Board Briefs (2008)
Is there life after wrestling?
(Warning: This Board Brief has little to do with wrestling. Instead, it chronicles “hard-to-believe-he-asked-that” questions from the public during day to day business operations in a completely different market.)
After more than two decades in the wrestling business, the final house show I promoted was in Anchorage, Alaska in the winter of 1975.Â Since then, my wife and I have owned and operated Golden Oldies Records, Tapes & CDs, a chain of retail stores buying and selling new and used records, tapes, CDs, DVDs and kindred merchandise.
One of the incidental things we sell are 45 rpm record adapters. These devices go in the center of a 45 so it can be played on a turntable (record player).Â They sell for 23 cents each. A man was at our Renton (Wash.) store and asked, “…if I buy three of these adapters, can I get a discount?”
We buy used product from people every day.Â Once, in Seattle, a lady asked, “…when I sell you my CDs, do you resell them for more or less then you buy them for?”
Other classic questions we have been asked:
“Did Paul McCartney ever sing with another group besides Wings?”
“If your open seven days a week, are you open on Wednesdays?”
“Can I fax you a ten dollar bill to buy a record?”
“Do you know the words to ‘Take Five’?”Â (Take Five is Dave Brubeck’s most famous instrumental hits.)
A seller brought in a small stack of records to sell.Â We offered him 12; he asked “…can you make it 8?”
One guy asked, “…I need help finding a song.Â I can’t remember the title or who sang it, but do you have it?”
Singer Gordon Lightfoot recorded a song in 1976, called “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.Â A year earlier, the Edmund Fitzgerald, an ore vessel named after a Milwaukee civic leader, sank in Lake Superior.Â A customer came in one day asking, “…do you have ‘The Wreck of Ella Fitzgerald?”
The all-time classic incident was when two record collectors arrived at our Seattle store from Brazil.Â They had never been to America before and spent an hour selecting merchandise from our racks.Â When it was time to pay for their purchases, they seriously attempted to settle up using Monopoly money. In broken English they explained a kind gentleman approached them at the airport and exchanged their Brazilian dollars for “American” currency.
So is there life after wrestling?Â Yes, but no matter what your livelihood may be, life is full of stories to tell.
Â Bob Leonard
“RIGHT ON THE MONEY”
â??Right on the moneyâ? is an often-used figurative phrase.Â But for a couple of years at the turn of the millennium, veteran pro Abe Jacobs was likely the only wrestler in history to be literally â??right on the moneyâ? of his island homeland.
Though Iâ??d known the name for many years, I didnâ??t cross paths with Abe until this past June, at the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo, Iowa.Â The museum itself had been badly damaged in the horrific flooding that engulfed the area just days earlier, but the 10th annual George Tragos-Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame awards ceremony went on as scheduled.Â Abe was one of the 2008 honorees, a deserving recipient of the prestigious recognition given his amateur and pro careers.Â He proved to be a vibrant speaker. and a personable addition to the great social atmosphere of the event.
Over the weekend we had a good visit and exchanged contact information, and the unique design of Abeâ??s business card immediately caught my attention.Â I couldnâ??t help but ask about it, and thereby hangs a taleâ?¦â?¦..
Abe Jacobs was born and raised in the Chatham Islands, a tiny, wind-swept archipelago in the vast South Pacific, 500 miles east of New Zealand.Â The Chathams are a territory of New Zealand, dots of land that are still home to only some 600 people.Â During Abeâ??s youth the islands did not even have a single motor vehicle; he rode horseback to school from the familyâ??s 6000-head sheep station.Â Recreation was almost non-existent, and he became fascinated by the twice-weekly radio broadcasts of pro wrestling matches from New Zealand in the early 1950â??s.Â So much so, in fact, that he began to beef up his tall, slim frame while he dreamed of someday competing in faraway rings.
In his mid-teens, Abe was sent to mainland Christchurch, New Zealand to continue his education.Â There, he rode in a car for the first time, marveled at seeing his first train, and dove headlong into amateur wrestling.Â Pure desire propelled him to immerse himself in amateur wrestling, and within several years he had won seven provincial titles, a silver medal in the nationals, and finally the countryâ??s amateur championship.Â At the age of 20, Abe had his first pro match against legendary George Bollas, The Zebra Kid.Â After a few matches in his home country, he ventured north to Hawaii and from there launched into a nearly 30 year career that covered 25 countries: most of Asia and Europe, South Africa, Australia, several South American nations, and the U.S.Â As his career wound down in the latter 1980â??s he settled in North Carolina, and still calls it home.
Fast-forward to 1999.Â Abeâ??s tiny, isolated Chatham Islands homeland decided to trumpet to the world that it would be the first inhabited land on earth to enter the third millennium.Â How so?Â Each day on earth starts at the International Date Line in the mid-Pacific, and so on January 1, 2000 the first dawn of the new millennium would fall on their island group, situated just west of the Date Line!Â The Reserve Bank of New Zealand, which controls the nationâ??s currency, authorized the Chatham Islands Note Corporation to issue special commemorative bills, equal in value to the national currency.Â There would be three series, which would be negotiable tender only within the islands from 2000 to 2003, and only if the merchant agreed to accept them, which most of course did.
The handsome banknotes, issued in denominations of 3.00, 5.00, 8.00, 10.00 and 15.00 in the third series, depicted island images and wildlife and scenes, similar to many other currencies.Â However, the 10.00 bill was a genuine departure, portraying one of the territoryâ??s favorite sonsâ?¦â?¦.
Abe Jacobs, wrestler
Imagine, not just one, but two portraits of a wrestler appearing on currency!Â Not just a generic wrestler, but Abe Jacobs!Â Itâ??s likely the only occurrence of its kind in wrestling and monetary history, and Abe is quietly proud of the rare distinction.Â He even had the reverse of the bill reproduced on his business card, shown below, and itâ??s quite the attention-grabber.
Abe, if youâ??re reading this, consider it your personal invitation to join us at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion next April 13â??15 in Las Vegas.Â Youâ??re definitely our kind of folks, and it would be a real pleasure to welcome you!
(Our thanks to www.atsnotes.com for permission to use the above images.Â If youâ??re a memorabilia collector, this bill can be purchased from them quoting:Â Chatham Islands, commemorative 3 issue for new millennium 2001-2; 12-private 10 2001Â bird/wrestler.Â Price and shipping are available on request.)
Â WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?
I remember as a kid, loving â??The Lone Ranger.â?Â At the end of every episode, someone would ask, as The Lone Ranger was riding out of town, â??Who was that Masked Man?â?Â What intrigued me about him was the fact that no one on the show ever saw his face, not even us, the TV viewers.
During the glory days of professional wrestling in the 1950â??s, 60â??s and 70â??s, the rings around the country were riddled with wrestlers that had their faces hiddenâ?¦some were babyfaceâ??s, but most were out and out heels.Â And why did we like them, or dislike them?Â Because as fans, we never saw their facesâ?¦and before, during, and after most wrestling cards weâ??d ask, â??Who was that Masked Man?â?Â
Some of the names used by these men of mystery were as menacing as their hidden faces.Â The Destroyer, Mr. M, Dr. X, the Assassinâ??s, the Infernoâ??s, Mr. Wrestling, the Avenger, the Medicâ??s, the Internâ??s, the Spoiler, the Super Destroyer, the Professional, Mil Mascarasâ?¦and the list just seems to just go on and on.Â
To the fans, they were unknown.Â They were often introduced as being from â??Partâ??s Unknownâ?,Â and promoters told us that they didnâ??t know who they were either.Â In fact, all the other wrestlers in the territories, claimed to be cluelessâ?¦but, were certainly eager to get in the ring and attempt to take the masked meanies hoods off for us.Â Â
The mask gimmick was a reason for fans to buy ticketsâ?¦which was also the primary reason these guys also never lost their masks.Â After all, if they drew us in once, why not a second time, and then a third, and so on.Â The best of the best would try to take off the masks, but somehow in every match, fans would always leave the arena asking the same question they asked when they came inâ?¦Who was that Masked Man?
Without guys like Dick Beyer, Bill Miller, Jody Hamilton, Tom Renesto, Frankie Cain, Rocky Smith, Tim Woods, Art Neilson, Donald Lortie, Tony Gonzales, Tom Andrews, Jim Starr, Billy Garrett, Dick Dunn, Don Jardine, Scott Irwin, and Doug Gilbertâ?¦none of this mystery would have been part of wrestling.Â Â Who are these guys?Â They were those masked men!Â Thanks guys for what you brought to the business, and thanks for the memories.Â
Â Bishop Jason Sanderson
Northeast Wrestler’s Reunion
November 1, 2008 saw the return of the Northeast Wrestler’s Reunion after a hiatus of about three years; however the turnout was better than expected as it also doubled as The Wolfman’s housewarming party.
From the wrestling community there were CAC Board members Bp. Jason Sanderson (aka “The Wolfman”), and Morgan Dollar as well as former CAC Honoree Percival A. Friend. From the New England area were “Bulldog” Rip Morrison, “Wolfman” Steve Banford and former NWA Canadian Heavyweight champion, Jeff “Bruiser” Costa. Former CAC Honorees Bill White and Ox Baker phoned in with their regrets.
The festivities began on Thursday, October 30 with the arrival of Morgan Dollar and his wife Annette who were a major help in getting all of the last minute preparations done! Even with the extra help we were up until 1 or 2 in the morning cooking and decorating. It was exhausting, but well worth it!
Al Friend arrived on Halloween and had a hard time deciding between visiting or sight seeing, but we are happy he decided to sit down at the dining room table with the rest of us.
We were fortunate that Saturday was bright and clear; the back yard and downstairs game room were decorated for the kids that were in attendance and loaded with games and novelties for them; for the grown ups there were plenty of chances to just relax and have a good time. The guests began arriving in the early afternoon and the party was in full swing not long thereafter.
There were a few glitches (while making my legendary Pumpkin Margaritas, I didn’t hook up the new blender correctly and the first batch went all over the kitchen!) but nothing major and a good time was had by all.
The non-wrestling guests got an interesting glimpse of what professional wrestling was like listening to us all share stories about past reunions, old friends and ribs that have made their way into legend. Al Friend was able to do a little chiropractic work on a couple of the guests and Morgan held court on some of his taxidermy work.
The common compliment of all the guests was how much they loved getting to know the wrestlers.
Sunday saw us celebrate the solemn Mass of All Soul’s Day and the reading of the names of all the wrestlers that have passed away since last November 1; during the reading of the names (the only time Bp. +Jason reads them aloud) Morgan Dollar rang the Sacristy bell for the “10 Bell Salute”; there were several times when it was very difficult keeping a dry eye during the service. That evening we placed phone calls to some of our friends who hadn’t been able to make it.
So you can see; we laughed, we cried, it was a part of us.
While this reunion was small, some have already expressed interest in next year’s and several confirmed returns. Hopefully, we’ll see you there, too!
Cowboy Bob KellyÂ
The Last Snake Story……
We had to give the snake back to Billy Spears on TV so the people would know what happened as to how Billy got his snake back.
Lee called me out on TV and asked if I had the snake and I said I did, so Lee called out Billy.Â The way we were standing looking at the camera, Billy was to the right, Don Griffith, our TV announcer, was next, then Lee. I was to Lee’s left. Lee told me the snake is going back to Billy Spears and for me to go and get it.Â The snake was in a Samsonite suitcase big enough to hold a 71/2 foot Boa. Lee did NOT know what was fixing to happen; only Billy and I did.
As I mentioned, Lee was scared to death of snakes. I handed the suitcase to Lee so he was holding it in his arms rather than by the handle, so the top was up. As I handed the suitcase to Lee, I looked at Billy and said, “Here’s your snake, Spears.”Â Billy asked, “How do I know he’s in there?”Â I reached over while Lee still had the suitcase in his arms to open the suitcase, and said, “Here, I’ll show you.”Â Lee yelled, “NO!” and jerked the suitcase away so hard that he knocked Don Griffith almost over his desk.Â
I took off for the dressing room, Lee shoved the suitcase in to Billy’s arms and came back to the dressing room to find me in tears. I was laughing so hard along with all the other boys. Lee laughed along with us.
Lee was my very best friend. He passed away in June 2000, but I still think of the times we had together and miss him very much.
Bishop Jason Sanderson
Everyone has heard of the famous “Nick Gulas Pay-Offs.” They are the proverbial low-ball pay off that a wrestler receives. A lot of the people who wrestled in the Mid South and Gulf Coast region were the unfortunate recipients of them, but it can’t be said that Gulas was the only promoter to ‘low ball’ the wrestlers. I had the dubious distinction of once getting a pay-off that would have made Mr. Gulas blush for shame.
I was not working for my regular promoter on this show but instead we were all working a show for another fellow. (He passed away at a rather young age a few years ago, and while I didn’t think much of him, there are people who have a high regard for him so I won’t mention his name.)
In addition to being on the card, I was also asked to be on the ring crew. I was told I would be taken care of (doing double duty). Since that word came from the guy I usually wrestled for (who was supplying the ring and always took good care of me) I believed him. As we set up the ring they are setting up the gimmick tables to sell t-shirts, pictures and so on. I had some pictures to sell and after we were done I made a deal with the girl to sell them for me (I was working heel that night and we were not allowed out of the dressing room).
Now, I collect wrestling pictures and have been doing it for years. I especially like to collect pictures of the guys I work with. So I bought a few of the pictures that were on the table, including one of the fellow we were working for, and the “Gentleman In Question” offered to sign it.
That night, we wrestled the match (the main event) put him and his tag team partner ‘over’ (selling some of his super stiff shots, delivered because his buddies were in the crowd) and went back to the dressing room. I quickly changed into street clothes to get out and start tearing down the ring. After we loaded out the ring, we all went back to get our pay envelopes. I opened mine and couldn’t believe what I saw.
It was empty.
“There’s got to be a mistake,” I insisted.
“You got your photo,” he pointed out.
“I paid for that *&* ^# thing!
“Yeah,” he said “But I autographed it. That’s your pay off.” And with that he walked off, and (after debating the pros and cons of sucker punching an off-duty cop) so did I.
That would have been bad enough, except the following week he was in New Hampshire working on our show, and telling everyone how much better he had drawn that we were and how much money he had made. Well, the only thing bigger than his ego was his mouth, and it got him in a lot of trouble that night.
As it turned out, he hadn’t paid any of the other guys much better than he had paid me (the other fellows on the ring crew each got 10). Word got back to the promoter, who had rented him the ring, and words were exchanged over it.
I don’t know if any more shows were run in Webster, MA after that but I do know that no one from our outfit ever worked on them again.
