Sicodelico, the team of Rey Mysterio Sr., Kiss & Karizma. On July 19, 1991, The American Mercenaries sold out the Auditorio De Tijuana for a Mask VS Mask match with our biggest rivals, Los Villanos. They won that night and at the end of the bloody 2 out of 3 fall match, the three of us were unmasked in the middle of the ring and Los Villanos proudly held up our masks as a great trophy. The thousands of fans were so happy their heroes did not have to show their faces. We continued to wrestle in Mexico for the next few years, but without the mask that we had built such a huge reputation with, out team lost momentum.
Thinking back to that first show I attended in 1973 to now. I accomplished more than I ever could dream of. Winning the W.W.A. World Heavyweight Championship as Bill Anderson and the W.W.A. World Trio Tag Team belts as Los Mercenarios. I also graced the cover of Lucha Libre magazine 3 times, once as Bill Anderson with bleach blond hair and the two as The Mercenaries. Dreams do come true!
Time does fly when youâ??re having fun and it sure does not seem like 5 months since I last wrote for this section.
By now everyone knows that Vegas was once again enjoyed by most who attended. The rumors that our attendance was slightly off are true as many who normally would have been there avoided Vegas in June due to the heat. And it was hot â?? 107 when we arrived on Wednesday afternoon! We are all looking forward to being back to our normal schedule in April next year and back at the Riviera hotel. The Plaza is not booking conventions until the new owners decide what is going on.
The award given to my wife, Barbara, and me came as a complete surprise, and was greatly appreciated. â??Babs,â? as I call her, is really very shy and does not like to be on stage, but she made it through and has that plaque in full sight for any who come to our ranch. Speaking of the ranch, I was asked about the difference between a ranch and a farm; well, on a ranch, what you raise walks on it and on a farm it grows on it, â??it,â? in our case, is cattle.Â Babs and I have been married for 46 years and she has put up with all my “unusual” side professions like the trooper she is.
When I graduated from high school in 1956, I really thought I was going to be a song writer and rock and roller. I wrote lyrics for some of the 50′s guys as a ghost writer, getting a fee and bonus for the lyrics without the credit.Â You have to remember, as a 17 year old in 1956, 50.00 to 250.00 for a poem was big money. I got 50.00 from Specialty records for writing “BeBop Baby” which sold over 3 million copies and shot Ricky Nelson to the charts. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart AKA Boyce and Hart went on to become the real song writers from our class. But I still liked the quick money and no risk for a poem; I figured, let someone else do the music and take the financial risk. After a few more successes, I published a few with my name on the record as the writer (big mistake) and then the big guys waited and bought the rights from me. “Lovers Land,”Â “Mans Desire,” â??Pizza Pie Baby,” “What’s it all About” andÂ I’m Mad- She’s Glad” were some of them. It was fun and I met a lot of good and not so good people in the recording business. Some of the good ones were Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Burnett from the El Monte area. Gene was hurt bad in a taxi accident that killed Eddie and a few years later died from an overdose of pain medications that he took for injuries from the accident. Johnny died in a boat accident in Lake Arrowhead. So I think the good Lord knew that that was not the life he planned for me.
I will be going to my 50th class reunion in Pasadena California this next October 6th. In some ways, I am looking forward to it, but also know that a lot of the boys never came back from Vietnam, and a lot have passed on also. From 1956 to 1958 I tried the entertainment life and decided to join the Air Force in September 1958. I went in on the buddy system with a black kid named Johnny Carter, one of the original singers from the Coasters. Being raised in Los Angeles I never knew prejudice, and had some real fights over this. They called us the Salt and Pepper team. Basic training was a time in my life I will always remember to say the least, but would not trade it for anything. To me the military was the beginning of growing up, even though I was already 20 years old, I was going on 12 in maturity and wisdom. Many will disagree with me but to me the greatest injustice we have done to our young men was when we cancelled the draft.
Discipline, the value of friendship and teamwork are all things we are lacking in today, and all are a major part of military service.Â In the 9 years I have worked for the oil company we have NEVER been fully staffed, and most job applicants tell you what they won’t do and the first question they ask is what are the benefits, not what is the job. Take any guy or gal that has served 3 or more years in the military and you will have someone who knows how to work, values his job and has respect for his country and takes pride in what he does. People say you can get killed in the service, and this is very true; but even though we have lost around 2,500 in the last 3 years at war, 25,000 die every year on the highways.Â I finished my service September 14th, 1962 (itâ??s funny you never forget the date you went in and the date you got out – you canâ??t wait to get out but then sit and remember all the good times).Â I was an Air Policeman for 4 years and really liked the law enforcement part but hated the security part. In addition to giving me a few scares, the Air Force also gave me my wife of 46 years. For me it was a win/ win arrangement, and both my sons have served, one as a special forces soldier and the the other a US Marine. Each of my sons has 4 children, so Babs and I have 8 grandkids, as planned 4 of each. Over the next 32 years 1962 to 1994 my life was full of excitement, not from wrestling or police work but from corporate challenges.
In my last article, I talked about how I got involved in the CAC. In 1979 I became the clubâ??s “business manager” and for the last 27 years I have been the fall guy and the ones who takes the blame weather guilty or not. It all goes with the job. I remember Mike Mazurki told me one time if someone gripes about something you had to do for the club, look them in the eye and put them in charge of changing it. Mike used to tell people that if they didnâ??t have the time, solution and money to make the changes they suggested, they should come back when the did and we would put them in charge. Mike always told it like it was.
In the next time my turn comes up, we will talk about where the CAC is going and what the future holds. There has been a lot of commentary in several different places, some of which deserves response. We know that some changes are needed, and plans to make those changes happen are in the works. Remember my favorite saying, â??CRITICISM IS EASY—ACCOMPLISHMENT IS HARD.â? If you have a complaint, bring the solution with it, or forever hold your peace.
“Cowboy” Bob Kelly
I was reminiscing about some departed friends and remembered a rib that was pulled on Eduardo Perez by Rip Tyler and Eddie Sulivan.
Rip and Eddie bought a metal detector and were taking every opportunity to stop at rest areas and parks to see what they might find. To their chagrin, they were turning up nothing of value. Eduardo was riding with them and making fun of them â?? telling them that they were crazy and were wasting their time.
