Member Spotlight: Darlene Kreis
Member Spotlight: Darlene Kreis
By Jeff Sharkey
The Cauliflower Alley Club sees new members join every year, and for Darlene Kreis of the Tampa Bay, Florida area, joining CAC and attending her first reunion in 2014 was a natural progression from her regular visits to the Legends Luncheons coordinated locally by CAC President Brian Blair.
“I had a break from wrestling for a while, but I always knew what going on because I was good friends with Mickie Jay;” Kreis said in a recent interview. “I’ve known him for almost 30 years. Then I just started back with the luncheons, and doing some tea business that Brian Blair was involved with Celebri-tea. I do a lot of demo-ing with them, so Brian and I kind of reconnected there.”
Reflecting on the mainstays of the Florida wrestling scene of the 1970s and 80s, thoughts often turn to images of Dusty Rhodes battling the forces of evil, from Pak Song and Ernie Ladd to Kevin Sullivan and Outlaw Ron Bass. During this time, however, Darlene was a fixture at ringside. She recalls how her family intertwined with that of the Gossetts, who gained notoriety for their promotional efforts under the Championship Wrestling from Florida banner.
“My father was very good friends with Eddie Graham; from around 1973 to 1975, Eddie would have dealings with him, and they’d have lunch. One day he gave my father second row ringside seats at the (Fort Hesterly) armory in Tampa,” Kreis recalls. “My father had those seats for like 7 years straight, and that’s how I got to meet a lot of the guys and make a lot of friends. Plus, my sister’s fiancée was into powerboat racing, and so was Mike Graham. So we’d hang and do things together with the boating business as well as the wrestling. That’s kind of how I’ve been around it all my life.”
Seeing her fair share of battles over the years, there is a tendency to think that Kreis’ memories would tend to become an amalgam of dropkicks and fisticuffs emerging from fuzzy images of a mat laced with blood and sweat. But Darlene’s recall is to the contrary; she describes her favorite bout in vivid detail. :”My all time greatest story of being in the armory… the best match I’ve ever seen was Terry Funk and Dusty Rhodes. They started in the ring, ended up outside the ring… actually all the way through the armory, behind the concession stands, and out the front door; they ended up out in the middle of the road,” Kreis tells us. “Howard was one way, and Armenia was the other. There was a car parked there, and they were actually throwing each other into this car! It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
By the late 80s, CWF wrestling had become a thing of the past, and Darlene’s exodus from regular wrestling fandom began. But, as the Legends Luncheons in Tampa have proven, the rekindling of longtime friendships is just a short trip away. “It’s great seeing people like Ron Bass, and the Guerreros have been there… you never know who is going to show up. It keeps everybody more in-tune with what people is doing, with CAC and everything, and getting the younger people involved. The last one had about 75 people, and Bob Cook was there. You know he’s been back training, and he’s down in his weight. We just ran into him as he was picking someone up at the airport and we all met at Hogan’s Beach for dinner. That flight was held over, so he put a notice on Facebook and a bunch of us met up!
As far as CAC member interview subjects go, Darlene was discovered by this writer near the sports book inside the Gold Coast Hotel as she held a conversation with Fidel Sierra, The Cuban Assassin. “We reconnected at the one of the luncheons; he said ‘Hey, I know her! I didn’t know you were going to be here!’ We live like ten minutes away from each other.”
You can hear the enthusiasm Darlene Kreis has in her voice when discussing the prospects for the future of Cauliflower Alley. “I think CAC is wonderful. I plan on being back for the 50th. With Brian Blair, I think they’ve chosen a very capable person. I’ve known Brian for a long time; he’s a good business man, he’s a people person He has a true heart with the genuine spirit that CAC is about, and I think he’s going bring a lot to the table.”
— Jeff Sharkey, CAC member