Â Dean Silverstone
DON’T LAUGH; YOU’LL KILL THE HEAT
Face it!Â Pro wrestling is and was a rough life.Â What with ungodly hours, poor nourishment, aches, pains, bumps, fractures, living on the road, lack of rest, one could wonder what attracted intelligent humans to the squared circle.Â Well, overshadowing all the downs was the satisfaction of working in front of an appreciative audience, preferably (but not absolutely essential) a huge, huge appreciative audience.
In the Golden Era of our sport, it was imperative to “protect” the business, and, like most all businesses, at any moment something quite comical can take place.Â White and blue collar workers can laugh out loud when something funny happens, but in wrestling, you were never allowed to publicly smile or laugh when a comical incident took place, because if you laughed, you would “kill the heat.”
I can recall many funny happenings taking place during my wrestling days, that when they took place I couldn’t even smile let alone laugh, but now in reflection I can do both all I want.
In 1973, we were working a house show in Lewiston, Idaho.Â Big John Quinn entered the ring to wrestle Bobo Mongul (Bull Johnson).Â The referee called the two men to the center of the ring for inspections and rules when one fan hurled an Idaho spud. It ricocheted off the ring post, became airborne, and eventually flopped down to the mat with a resounding thud, directly between Quinn, Johnson, and the referee.Â All three stared at the big vegetable for a few seconds before Referee Johnny Dupree broke the silence by saying, “…and no potatoes.”
In 1975, Ripper Collins & Crazy Luke Graham teamed up to face Tex McKenzie & Eddie Sullivan in a Seattle main event.Â Before the match started, a deputy sheriff walked by the ring apron to confer with security.Â Ripper Collins reached over the top rope and grabbed the official by his hair.Â No one knew he was wearing a wig and just like in a Walt Disney color cartoon, the hair piece went up with Ripper’s hand leaving a visable trace of glue from Ripper’s hand all the way down to the bald head of the surprised official.Â The audience became hysterical when “baldy” kept jumping up attempting to retrieve his toupe from Ripper who kept the hair piece just out of reach.
Tiny Frazier loved to play pranks on all the boys, offering new talent in the territory some of his wife’s newly baked southern chocolate cake.Â The cake was made with one extra ingredient: a rather large dose of Ex-Lax.Â One night in Spokane, Tiny left the dressing room to appear on a “Celebrity Interview” show being done live on television.Â While he was gone, Chris Colt came into the dressing room with a 300 pound white tiger on a leash.Â Now Colt was no Siegfried or Roy (well, maybe he was), but the tiger seemed to obey Colt as if he was a giant puppy dog.Â To make a long story short, the Tiger took a liking to Tiny’s gym bag and rapidly licked the contents before marking them with his bathroom routines.
Â Â Tiny later said no matter how many times he washed his boots and gimmick, he couldn’t eliminate that “gamey” smell.Â That night in Spokane was the one and only time I ever saw Tiny Frazier wrestle bare chested.
Â Karl Lauer
In the coming weeks we will suspend the items from the Directors and start with interesting articles about the upcoming Reunion and bios on the legends of the past along with some fun stories and historical views on the world of wrestling. I know I am looking forward to some researched bios on guys I grew up watching in the 40’s and 50’s. The wrestling business was a whole different world back then.
Were the wrestlers better back then? I think not, but they were much more disciplined and were much more dedicated to the mystique of the business. Kayfabe was the locker room oath. Even many wives did not know a work from a shoot. My very first experience in going to a wrestling match was in 1946 when a buddy from school, Chester Woods, asked if I wanted to go with him and his dad who was referee Smoky Joe Woods. I had seen them on TV and had not been down to my dads factory, and did know at the time that half of the local wrestlers were working there during the day, and wrestling at night.
The main event that night at the Hunting Park Arena was Ripper Antone Leone meeting one of my favorites, Shiek Lawrence of Arabia. Also on the card were Leo and Gino Garibaldi VS Brother Frank Jares and Irish Pat Fraley and the opener was Dave Lavin VS Honest John Cretoria. All were 2 of of 3 falls with a one hour time limit. Bell time was always 8:30 PM, and they always ended right around 10:30 PM so you could get to bed in time for school the next day.
I was yelling and having a great time, but half way into the first match the referee did not see continued “cheating” from Honest John. Without thinking, I yelled, “Kill the referee!” and the next thing I knew my buddy popped me a good one in the jaw. We started fighting and the next thing i knew, his dad was holding him and Dave Levin was holding me with Honest John was standing alone in the ring. They made us shake hands and he told his dad what I said, Smoky Joe said I was right and that Honest John made him miss seeing it by hiding his dastardly deeds.Â
When the match continued and John did it again, Smoky Joe came over and asked me did he cheat and I yelled “Yes Sir”. He DQ’ed Honest John for the fall and Dave Levin picked me up and took me in the ring. Everyone was cheering and I would have bet my next 100Â .25 cent a week allowances that wrestling was real. Years later as all the boys who worked that card became friends of mine (except the Sheik – never did know what happened to him), all said they had a great laugh and really enjoyed “working’ me and making a believer out of the fans there. I never did find out if they planned it with Chester or if they had that much skill to take a problem and make it an asset. From that day on I was a fan and a year later was thrilled beyond words to find a bunch of wrestlers working during the day at Karl’s Equipment Mfg Corp, in downtown Los Angeles, that was our family business (it would later to become known as Flot Aire Inc), who still employed a lot of wrestlers under a subsidiary called California Pro Wrestling owned by yours truly. From a 9 year old kid fan to 33 years later a promoter for the NWA with 4 weekly shows going in So. California. 1979 till 1994. And my behind the scenes advisor was Leo Garibaldi. Who remained my friend until has passing a few months ago, we talked at least onceÂ a month sometimes more.
If your looking to contribute to this web site and want to do some solid research, we would love to have good bios on the legends of the past. Guys like Wild Red Berry, Argentina Rocca, Baron Michele Leone, Ripper Leone, Gene Stanlee, Eddie Graham, Bobo Brazil, Dr Jerry Graham, Haystacks Calhoun, and the mighty Midgets who made more money for the promoters then ever.Â These are just some of the names, others like Bolo, Zebra Kid,Andre Drapp, Catalina Drake…pick you favorite and do a story and bio.
I am already getting orders for next years banquet, so make it easier on me and order soon, you know you want to be there.
What a year!Â Since January, we have attended the following reunions:
Gulf Coast Wrestling Reunion in Mobile in March
Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, NY in May which is a dream of Tony Vellano’s .Â Tom was honored to receive the Senator Hugh Farley Award which is awarded yearly for people who have brought honor to the profession in some way other than wrestling
Dan Gable International WrestlingÂ Museum in Waterloo, Iowa in June.Â Tom serves on the governing board and received the Frank Gotch award in 2002.
Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada in June which was one of the best reunions ever.Â Tom and IÂ enjoyed this very much and look forward all year to this reunion.
We would have attended Dean and Ruth Silverstone’s mini-reunion on August 31 near Seattle if we did not have children comingÂ from Oregon during that time.
On January 25, 2008, Tom had a total hip replacement at Mayo’s Clinic in Rochester, MN, yet we made every reunion we could; sometimes with him on a walker, sometimes with a walking stick.Â The point of this is this:Â If you are dedicated to helping retired wrestlers and if you want to stay in touch with your friends, there is no excuse for not attending some of these reunions.Â Â
This is a perfect way to stay young and it gives us something to look forward to.Â Frankly, we feel like the people we fraternize with at these reunions are the best.Â Carol & Red, Wilma & Dick, Karl & Barbara, Danny & Dolores, Jeannie and Len, Mike & Beverley, Dean & Ruth, Chris & Bob, Bill Bowman, Charlie Thesz,Â Morgan & Annette, Charlie Smith and his beautiful wife, Bobby Simmons and his wife, Nick and Darlene, Valerie and Joey Boesch and so many others.Â I could go on forever!Â These are the the best friends anybody could ever have and there is NOTHING better than this.
Thanks, for letting us have our say and we’ll see all our friends soon!
Bishop Jason Sanderson
Have you ever had the feeling you were being watched? How about followed? There was a time when we felt both were happening only we knew who was doing it.
From the time we started running shows in the early 90’s, we had been followed by a gray-haired little man. He showed up at shows (always alone), bought a general admission ticket and never said a word. Throughout the show, he would occasionally scribble something in a little pocket notebook he carried and take pictures. Then, at the end of the show, he would leave as mysteriously as he arrived.
We didn’t notice it when we were running our regular shows in Hudson, NH; but when we started running shows in other towns, and other states, we began to ask questions of ourselves.Â “Who is this guy?”Â “What’s he writing down?” No one knew.Â It got to the point that we began looking for him at each show, not feeling ‘ready’ unless we saw him.
It wasn’t until we were doing a sold show for a racetrack way out beyond the “backbeyond” one summer that we began to get nervous about him. All of our other shows had been advertised, there was no wonder how he knew about them. This show, however, hadn’t been, even by the people who hired us. Yet, there he was, sitting at the very end of the front row with his camera and notebook, taking it all down. How did he know about this one? What is he doing here?
“He’s with the IRS,” stated one of the boys with confidence. “That’s why he’s always taking pictures of the crowds and writing things down; he’s figuring up the gate! He’s going to nail us!”
At last, he had a name; “IRS”, and a purpose, to record our income. However, reality is often more disappointing than mythology, and this was no exception. Over time we became good friends with the man and learned that his name was Ron Robinson and he was on a self-appointed mission to record the wrestling history of New England. A former newspaper man with a Salem, MA paper; he carefully catalogued and photographed matches and shows whenever he could get to them, often sending them in to the wrestling magazines to be listed in their results and getting them covered by local newspapers.
Time has given him a few more grey hairs, and a series of strokes has slowed him down; but if you look closely at the next wrestling show somewhere in New England, you are still likely to find him with his camera and his notebook.
Cowboy Bob Kelly
The story about Billy Spears’s snake and my family’s experience would not have happened if not for these two ribs on the same night in the same town. This is what happened that made Lee tell me not to take the snake to anymore towns until we could figure out how to get the snake back to Spears.
In Meridian, Mississippi, we had a makeshift dressing room over in a corner of the building made of plywood standing up on stands with just a curtain for a door.Â I arrived early and had the snake in a suitcase, sitting on a bench behind the plywood wall. The first match was about to begin when a friend of Arman Hussein came up and asked if I had seen Arman lately. I responded that I had seen him, that Arman had sent him a picture and that it was in the yellow suitcase on the bench just inside. I told him the picture was right on top.
When he opened that suitcase, he let out a yell and ran right into the plywood wall knocking the whole thing down. Speedy Hatfield, (Lee’s Father) was refereeing and he saw and heard all the commotion and jumped out of the ring and came over to see what was going on. Arman’s friend was screaming, “There’s a snake, there is a snake! There’sa big snake under that plywood!” It took 15 or 20 minutes to restore order so we could get the match started.The matches moved right along and everyone forgot about the snake.
Rocket Monroe, who was scared to death of snakes, was scheduled in the main event and was standing out watching the semi final match, leaning againest the bleachers.Â Bobby Fields took his belt out of his pants and walked out and wrapped it around Rocket’s arm. You have never heard a man scream like Rocket did. He ran down in front of the bleachers slinging his arm around and around and couldn’t get the belt off. Thinking Rocket had lost his mind, Speedy stopped the match to see what was wrong with him.Â When Speedy found out what happened, he promised that Lee would find out what was going on with the snake and find out Lee did!
In the next story, I’ll tell you what happened on TV when I gave the snake back to Spears.
Â WRESTLING AT THE FAIR
When I was a teenager, one of the most popular songs in the summer of JFK’s last yearÂ was Nat King Cole’s “Those Lazy Hazy Days of Summer.”Â Today, I often hum that tune while I am at work which brings backs fond memories of my youth.
One of those memories is the county fair.Â Growing up in New England, it seemed that every town had a fair and the county seat would have the major fair of the area.Â Like so many changes over the years, the fairs have gone or have been replaced with something that is called a fair.Â The fairs would have the usual 4-H exhibits, cattle, fowl, horses, ox pulls (my favorite that would feature four legged creatures) and, at some fairs, there would be a midway and a “girlie” show and a troupe of folks billed as freaks.Â
Professional Wrestling has had a long and honorable history with the fairs across the vast country.Â Tony Santos, the promoter out of Boston, would book his fair share of fairs (pun intended) around New England.Â Â It was at those early 60s events where I saw the likes ofÂ Bull Montana, Golden Boy Dupree, Jesse James – (CAC member), Crazy Luke Graham;Â the girls – Alma Mills and Mona Baker and the midgets Sir RandallÂ and Diamond Jim.Â Â Seeing the action and the bumps all under the Vermont Moon and stars.Â It was an enjoyable time.
Years later, I would find myself working the fairs myself (no, not as a midget) as the ring announcer for Killer Kowalski Promotions at the fairs in Spencer, Webster,Â Great Barrington and Northampton, Massachusetts.Â I look back on those days with similar fondness.Â
In the days of regional offices, every group promoted at their fairs in their region.Â Two other groups that I can think of who were on the road traveling with the fairs were promoter, the Great Antonio, and his troupe andÂ Donald Van Fleet with his wife, Violet Ray and their crew of all girls.
It was a part of Americana that is lost, however, whenever I hear that golden voice of Nat King Cole sing, “Those Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer .. ” my memory goes in rewind and I recall my youth and wrestling at the Fair.
I hope that this post will jump start some memories for you and that you too will recallÂ theÂ bumps, high spots, a rotten tomato or two, cold showers while wrestling at the fairgrounds.
Bishop Jason Sanderson
At some of our shows we used to attract some die hard wrestling fans, even more intense than the average ‘mark’. One young fellow in particular was more devoted than the rest.
He would show up at the show just before the doors were open, he had always purchased a front row ticket well in advance, and then he would chat up the wrestlers that were lounging around the hall before bell time. He was always friendly, respectful and perhaps a little awestruck at just being there. He also always carried a large duffel bag with him. This was before 9/11, so that didn’t attract as much concern then as it would have now.
At first, we wondered what he had in there, but we soon found out. When the announcement came for the wrestlers to return to the locker room, he would head to the men’s room and there he would change out of his clothes and into his wrestling gear.
That’s right, wrestling gear; tights, singlet and trunks and sometimes a lucha libre mask. Everything but the boots.
At intermission, he would take out another item from his bag; a large ‘boom-box’ and would conduct interviews with the wrestlers about previous matches, upcoming matches, commentary on other promotions, etc. He was always enthusiastic, but respectful and courteous and so some of the boys were willing to indulge him.
He had never been a problem until one night Sonny Goodspeed was wrestling at match and it spilled outside of the ring. The two of them were chasing one another around the ring and his opponent made a run for the back door with Sonny in hot pursuit. Just then, Our Mark (this time wearing a Superman suit) leaped up to try and tackle him, only to be brushed aside with some rather harsh words.