Not to be made fun of, they decided to set him up. They gave one of the other heels a old rust, bent up soup can filled with 100.00 in old ragged one dollar bills and told him which rest area to bury it in and exactly where in the rest area to place it so they would be sure and find it. When they picked up Eduardo to take him to the town they were wrestling in that night, Rip drove right by the rest area despite Eddie trying to get him to stop. Rip told Eddie that they had already checked that place the previous week and found nothing. Eduardo, who was with them the week before, was agreeing with Rip.
Eddie raised so much heck that finally Rip agreed and went back. When they got there Rip pulled the car up right over the spot the money was buried (this was to prevent Eduardo from noticing the freshly turned earth where the can had been buried earlier that day). Eddie got the metal detector out and went to work looking for buried treasure. He kept looking and working his way over toward the car. By this time, both Eduardo and Rip were yelling at Eddie to hurry up. Eduardo was laughing and telling Eddie what an idiot he was for thinking he was ever going to find anything with that worthless thing. Eddie got over by the front of the car and started acting like he was on to something. He came around by Eduardo’s side, bent down and stuck the detector under the car, then told Rip to back up. Rip acted as if he didn’t want to do it and told Eddie to get in the car so they could leave. Eddie got mad at Rip and told him to back up. After a bit of arguing back and forth, Rip backed up. Eddie got the metal detector over the spot and yelled for the shovel. Rip jumped out and brought the shovel so Eddie could start digging. About the time he dug up the old soup can, Eduardo walked up, saw the can and started laughing. Next thing, Eddie pulled the money from the can and began counting. Needless to say, Eduardo was convinced what a great idea it was and went the next day and bought a metal detector.
Eddie and Rip were both very good friends of mine and both have passed on. Eddie told me this story many times and I can still see him laughing as he told me. I have a rock from Eddie’s grave right here on my computer and look at it everyday. He called me almost every week and sometimes we would talk for a couple hours. I miss Eddie and his calls very much.
Several days ago I received word his widow Barbara passed away the day before. Even though many of our closest friends leave us far before we are ready to let them go, we should always be thankful for the memories we have with them and take the opportunity to remember them through their stories and let those stories make us smile.
The death of Luke Graham on June 23rd, 2006, reminded me of the classic rib we pulled on him years earlier.
I was promoting in Seattle at the time and phoned Tom Renesto who was booking Atlanta to “borrow” Crazy Luke Graham for a two day appearance. He was guaranteed 700 plus trans to work Seattle Tuesday night, do two television tapings Wednesday afternoon in Yakima and work the house show Wednesday night in Yakima, then fly back to Atlanta on Thursday.
The day he arrived at the airport in Seattle, the office sent someone to pick him up, and here’s where the rib all began.
Graham casually told the driver that he left Atlanta in such a hurry he accidentally left all his money at home. He only had three dollars in his pocket and asked his ride if he could borrow ten bucks until after the match.
Later that day, the gofer told me that he had loaned Graham ten dollars and that was all the money Luke had on him. I told a few of the boys the predicament Luke was in, and when he came in the dressing room, Ripper Collins walked up to him and said something about he’d have to pay the doctor 25.00 in order to get his wrestling license.
All the boys jumped in and explained in detail to him, that the office only pays one week after the show. They told him he wouldn’t get a dime from the office until next Tuesday. At first Graham didn’t believe the statement, but the boys all insisted that it was office policy, no money until one week after the show…no exceptions.
I was out in the box office money room counting the gate when somebody told me how nervous and upset Graham was, and that he was afraid, ashamed, and embarrassed to approach me for an advance. I gave the instructions to get the word back to Graham, “no advances, no exceptions.”
When he and I finally did communicate in the dressing room, it was easy to see that he wanted so much to talk to me about money, but I was quite unapproachable that night, and did my best to avoid a one-on-one conversation with him. Finally, I saw him borrow twenty five dollars from the referee and he probably tapped several others that I didn’t know about.
The next day at the TV station, I, of course, was so busy (for real), it was impossible for anyone to find time to talk to me.
Wednesday night, just before he left to the ring for his match, he did manage to corner me where he said, “There’s something I’ve got to talk to you about when I’m done.” I knew exactly what he was about to say, but the bell was summoning him to the ring.
I was in the Yakima Armory office, calling in the results of the matches over the phone to the Yakima “Herald-Republic” newspaper, when Graham knocked on the door. I motioned for him to come in where he said, “I’ve got to talk to you about something.” I gestured for him to be quiet until I finished with the phone, and while I was giving the results to the sports reporter, I handed Luke a white envelope. He opened it and saw eleven 100 bills in it.
As I completed my phone call I turned to Graham and said, “Now what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” Luke hesitated a moment but then caught his composure and said, “All I wanted to say was for you to let me know when you want me to come back for you.”
He was driven back to the Seattle airport the next morning and he gave the gopher back his ten dollars.
Respect vs Money
I understand that I missed a very, very good match with professional ladies wrestlers at this years CAC event.Â I was so looking forward to meeting Marika from Japan and seeing Melissa again.Â Perhaps next year. Speaking of professionalism…here again is “my two cents,” like it or NOT.
I see and hear so much of how more and more girls are lowering themselves to doÂ fantasy matches than ever before. The most common REASON I understand is MONEY.Â Sure,Â we all like money, but that is no reason for girls to lower their standards, much less call themselves pro lady wrestlers by doingÂ â??customâ? matches – in bare feet,Â bikinis, using fetish type holds and rolling around on mats with men. Displaying such bad behavior and presenting degrading images of the sport I’ve always been proud of saying I was a part of makes me ashamed. Professional Lady Wrestling should have respect.
When an organization decides to book a girl wrestler, I wish they would go to Google, and look at the websites she is working for; check them out to see if she solicits custom matches.Â Â Be certain this is the PRO wrestling girl you really want in your ring.Â Most of these girls can’t wrestle, but have invaded the ranksÂ just to do whatever they do privately before or after their match with fans, by letting them know on their web sites where they will be so they can make their private mat arrangements.
IT simply IS NOT fair to those hard working dedicated wrestlers who genuinely want to wrestle as it lumps them all into one big questionable pile of (expletive deleted).Â Some girls who found it impossible to get in the big leagues even started doing videos, and many of the newer girls have been led to believe that EVERYONE is doing thisâ?¦.. so they just join in. This belief is simply not true as there are several legit pro girls out there who have taken a stand and said “NO, I am a professional and will NOT accept being categorized as â??soft porn.â??â?
My wish is that this â??trashy evolutionâ? of women performing in near pornographic behavior not be categorized as wresting.Â To be called a girl wrestler, I would insist they have enough pride in what they are learning in the ring to KEEP their standards AND have the courage to tell the promoters/producers they will NOT be exploited, and that they are professional athletes.
