Shrine to Ring Stars

By Jess Hernandez

Published in the December 1977 issue of “Wrestling Revue” magazine

Hollywood, Calif. â?? The â??cauliflower earâ? has become symbolic with great athletes in the wrestling and boxing profession.  Now the â??Mickey,â? wrestlingâ??s version of Hollywoodâ??s â??Oscar,â? has been conceived to honor wrestling and boxingâ??s Hall of Fame luminaries.

 Originator and producer of the prestigious â??Cauliflower Earâ? is Marshall Wright, founder and executive director of the famous Cauliflower Alley Club or Hollywood which has numerous affiliated chapters scattered throughout the world. It has been the honor of Wright, a hotelman and former ringman, to present more Hall of Fame trophies to living legend gladiators and boxers, than any living sportsman in Southern California.

 Unfortunately, Marshall Wrightâ??s dedication and diligence in directing the Cauliflower Alley Club to success and prestige, resulted in his confinement to a hospital for several weeks as the result of a slight heart attack.  A tireless worker and organizer, Wright rebounded from his poor health to return to his first love â?? sports and Cauliflower Alley gang.  Since the founding of the unique sports fraternity 10 years ago, Wright has engineered many innovations that have enhanced the development and growth of the club.

 â??It has always been my dream and goal in life to honor and perpetuate the esteem and memory of the many living legends in the wrestling and boxing world.  In 1974, I decided the time had come to honor and induct great matmen and ring immortals to an international shrine.  Thus the International Wrestling and Boxing Shrine was founded,â? Wright said.

 â??It was my suggestion to hold a monthly induction of living legends and the honor of being the first athlete inducted into the Hall of Fame was the late Jimmy Londos.  Not only was Jimmy one of the top wrestlers in history but also one of the most popular,â? added Marshall.

Since the summer of 1974, the parade of living legends inducted into the Hall of Fame in the wrestling category include Jimmy Londos, Dave Levin, Count Billy Varga, Mildred Burke, Bronko Nagurski, Lou Thesz, Ed Don George, the late Argentine Rocca and former female world champion Maria Bernardi.

â??The social activities of the Cauliflower Alley Club include many functions which donâ??t get much publicity.  The club stages many benefit sport shows to assist youth clubs in Southern California and awards trophies to numerous non-professionals,â? Wright replied.  â??We have affiliated club chapters in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Mexico City.  We recently honored Bobo Olson in San Francisco with a crowd which exceeded 400 people and inducted Joe Louis into the boxing Hall of Fame this summer in Las Vegas.

The Cauliflower Alley gang presented a unique Art Exhibit in Long Beach, Calif., recently which included a mini-Hall of Fame, showcasing the history of wrestling and boxing.  Among the memorabilia on exhibit was the personal collection of wrestlers Mike Mazurki, Count Billy Varga and Mildred Burke.  Under the guidance and direction of affable Marshall Wright, the International Hall of Fame has become a permanent showcase of wrestlingâ??s immortal matmen and a vivid tourist attraction for sports buffs.

Thanks to the promotional expertise and executive direction of Wright, the Cauliflower Alley Club and executive board will continue to honor the memory and legendary athletic deed of sportâ??s greatest heroes.  Wrestlingâ??s Hall of Fame, which is the brainchild of Wright, looms as the most prestigious edifice honoring the all-time grappling gladiators.

Rambunctious reunions of ex-mat stars of the â??30s and â??40s at the Cauliflower Alley Club in Hollywood are sprinkled with memories of wrestlingâ??s golden years.  Seldom does one Wednesday afternoon at the famous Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel pass that one Herculean all-time mat immortal doesnâ??t make an impromptu appearance.  Since 1968 when the prestigious Cauliflower Alley gang first assembled to honor the past and present elite of great mat dignitaries, the roll call of matdomâ??s Whoâ??s Who has paraded majestically.  (Editorâ??s note: The first luncheons were actually held in 1965, although it is possible that 1968 saw the formal adoption of the name Cauliflower Alley)

Today, the Cauliflower Alley Club with Mike Mazurki, president, has added another dimension and milestone to the glittering assemblage of torso benders â?? the impeccable and illuminating  International Mat Hall of Fame.  The first and only Hall of Fame inaugurated to bestow accolades to former idols and heroes of matdom.

Mildred Burke, the dark-haired beauty from Coffeyfield, Kansas, was inducted into the famed shrine culminating 25 years of mat combat in which Mildred pioneered the invasion of females into the grunt and groan sport.  Mildred was world champion for 15 years and retired in the late â??50s.

The Cauliflower Alley gang has also honored five-time, all-time kingpin Lou Thesz into the Hall of Champions.  St. Louis-born Thesz launched his nonpareil career in the â??30s and won the title from Everett Marshall in 1937.  For over 25 years Thesz was symbolic of championship wrestling, gaining mat honors and world recognition as undisputed ruler of the mat whirlgig.

In retrospect, wrestlingâ??s hierarchy of super heroes grace the regal halls of the Hall of Fame.  Prior to his untimely death, Golden Greek Jimmy Londos gained induction.  Londos was champion from 1930 to 1935, whipping Strangler Lewis in 1934 to win undisputed claim to the crown.

Count Billy Varga, a world champion in 1951-52, has been accorded entry into the shrine as has Ed Don George who was a mat marvel since his collegiate days as Greco-Roman titlist.  A former Olympic Games star, Don George captured the crown in 1931 and following his prolific career became a mat promoter in his native New York.

Former Brooklyn butcher boy Dave Levin, who reached championship heights in 1936 with a victory over Ali Baba is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  Handsome Dave now a salesman for a clothing firm tangled with Vincent Lopez, Dean Detton, Joe Savoldi, Hangman Cantonwine and Sandor Szabo.

Other inductees include Tiger Joe Marsh who won the crown from Jim Browning in 1933.  Marsh a seasoned Hollywood actor has just finished filming the life story of Toots Mondt, the colorful wrestling impresario.

Barone Michele Leone, who almost dethroned Lou Thesz for the title in 1952 before 25,000 spectators, was also feted.  Leone from Abruzzi, Italy today is a wealthy businessman in Santa Monica, Calif.

Ex-world titlist Maria Bernardi and Mildred Burke are the initial females to gain idolatry and entrance into the famed mat sanctuary.  Maria won the lightweight world crown in 1950 and was champion of Italy for two years.

Al Baffert who introduced wrestling to Manila fans in the â??40s and was U.S. service champ, has been acclaimed for his many contributions to the grunt-and-groan derby.

Wrestling is in good hands with the membership of Cauliflower Alley gang, a colorful and dedicated sports fraternity promoting todayâ??s and yesterdayâ??s mat titans.