Since I was promoting the show that night, some of the fans came up to me and demanded I make Sonny apologize. I wouldn’t. I explained that this wasn’t a role playing game, this was wrestling and he interfered with a match and could have gotten seriously hurt or hurt one of the wrestlers or a spectator.
The young man himself was devastated; he was afraid we would never let him come back into the shows (with our without his ‘gimmick’). I explained that as long as he never interfered with a match again, and apologized to Sonny Goodspeed, everything would be forgiven. Fortunately, Sonny accepted his apology and wasn’t too angry with him after that.
Why didn’t this young man just become a wrestler? Who knows, maybe he prefered having the fantasy to the reality. Sometimes, I can’t say as I blame him.
In the mid-1990s, when reading Scott Teal’s “Whatever Happened To…..?” newsletter, I clearly remember reading stories and looking at pictures of the wrestling gatherings of the day.Â The Gulf Coast Wrestler’s Reunion, the Cauliflower Alley Club and the Northwest Wrestler’s Reunion.Â I remember of promising that I would eventually make it to the CAC and feeling dejected at knowing I would never attend the Gulf Coast or Northwest reunions.Â Well, 2008 provided the answer to that dejection – not only did I have a chance to attend Gulf Coast, but last weekend I attended the Silverstones’ Northwest Reunion as well.Â
After a week of rest, I’m still giddy after spending the weekend with my good friends Dean and Ruth and the over 30 wrestlers, wives and friends who descended upon their home for the weekend.Â What a time was had by all!
Bishop Jason Sanderson and I were the first to arrive on Friday night and had an opportunity for some “private time” with Dean and Ruth (and Eddie the Barker and Hector Dos the Chewer and Paisante the Clawer and Topaz the Talker and Super Grouper the Big Mouth and Pigger the Trigger – if you were at Dean’s house, you know the cast of characters!).Â We all looked forward to the coming days with anticipation and had a chance to discuss CAC business.
On Saturday morning, Dean went to the airport to pick up Kurt Nielsen and early arrivals started coming in the afternoon.Â Pepper Martin, Tito Montez and Tito Carreon all arrived with their wives all made it in time for dinner at a local Thai restaurant…..Â Due to a lack of sense of direction or something of the sort, Fritz Von Goering didn’t quite make it to Dean’s house, but we were able to find him at a local Shell station in time to include him in the dinner.
Â Sunday lead to a host of wrestling legends coming by the house for the day….Â Playboy Buddy Rose, Ed Wiskoski, Red Bastien, Ed Moretti, Matt Farmer, Dick Cardinal, Don Leo Jonathan, Duke Myers, Dean Ho, Nick Kozak and more…..Â it was “THE” place to be for the weekend!
There was certainly a degree of sadness over the weekend as people learned of the passing of Killer Kowalski, there were stories and memories shared throughout the day in honor of Walter.Â There wasn’t a person in the house who didn’t carry a lot of respect for the Killer.
Through most of the day Sunday, Pepper held court in the living room regaling attendees with tales of wrestling and Hollywood while Don Leo sat with him and shared in his wisdom with a smile.Â Duke Myers and Ed Wiskoski told stories in the kitchen and shared tequila with all who were ready to listen (and sip).Â Buddy Rose talked of his contemporaries who are gone, keeping their memories alive to all who would listen.Â Tito Carreon celebrated his 97….. er, 79th birthday by doing his best Fred Sanford impression while Tito Montez beamed with pride at his photos hanging in the Silverstone home.
Dean Ho arrived in the early afternoon and was so popular with the rest of the boys that it took him two hours to maneuver from the front door to the stairs (approximately four feet).Â Red Bastien looked healthier and happier than I have seen him in a long time and I enjoyed saying hello to he and Carol.Â I had not met Matt Farmer before this weekend and am happy to have had a chance to talk to him.Â He’s a class guy and seemed to really enjoy himself.
When Ed Moretti wasn’t busy attacking people with a stuffed dog (he got Buddy Rose more than once), he was playing a unique game of tug of warÂ with Hector Dos and showed why he earned the “Moondog” name.
Dean made a very astute observation on Sunday evening after most of the guests were gone, noting that this year seemed to be more poignant as people realized just how many people present at prior events are no longer with us.Â There did seem to be a mindset of enjoying every minute together….Â Â visiting as many people as possible and taking in the chances to spend time with friends old and new.
As the guests left for the evening, Dean took an opportunity to tell each of them how glad he was for their company and their friendship. The hugs between departing friends seemed to be a little firmer and last a little longer than they may have previously.
I’m blessed to have Dean and Ruth in my closest circle of friends.Â I’m fortunate to have Jason as a sounding board and confidant.Â I’m proud to have been accepted, no……Â welcomed into this fraternity of brothers.Â These men were my superheroes and arch villains when I was a young(er) man and now that I have had a chance to develop friendships with many of them, they are even more important to me.
Folks, I say it after ever Reunion I attend – I have one word for you.Â GO!Â Go to Cauliflower Alley Club.Â Go to PWHF.Â Go to Waterloo.Â Go to Gulf Coast.Â Go to any reunion that you can.Â Through the friendships that you develop, not only do you keep your memories alive, but you enhance those memories and add color to them.
Dean and Ruth, my sincere thanks for helping to enhance my memories and build my friendships.
Most all the stories you read here are about “ribs” played on other people. Never do you hear about how mad people get when a rib is pulled on them.Â So, here I go with my make a “fool out of myself” board brief.
Jim Crockett Promotions was coming to the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Veterans War Memorial Coliseum. I don’t recall who was on the card and in all actuality it didn’t matter back then. All we needed to know was wrestling was coming to town!
Several of us got together and headed to the coliseum. We sat out in the parking lot waiting for the Coliseum to open and partook of our normal bad habits before managing to obtain fourth or fifth row seats. The match after intermission involved the managing skills of “Number One” Paul Jones with the Assassins against Jimmy Valiant and somebody. MaybeÂ Manny Fernandez.Â Anyway, Paul Jones, was famous for getting the crowd extremely mad at him and, as usual, Paul was dressed to the nines in a nice white Tuxedo. Now, after my earlier “bad habits,” I was, by far, not in my right mind. As I’m sure you know, when you’re in that state of mind, you never want somebody to “dare” you.Â My friends, good as they were, dared me to go down there and whoop his #^>!
So here I go, all 130 pounds of me. I have in my hand a large soda that, with the aid of the alcohol we snuck into the building, I had turned into a mixed drink. Paul saw me and he started in on me. We were standing there feuding like it was a work! Trust me, though, it wasn’t anywhere near that. I didn’t have a clue about things then and neither did the other fans who were cheering me on! Jones walked over to me and acted like he wanted to get out of that tux and whoop me from one end of that coliseum to the other. Well, that didn’t set too well with me and my reflex (or was that my alcohol?) kicked in and my arm, for some reason or other, launched that large mixed drink right on Paul’s chest.
The next thing I recall is two big cops, one on each side of me, carrying my little butt from the center of that coliseum to the side door and my feet never touched the ground! I got tossed out the door and told to never step foot back in that coliseum again. It took me awhile to finally locate the car and I sat in the parking lot while all my buddies stayed inside watching the show! When they came out they wanted to tell me what I missed. I was so mad it didn’t matter.
We decided to go to the IHOPÂ to get something to eat, and by God, there sits Paul Jones and a group of other wrestlers. I was too dang scared to eat and just wanted to get out of that place, butmy buddies just took their time eating. We did eventually, make it out without Paul seeing us. A few years ago I told Paul this story at the bar in downtown Vegas.Â It cost me a few drinks but we did get a chuckle out of it!
Bishop Jason Sanderson
I am quite often asked how it works out for me being a Man of the Cloth after having previously been a wrestler. The fact is, it works out fine and in one case at least came in VERY handy.
On my first trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo I was required to present myself to the Governor’s office in each province I visited, as well as the Security Ministry for each province. The first few were typical political photo ops with a lot of glad handing, smiles, platitudes and unspoken wishes that the whole thing would get over with. One, however, was not.
In the city of Uvira, a border city at the junctions of DR Congo, Burundi and Rwanda, I was ‘detained’ by the Deputy Minister. I, along with an interpreter, the Church representative that was my host in the country and the Deputy minister were escorted by armed guards into his office; a small cement room with one tiny window up near the ceiling, a chair for me to sit on and a desk that he sat at. Before entering the room, we had to surrender our cell phones and I had to surrender my passport. This did not bode well, I could tell. As it turns out, because of its strategic placement as a port and rail city; a lot of foreign agitators were trying to stir up trouble in Uvira (I did not know this before).
For the next hour, I was pressed to explain my presence in the country, and in particular that province. I had to explain my position regarding their government (I had none) and my stand on their human rights record (better than some, I guess) and he wanted to know who I was working for; the White House or the Vatican. I tried to explain that I worked for neither, but he either couldn’t understand it or chose not to believe it. I was trying not to get frustrated, or let him know how scared I was. All I could think of was ‘I left wrestling for this?”
And that is when it came to me…when I started wrestling I worked as the Wolfman and was a heel. I had to convince people that I was a werewolf. Werewolves don’t talk…they communicate in other ways. For a moment, I hesitated, wondering if I dared do it or not and then decided I had nothing to loose and began to ‘cut a promo’.
I let my eyes roll back in my head and began with a low growl, threw in a few twitches and a snarl and leaned forward towards the man’s desk for additional affect.Â It stopped the man’s interrogation. I licked my lips and snarled some more, barked a few times and threw my head back for a mournful howl.
I was out of his office, with my passport returned, in less than one minute.
Yes, sometimes being a wrestler comes in VERY handy!Â Â
THUMBIN’ A RIDE
Back in 1962, I was the proud owner of a split-pea green color Chevy II Nova that held four passengers unless they were wrestlers.Â Then it only held two.
During that portion of my wrestling life, we worked Vancouver, B.C. every Monday night and worked Seattle on Tuesday.Â I would always take at least one wrestler from Vancouver to Seattle with me in my split-pea green vehicle.Â If I took two, I would never transport opponents together.
One Monday night, I had already promised Abdullah the Butcher aÂ lift from the PNE Gardens in B.C. to the Waldorf Hotel in downtown Seattle where a majority of the boys stayed.Â Just before leaving, Stan “Crusher” Stasiak approached me and asked if he could ride down with us.Â I asked Abdullah if he would mind, but he said he’d take the back seat if Stan would ride in the front passenger seat.Â I was still a little reluctant, because the weight of the three of us would really labor the General Motors American-made vehicle.
Stasiak, who later would go on to win the WWWF World Title, attempted to convince me he had something really important he wanted to talk to me about.Â He said, “You know I’m Jewish and I’d like to discuss Judaism with you.”
Well, I was shocked.Â I had no reason to disbelieve Stan, but I had no idea that he was Jewish.Â Then I started to think, well he is Polish; and part of my family, who is Jewish, did come from a Russian village that, at one time, was in what once was Poland.Â So I said, “Sure, Stan, you can join us.”
During the 135 miles trip from Vancouver to Seattle, Stan and I talked about politics, religion, and the wrestling business.Â Abdullah was sprawled out in the back seat, falling asleep after we went through customs.
Stasiak was actually extremely astute about current affairs and surprised me with his knowledge about so many subjects.Â We talked about the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, about the relationship between the Catholic Pope and Goldia Mayer.Â Then some of his Jewish facts went astray and for the first time I thought he may be “working” me about being Jewish.Â
His answer to my final question convinced me he only said he was Jewish in order to get a ride with me.Â I asked him, “…Stan, is your son going to get a Bar Mitzvah?”
He looked at me quite puzzled and remained silent.Â So I repeated my question:Â “Is your son going to get a Bar Mitzvah?”
Stan the Crusher Stasiak responded, “Well, not until he’s of legal drinking age.”
“CHAMPIONS OF THE AWA”
(with photos from my personal collection)
The American Wrestling Alliance (AWA) was formed on August 8, 1960. The first World champion recognized by the AWA was Verne Gagne, who was declared champion on August 16, 1960. The basis for his being given recognition was that, the reigning NWA World champion, Pat O’Connor failed to defend his title to Gagne within a 90 day stipulated time period.
8/16/1960 declared the first AWA World Champion
8/8/1961 defeated Gene Kiniski in Minneapolis, MN
8/21/1962 defeated Mister “M” (Bill Miller) in Minneapolis
7/20/1963 defeated Crusher Lisowski in Minneapolis
8/8/1963 defeated Fritz Von Erich in Amarillo, TX
12/14/1963 defeated Crusher Lisowski in Minneapolis
2/26/1967 defeated Mad Dog Vachon in St. Paul, MN
8/31/1968 defeated Doctor “X” (Dick Beyer) in Minneapolis
7/18/1980 defeated Nick Bockwinkel in Chicago, IL
7/11/1961 defeated Verne Gagne in Minneapolis
MISTER “M” (Bill Miller)
1/9/1962 defeated Verne Gagne in Minneapolis
7/9/1963 defeated Verne Gagne in Minneapolis
11/28/1963 defeated Verne Gagne in St. Paul
8/21/1965 defeated Mad Dog Vachon in St. Paul
FRITZ VON ERICH
7/27/1963 defeated Verne Gagne in Omaha, NE
MAD DOG VACHON
10/20/1964 defeated Verne Gagne in Minneapolis
8/21/1965 defeated Crusher Lisowski in St. Paul
DOCTOR “X” (Dick Beyer)
8/17/1968 defeated Verne Gagne in Bloomington, MN
11/8/1975 defeated Verne Gagne in St. Paul
5/19/1981 awarded the championship after Verne Gagne’s retirement
10/9/1982 defeated Otto Wanz in Chicago, IL
6/29/1986 awarded the championship when Stan Hansen refused to defend title in a scheduled Denver, CO defense
8/29/1982 defeated Nick Bockwinkel in St. Paul
TOMMY “JUMBO” TSURUTA
2/22/1984 defeated Nick Bockwinkel in Tokyo, Japan
5/13/1984 defeated Tommy Tsuruta in St. Paul
12/29/1985 defeated Rick Martel in East Rutherfor, NJ
5/2/1987 defeated Nick Bockwinkel in San Franciso, CA
5/9/1988 defeated Curt Hennig in Memphis, TN
2/7/1989 won AWA World championship in a Battle Royal in St. Paul
4/8/1990 defeated Masa Saito in St. Paul
2/10/1990 defeated Larry Zbyszko in Tokyo, Japan
Note: This account of the championship does not include the Omaha, NE title changes that were a frequent occurance of promoter Joe Dusek. The title changes were not recognized by the AWA home office in Minneapoils, MN.