I hope someone, someday brings the PRO back into the SPORT of Lady Wrestling~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I could share my memories of the days when my partner, Joe Turner and I wrestled as The Interns and were managed by Dr. Jerry Graham; or the times in the Carolinas when, as a tag team, Joe and I worked so many, many times with Jerry Brisco and Sandy Scott; or in Tennessee where we wrestled as the Sky Brothers and traveled many miles in the towns run through the Nashville office that covered the mid-South.
Those stories are great and are varied but as I am preparing for the 2006 CAC event my mind returns to my first CAC attendanceâ?¦â?¦
By the time you read this the 2006 CAC gathering in Las Vegas will be a memoryâ?¦.but, as always, a good memory of reminiscing with our peersâ?¦..in retrospect, as plans are being finalized for this trip, I canâ??t help but think back to my first trip to CAC and the trials and tribulations of that eventâ?¦..
1)We were traveling on a Delta â??buddyâ? ticket which meant we got to Las VegasÂ without any delaysâ?¦â?¦leaving Vegas was another story. We became very familiar with every snack area and restroom as we spent over 12 hours in the airport waiting to be able to get seats on a southbound planeâ?¦..
2)It was mid-February and it seemed every eligible young lady in the country wanted to have a Las Vegas wedding so the plane was filled with soon-to-be brides carrying their wedding gowns with all the bridal paraphernaliaâ?¦â?¦
3)Las Vegas weather, that is usually nice, was more than cool in the evenings requiring coats and there was even a heavy thunderstorm one evening which caused some problems in townâ?¦..
After laying this ground work to give you the overview, let me also mention the airport was in itâ??s constant state of re-modeling and expanding which caused temporary security areas and less than adequate baggage security check areas â?? temporary locations so nothing fancy!
As I mentioned earlier we spent many hours in the restrooms and food areas and naturally we spent some time continuing to play the ever luring slot machine areasâ?¦.and, we won. Actually we did somewhat better in the airport than at the casinos.
We were finalizing play at several machines when we heard our flight was boarding and we actually would be able to board â?? no longer a standby number! Unfortunately we didnâ??t have time to return to the one location that could â??cash inâ? coins from the slot machines into paper money â?? and we had several buckets filled with quarters! There was nothing to do but go to the plane boarding area carrying these coin filled containers â?? no lids to them! The baggage areas, as mentioned, were temporary and luggage was transported on open conveyor belts, not a rolling carrier that had no open areas. Well, our luck continuedâ?¦â?¦.as the conveyor belt is clicking and clacking and grinding along, bumping up and down and around, one of the buckets turned over!!!! Just imagineâ?¦.at least 50.00 in quarters on the floor under the conveyor belt! Yepâ?¦..you guessed it â?? we were on our hands and knees gathering up the coins putting them in our pockets as fast as we could so we could make, for us anyway, that last plane leaving Las Vegas!!
There are other memories of our first CAC trip but this first trip seems to remain with us because of all the â??happeningsâ? that occurred once and we donâ??t want to happen again. BUT, should you find any quarters in the Las Vegas airport â?? THEY BELONG TO ME!!!!
Director â?? CAC
Secretary â?? Gulf Coast Wrestling Reunion
~ CAC â?? A True Ring of Friendship ~
Friend: To me a friend is someone you can always count on. No matter what situation you find yourself in, they are always there to help out.
I have found many friends in the CAC throughout the past 5 years of my membership. My exposure to the club came when I was informed that I would be an honoree at the upcoming 2002 convention. This announcement came shortly after the death of my 4-year-old granddaughter, Alicia.
Alicia was the love of my life. My wife, Stella, and I loved her more than words can express. When she was killed we were totally devastated. However we knew we had to do something to keep her memory and her work alive. You see Alicia would spend hours working in the church food pantry making food baskets for many needy families. Although Stella had a special way of nutritionally packing food for the families, Alicia would add her own personal touch to each bag of food by adding candy for the children. I believe she wanted every child to have the same things she did.
In August of 2001 Stella and I formed Aliciaâ??s House, a not for profit 501c3 food pantry. All that we had to go on was the fact that we knew we could not stop doing the work she and Stella started. People were counting on us to make sure they could eat. I wondered how we would make it. How were we going to pay for the food, equipment, trucks, shelving, and a building? Taking all that into consideration we decided to take a huge step of faith and just believe that somehow, someway the Lord would provide.
Over the past 5 years we have had many people including family, friends and strangers help with Aliciaâ??s House and the friends we have made in the CAC have helped us accomplish many of our goals. To date Aliciaâ??s House has fed thousands of families, has helped to distribute over 2.5 million pounds of food to the south suburbs of Chicago, and has provided Christmas meals and gifts to thousands of children that normally would not have much of a holiday.
Stella and I would like to take this time and thank our many friends of the CAC: Harley & BJ Race, Karl Lauer, Scott Hosey, Nick Bockwinkle, Scott Schwartz, Jimmy & Angel Valiant, Paul Christy, Bunny Love, Ox Baker, Buddy Roberts, Greg Valentine, Alan Koss, Morgan Dollar, the late George Gunderson, Glen Rylko, Paul Farber, Al Friend, Dave Burzynski, Kevin Hughes, and the many CAC members that have made appearances, donated items for our annual auction, written articles to help spread the word, and continue go above and beyond to help with Aliciaâ??s House.
Without your friendship and support many children and families would not eat. Thank all of you for helping Aliciaâ??s House to help others
Message from Morgan:
Juan’s annual golf outing (Alicia’s house fund raiser) will be held Sept 16th. Look for more info on the CAC website about this up coming event.
Guest Editorial, Wes Daniel
Okay, okay. I know. The Reunion was a month ago and Iâ??m just now sending my reunion review in. And, yeah, I also know that the due date for submitting it for publication on the website was 3 days ago. What can I say? I was in Lake Arrowhead water skiing for 2 of the past 4 weekends and, honestly, wouldnâ??t you rather water ski than write articles too? Anyway, with my sincere apologies to Morgan, here it is, better late than never, my review of the 2006 CAC Reunion and some <ahem> maybe less than politically correct post Reunion thoughts.
While I was much less involved in the activities at this Reunion than I have been in the past (I had a friend with me who is not a wrestling fan, so had to divide my time appropriately), I was still around for big parts of the weekend and was able to observe the activities and many interactions. I want to both recap my experiences as well as make unofficial commentary on some things that really disturbed me this year â?? more so than in past years.