“….ha! ha!Â Remember, never trust a midget!”
One of my favorite people to enlist in effectively publicizing live events during the half-dozen years I spent as local promoter for WWF cards in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was the energetic, animated and extremely vocal manager, Jimmy Hart.
Jimmy launched his ring career in hometown Memphis in 1978, after a successful musical career as lead singer with The Gentrys. His craft honed in the south for a half-dozen years, Jimmy moved on to the biggest stage of all, making his WWF debut at WrestleMania I in 1985 as the manager of Greg The Hammer” Valentine and King Kong Bundy.Â He developed a unique style, jack-rabbiting around ringside, diverting the attention of referees, jabbering incessantly through a megaphone, and interfering at the crucial moment. He was one-of-a-kind, “The Mouth of the South”, and everyone knew him.
Jimmy was also a top-notch promoter for the business, harnessing his bottomless well of energy to ensure that everybody — everybody! — knew that wrestling was coming to town.Â He excelled particularly at radio and TV interviews, unfailingly putting over the entire card as opposed to flacking only his match.Â So engaging was Jimmy’s non-stop style that announcers often stretched scheduled three-minute interviews to 10 or 20 minutes, captivated by his rapid-fire banter.
Whenever WWF was coming in, I arranged for several of the boys to do “phoners”, the advance media interviews calculated of course to boom up interest in the upcoming event.Â And Jimmy was my main man, every time he was on the tour.Â He’d do phoners at 5:00 a.m., noon, midnight or whenever.Â Jimmy was tireless, and unfailingly “up” for whatever was needed.
When we ran Saskatoon, I had a tremendously cooperative radio deejay named Ken — whom I’d never met in person, only over the phone — in a small centre about 150 miles out of Saskatoon.Â The station had terrific market coverage, and Ken enjoyed doing phoners with the wrestlers.Â Jimmy did a couple that Ken absolutely loved, and at the next tour, he particularly asked if Jimmy could call again because of the great response.Â Jimmy of course did, a couple of days before the event, ending their 20 minutes on-air with his trademark cackle, “…ha! ha! Remember, Ken, never trust a midget!”
The night of the event, security got me out of the dressing room to speak with a visitor.Â Â And here was Ken, all three foot two inches of him, wearing a huge grin and asking if he might finally meet Jimmy Hart in person.Â Well, who could resist this golden opportunity?
I got Jimmy out of the back, told him who was waiting on us, and of course he was right up for it.Â We walked out to meet Ken, and the instant we rounded the corner Jimmy stopped like he’d hit a brick wall.Â Not only that, the non-stop “Mouth of the South” had absolutely nothing to say for a few seconds, and I’d bet that’s a situation Jimmy Hart never e-e-e-ever found himself in!
Wherever you are now, Ken, thanks for the terrific laugh you brought us that night.Â And Jimmy Hart, thank you!!Â for all you’ve done for the business for over 30 years, both out front and behind the scenes.Â
How about joining us next year at the Cauliflower Alley Club?Â You’re definitely our kind of folks!
As all of you now, major floods ravaged the Midwest in June. The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum was devastated by a combination of flood waters and sewer system backup. The entire basement was flooded up toÂ the 10-foot ceiling, and Mike Chapman, Executive Director, lost al of his personal collection of amateur and professional wrestling history that was stored there. He had been collecting such information for over 40 years, and had a ton of personal memorabilia and items relating to the history of the sport – including many personal letters from such people as Lou Thesz , Bobby Managoff and Verne Gagne. In addition, the entire inventory for the museum’s gift shop was lost – over 5,000 books, posters, videos, card sets, etc..
On the main exhibit floor, the museum was severely damaged. Every wall had to be cut and removed up to three and a half feet. All office furniture and furniture in the lobby and library was ruined, as well as nearly all of the 31 exhibit cases. All the carpeting was lost, and many exhibits that were built into the wall were destroyed.
Mike did manage to save most of the items from the pro wing. He personally carried out Frank Gotch’s favorite lounge chair at 2:00 in the morning, the very last item to leave the museum.
Despite the devastating setback, the museum staff decided to go ahead with the 10th inductions into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, on June 26-27.
“It took a lot of courage for us to hold the inductions as scheduled, but we thought it was important to let the wrestling world that we were not giving up,” said Mike. “It turns out to have been the right decision, for sure.”
The Celebrity Golf Tournament had a good turnout on June 26 at noon, and then came the Harley Race WLW wrestling show that night at Young Arena. It was called “Night of the Legends 2″ and over 500 fans turned out. In addition, many hall-of-famers were there – along with new inductees Roddy Piper and Abe Jacobs. Bret Hart was there to represent his father, Stu, who was being inducted, and signed for two hours, then donated all the proceeds (over 1,200) to the museum!
Harley and BJ Race donated the profits from the show to the museum, and also held a silent auction and gave that money to the museum at the Saturday night banquet. It totaled nearly 4,000. Then Karl Lauer presentedÂ 2,000 worth of checks to the museum on behalf of the CAC, and then challenged the banquet attendees to do even more. Another 1,700 was donated. Then Tom and Chris Drake donated 1,000, as did Father Jason Sanderson, who was there to receive the Lou Thesz Championship award for philanthropic work.
SPECIAL SHIRT:Â The museum created a black tee shirt with the signature of Frank Gotch on the front (signature taken from a letter Frank wrote his niece in 1917) and the words on the back from Mike Chapman that said: “Wrestling teaches you how to get off your back. Old Man River put us on our back, but we are on our feet and fighting for survival.”
The shirt has sold very well. If anyone wants to buy one, they are 15 each and come in various sizes. Add another 4 for shipping and handling and send your donation to: Dan Gable Wrestling Museum, 303 Jefferson Street, Waterloo, Iowa 50701.
The estimated cost to get the museum back to where it was is 350,000 to 425,000, and the museum had no flood insurance.
Just about a month has passed since our last reunion in Vegas.Â To those who held off coming for one reason or the other, you missed what has been called “one of the best ever.” The crowd was a little smaller then usual, 365 paid plus the honorees and their guests, but the staggering statistic: there were 222 wrestlers from all over the globe!
One of the best Indy shows seen in a long time, with Oliver John and Go Shiozaki receiving a standing ovation from the 400 plus fans and wrestlers watching the match. It ended when Oliver was ACTUALLY knocked out!Â Even Pat Patterson, Terry Funk and the other legends stood for this match.
The entire three days were non stop things to do, a solid nostalgia fair, the cribbage tournament was a record maker, the seminars had good crowds and the Dan SevernÂ MMA seminar was a full house. The baloney blowout was a full of surprises and the night ended with karaoke, topped off with a song from Jody Kristofferson, the son of the legendary Kris Kristofferson who is training to to be a pro wrestler. He hopes his dad will there next year to see him wrestle and work a song or two with Pat Patterson who once again brought the house down. YOU NEVER KNOW WHO WILL SHOW UP AT A CAC REUNION!
Having Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jim Ross, Terry Funk, Harley Race and Bret Hart, plus Nick Bockwinkel, Silvano Sousa, Pat Patterson and Mando Guerrero at the bar till 3:00 AM was a sight to see as was watching poor Bob Leonard and Alan Koss (of “Cheers” fame) supervising after most of us had hit the hay getting ready for the next day. Bishop Sanderson, Wes Daniel and Morgan Dollar did their best to keep up with the elbow bending, but were no match for the experienced wrestlers and the next day they looked like something the cat drug in and the dog refused to take out, but it was fun.
The Wednesday night banquet was a fast paced event with some very moving and heartfelt speeches by the honorees, topped off with Bret Hart who received the Iron Mike Award telling of the time he actually met Iron Mike when he was just a young boy. He gave a warm and sincere talk, receiving a standing ovation from the close to 400 in attendance. The crowd was very receptive as they applauded all the honorees and got into the mood when Pat Patterson told some “special jokes!”
The WWE TV crew was there both days and did a great job covering EVERYTHING, I have seen the rough footage and it is fantastic! You may want to write them and see if they plan to have copies available. In closing we want to apologize to Butcher Vachon, for cutting his acceptance time a little short. This year, we had a time frame to adhere to, so all of the speeches had limited time allotments. Next year Paul will get a chance to sing his song on Tuesday night. Paul, you’re still the original Butcher and we hope you understand – JJ really does like you; he was just following direction!
Speaking of J J Dillon, he was great and everyone wants him back next year! He said that unless you read his RIP he will be there. He was smooth as silk, and kept everything with in the time frame….Â Â especially considering that they all to be back to the bar for another R & L session!
This was the easiest reunion for me in 8 years, my thanks to all our board members who each stepped up to the plate and took control of their assigned duties. Special thanks to Bishop Jason Sanderson and Gloria Lovell who each had 16 hours at the hospitality desk, and to Wes and Morgan who ran both evening events, they told us all where to be and when to be there.
Next year we will be back to a much cooler APRIL, watch the site for the hotel and date, plan early to be there.
Â Cowboy Bob Kelly
Billy Spears had a big 7.5 foot boa that he was taking to the ring with him.
We worked some kind of a deal where I won his snake. So, I started taking the Boa to the matches for the fans to see. Several ribs were pulled on some of the boys while I had it, but that will be the rest of the story.Â This one is funny.
Anyway, Lee Fields got word of some of the ribs, and I was told to keep the snake at home until we could work a deal and give the snake back to Spears on TV. I left home for a match in Mississippi on Wednesday and had more scheduled for Thursday and Friday, resulting in two nights on the road and getting back home after Friday’s matches at around 1:30 Saturday morning.
I left the Boa at home in a suitcase and told the kids not to open it. When I arrived back home Saturday morning all the lights were on, and as soon as I pulled into the drive, the kids came running out to the car yelling the snake died.
Chris, my wife walked up and I asked her what had happened. She responded, “I don’t know! it just died!” I said, “I told you all not to open the suitcase.” to which Chris responded that no one opened it. I asked how they knew it was dead and the kids said, “Daddy, you can smell it.”
I went to the utility room where it was. Our utility room was outside the house, under the carport. Before I opened the door I could smell an awful odor. When I opened it, the smell almost knocked me down. I took the suitcase outside and opened it, and much to my suprise the snake was alive but had went to the bathroom all over it’s self.
I don’t know if you ever saw snake dookie or not, but it’s white as snow and smells just awful. I can tell you one thing for sure: a snake can smile. I promise, when I took it in the house and put it in a tub of warm water to clean it up, the Boa looked up at me and was smiling.
Guest Commentary by Percival A. “Al” Friend
I am a very blessed man in having the friends that I do.Â During the past nearly 45 years that I have been actively been involved with wrestling, I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with and be friends with many of the greats in this business. Seeing them at these yearly reunions means more to me than all the resources I have. It was my pleasure to have finally met with so many people this year. Wes Daniel brought me some wonderful gifts and I will treasure them until I am called to that big ring in the Heavens.
To be able to be involved with so many aspects of the club this year not only made me feel better physically but emotionally as well. Dealing with all the health issues I have in the past 8 months kind of put a damper on my plans to come back for yet another annual visit with my other family at the CAC. I did not let it dampen my spirits though, instead turned my cap around and put a smile on my face no matter how badly I felt inside.
I am happy that the tournament went well. Dick Beyer is a gracious person that thought of me as being able to run the event in his absence and I am eternally indebted to him and the club for giving me the chance to do it. I am also happy that the seminar turned out great, thanks to the other two super managers … Dave”Supermouth” Drason Burzynski and J.J. Dillon.
The thing that made me the proudest was being able to show off my auction skills during the Burrito Banquet and get you more than what you expected for that beautiful donated print by the Gordienko family. That time of the CAC was further enhanced by getting to meet Ata , Rock’s mom after the sale.
If ever you need anything at any future CAC events …. PLEASE … don’t hesitate to call on me, as giving back means more to me than taking from.
THANK YOU !!!
2008Â Reunion Review by Wes Daniel
I have now had two full nightsâ?? sleep at home after the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion and to say that I am exhausted would be an understatement. Thereâ??s something about staying up until 3 AM drinking with Morgan, Jeff and other friends followed by waking up at 6 AM for breakfast with Dean, Ruth, Bob, Chris and Bill that just doesnâ??t work very well for very long. Despite the exhaustion, achy feet and hoarse voice, I am, as always, glad that I went and I will look back on this year as something truly special.
Let me start by saying how honored and flattered both Morgan Dollar and I were to be elected to the CACâ??s Executive Board just one week prior to the Reunion. For a person who has never worked in the wrestling business, this is a tremendous honor. I am dedicated to the CACâ??s on-going success and will continue to contribute in whatever way I can. I am proud to have the opportunity to work with and among some truly fine people.
I arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday, knowing that during the Reunion events, I would be running non-stop, so I wanted to have a little fun in advance. As a side note, maybe two days early is a bit too much. The Vegas heat (combined with the Vegas alcohol to water consumption ratio) play havoc with my system as, after a couple of days, my skin, nose and hair get dry and, eventually, I end up with a little dehydration going on. Alas, it is all worth it. I spent Saturday visiting with Morgan and Annette Dollar, ate dinner with them at the Rivieraâ??s coffee shop and was able to get back to my room and get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Sunday rolled around where I went to the Galleria at Sunset mall for Scott Hoseyâ??s autograph show to sell tickets to Mondayâ??s wrestling matches and to talk with folks about the Club. Two fine gentlemen who live â??on the groundâ? in Vegas came and joined me and, I assume, they were much more successful at selling tickets than I was. I took off from the mall at 2 in the afternoon to head to the airport and pick up the Silverstoneâ??s. Contrary to otherwise-held beliefs, Dean was not too embarrassed to ride in an Infiniti and we had a very nice ride back to the Riviera.
Monday rolled around and a group of us had agreed to meet at the memorabilia fair room at 8 AM for setup. Lo and behold, when we met there, the room still wasnâ??t torn down from the previous dayâ??s events! We scrambled to work with hotel staff to set up the tables then worked to get the â??Walls of Fameâ? set up, the RIP tables arranged and the photo album tables ready for our members. It was all done and, while we may have opened a few minutes late, it was most definitely a successful effort. The room layout is the best weâ??ve had in recent memory and I believe that all of the vendors were happy with their tables.