I arrived in Las Vegas Thursday evening, got checked into the hotel and met up with my good friends, Morgan and Annette Dollar and Jason Sanderson. I stopped by the registration desk where both Dean Silverstone and Karl Lauer warmly greeted me. I have not been active in CAC that long, but, in the short time I have been, I have made it a point to introduce myself to Dean and Karl and to let them know how much I appreciate the Club. They, in turn, understand the respect I have for the Club and the business and treat me as a long-time friend.
I went to my room to leave my bags and quickly get refreshed for dinner and, unfortunately, was disappointed in my room. I have always said that I donâ??t go to CAC for the rooms or the food; I go for the camaraderie of old friends, I go to meet new friends and I go for the opportunity to thank my childhood heroes for the enjoyment they gave me. In years past, I would have just stayed at The Plaza despite the room; however, as I had a guest this year, I had to quickly make arrangements to go stay at The Golden Nugget. Mind you Iâ??m not complaining about the CACâ??s choice of The Plaza. I paid 139 per night to stay at The Golden Nugget and am fortunate that I am in a position to be able to do that â?? many of our members cannot. So, honestly, in Las Vegas, the rates for The Plaza were quite good and it is an affordable and clean, though not opulent, hotel.
After making my arrangements at The Golden Nugget, I met up with Morgan and Annette Dollar, Jason Sanderson and Jeff Sharkey and we all went up to The Rio for their incredible seafood buffet. While the food was quite good, the best part of the evening was the conversation, the fellowship and the anticipation of what was to come in the next couple of days. When we all returned to The Plaza, I ran into a few more old friends such as Sir Oliver Humperdink and Big Billy Anderson, met a few other people I have only talked with online until now and had an opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with Dean Silverstone.
I called it a night relatively early. Unfortunately, I was wide awake at 4:30 Friday morning and could not sleep, so I went downstairs to the casino to play a little Pai Gow Poker. Well, it turned out to be a good thing I did because that visit to the casino paid for my trip to Vegas and allowed me to make a small donation to The Club. While playing a 2 bonus bet on the dragon hand, it hit 5 Aces, which paid 1,000! What a great start to a great day!
After breakfast, I wandered around the gimmick tables (sorry, but I will never call it a memorabilia fair â?? they will always be the gimmick tables to me) and had a chance to talk with Mitch Hartsey, Dave Millican, Harry White and many others. Most of the rest of the day was spent changing hotels, playing Pai Gow and shopping with some friends. Upon returning for the Baloney Blowout, I had the privilege of speaking with Larry Hennig for the first time. There are a few guys at the Reunion every year who seem to be distrustful of people they donâ??t recognize and Larry is one of those guys. Well, once I got an introduction and he realized that I wasnâ??t going to hound him for an interview or try to get anything out of him, I found him to be a very outgoing and engaging individual with a great sense of humor.
Unfortunately, the Baloney Blowout started later than anticipated. They did a great job on the food again this year with, what appeared to be plenty for everybody and it was quite good. I was lucky enough to sit at the table with Adrian and Linda Street and Jason Sanderson. We all had some good laughs, told some good stories and, once again, enjoyed the fellowship. Shortly after dinner started, an individual whose name I will not mention came to sit at the table with us. I will talk about this more at the end of the review.
I left the Blowout early as I did have my friend waiting for me to once again hit the Pai Gow tables. I was informed the next day that Karl Lauer mentioned my name at the Blowout and, unfortunately, I was already gone. Just great, the one time I leave a CAC event early and Karl comes looking for me. Sorry about that!
Saturday was mostly more of the same, some time watching the matches, some time visiting the gimmick tables, some time talking with friends, some time playing Pai Gow. It was all enjoyable.
Due to having to entertain my company and some other prior commitments, I attended only a part of the banquet Saturday night (the food part, of course), so I didnâ??t get to see any of the award presentations. It sounds like some things were good and some things werenâ??t. This is to be expected in any situation like this.
All-in-all, while this seemed to be a fairly small Reunion as compared to the past three I attended, I found my personal enjoyment of it to be much greater. As Iâ??ve been going for a few years now and have had the opportunity to make some friends, I felt like it was much more of a Reunion and less of a convention.
Now, the one thing I would like to address that was bothersome to me. My biggest complaint of the weekend and something that, unfortunately, I donâ??t think CAC can do anything about. Some of the non-wrestlers there were just downright obnoxious. The individual I mentioned above who sat at my table at the Blowout on Friday night was one of those people. I observed him being obnoxious with Don and Ron Fargo over breakfast Friday morning, I witnessed him interrupt a personal conversation between Sir Oliver Humperdink, Larry Hennig and Mickey Jay to ask for pictures. I spoke to one of the wrestlers who said he felt the guy was stalking him as he talked to his friends on Friday as he was always around. He displayed odd behavior at the table at the Blowout. I assume he must be a member of CAC as he had a name badge for the banquet, so he had as much right to be there as I did, but, itâ??s unfortunate that our members sometimes act this way.
As Iâ??m a big believer in not just talking about problems, but trying to find solutions, Iâ??ve given this a lot of thought and, unfortunately, I just donâ??t know the solution. The only solution I can offer is what Iâ??m writing right now, and thatâ??s a plea for my fellow fans to recognize the CAC Reunion for what it is â??a Reunion. None of us should see this event as a way to make money or to profit from the boys who are there to meet their often long-separated friends. Iâ??m fairly close to one of the boys and, at one point over the weekend, he said to me, â??Jeez, everybody wants something from you at these now,â? in reference to being asked, yet again, to leave the hotel and go somewhere else to do an interview.
There are multiple conventions and fan fests every year with dozens and dozens of wrestlers in attendance. They are there, in their business hats, and ready to deal with fans and those who are looking for interviews and appearances, etc. Please, schedule your interviews and do your commercial work at these events. Donâ??t do it at CAC. Honestly, you doing these things at CAC makes the boys a lot less willing to share their stories and accept the non-workers as part of their group and itâ??s not fair to most of us who are there for non-commercial purposes.
Honestly, and I hate to suggest this as a fan, but the only other solution I would have for this problem is for CAC to become a wrestlerâ??s only organizationâ?¦. Jeez, I hate even saying that, because, honestly, if CAC were to become a â??wrestlers onlyâ? organization, it would exclude people like me, Jeff Sharkey, Mitch Hartsey, Warren Edge, Vince Fahey and many others of us who are truly fans of the business from having the opportunity to enjoy these gatherings, but it would also allow the boys to enjoy it more without feeling bothered.