I stuck around the room helping out where I could until about 5:30 when I had a work (my real job) emergency pull me away. I thought that I was going to miss the wrestling show, but, fortunately, I was able to finish my work and return to the Riv just in time. The boys who worked the wrestling matches on Monday night really did a tremendous job. They all worked very hard and, in their faces, you could see the excitement they had about working in front of the legends. Match lineup was:
Paul Diamond over Tristan Gallo and Dallas Murdoch (with Rock Riddle) in a 3-way match
Â Saint Laurent & Chasyn Rance over Mr. Wrestling IV & Billy V (with J.J. Dillon)
Chris Masters & Derek Sanders over G.Q. Gallo & Din T. Moore
Gangrel & Billy Blade (with Luna Vachon) over Jeff McCallister & Black Metal
Nikki Matthews (with Ross Hart) over Veronika Vice
Kirby Mack over Ricky Landell (with Nick Bockwinkel)
Go Shiozaki (with Harley Race) over Oliver John
Â Tito Aquino over Steve Anthony, Virgil Flynn and Brian Nguyen in a 4-way match
Ryan Van Cool won a 20-man battle royal
The match between Shiozaki and Oliver John was tremendous. Either of these two young men could have easily been our Future Legend for the year. They were both very hard workers, they both had a lot of charisma and they put on a hell of a wrestling clinic! When a match makes Pat Patterson get up and come to the ring, you know itâ??s been one for the record books and this one was just that.
We raffled off the first piece of art donated by Ted Gordienko and raised (I believe) nearly 300 from the raffle.Â The lucky family that won the item was certainly excited.
One of the constants of the Reunion events seemed to be delayed flights, missed flights and people arriving later than they anticipated.Â Dave Millican was supposed to arrive in Vegas sometime around noon on Monday; however, due to delayed flights and being re-routed through Houston, he didn’t arrive until well after midnight.Â He was still there in plenty of time to place our beautiful raffle belt in my hands and, WOW!Â What a great job!
Â Tuesday saw another day â??at the officeâ? as it were. The memorabilia fair seemed pretty successful, Stone Cold and JR spent a good portion of the day walking around the room and, Iâ??ve got to say, they were as patient, good-natured and polite as anybody could have been. I donâ??t think that either of them refused anybody an autograph, they were both polite even under some challenging circumstances that I witnessed and they were true, honest-to-goodness professionals. I am glad that both of them came and I hope that they will return in the future.
Tuesday nightâ??s Baloney Blowout proved to be a worthy â??mid-cardâ? leading into Wednesdayâ??s banquet. Nick Bockwinkel kicked off the night with his Presidential welcome and then turned the events over to Karl. Karl brought Red Bastien and family up on stage and announced the renaming of the â??Iron Mike Friendship Awardâ? to the â??Red Bastien Friendship Award.â? He then introduced George Schire who presented the award to his longtime friend, Joyce Paustian. It was an emotional moment for Red and his family as they understood exactly how good of a friend Red has been to the wrestling business.
The emotions continued with the awarding of CACâ??s first ever James C. Melby Historian Award to Scott Teal. While Scott is still a â??youngster,â? he is as well-respected as they come and certainly has enough historical publishing credits to his name to make him more than qualified for this award. I know Scott and I can assure you, he was honored and humbled to receive this award.
The next presentation was to Nick Bockwinkel and was in recognition of his rather large vocabulary.
Dr. Mike Lano, with the able assistance of Kurt Brown, lead the tribute to our Latino friends which was quite successful. Despite not having the broad attendance of last yearâ??s Canadian tribute, there was still a respectable turnout with appearances by many legends.
Before closing the night, â??Awfulâ? Al Friend served as our auctioneer and a print by former wrestler and famed artist, George Gordienko, was auctioned off for the Clubâ??s benevolent fund. Ata Johnson, mother of The Rock was the high bidder on the item at 360. We closed the night with karaoke that was well-attended and participated in by all.
Wednesday produced more fun at the memorabilia fair, more chances to meet and talk with the boys and more work for the board members. The big Reunion banquet kicked off Wednesday night with Karl Lauer introducing our master of ceremonies, JJ Dillon. JJ lead the evening off with some announcements and jokes (Terry really should have bought a hat instead of boots) and kept the program moving well. While a couple of our honorees ran a little longer than planned, overall this was the most organized event in years. I can promise you, there werenâ??t very many dry eyes in the house when Pat Patterson sang his rendition of â??My Wayâ? to close the night.
To put on a CAC banquet requires a lot of work from many different people. I would like to personally thank all of the following individuals for their contributions:
Dave Millican, Rico Mann and Reggie Parks for designing and making the CAC raffle belt (that raised over 4,300 for the Clubâ??s benevolent fund)
BJ Race and Melissa Anderson for selling raffle tickets
Ted Gordienko for his contribution of art pieces by his uncle George
Vince Fahey for his donation of items to our silent auction
Jason Deadrich and Gabe Ramirez for their work and efforts in making Monday nightâ??s wrestling matches a success
Scott Hosey for handling the memorabilia fair and for assisting with Wednesdayâ??s banquet
Dr. Mike Lano and Kurt Brown for their lucha tribute
Nick Bockwinkel for being a good sport
JJ Dillon for the excellent job he did as emcee on Wednesday
Al Friend for organizing the Cribbage tournament and for services as an auctioneer on Tuesday
Morgan Dollar and Kurt Nielsen for assistance with the banquet
Bob Keller for the karaoke set up
Highspots for delivering, setting up and tearing down the ring
Bob Leonard for designing and setting up the RIP tables
Jeff Sharkey and Warren Edge for their general assistance with setup and making the evening come off well
Â I am sure that there are people I am missing on this list and, in advance, I apologize. It takes so many people to pull an event like this off, thereâ??s no way to remember everybody who contributed. Suffice to say, I appreciate the contributions of EVERYBODY.
Friends, I say it every year: If youâ??re not a member, become one. If you are a member but you donâ??t attend, start attending. This event is truly something special and it is a real treat for any fan of professional wrestling to come and rub elbows on an equal basis with their heroes. Our â??Ring of Friendshipâ? is open and we look forward to hosting you in the future.
Â Nick Bockwinkel
Â Festivities for 2008’s 43rd Annual Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion will be starting in just about 24 hours.Â This year’s event will feature our standard events: the memorabilia fair, cribbage tournament, Baloney Blowout and, of course, awards ceremony and Reunion banquet.Â Added this year, though, will be our tribute to Hispanic legends and luchadores and our karaoke event hosted by Pat Patterson.
The class of honorees this year is particularly outstanding.Â Bret Hart, Pat Patterson, Steve Williams, Ron Garvin, Paul Vachon and the list goes on.Â Each and every honoree is a headliner in their own right and all have earned their time in our spotlight.Â I’m particularly proud that the Club will be honoring Scott Teal with the James C. Melby Historian Award and that we will be presenting our second annual Red Bastien Friendship Award.Â I truly believe that there needs to be a place of honor within our “Ring of Friendship” for those who may never have taken a bump, but who have contributed to our sport in other, very important ways.
The verbal jousting that has been witnessed on these pages over the past month between Al Friend and The Destroyer over the cribbage tournament only makes me wish that Dick would be here this year so we could see this “Best 2 out of 3 falls Grudge Matchâ? for ourselves!Â Even if you’re not a cribbage player, you should consider joining the event to try and win the “trophy.”Â I understand that, this year, there will be cribbage classes held so that those who would like to learn and join the event will have the opportunity.
Dean Silverstone has informed me that our 28-page Program that will be distributed, free of charge, to all banquet attendees is really something special this year.Â While it is always an excellent publication and is valued by collectors and historians, this year’s program features in-their-prime photos of all of our honorees and some expanded information.
Folks, if you won’t make it this year, please watch these pages in the coming weeks so that you won’t miss next year.Â Each of our events is unique and feature top stars who have never attended before.Â If you’ve never attended our Reunion before, you really should come and experience our “Ring of Friendship.”
Guest Contributor Jeff Sharkey
Â To begin, let me thank Wes Daniel and Morgan Dollar of the CAC website, as well as the other members of the board, for allowing me the floor as they tend to their activities in preparation for this year’s reunion. About a week from the time I am writing this, I should have just checked into the Riviera. Putting me here in the “semi-final” position is a daunting task, as I hope to share some of my enthusiasm with you about what has become the most enjoyable time of the year for me.
I was hoping to come up with a theme for this column that would encompass all that I have been thinking about. Instead, I have a range of themes that might ring true with some of you.
Above all, the reunion is a great way for me to completely purge my system of the work stress I seem to shoulder. I tend to think back to a time about six years ago, when I traded in my road trips and payoffs of interdetminate size along the way for the proverbial desk job. I joined CAC at that point because I mistakenly viewed it as where you went when you retired. My current job gives me the flexibility to do a lot of things, but not the freedom. There are days I wonder if the choice I made was the right one. CAC reunions and my membership have allowed me to see that I haven’t really retired after all; I’m able to continue learning how the wrestling business has grown and prospered, and keeps me motivated to contribute something. Last year I came full circle, taking ringside pictures at the Waterloo Hall of Fame inductions thanks to the courtesy of Harley and B.J. Race. An occasional blurb here on the site keeps my old media relations hat from collecting dust. Each member of CAC who I reacquaint myself with, or meet for the first time, boosts my spirits to make this part of my career fun.
The reunion is also a time to be somewhat somber, if for merely selfish reasons. This will be the first gathering where some of our previous attendees won’t be with us. I had hoped to be a sponge for the stories of Leo Garibaldi, whose acumen as a booker has been recounted by many a grappler who worked with him. I feel I’ve missed so many opportunities in not pressing to talk with so many of our departed members from previous reunions like Billy Darnell, Gary Hart, Dewey Robertson, Rey Urbano, and Fr. Bill Olivas. But as much as I could dwell on the could-have-been, I look ahead in earnest with a great anticipation to new members’ arrivals.
The announcement that Jim Ross will attend for the first time is one such anticipation. So much of his approach to the wrestling industry is what I feel myself. I hope to pick his brain at some point this year. Back in 1986, when a teenaged fan wrote to the offices of Mid-South Sports looking for information about their exciting UWF wrestling product and possible syndication in my area, Jim Ross was the one who replied with a fan-friendly letter, and a timeline for expansion to my area of the country, which was quite close to its actual arrival. In later years, I have tried to respond to mail-in questions in much the same fashion, with a genuine appreciation for the fan perspective.
This range of experiences and emotions seems exhaustive on the surface. Since so much of the wrestling business focuses on the art of storytelling, I’m hoping that the stories you take away from the reunion leave you enriched by the experience as a whole. To all those CAC members, in particular the ones I’ll be seeing very soon, may your hopes for an exciting and rewarding reunion come true as they have for me.
Â Bishop Jason Sanderson
Wrestlers that are serious about their craft always try to maintain control over a match and over the crowd’s reaction at all times. You need to notice how they are, or are not, responding to the direction of a match and be able to change it as the need requires. However, we all realize that there are some things you have no control over. Ironically, the thing we have the least control over, is often our own bodies.
One night, while scheduled to wrestle a tag team match, my partner arrived rather close to bell time. He had gotten out of work late and had rushed up with one of the other guys that we were working with, one of our opponents. One of the results of being in a hurry to get there was that he hadn’t eaten dinner, so he grabbed a burger at a drive-through on the way. Our match was usually scheduled for late in the show, so he figured everything would have a chance to ‘settle’.
The time comes for our match, and we go through it with no problems. I don’t recall it being a ‘barn burner’, but I don’t remember it being bad either. At least, until the moment arrived for the finish.
The finish was supposed to be him receiving a powerslam, and getting pinned. He went up for the slam, and landed in the center of the ring with a loud BANG! We heard him give out a loud moan, and lay there like he was dead. He certainly looked it, and in a few moments we had another reason to believe that he might be!
The other wrestler staggered back, with his hand over his mouth, and lay against the ropes; his eyes wide. He moved to the corner to tag in his partner, who made a horrible face and backed away.Â My partner was still laying in the middle of the ring and I was getting very nervous, until I realize that he was moving. Actually, he was shaking.
He was trying not to laugh.
I couldn’t understand what was the matter until I leaned over the rope to call to him, and took a breath…WHEW!!!!!!!Â Apparently, the wind had been knocked out of him in more ways than one!
After a few more moments, the air ‘cleared’ enough that we were able to finish the match; but no one stayed in the ring for very long to get their hand raised.
Time is almost here for our trip to Vegas, where some (Morgan?) will visit the money they left there and others will take more home. The Drakes are always big winners, especially Chris.Â She can pop the dollars in faster then a pistol, and she wins them just as fast.Â While I was talking to her and Tom, she hit for a grand twice in less then 20 minutes. Said she started with 100.00 and was 6,000.00 ahead at that time.Â The last time I saw the two of them, poor old Tom was looking for a handout because he’d already spent his 100.00.Â Hope Chris doesn’t mind me telling you where she likes to play at the Riviera; it’s by the Splash Bar.
If you’re going to be in town a extra day before or after the Reunion, the Riviera has some great shows. The Neil Diamond tribute is fantastic, and so is the Frank and Barbra show. The new show ICE is from Russia and has some feats of strength and ice skating maneuvers that leave you doubting your eyes.Â We will also have some 2 for 1 tickets available for some of the shows.Â When we were there in November, we viewed the new rooms and they are very nice; flat panel TV’s, marble baths and therapeutic beds. Nicely decorated and they look like a Vegas Strip hotel should look.
Now for the story.Â Everyone knows that no one appreciates a good swerve more then a wrestler, so here’s another Vic Christy rib.Â A young, 300+ lb. Curtis Iaukea was riding with Vic to a show in Pasadena.Â Vic picked him up at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles (about 20 minutes from Pasadena in those days).Â Before picking him up, Vic removed the window knobs from the doors and turned the heater up full blast.Â When Curtis asked, Vic said it was stuck on and that the windows did not work as someone stole the handles.
Vic then proceeded to drive out route 10 to Victorville (in the Mojave Desert – almost half way to Vegas), crossed over to Palmdale and came back through San Fernando to the arena. This drive was about 200 miles and, by the time they reached the arena, Curtis was drenched as was Vic.Â Curtis was then told to get ready he was in the opening match.
He was so tired he could hardly walk, but he had a decent match.Â After the sow, when Vic told him some else would taking him back to the hotel, Curtis was as happy as he could be to hear that. He got into the car and just a little less then 15 miles and 20 minutes he was there. Sitting in the lobby were Vic, Ripper Leone and few of the boys.Â He knew Vic was willing to put himself through all that just for the rib. To end the initiation they let him buy the first round.
Vic Christy was one of a kind and he loved the ribs.Â Everyone who knew him enjoyed his wit and outstanding personality, but, you had to watch out, because you knew you were in line somewhere.Â In his final days at the motion picture home, I would visit him at least once a week, a great guy and good friend.
I’ll tell you about my start in the business.Â Tarzan White was an All American football player for the University of Alabama and he promoted wrestling here.Â I refereed for him in his hometown and I guess he liked what I did because when I went to get my payoff, he told me he wanted me to referee in Montgomery the next Sunday.Â He conveniently forgot to pay me though.Â Well, I went to the Greyhound bus station and bought myself a round trip ticket to Montgomery for 7.00 and when I arrived in Montgomery I walked from the bus station to the National Guard Armory where the matches were held.Â I got there and Tarzan White and Nick Carter, who were partners, gave the the finishes and what matches I was going to do.Â The matches started at 8:30 and, at 11:00, when I went to get my pay, I was given a crisp 5.00 bill.Â I was in the red 2.00, but, it didn’t really matter because I was in the wrestling business!I
A while later, I was working for a hotel and going to the wrestling matches regularly.Â I kept bugging the promoters to let me referee, so, finally, they told me I could referee if I would carry the ring.Â The first night, I drove to Georgia and the truck had no heat, so I had to put the mats on the floor to keep warm.Â I set up the ring by myself and I refereed.Â There were four wrestlers on the card; they would wrestle two singles matches and then come back after intermission to wrestle a tag team match.Â At least at the end of that night I made 25 – 10 for setting up the ring and 15 refereeing.
After a long time working the small towns, I finally got a chance to work the big towns.Â I had a good time in the wrestling business and wouldn’t trade it.Â I made a lot of trips, set the ring up a lot of times and made a lot of friends.
A while back I mentioned that stand-up comedians couldn’t top stories told by wrestlers at CAC reunions; here are three more I picked up while “table-hopping” at recent CAC banquets:
NOT SO UP AND UP?
Red Bastien told the story about his match with Maurice Vachon that took place in Des Moines, Iowa.Â It was being held outdoors in a huge parking lot of a Maytag plant and the field wasn’t flat cement, it was small gravel rocks.Â They had attempted to clear as much rock debris as possible, but the ring was placed on small stones and the ring crew had trouble positioning the ring so it was level to the ground.
When the two met in the middle of the ring for the ref’s instructions, Maurice tapped the third man on his shoulder and with a straight face, said “…Mr. referee, this match will not be on the level.”
Poor Red had to bite his lip so hard to keep from laughing he actually started to bleed.
THE EYES HAVE IT
Before his days as a professional wrestler, Don Morrison (Lumberjack Luke/Beautiful Brutus) was gainfully employed by a slaughterhouse in Kelowna, B.C. that was very much like the old fashioned meat company featured in the cult classic movie “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”Â This is not to say that Lumberjack Luke was like one of the abnormal characters from that movie.Â He didn’t take enjoyment in the slaughtering of the cows, but every once in a while, he saved souvenirs from his day’s work.
One night in Kelowna he and several of his buddies went to a restaurant and ordered a rather large meal.Â While his friends all ordered beer, Don insisted on ginger ale or 7-Up, whatever, as long as it was clear.Â Upon completion of the meal, Don called the waitress over to their table and complained that there was something in his beverage.
The waitress bent over to see and picked up the glass, tilting it slightly, and lo and behold, there at the bottom of the glass was a cow’s eye looking back at her.Â Her reaction was normal.Â She screamed, threw the glass against the wall and ran to the safety of the kitchen.
Luke mentioned he used this routine several times during his slaughterhouse days to receive complimentary meals from unsuspecting food establishments.
Â TEACH ME TO WRESTLE OR I’LL MARRY YOUR DAUGHTER
A few years ago, Tito Montez was honored by the CAC and told this story while enjoying his banquet meal.Â In 1973, he was approached by a young man who wanted to learn how to wrestle.Â Tito took him under his wing and trained him for four or five months, meeting with him at least twice a week.
His protege (Bob Yuma/Frankie Vaughan) was given a chance in the pro ring and worked a few dozen times in the Northwest and Arizona.Â During this time, Tito became the proud parent of a baby girl and continued to wrestle through the 1970s.Â His protege went on his own and was always grateful that Tito had opened the door for him.
Twenty-six years later, in 1999, Bob Yuma, Tito’s protege, married the daughter that had been born in 1973.Â Bob Yuma got both, he learned to wrestle and he married the tutor’s daughter.
I wish there was space to retell all the fascinating stories one hears at CAC wrestling reunions.Â The Late Night With Lettermen writers should be walking around with notepads, but even they couldn’t attend because they’re not CAC members.Â Come on down and have a ball this June.
Memories of Verne and Hans
As did so many young boys in the 1950s, I fell in love with wrestling when I saw my very first live match. It was at the Hippodrome in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1954. I was ten years old, and the Hippodrome was a majestic building that seated around 8,000 fans.
I had watched Verne Gagne several times on the Dumont Television Network out of Chicago and could not wait to see him in person. My dad took several neighborhood boys and me to see Verne wrestle Hans Schmidt. It was the main event, of course, and it was a sellout crowd.
After several exciting preliminaries, Schmidt arrived first, walking down the aisle to a chorus of boos and jeers. He stood towering in his corner, wearing a short, black jacket. He had his arms folded across his chest and scowled as Verne came down the aisle, waving to the wildly cheering fans. Verne leaped into the ring, did a little spin around with a wave, and the place went wild.
My dad leaned over to me and said,â? Verne was an NCAA champion at Minnesota. Youâ??ll get to see some real wrestling tonight!â?
Schmidt continued scowling as Verne stood with his back to him, signing autographs for the hundreds of kids standing in his corner, staring up in rapt admiration. I was among the small fry patiently waiting for my signature when all hell broke loose.Â Schmidt suddenly â??lost itâ? and raced across the ring, smashing into Verne and sending the pen and autograph books flying.Â While we looked on in horror, Schmidt pummeled Verne mercilessly. He stood over him, stomping in rage as Verne squirmed on the mat. Then the top rope broke and Schmidt proceeded to wrap it around Verneâ??s neck, kicking and stomping while strangling him.
The referee tried to intervene of course, and the bell was clanging like crazy at ringside. Iâ??m not sure what all transpired because I was in a state of shock; I had never seen such bedlam before, and so â??up close and personal.â? But suddenly Verne was on his feet, punching back at Schmidt.Â It was a miraculous recovery. The last thing I remember was Schmidt running up the aisle with Verne standing in the ring shaking his fist at him and shouting out challenges.
It wasÂ a night I would never forget.
I had read about Frank Gotch in a book my grandpa had given me the year before, and now Verne became synonymous with Gotch. Imagine my delight when years later Verne and I became good friends. He was inducted into the very first class of the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, housed in the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Iowa. The very first inductee was Frank Gotch!
Verne comes every year to the inductions and is a huge hit. Every time I see him, I remember that wild night in 1954. Verne played a huge role in my lifelong love affair with wrestling, and also the fact that I wrestled as an amateur, competed in judo and sambo, and am a lifelong devotee of weight training.
I really look forward to seeing Verne at our 10th annual inductions into the Tragos/Thesz Hall this coming June.Â But, I have one question that has lingered for decades: Whatever happpened to Hans Schmidt? Does anyone out there know him? If so, please tell him that there is a little boy (now 64 years of age) from Waterloo, Iowa, who considers him the greatest villain of all time (along with Killer Kowalski), and would like to meet him some day!
“Cowboy” Bob Kelly
Back when CB radios first came out, almost all of us had one. We were running Selma, Alabama on Saturday nights. Frank Dalton was booked and had CB in his car and so did I. After the matches, I left before Frank did and met up with a State Trooper buddy of mine just outside of Jackson, Alabama.Â We were sitting window to window with our cars talking, when Frank starting yelling on the CB for me. I told the Trooper who it was and asked if he wanted to pull a rib on Frank.
He agreed, so I hid my car and got in the police car and used the trooper’s CB to go back to Frank. Frank asked me for my 20 and I told him I was just coming up on Jackson. Frank said he was heading south with the hammer down and asked how things looked down that way. I told him everything was clean, just keep the hammer down, and that I would keep an eye out for any “Smokeys.”Â Frank said 10/4 and in less than two minutes he passed us doing 83 miles an hour.
You should have seen the brake lights go on when he saw the police car!
The Trooper turned on his lights, pulled up behind him, got out and went up to Frank’s car and talked to him for a minute.Â He then motionedÂ and yelled for me to join there.Â I walked up and the Trooper said, “This man say’s he is a wrestler and that he wrestles for Lee Fields and that he is Cowboy Bob’s tag team partner. Do you know him?”Â I walked up where Frank could see me, and you should have seen the look on Franks face, when I said “I have no idea who this man is, Officer”!!!!!
Â Dean Silverstone
I remember watching professional comedians like Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles, and Jackie Mason do their routines in various showrooms throughout Las Vegas, but I have now decided the funniest stories I have ever heard were expressed by professional wrestlers telling (embellished) road stories at CAC reunions.Â Here are three of their tales from past Las Vegas gatherings.
CAN YOU SHOOT?
Former 1950s light heavyweight wrestler, Don “Moe” Smith recalled the first time he ever worked with the late Bob Cummings.Â They had a match in Boise, Idaho and during a referee’s hold position, Cummings whispered to Smith, “can you shoot?”
After they did a few more moves in the ring, they again locked up in a referee’s position, and Smith whispered back to Cummings, “I am.”
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING
During his days on the mat in Hawaii and California, wrestler Steve Strong was approached by a major motion picture studio which was doing a documentary for television on pro-wrestling.Â This was back in the kayfabe days when TV coverage on wrestling was limited.
Strong and several other wrestlers in the southern California territory were asked to give a demonstration on their ability to perform high risk maneuvers that made it appear as if their opponents were getting their skulls crushed.Â It was supposed to be Strong’s job to show how to deliver a foot stomp to his opponent who was prone on his back.
Apparently Steve was disenchanted with the producer’s lack of respect for wrestling, so when he received the cue for action, he walked over to his ‘opponent’ who was an actor, not a wrestler and with the camera rolling, physically for real stomped across the man’s nose and forehead with his size 13 shoes.
As the blood started to spurt from the actor’s nose, Strong bellowed out in his ‘interview’ voice, “welcome to the world of professional wrestling bru’duh.”
One night in Amarillo, Texas, Red Bastien was scheduled to work with Dory Funk, Jr.Â Prior to their event, Terry Funk entered the dressing room and came up with a suggestion for their match.Â Terry said that for the third and deciding fall, he would run into the ring wearing street clothes, stumble and fall, and allow Red to rip off his sports coat and slacks, and then throw Dory over the top rope.
Red didn’t want to do this, because he didn’t want to ruin Terry’s clothes, but Terry insisted so Red gave in and agreed.
Sure enough, forty minutes into the match, Terry came charging from the dressing room and jumped into the ring to save his brother who was being pummeled by Texas Red.Â As he entered the ring, Terry tripped over the bottom rope and Red picked him up and grabbed the belt loop of his trousers and tore the pants from the seam to the pants leg.Â The audience responded with approval.
Â Later that evening, Red returned to his locker room from the shower only to discover HIS shredded pants.Â He then discovered that Terry had put on Red’s pants and wore them into the ring.Â Red had destroyed his own clothes and realized he had no spare to wear out of the auditorium.
A late working janitor came to Red’s aid and loaned him a pair of pants.
And so, as you can see, there’s no need to shell out big bucks when visiting Las Vegas to see the name comedians do their stuff.Â All you need is a banquet ticket and you can listen to the stories the wrestlers relate!
HOW I GOT HOOKED ON WRESTLING
At six years old, like most boys of that age, my world was a very simple place.Â There was obviously a lot I didn’t understand, and some things I was just too young to understand.Â In particular, why there was hatred in the world for those different from me.Â The year was 1957, and on August 13, I attended my first “live” pro wrestling card…at least it was the first one I remember attending.Â My father told me that he’d taken me even earlier than that.Â Leading up to the card, I still remember the emotions I experienced while waiting for the big night to come.Â For me, that first card was much like a first roller coaster ride…it’s something you never forget.
That hatred I spoke of earlier was, little known to me, what professional wrestling in the post-World War II decade of the 1950’s fed itself on.Â The main event for the evening pitted Mitsu Arakawa & Kinji Shibuya against Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff…or rather, Japan vs. Russia!Â Even at six years old, I figured out that the crowd didn’t like any of the four grapplers…but why, I didn’t know.
My Dad though, put it into perspective for me.Â He didn’t like Mitsu & Kinji (“The Japs,” as he called them) because of Pearl Harbor and World War II.Â But, he was quick to insert that, the Kalmikoff’s (“The damn Russians,” as he referred to them), were not any better.
It was then that, I sort of understood.Â My Dad still had issues with what had happened a dozen or so years earlier while he was overseas fighting for our country.Â What I didn’t realize though was, that stirring up emotions like this, was exactly what wrestling promoters did to make fans buy tickets.Â And, I still recall even today, how I was in awe at how full the Minneapolis Auditorium was that night.Â I remember thinking, “Wow! Everybody in the whole world must be in this building”.Â
Then it happened, the arena lights went out, and only the lights above the ring remained on.Â My attention level was in overdrive!Â Up to this point in time, I’d only seen ring announcer Marty O’Neill on TV, and now there he was standing above me in the middle of the ring.Â Marty welcomed the fans to the card, and proceded to say that, “Tonight, America was going to see its evil enemies attempt to destroy each other”.Â My Dad nudged me and said, “That will be the main event, when the Japs and the Russians meet”.Â I couldn’t wait!
The preliminary matches seemed to take forever, but finally, it was time.Â Marty O’Neill was back in center ring….and then, he shouted out that, this tag team match will be the best two of three falls, and the referee for the match was going to be the great Butch Levy.Â My Dad whisered to me that Butch was a tough wrestler, who was a good guy to attempt to keep law and order in the match.Â
In unison, wearing what appeared to be the biggest, tallest fur hats I’d ever seen, and strutting in their bright shiney gray coats…came the Kalmikoff’s.Â Marty introduced them at “A combined weight of 445 pounds, from Rostov, Russia…..ladies and genlemen….Ivan (pronounced Evon) and Karol, the Kalmikoff Brothers!”Â I remember putting my hands over my ears because the crowd was booing soooo loud!Â But then, it got even louder when Marty said, “And their opponents…first from Honolulu, Hawaii, weighing in at 242 pounds….ladies and gentlemen…Japan’s most hated wrestler…Kinji Shibuya”.Â Oh my gosh, it was so loud!Â Then Marty finished up with the introduction of Kinji’s partner as he shouted, “From Hirshoma, Japan….at 235 pounds…the great Mitsu!”
Marty barely got out of the ring, and all four wrestlers tore into each other and the match was underway!Â Butch Levy got order restored quickly, and got only one man from each team in the ring.Â It was then that I noticed that there was a short rope tied to the corner ringpost…and learned that the wrestler on the ring apron, must hold onto the rope, until tagged in by his partner.Â I asked my Dad though why, “If they were supposed to hold the tag rope, why didn’t they?”Â Seemed more often than not, all four wrestlers were in the ring.