If you, like me, are a mark through and through, a CAC Reunion is such an incredible experience. This was my 4th Reunion and I enjoy them more every year as my friendships deepen and become stronger.
Let me close by expressing my gratitude to the people who work so hard to make these reunions happen.
I look forward to seeing you next April!
This is the second part of two articles. Please visit the Board briefs archive June section for the first part of this article.
Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame,
The year 2000 was the not just the start of the new millennium, but the birth of a dream
It was in late winter of the first year of the new century that I had a call from a Jim Myers (George Steele). He called me to ask me if I would be interested in becoming involved with the formation of a Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. I was very interested and wanted to learn more. He told me that I would be getting a call from a man named Tony Vellano and he would provide me with all the information.
The phone rang one spring day and on the other end of a man who introduced himself as Tony Vellano from the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in Schenectady, New York. He invited me to the first â??kick offâ? banquet in another month. I accepted the offer and was looking forward to this new venture.
I live in Springfield, Massachusetts and the ride to Schenectady, NY was only an hour and 10 min. Fellow CAC member, Wade Collins, friend Rob Salvas and I went to the affair in central New York. We were welcomed by Tony as if we were long lost cousins coming to a family reunion. I also met up with some fellow CACers â?? Dr. Bob Bryla and special guest Walter â??Killerâ? Kowalski.
The debut banquet was sold out and filled with the power brokers of the city, county and state. The powers to be were behind this project and I could see that Tony Vellano was not the run of the mill wrestling guy. A matter of fact he has no connection with wrestling â?? more on that later.
The banquet was a feast to say the least. Great food, company and a trio of wrestling stars that shared stories and questions and answers with the people in attendance. George Steele, Walter Kowalski and the Ray Apollo aka Doink the Wrestling Clown. The crowd ate it up.
Why Schenectady ?
I asked the same question. From a historic point of view Schenectady is right. General Electric had its headquarters in that city and in 1939 they telecasted the first wrestling event to their offices in New York City and Chicago.
The town fathers were all in support of the idea of having a Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. A 60 mile radius from the city will bring you to other hall of fames â?? Baseball in Cooperstown, the Boxing Hall fame is located in Canasota, fans of Soccer have a HOF in Oneonta and heading a bit northwest by the way the crow flies will take you to Uticaâ??s
International Running Hall of Fame. This was a focus of the governing body of the city to view the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame as a tourist venture.
It was at the Board of Directors meeting at the 2001 Reunion that I gave a presentation of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and suggested that the club give their endorsement. A debate went on and an exchange of thoughts and words were given and taken. One board member was concerned that Tony Vellano had no wrestling background. My comeback was that is what was needed a person with no ties with the business. He has no alliances or associations with people in the sport. He comes from a business background being the CEO of a construction company that build skyscrapers around the country. Further conversation went on and it was decided that a â??studyâ?? committee would be established to â??check outâ? the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. Board member, Al â??Spiderâ? Mandell was the lead member. Al a long time member and a person with a vast knowledge of the sport from that of a wrestler, referee and promoter brought his insight to the New York site. Nick Bockwinkle also came to the 2nd banquet.
The nod from both Al and Nick came swiftly and the buzz in the air at the 2002 CAC Reunion is that we did have a Hall of Fame in the making.
Just as things started looking good for the PWHF in Schenectady the bomb was dropped.Â The owner of 123 Broadway where the Hall was located sold the property.Â A new city leadership was not as favorable to the PWHF as the past mayor.
The city of Amsterdam heard about the problems that the PWHF was having.Â The mayor and city council wanted to promote the downtown of Amsterdam and felt that the PWHF would be an ideal magnetÂ to increase tourism in their city.
Like any group, there are â??growing painsâ? and the PWHF has them as well (the CAC in its 42nd year also sees and feels those growing pains as times and people change).Â Growth is along process, but in the 6 years that the idea was hatched, it is amazing what has been done.
Supportâ?¦. No project of this size can survive without some patrons.
Tony Vellano has registered the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in New York State and gets an annual grant from the state.Â The CAC has been so impressed with the efforts of the PWHF that our Club is an official supporter with an annual donation.
There have been several fundraisers for the PWHF.
Toronto was headed by CAC member Greg Oliver and Buffalo saw it held by the family of Ilio DiPaolo also CAC members.Â Both of these affairs were sell outs and Greg Oliver is looking ot run another fundraiser on September 30 in Toronto.
However nothing compares to the efforts of one, John Pantozzi, another CAC member.Â John has run two PWHF fundraisers in the New York City area.Â Selling out the events in just a mere two weeks.
Who attends?Â Well, the event in November 2050 in Staten Island would have the envy of any convention promoter for John held a night titled, â??Million Dollar Dinnerâ? on November 5th which was attended by Ted DiBiase, Mick Foley and Bret Hart.Â This trio of main eventers came to support the PWHF with no fee attached to their appearance.
It should be mentioned that Ross Hart, CAC member and younger brother of the Hitman had spoken to Bret about the PWHF since he last visited the PWHF when it was in Schenectady with this writer during the summer of 2003.
The event was very special for Bret since he was able to meet a man that he only knew by name.Â Attending the dinner was former wrestler, Tony Cosenza, a longtime friend of his dad.Â Bret shared the story how it was Tony who introduced his dad to his mother Helen when Stu was wrestling in the NYC area back in the early 40â??s.Â Tears welled in the eyes of both wrestlers and for many attending since it brought together two generations wrestling.
John also held a fundraiser in New Rochelle, NY in 2004 with Ivan Koloff, Captain Lou Albano.Â Both events in the New York City area were sellouts and filled with both fans and wrestling personalities.Â John plans to run another Hall of Fame Fundraiser in the autumn of this year. CAC and the PWHF website will provide information when it is released.
The Hall of Fame is located at 10 Madison Street in downtown Amsterdam.Â It is a three floor building with wrestling memorabilia filling the first two floors.
Former NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion, Angelo Savoldi recently donated a wrestling ring to the hall.Â This is just one of many donations that have been given to the PWHF.
A few years ago there was a movie, â??Field of Dreamsâ? and the theme of movie was if they build it they will come.Â For us the Dream has come true we have a Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame which honors the men, women, shooters, carpenters, midgets, masked ones, oddities of the sport under one roof.