By the end of the match, I was hoarse!Â I was yelling so loud, my voice was going away.Â After each team had taken a fall, the match finally ended when Mitsu & Kinji pinned Ivan Kalmikoff while the referee was trying to get Karol out of the ring…and, when Butch turned around, Kinji was on top of Ivan for the three count.Â What he didn’t see was that Kinji had thrown salt into Ivan’s eyes.
My learning experience was not over though for the night.Â I asked my Dad why the crowd was booing that the Japs had won, if they hated the Russians too?Â He told me, “No one cares who wins, I just wish they’d all crippler one another.”Â I realized that it was more of that post WWII sentiment again.Â
It was from this first night at the wrestling matches that my life was changed forever.Â A hobby turned into a way of life, and I’ve been a fan of wrestling ever since.
Oh, what sad and stunning news arrived this week.Â Gary Hart has died.
Hart was one of the most intriguing men ever in professional wrestling.Â He did not fit any mold and cannot be accurately described in one sentence.Â Â Even when you got to know him, there was still a cloud of mystery lurking about him.Â Behind his owl-like eyes, you could see that magnificent mind of his constantly churning, digesting his surroundings and formulating new ideas.Â His mind kept you in constant awe, even a bit fearful — this was the magic of Gary Hart.
Hart was ever-feisty and would not sacrifice his principles — this hurt and helped him in the wrestling game.Â He knew what he wanted out of life and felt no need to deviate from his plan.Â You always knew where you stood with Gary Hart for he dealt with the concrete, not the nebulous.Â Most of us are afraid to live life by these terms, yet he knew no other way.
He had a somewhat chilly, hard-nose exterior, but he was actually one of the sweetest, most affable people you could imagine… if he liked you (and Gary did not like everybody!).Â Knowing his reputation, and rightfully fearing his trademark personae, I first approached him with great trepidation.Â It’s funny looking back on those times because when I think about Gary Hart now, all I can think of is what a genuinely nice man he was.
I was fortunate enough to be at the reunion of old friends Percy Pringle and Gary Hart in Las Vegas a few years back.Â The two worked together for a long time in Texas for Fritz Von Erich, but hadn’t seen one another in many years.Â To be there, “sitting under the learning tree,” was one of the true highlights of my involvement in professional wrestling.
Hart was undoubtedly one of the greatest managers professional wrestling has ever seen, creating a character that no one dared emulate.Â His achievements are legendary, indeed.Â But I don’t like to think about the on-camera and in-ring exploits of people I have come to know in the business — somehow, all of it becomes background fodder.Â I’m just going to miss a wonderfully gracious, kind-hearted, empathetic, classy individual.
Goodbye, Gary, and God bless.Â I’m so glad to have been a tiny part of your life.
It was in November 1988, when I went to Saudi Arabia to meet with the Minister of Agriculture for their country, Sheik Ali Machadi. They had contacted me to open a branch of my company in Riyadh. During the week I was there, the subject of my other business ventures came up, they were well aware of more than I thought they were.
Â They asked about the professional wrestling company I owned, California Pro Wrestling, and wondered if I would bring a series of 5 shows over to them.Â They also wanted to know if my Americas Champion, Jack Armstrong, would have matches with their top wrestler. They were aware that outcomes were under the control of the promotion, but wanted one win, then had no problem with four losses.Â I offered to do two and two with Armstrong taking the 5th and keeping the title. They offered a good fee and we had a deal.
I was going to send John Tolos, Steve Strong, Tony Rocca, Billy and Doug Anderson,Â Jesse Hernandez, Bobby Bradley as the American Eagle, Gerry Monti as Chief Black Hawk, Buddha Kahn, Pistol Pete and Jack Armstrong as our Americas Champion.Â They loved the idea of Wildman Jack Armstrong, the All American from the radio and movies.
Nine men, all expenses paid for the week plus 3500.00 each.Â Needless to say, they were pretty happy until Jack dropped the bomb: he could not go.Â Everybody demanded to know why; after all, the whole deal was based on him – they wanted Jack Armstrong, the Americas champion.Â Jack replied that he would love to go, but that he would never be able to get the visa.Â Reassuringly, I told him, “I’m sure you can, you’re the guy they want! They’ve seen the tapes and want you!” He said, “Look, either they know or they will know, and, in either case they won’t let me out of the country!”Â I thought it was because he was afraid they knew he impersonated an Arabian, Sheik Ali Ben Kahn, for the AWA in Omaha for over five years.Â That was not the case either.
Â Finally, when pressed, he responded, “It’s because my real name is Lenny Solomon. I’m Jewish!” Sure enough, all contracts required that NO PERSON OF JEWISH DESCENT could be employed anywhere in the Arab Kingdom.Â Needless to say, the tour did not happen.
During the years we were doing the Showboat Hotel shows in Las Vegas, Jack did legally change his name to Jack Armstrong, but not his ancestry of which he is rightfully proud.Â Jack was my top heel for over 10 years, and recorded several SRO shows for his matches with Chief Jay Strongbow Jr. Jack and I have remained friends over the years, and we still talk on the phone a few times a year.
Today Jack is a trainer at the famous original Gold’s Gym in Santa Monica California and also is an equestrian instructor at the Griffith park riding academy, he has always stayed in great shape, and today looks as good as he did in the 60’s, just a little less hair.
Part of the fun of wrestling during the territory days was the camaraderie between the boys and the fun you would have together while on the road.Â Of course, a part of this camaraderie was the ribs we would play on each other.Â If you ever attend a wrestlers gathering, surely, one of the most talked about topics will be the ribs.Â One of my favorites occurred in about 1970 while I was working the Georgia territory.Â
As with every territory, for the most part, you ran the same towns on the same night every week.Â This one particular week Paul DeMarco and I were going to Columbus, a small town about 100 miles south of Atlanta, together.Â Paul was driving and I was the passenger.Â While another car carrying three of the guys were on their way down there, they had car problems and ended up having their car towed and getting a ride to the arena.
After the show, the three needed a ride back to Atlanta, so Paul and I took them with us.Â We were able to get out of the arena early – ahead of the rest of the crew.
At one point, the road from Columbus to Atlanta had a steep uphill climb that ended in a sharp curve.Â Once you reached the top of the hill, there was a row of about 7 to 10 signs reminding you of the upcoming curve.Â Well, since it was late at night and we knew that nobody other than the boys would be on this road at this hour, we decided to have a little fun.
With five guys in the car, we decided that it would be perfect to place one of us between each of the warning signs and, as the cars carrying the other wrestlers approached, drop our drawers and give them a series of “full moons” between each of the warning signs.Â Thank goodness no fans drove by that evening – I can’t even imagine the stories at the wrestling matches of the group of wrestlers backsides.Â Maybe even more fortunately, this was in the days before digital cameras and the internet, otherwise who knows how many people would have digital photos of this group of five rag-tag wrestlers with pants around ankles and cheeks displayed for the world to see.
I am very honored to be part of the Gulf Coast Wrestler’s Reunion.Â Their annual event, which takes place in early March in Mobile, Alabama, is always a highlight of my year.Â It still thrills and amazes me that I am a part of such a wonderful organization.Â I can’t help but feel like a young fan in the presence of some of wrestling’s most legendary stars, and to spend time with them in such an informal environment is something I never thought I would get to experience in my lifetime.
I have gone to the GCWR for three years running, and I’m about to log my fourth.Â It is unlike any other wrestling group out there, in that it’s only open to people directly involved in the business and their spouses.Â (Yes, they do screen.)Â I will not mention any of the names of attendees — this is kept strictly between those in attendance, just as all the proceedings are.Â But for those who have been there (and you know who you are), we all understand it’s a place where folks can spend quality time together and enjoy some real down home hospitality.
I always look forward to spending time with my dear friends in such a relaxed setting.Â Bob Kelly, Percy Pringle, Bill Bowman, Florence Fields and all the members of the GCWR board of directors do their very best every year to make sure that each person is treated like family.Â I’m so thankful to be a part of that family, and never forget what a rare treat it is.
I encourage anybody who is eligible to go to give it some serious consideration.Â Â Here’s the link to an on-line application.Â http://percypringle.com/Photos/GCWR2008app.pdfÂ It is not too late to sign up!
Â Looking forward to seeing my “neighbors” back in the land of sweet tea and hot grits!Â I know if you are there once, you’ll forever look upon it as a necessary tradition, just as I do.
Often I wonder about what to write for the board brief section of the site. So many times I start out with something and trash it for something else. This time I’m going to shoot straight from the hip and try not to wander on to other subjects. With that said, here we go
As everyone knows, I’m a faithful follower of Jimmy Valiant. Another fact everybody knows is that Valiant had hundreds of grandmothers!
In every town Jimmy was scheduled to appear, he would always mention his grandmother, “I was born in Lynchburg (or whatever town it was).Â My Grandma Valiant still lives there! Grandma, I want you to keep those biscuits and cornbread hot cause your baby boy is coming home!” When Grandmas baby boy “came home”, the fans would line up to welcome him home.
Jimmy had a great run in Jim Crockett Promotions in the early 80’s. One of the cards was even billed, “Boogie Man Jam 84″. Jimmy was a draw in every town he went to. Some disagree. But let me explain. Ric Flair took the country by storm; however, Jimmy Valiant did the same. Jimmy’s “Boogie Woogie” gimmick was in a class by itself. While everyone “wanted” to be Ric Flair, Jimmy’s persona lived through the people. People could relate to the Boogie Woogie character and so many fans often felt they were a part of the Boogie character. Boogie would relate to his “peoples”, he kept his character on the level of the fans. The daily struggles the fans went through. The Boogie “character” went through the same things. That in itself brought them to the arena for the loyal support of the Boogie Woogie man.
Ah…. the days of, Boogie cutting an interview with the energy that only Boogie could have, “All my peoples, All my brothas, All my sistas. WE gonna come to Greensboro Coliseum and WE gonna take the gold from around his waist!” That simple line made the fans want to be there and “help” the Boogie Woogie man bring the gold to his “Peoples”. Boogie was a first class babyface to the fans. He could do anything and it didn’t matter. If he cheated, the fans would go crazy. When he pulled his chain from his tights and clobbered his opponent, the fans rose to the occasion. The fans lied to the ref on more than one occasion and told him,”No He didn’t hit him with a chain!”. Jimmy Valiant was OVER. Jimmy didn’t need “Gold” to draw a crowd. He just needed a microphone. The dancing, singing and jiving brought the crowd to their feet. It was a “state of mind”. A state of mind that, if you were not in the arena you really never got to feel the impact Jimmy gave to the crowd. It was electricity that has long been gone in professional Wrestling. When the “Boy from New York City” started playing over the arena speakers, and Jimmy stepped out of the curtain, people forgot there late rent payments, the car insurance lapsing. They forgot everything. For just that one moment in time, Jimmy Valiant had “got over” and he had yet to step into the ring. From his feuds with Manny Fernandez, to Paul Jones, to Baron Von Raschke, to Superstar Billy Graham. Jimmy always entertained the crowd like only Jimmy could do.
From the McMahon’s to the Jarrett’s to the Crockett’s, Valiant has done it all. He has wrestled, recorded his own music,
written his autobiography, Been honored all across the country for his roll in professional wrestling. And to this day continues to run his Boogies Wrestling Camp in the calm, quiet (except Sundays) valley in Shawsville, VA with his lovely wife Angel.
Â Everyone always looks forward to seeing the Valiant’s in Las Vegas at the annual reunion. This year will be no different.
Bishop Jason Sanderson
Wrestling posters can be a great source of amusement and entertainment; they are often emblazoned with the names and images of your favorite wrestlers and possible ‘dream match'; they instill a sense of suspense over the prospective outcomes and consequences of upcoming match-ups.
They can be cheap souveniers for wrestling fans, who tear them down to bring to the shows to be autographed (if I had a nickel for every poster I signed that showed signs of nail holes or staples in them I would never have to worry about funding the missions again!)
They can also be a great source of confusion; in the hands of the right person that is.
About ten or fifteen years ago, Jeff “Bruiser” Costa was running shows in New England and had booked a show at the Hudson Lion’s Hall in Hudson, NH. This particular show was during a time of year when we didn’t usually draw too well, however he did have something going for him. One of our regular workers Chief Dave Fox (the late Dave Ferrar) was good friends with former WWWF star, Chief Jules Strongbow and wanted to work with him in a tag match on that particular show.
Bruiser agreed and set about ordering the posters. He wanted to put Jules’ name in big print, knowing that many of the locals would still remember him from the days he partnered with Chief Jay Strongbow, plus the names of the main event are always in the largest type to attract the most attention. Herein lay the problem. “Chief Jules Strongbow” took up too much room on the poster and if he spelled it all out it wouldn’t fit. If he left out “Chief”, no one would bother getting excited and if he printed it smaller it might be considered an insult to Jules. Bruiser Costa is nothing if not resourceful and came up with a solution. Abbreviate it.
The posters then read “Chief J. Strongbow”. This solved his dilema and had an unexpected benefit; people reading it aloud wouldn’t pronounce the “period” and would say “Chief Jay Strongbow”.
Well, it didn’t take long for word to get around the area that “Chief Jay Strongbow” was going to be at the Hudson Lion’s Hall! There was a good crowd outside the door long before they were scheduled to open and while we might not have had a sell out, we had a respectable showing that night and people had a good time. A few people did try to complain, but Bruiser calmly pointed out that he had NOT said it would be Jay; but had clearly put “J.” indicating it was an abbreviation and he wasn’t responsible for whatever conclusion they jumped to. All in all, however, no one seemed to mind.
So, a show was saved by a fortunate mistake or very creative marketing.
Which was it? I’ll never tell!
Cowboy Bob Kelly
This is the final story about the bear behind Bill Golden’s trailer in Lafayette, LA
I was finally able to work with the bear a little as far as getting him in a headlock and letting him throw me off and things like that, but I was never able to get a muzzle on him. Anyway, one day I had him out working with him when Lee Fields drove around to the back of the building where we were, not knowing I had the bear out.
Lee always drove fast and this time was no exception, he came around and spun his car around and blew the horn. I had the bear on his chain but Lee scared him so bad he jerked away from me. This was Saturday morning and we had some people in the building where we wrestled on Friday night taking the ring down and building a stage for a country show that night. The door was open and the bear ran in and scared those guys half to death.Â You should have seen them scatter!Â
With me fooling with him so much, the bear was showing some progress, so Lee decided to take him to a vet and put him to sleep, de-claw his front feet, take out his tusk, and put a muzzle on him. I took him to the vet and dropped him off. The next day Bill golden said the vet called and told him the bear didn’t come out of the sedative he gave him. I was totally shocked. I hated that so bad. I was really looking forward to working with that bear in the ring. He was my buddy!!!!