To visit the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame website, CLICK HERE
When the folks from the CAC website asked me to write an article for â??Board Briefs,â? it seemed only logical that I give some background on our annual hotel selection process, what goes on â??behind the scenesâ? and shed some light on the difficulties weâ??ve had in the past few years. My name is Gloria Lovell and I handle the arrangements for hotel rooms, meeting space, banquet service and food and beverage for the annual reunions. This is part of what I do for a living, so, it only makes sense that I contribute my skills to CAC.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is how we decide when and where our annual reunion will take place.Â Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more difficult. Many factors go into making the decision, not the least of which is cost.Â As for when we hold it, we are at the mercy of the venue (hence the June date this year instead of our more traditional April reunion).Â Hotels and other venues across the country are booked 3 to 5 years in advance.Â So when we come in and ask for a lot of space for very little money, we are regularly turned down.Â If we find a place that has space available, more often than not, their rates are too high.
We have been fortunate that for several years we have been able to provide locations with inexpensive room rates and food.Â These locations are now telling us they canâ??t give us the space we need unless we guarantee a certain amount of revenue.Â These companies are in business to make money, and if their choices are to do business with us, or do business with a company that will generate some revenue for them, we lose.Â The days of the 29 or even 59 room rate (in a reasonably clean and safe hotel) are gone as well.Â All of the locations we have been dealing with are going through changes in ownership and extensive remodeling, which they expect will bring in additional revenues for their business through higher rates.Â There are so many organizations that are looking for space that these hotels donâ??t need us anymore â?? we now need them. We need to accept the fact that while we have kept our costs low over the years, their prices are going up and new ownership is no longer willing to accommodate us at these low rates.Â While it may sound harsh, it is fact.
So, while we continue to try and negotiate with these venues, we have been unable to keep the cost of a dinner (including tax and service charge) at 50 so that the club can make a little money.Â Thatâ??s the reason we raised the price to 75.
We have had other locations willing to do business with us, but we have turned them down in the past either because their room rates are too high or because it is too long of a walk from sleeping rooms to the meeting area.Â This may be a change we will have to look at in future years if we are to continue to hold our reunions at large hotels.
I know that there are frequently members who may not be happy with the quality of rooms or food at The Plaza or with the more expensive rates at the Riviera, but, please, keep in mind, when we choose a venue, much thought has gone into it and we have chosen it because it offered the best combination of price, availability, rooms and food. Are there hotels with rooms much nicer than The Plaza? Sure, but their prices are much higher. Are there hotels with better space than the Riviera? Sure, but theyâ??re more expensive still.
Rest assured that we will continue to work hard to bring you the best reunion we possibly can.
Father Jason Sanderson
I have always hated intro music, at least my own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it altogether, and in some cases it can be pretty nice and does get the crowd in the right frame of mind. Except when it came to mine.
It wasn’t so much that I felt I didn’t get the ‘right’ kind of music, it was just that it soon became just one more thing to worry about when I was about to have a match. What if it didn’t play, what if it didn’t come out clear over the PA system, yada yada yada.
Case in point: I was working a show in New Hampshire and I had just changed gimmicks. My new one was supposed to be a rather mysterious figure named ‘Merlyn’ and the Office and I had spent a great deal of time working on the gimmick; gear, face paint, and of course intro music, in this case an eerie, organ music that seemed straight out of a horror movie. It was truly a work of art.
We even worked it ‘old style’ where for about two months I wasn’t actually SEEN, just hinted at, and when I did make appearances, it was under a big, hooded cape where no one could see me clearly, etc. The crowd was getting anxious to see ‘Merlyn’ in action and we were pretty certain we were on our way.
When I had my first match, it was everything we hoped it would be, the crowd ate it up and we were ready to do more with it. So, another match was booked with ‘Merlyn’ and one of the hotter heels in the territory for the next show.
The set up was perfect. It was probably the second or third match on the card, but they were excited about it. The crowd was pumped, the lighting was just perfect. I had my entrance down pat, the announcer called my name and I waited for the music to start.
I waited a bit more.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and knew I had to get out there. I carefully stepped through the door (making sure the stupid cape that cost me more than my last pay-off and practically filled my gear bag didn’t get caught) and headed toward the ring. Just then, the music started.
It was “Moon River”.
Where the heck did that come from?!?!?!
I stopped and stared at the sound guy in disbelief, the ring announcer stared and so did my opponent we were all just standing there with our mouths open. The kid we had gotten to run the PA system that night sat there in blissful ignorance. If it wasn’t the heavy metal “kill-your-mother” music, it was all the same to him.
I was faced with watching months of effort and promotion for this gimmick going right down the crapper if someone didn’t do something FAST!!!!
So, I did what anyone in my position would do; I yanked my cape off (tearing it be damned!) and ran into the ring to get the match started. I was so embarrassed by that little ‘gaffe’ that I proceeded to pound the stuffing out of the other fellow, just wishing I could get my hands on the sound guy!!
Afterwards, during intermission when we were all out signing autographs, someone asked why I changed my intro music. “I didn’t,” I replied “So-and-so (my opponent) did!”
That little white lie seemed to cover everything nicely and we were able to get quite a bit of use out of the gimmick before retiring it.
After that, I didn’t care what anyone did to my intro music, because I swore I’d never use any again!
MSGR. JASON SANDERSON, KOST
In 1969, I was wrestling for Ed Francis in Hawaii and was preparing to leave for the Atlanta territory.Â As I was winding down my time in Hawaii, I met a beautiful young lady and we started dating.Â Like me, she was preparing to move.Â Having accepted a position as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines, she was on her way to Minneapolis.
After thinking about her move and knowing how lonely it can be in a strange town without any friends, I decided I had to help her.
I wrote Red Bastien a letter telling him about this young lady – that she was quite attractive and was definitely somebody he would want to meet.Â I told him that, in light of all of her fine characteristics and qualities, it would only be right for him to give me a list of his qualities or qualifications to convince me that I should give him her information.
Several weeks later (don’t forget – this was 1969 – well before the days of instant e-mail communication!), I received a response from Red.Â Red wrote me a nice letter about life in Minneapolis, his wrestling exploits there and, at the end, said “enclosed are the qualifications that should provide you with enough reason to give me your friend’s telephone number”.Â Enclosed was a mechanical sketch, a top view, side view and end view with all dimensions – length – width – weight, of the male appendage.
Well, Red’s most diligent of efforts in providing me with reasons to send a beautiful lady his way were all for naught.Â As it turned out, the young lady did move to Minneapollis and I moved to Atlanta.Â I continued the drifting life of a wrestler for a while; however, in 1970 I too moved to Minneapolis and in 1972 I married the young lady.