Â Tom Burke
Â ‘HELP WANTED’
This is a true story involving two CAC members that had not seen each other in some 30 years.
He was an international star in his day when he practiced the fine art of professional wrestling around the world as the Elephant Boy, also known as The Bushman and Tony Olivas.Â That was many bumps ago.Â In the present he is known as Fr. Bill Olivas, an ordained Caholic priest and a member of the order of the Augustan friars.
Fr. Bill had a day off from his duties as an associate pastor at the Church of St. Thomas in Ojai, California.Â He went to visit some friends in a nearby community.Â After visiting, he was back to his home when he spotted a pizza shop in town with “Help Wanted” sign in the window.Â The pizza shop was Zuma’s Pizza and knew that his fellow wrestler, Manny “Amazing” Zuma had a pizza shop in the area.
He walked into the shop and recognized Zuma’s wife in an instant.Â She said may I help you?Â Â His reply,Â “Yes, I am interested in your Help Wanted position.”Â She says, ‘Wait a minute and yells,Â “Manny there is a man here about the job.”Â Out walks a little guy with a broad smile and sees maybe a future employee.
They sit down and start to talk.Â Knowing full well that Zuma is not aware of who is talking too, Fr. Bill decides to have a little fun.
Zuma: “What can you do?”
Fr Bill: “I make the best pizza dough and sauce around.”Â “I can cook – Italian, Greek, Mexican, Spanish what ever you need”
Zuma: “That is good”
Fr. Bill: “About the pay:”
Zuma: “I will treat you right”
Fr Bill: “I have heard that before,Â I was cheated by my manager a long time ago.”
Zuma: “I am not like that, I am an honest man.”
Fr. Bill: “That is what my manger used to tell me, maybe you know him?Â His name was Jack Pfefer.”
Zuma looks at his future emplyess and yells, “JACK PFEFER!Â JACK PFEFER?JACK PFEFER?How do you know Jack Pfefter?Â Who are you ???”
Fr. Bill: “Zuma, I am the Elephant Boy!!”
Zuma: “TONY!” ….. A big hug and 3 hours to talk and introductions to family and anyone that came in.
Â MY NIGHT AS A PROMOTER
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure to do most everything connected with the wrestling business except…. wrestle.Â I’ve written articles for popular newsstand wrestling magazines like Wrestling Revue, Wrestling Monthly and The Wrestling News; and for one of those magazines, I was the fan club editor.Â On the fan club front, I also ran a club for former wrestler Ramon Torres.Â I’ve also made my mark and gained respect as a historian, having compiled many ring results records of some of the game’s greatest wrestlers (such as Dick Beyer, Nick Bockwinkel and many others).Â To say the least, I’m proud of my reputation and the respect it has earned me with many of hte boys in wrestling.Â It is an honor that they call me “friend.”
I’ve done ring announcing for the UWF (Mid-South), WCW and ringside color commentary for Pro Wrestling America, hosted the weekly television for West Four Promotions in Winnipeg and co hosted a weekly wrestling radio program in the early 1990’s.Â I was even active as a heel manager named “The Authority” for Steel Domain Wrestling and managed both the SDW champion and TV champion.Â Currently, in addition to still doing much research, being active on the Board of Directors of the Cauliflower Alley Club and the Dan Gable Wrestling Institute and Museum, I also do regular research of wrestler’s ring records.Â I also do a weekly wrestling podcast called “Old School/New School.”
All of this has been a lot of fun and has provided me memories to last a lifetime.Â But, the one moment I most treasure was my night as a promoter.Â The date was April 15, 1970 in Cottage Grove, MN.Â I had, on behalf of the Cottage Grove Police Department, arranged with the Minneapolis Boxing & Wrestling Club (the Twin Cities office of the AWA) to put on a wrestling card as a fundraiser for the Department.
I had become good friends with the legendary ring and TV announcer, Marty O’Neill, and he was my “in” for contacting the wrestling offices to arrange the card.Â In late January of 1970, I made a visit to the wrestling club office and spoke with former pro wrestling star Bill Kuusisto.Â After setting the date for our card, Bill informed me that he wouldn’t be able to assure me who would be on the card until we got closer to the actual date.Â When the date (April 15) was set, Bill advised me that one wrestler for sure would appear.Â His name?Â Dr. X.
For over a year and a half, the masked man had beaten every known name in the business that had attempted to reveal his identity.Â The fact that I would have him in our main event assured me that our fundraiser was going to be a success.Â Next, Kuusisto asked me who I would like to have as the Doc’s opponent.Â I immediately chose the great Pepper Gomez.Â Bill told me that Pepper was available and that, indeed, we could have him for the show.Â What was intriguing about this main event matchup was that, at the time, both X and Gomez were headlining all over the AWA.Â Things really came together when I was able to also secure Blackjack Lanza for the card.Â He was to meet “Big” Bob Windham in the semi-windup match, and, as an opening event, we had popular TV wrestler, Kenny Jay meeting the veteran Lee Mattson.
With this line-up, I figured that I had done my job.Â Man, was I wrong!Â On the night of the card, with close to 400 fans crammed into the Park High School Gym in Cottage Grove, we were ready to go…. I thought.Â Fifteen minutes before the card was to begin, I was called into the locker room.Â Upon entering, I was given the news by Dr. X that Pepper Gomez had a really bad ear infection and would not be able to wrestle.Â Now, one thing was certain; we had a good crowd and Pepper was in the building.Â in fact, setting right next to the good Doctor himself.
Whether Gomez really had an ear infection or not, I don’t know.Â I was more concerned at the time with what had just happened to my main event.Â I soon found out that there was more bad news about my card.Â X told me that Lanza was not there because he’d missed a plane connection from Chicago…. I remember thinking I’d heard that line used before for “no-show” wrestlers.Â Now what to do?
Actually, Dr. X thought he had it figured out.Â He told me that his idea was to have Jay meet Windham in the opener, then he would meet Mattson in the semi-windup and for the main event… it would be Dr. X and Windham battling Jay and Mattson.Â Though I was happy that Doc was trying to make a decent card out of this situation, I respectfully asked if we could do it a different way.Â This was where my night as a promoter came in!
I suggested to Dr. X that we stick with our original opener or Jay vs. Mattson, then for the semi-final, go with the Doc against Windham and in the main event have Doc team with Mattson to battle Jay & Windham.Â The logic I offered Doc for my suggestion was that we would have a “main event” wrestler (Doc & Windham) on each team.Â I remember him blurting out to me (in that famous Dr. X voice), “We can do it any way you like.Â It doesn’t matter to us.”
After having worked hard to put this card together, then on the night of the match having it almost fall apart, I’m happy to say that the fans were on the edges of their seats the entire evening.Â It was a memorable night for me and I remember being proud of the way I worked out the main event.Â Oh yeah, and, for the record, that main event was one of the most exciting I have ever seen for a spot show.
In the opener, Kenny Jay wrestled to a draw with Les Mattson.Â The semi-final saw Dr. X get disqualified against Bob Windham and, in the main event, X and Mattson got the nod over Jay and Windham.Â Everyone went home happy… including me.
As I reflect on that night over 37 years later, I’m reminded that it was the first time I had ever talked to Dr. X, a man who has become one of my closest friends in the wrestling business.Â The man under the mask was none other than our very own Dick Beyer who carved out a legendary career in wrestling under his other masked identity of “The Destroyer.”
I’m proud to call Dick my friend and even prouder that he calls me his.Â And, it all started on “My Night as a Promoter” in 1970.Â Thanks, Dick!
MRS. HAYESâ?? BAD BOY GILBERT
Gil Hayes, a mainstay for Stu Hartâ??s Stampede Wrestling from the mid-1960’s to 1980, made his first visit to CAC this past April.Â Gil had a grand time visiting with old friends and new, sharing old road stories, and if he didnâ??t tell you this one….well, let me resurrect the tale of the night he truly â??brought the house downâ?.
In the early 70’s, we did a one-time Stampede house show in the village of Ceylon, Saskatchewan, little more than a wide spot in the road just north of the Canadian border with Montana.Â Ceylon wasnâ??t a venue that weâ??d normally run, but one of his old referees, George Demchuck, had been born and raised there and prevailed upon Stu to bring a show to his old hometown.Â We had a dark night on the scheduleÂ in a Saskatchewan tour, so away we went.
Now George had worked some in his day, and pressed Stu to wrestle on his hometown show.Â Gil was tabbed to put him over in the opening event, and yours truly refereed.Â The matches were held in an old community rink, seldom used other than in winter, with rickety bleachers surrounding the ring.Â It had poured rain all that spring day, and the badly-leaking roof on the old building turned much of the dirt floor into a sea of black mud and blacker water.Â No big deal: the community organizers rustled up plywood sheets to provide a walkway to the ring and the seats, and it had quit raining.
Â Mrs. Hayesâ?? bad boy GilbertÂ â?? as he was often called by Stampede TV commentator Ed Whalen â?? did his usual solid heel work.Â Â He got George over just great in front of his old hometown, and I finally DQâ??d him and raised Georgeâ??s arm.Â Gil threw the predictable fit, threatening George, me and the whole crowd, before I thumbed him out of the ring.Â George took his bows, then left the ring, whereupon Gil stormed back up the walkway to berate him some more.Â Always inventive, Gil didnâ??t hesitate.Â He double straight-armed the unsuspecting Demchuck squarely back into the sea of mud, causing a shower of goo and an instant new commotion in the stands.Â And then it happened….
Â One of those rickety old bleachers, tortured beyond its endurance by the moving weight of 70 or 80 screaming fans on their feet, slowly and inexorably began to wobble……..and then collapsed straight down into the mud and water, fans and all!
Gil and I could barely keep in character, covering up our laughter only by arguing loudly all the way back to the dressing room.Â Thankfully, not one person was injured, and most everyone â?? including the newly-minted mudmen â?? saw the humor of the situation too.Â But we did notice that the fans, while they were surely vocal, didnâ??t move around much on the remaining bleachers after that.
Â Gil Hayes will be back at CAC in June 2008…..â?you couldnâ??t keep me away!â?, he says.Â Ask him about George Demchuck and the night of the mudmen in Ceylon.Â Itâ??ll be a great conversation-starter.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
A new year, a new CAC President and what looks to be another exciting year in our club. With Nick on the mend and our new Director for Canadian affairs, Bob Leonard, in place, 2008 should be another banner year.
All of the honorees have been announced and they could main event any arena in the world. Bret Hart, Dr. Death Steve Williams, Pat Patterson, Butcher Paul Vachon and the Hands of Stone man Ronnie Garvin, plus Betty Niccoli representing the ladies. Both Betty and Bret will also be inducted into the PWHF in New York in May.Â Quite a year for these two most deserving mat stars.
Our tribute night on Tuesday honoring the Mexican and Latino wrestlers should be a lot of fun also. Mando Guerrero, Dave Marquez and Dr. Mike Lano will be hosting the event, and they are working on some exciting things connected with this. Mario Savoldi, who works with Dave Marquez in the revitalized NWA, is planning a huge event in conjunction with our Reunion.Â Final plans are not signed as of this writing, but keep checking our web site for regular updates and news. The Mexican influence on professional wrestling has made a major impact on the business, especially in the last decade. As the names planning on attending are confirmed, we will post them on the web site. Confirmed means they have bought a ticket.
After the baloney blowout and tribute, Nick is bringing back Pat “Louie Armstrong” Patterson to continue the festivities into the wee hours with Karaoke and dancing. Here is your chance to ask that guy or gal for a dance and hope they don’t break a rib in the process. We have so many talented singers in the club and, even if you can’t sing, it will be fun trying. Plus, live and in person, the new group sweeping the nation will perform. Thatâ??s right; â??Nick and the Crowbarsâ? will dazzle you with sounds to remember forever. This will only happen, of course, if they can break away from their world tour for the night.
Â All day Tuesday and Wednesday there will be seminars going on, all the topics not covered in the ring are planned and the schedule will be on the website and in the next issue of The Ear. There will also be a hands-on class led by Dan Severn, showing the value that MMA can bring to the wrestling business, this is a topic that is always discussed and, if better understood, can actually be a help to the wrestling business. All the seminars and question and answer sessions are FREE to our members.
Scott Hosey will once again have the Nostalgia fair going all three days with some big changes, it will be in a separate area away from the Members Only section and fans and the public can come in and browse and buy photos, autographs and books or what ever they have for to sell. This will allow the wrestlers who WANT to have a table the chance for a much bigger sales day. There will be no charge to attend and this is the only area where nonmembers will be able to attend.
Wednesday will be the banquet and awards, with our own JJ Dillon as MC this year, JJ as always, will have some surprises for you and 2 special awards will be the Jim C. Melby Historian Award and the Red Bastien Friendship Award, the latter being a surprise and not revealed until that evening. Plus there will be a very special custom-designed, one of a kind commemorative championship belt. This belt is courtesy of Dave Millican and company.
Wes Daniel will once again take care of the silent auction with some very collectable items, and special items donated by members for our benevolent fund.Â We are very proud of the fact that our club has remained non profit, and still 100% of all work is without pay of any kind. To date, since we started the scholarship fund, we have given out close to 40,000 and Benevolent Fund distributions are pushing the 50,000 mark. That is a lot of money for a club that relies on dues and donations.
Our biggest operating expenses are printing and postage, so as members you can take pride in the Clubâ??s accomplishments. President Nick Bockwinkel is committed to continue and grow these accomplishments.
Our web site has received so many compliments over the last year and a half. Morgan Dollar and Wes Daniel have put a lot of time and labor into it. I hope you check it daily. We still have no sponsors or pop ups on it either with no plans to get any. Its your site and is not a advertisement board (except for members who want to reach other members for a 15 benevolent fund donation), for your information and not designed to make money, but to keep our members and prospective members informed.
This will be my 29th year with the club and my 12th as the Executive Vice President, and none of the growth and success we have seen in the last 12 years would have been possible without the Silverstones who took over the newsletter and membership files and records, The Drakes who have kept us legal and in the black ink on the books, web masters past and present, and Royal Duncan and the Royal Publishing company who print our EAR for paper and press time cost.
There are other plans in the works, but until we have confirmed agreement, they are best not listed. But check the web site whenever you go on line.Â We have blocked 120 rooms in the newly remodeled Monaco towers, for the week before and after at the special rate of 89.00, if you are a regular at the Riviera and belong to the players club and receive their mailing with special rates, let us know when you make your reservations and e mail me a copy of your confirmation, it will still count toward our block guarantee.
I hope if you do plan to attend you do not wait till the last minute to book your banquet and room, last year we had 50 plus rooms at the Circus Circus because the Riviera was sold out. Already several have made their reservations.
Looking forward to seeing everyone in June! Be well.