All of this took place without the lady’s knowledge.Â At a Christmas party, given by Wally Karbo, is the first time Red met this Lady.Â He approached her, dipped her followed by a kiss and told her she should be coming to this party escorted by him.Â At this time I felt that I had to clue her in to what had transpired.
Now – 34 years later, I am still glad that I never did give Red Mrs. Bockwinkel’s phone number.
It is with mixed emotions that I recall my working relationship with the late Ron Dupree. Mixed because while I had the greatest respect and admiration for the man, I never had the opportunity to really sit down and learn about the real Ron Dupree.
Ron’s work reminded me of a combination of Terry Funk and Johnny Valentine.Â When he took a punch, he went down but came right back up; ready to take another bump.Â When he threw a punch, you could hear it from the last row in the bleacher sections no matter how much noise there was in the auditorium.
I know that Ron started wrestling in the Boston area in the early 1950′s, perhaps as Golden Boy Dupree, although he may have worked under different names until he developed his own particular style.
Tragedy hit in 1954 when he was driving a car that struck and killed a young pedestrian. This resulted in Ronâ??s driver’s license being lifted for life.Â Until the day he died, he never got behind the steering wheel of a car and continually paid â??transâ? to other boys, hitching rides to every show he worked.
In the mid-sixties, he approached the Sheik in Detroit and sold him on the idea of creating a team called â??The California Hell’s Angels.â?Â Along with Chris Colt, The California Hellâ??s Angels became one of Sheik’s primary attractions, selling out the storied Cobo Hall on numerous occasions.
They became so hot, that during their run, an actual “real life” representative of the legit California Hell’s Angels threatened to “disassociate” their existence in life if they continued to use the name. Ron and Chris, as the story goes, ventured to San Francisco and actually introduced themselves to the â??Real McCoyâ?.Â Ron and Chris lived their gimmick outside the ring and their way of life, their philosophy, thoughts, and language
were so close in resemblance to a “real” biker, that the California Hell’s Angels actually befriended them and allowed them to continue using the name as long as they dropped “California” and merely billed themselves as the Hell’s Angels (after all, Colt was from Drain, Oregon and Dupree was from Boston).
Ron and Chris worked together off and on for the next few years, including appearances throughout Eastern Canada, Arizona, and finally Washington State.
Was Ron respected by his peers?Â Absolutely!Â Wrestler/manager/referee, Johnny Mann took the name Johnny Dupree.Â Bobby Jaggers broke into the business as Bobby Dupree.Â Colt was at one time Chris Dupree.Â But I think the highest tribute he ever received was one he never lived to see…it happened on the night of his death.
Ron & Chris were on top in the Northwest.Â It was a promoter’s dream…just put two baby faces against them in the main event and you were almost guaranteed a sell out.Â I can recall one night in Spokane when Ron came out of the dressing room for his match, I heard one fan turn to his buddy and say, “…now you’re gonna see some real wrestling.”
Unfortunately, tragedy struck while they were on top.Â Ron fainted one night in Seattle and we took him to the hospital.Â The medical report was as bleak as they come.Â Without a heart transplant he had a 50-50 chance of living six more months.Â Of course his days as a professional wrestler completely ended and I asked him what he wanted to do.Â Wrestling was all he knew and he loved it so much that after his release from the hospital, we kept him on the payroll and he became our ring announcer.
And then the last night of his life arrived.Â We were in Tacoma and it was time for the first match.Â The house was packed to the rafters and all the boys had their adrenalin flowing because they knew their pay-off for that night would be exceptional.
The first match was Ripper Collins against Paddy Ryan (Earl Freeman).
Ron Dupree climbed in the ring and introduced the contestants.Â Then, as he climbed out of the ring, he fell to the floor and was pronounced dead minutes later by medics.Â We were later told it had been a massive heart attack.
In a “Believe It or Not” coincidence, Ron’s very first match back in 1952 had been against Roy Lee Collins.Â In 1974, the last words he ever uttered were the ring introduction of Ripper (Roy Lee) Collins.
We were all downstairs in the dressing room, sitting silently, waiting for the medical report, although both Ryan and Collins said it didn’t look good.Â After about 20 minutes, the attending doctor entered the room to tell us what we already knew.Â Ron Dupree was dead.Â We all sat there again in silence for what seemed like an hour.
All 12 wrestlers on the card that night unanimously agreed that out of respect for Ron Dupree they would cancel the show that night and give up one heck of a pay day.Â We refunded the tickets to customers as they exited the empty building.
I hope those wrestlers on that card told Ron how much they respected and loved him, before he died.Â I know I did.
Every time I go to the CAC Las Vegas reunion, it affords me another opportunity to tell so many wonderful friends, just how wonderful they really are.
“Cowboy” Bob Kelly
I was working as a referee and had been roughed up several times by heels Jack and Frank Dalton. Finally, Lee Fields went on TV in Lafayette, LA and agreed to train me so I would have a chance to get even. Faithful to his word, Lee went to the ring with me every Friday night in Lafayette. As would be expected, I lost the first couple of matches. When I won one, the people went wild and it was obvious: we had created a buzz about this angle!
During my next match, I was having a hard time with my opponent, so Lee motioned for me to get out of the ring. My opponent told Lee, in no uncertain terms, to mind his own business or he would be happy to dish out the same punishment to Lee as I was receiving. Lee whispered for me to go under the ring and come up on the other side where I could schoolboy my opponent for the victory. Lee took off his shirt and began giving my opponent a tongue lashing, threatening to climb in the ring and teach him a lesson. Leeâ??s plan was to talk such a good game that my opponent would forget all about me. I quickly climbed below the skirting surrounding the ring and dashed towards the opposite side. Unfortunately, the skirt made the area under the ring dark and you couldnâ??t really see where you were going. Well, there was a steel beam used to support the floor of the ring that I wish I would have seen! BAM! I ran directly into the steel beam and knocked myself out. Meanwhile, everybody forgot about the referee who was dutifully counting, â??15â?¦. 16â?¦. 17â?¦. 18â?¦. 19â?¦. 20!â? and I was counted out!
Lee reached under the ring and pulled me out only to see me quite groggy and with a bleeding head. Unsure where things had gone wrong, Lee wanted to know what the hell happened under that ring and the fans, seeing the sight of blood were certain that someone was hiding underneath the ring. Lee looked under the ringâ?¦.. The referee even got in on the act and checked under the ring. Seeing nobody, the ref got back in the ring and raised the hand of the unplanned, but quite excited, winner of the bout.
Just goes to show you that in wrestling, as in life, for all the best laid plans, you never really know whatâ??s around the next turn!
Welcome to this, the first in what we plan to be weekly articles from the CAC Board of Directors. Weâ??ll hope, over the months, to share experiences, interesting stories and to give you a glimpse at who we all are. Most everybody who is reading this knows that Karl Lauer is the EVP of the CAC board; however, what most people donâ??t know is my background in the wrestling business. Iâ??m frequently asked by new members or members at the Reunions, â??How did you get to be in your position on the board? You were never a great wrestler!â?
To say that I was never a great wrestler is only partially true as I was a pretty good wrestler in high school, college and the Air Force. My story really starts though in 1947, when I went down to â??Karlâ??s Equipment Manufacturingâ? (my fatherâ??s company) and saw the very same wrestlers from TV working for my dad. Among them were â??Honestâ? John Cretoria, â??Brotherâ? Frank Jares, â??Irishâ? Pat Fraily, Alex Kasaboski and even Vic and Ted Christy occasionally.
At 9 years old, Leo Garibaldi (who is still my close friend today, 59 years later) took me to the storied Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and convinced Johnny Doyle that I would be good at hawking peanuts. I was hooked from that point on, but it wasnâ??t until many years later when Baron Michele Leone let me in on the secret that he really didnâ??t hate my heroes, Sheik Lawrence and Leo Garibaldi. For 32 years I was content to be a wrestling fan. In that time, I started my own business (Flot-Aire, Inc) and established offices in 27 cities as well as Japan, Mexico and Taiwan (plug for my son, Wayne, who now runs the business â?? if you ever want to go into the flower business, look him up at www.flotaire.com).
In 1979, I was privileged to meet Gory Guerrero, outstanding wrestler and father of Chavo, Mando, Hector and Eddy. I was Youth Director at our local church and, as an outing, took the kids to the wrestling matches. Gory convinced Jeff Walton, the promoter in El Monte, CA, to let us in for free (much to his surprise, he was convincing Jeff to let 240 of us in for free!). It ended up paying off for all concerned as many of those 240 became fans and paid to watch wrestling regularly. For me, I gained a close friend in Gory who asked me to be his partner and help him start a promotion. It was quite a good fit as I had the money and connections in the business world and Gory had the knowledge of the pro wrestling business.
The next year â??Six Amigos, Inc.â? was born with us running four shows every week â?? San Pedro (in the South Bay of Los Angeles), Santa Ana (the heavily Latino area of Orange County), Oxnard (a developing area in Ventura County) and Oceanside (near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base). I learned the wrestling business top to bottom from Gory – booking, keeping records and, most importantly, dealing with the divergent personalities involved in the ring wars.
My history with Cauliflower Alley Club also started in 1979 when Gory took me to a meeting for the first time. I met many people for the first time and was reunited with others and, in 1981, Mike Mazurki asked me to be the Business Manager for the Club. By 1985, Goryâ??s health was failing and he was missing his beloved El Paso, so he left California for Texas, thus dissolving â??Six Amigos, Inc.â?
At that point, I went solo and started â??California Pro Wrestlingâ? with a contract from KDOC Channel 56. This bore WWA in partnership with Mora and Fajardo in Mexico, where we took over promoting the famed Olympic Auditorium near downtown Los Angeles. We ran 3 consecutive years, selling out 75% of our shows and produced 13 gates in excess of 100,000. We also ran semi-monthly shows in Las Vegas at the Showboat and were doing several shows in high school gymnasiums and college auditoriums.
When fans do remember me, it seems that the one thing asked about is â??The Bossmanâ? character. â??The Bossmanâ? was a character of convenience â?? we used him as a manager when we needed to get a heel over and then put him on the shelf until the next heel who needed that little extra heat. â??The Bossmanâ? managed an impressive collection of wrestlingâ??s villains including â??Professorâ? Toru Tanaka, â??Wildmanâ? Jack Armstrong, Budda Kahn and â??Pistolâ? Pete. â??The Bossmanâ? even wrestled occasionally – George Steele accused â??The Bossmanâ? of wrestling in about 50 matches and, even though he lost them all, cried all the way to the bank. Nobody at the time ever knew that I was â??The Bossmanâ? and, when he was finally unmasked, my old friend and star of Roller Derby, Don Lastra donned the hood.
For a while, life was good â?? WWF was doing their thing and we were promoting Lucha Libre; however, the â??writingâ? truly was â??on the wallâ? â?? independent groups were being forced out and talent wanted to be with a national promotion. Cable television was killing local UHF stations. Perhaps, most importantly (to me anyway) kayfabe was quickly dying. I sold the TV deal, closed California Pro Wrestling and sold the WWA shares to Edgar Fajardo.
At that point, thinking I was through with pro wrestling, I moved to Missouri and â??retiredâ? to our cattle ranch. To show that wrestling never really leaves your blood, I was convinced that it would be a good thing to start â??World League Wrestlingâ? in 1996 which still operates successfully today under my friend, Harley Race.
Today, I am an inspector for the Missouri State Athletic Commission and I attend one or two shows per month where a large crowd is 150 people. The boys are talented, but so few get to see and appreciate their talent. Wrestling is in my blood. I love the business and I love the work I do with Cauliflower Alley Club. I miss the concern we had for each other and I miss the consideration for the business. Let me be clear on this, though: I do not miss promoting wrestling!!
I learned this business from four of the greatest: Leo Garibaldi, Mr. Moto, Morrie Cohen and Gory Guerrero. I believed then, and still do today, that a promoterâ??s job is to provide the fan with the talent that makes the fan want to buy a ticket and to provide the talent with the buzz about the product to allow the talent to get over. I wish that many of those promoting wrestling today would understand this basic precept of the business and leave their egos and desire to dominate at the door.
As for my role in the Cauliflower Alley Club, when Iron Mike asked me to become Business Manager and help grow the club, we had 378 members with about half of them paying their 10 dues. Mike contributed every month to help meet the Clubâ??s shortfalls. Today, total historical membership has passed the 5,000 mark. About 2,500 have passed on over the Clubâ??s 41 year history, somewhere around 1,000 of those who joined didnâ??t find what they were looking for and went on to other interests. We maintain approximately 1,500 active members and add more every year.
I help oversee the Benevolent Fund which was started under Lou Thesz and the Scholarship Fund, but those are stories for my next contribution toâ?¦.. â??From the Boardroom.â?