Wrestling’s Most Famous Social Club

By Jess Hernandez
Published in the April 1977 issue of “Wrestling MONTHLY” magazine
 
 ACTOR, GRAPPLER MIKE MAZURKI CLUB PRESIDENT

Americans love their sports heroes.  They heap superlatives and hero worship on their Herculean athletes.  Sports feats and records are the athlete’s ticket to fame and fortune.  Some even climb the summit into the prestigious Hall of Fame shrine.

What happens to superstar athletes after the tumult and shouting of the public vanishes?  Not a whimper or trace of notoriety is echoed.

Some pass away without fanfare but other like the members of the Cauliflower Alley Club in Hollywood remain in the spotlight, in the center stage of idolatry and awe.  The cliché, “old athletes never die” aptly describes the rambunctious Cauliflower Alley gang.

Nestled around the confines of the Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel every Wednesday noon, the membership of Cauliflower Alley glitters with numerous world champions and contenders from various sports of past eras.

Former world champion wrestling star and impeccable and illustrious Mildred Burke, heads the roll call of this elite fraternity.  When Mildred was inducted into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame in Gardena, Calif., she became the first female super athlete to gain the distinguished accolade.

Not all the members of Cauliflower Alley developed into world titlists during their heyday inside the field of combat.

Some like Ted and Vic Christy were villainous gladiators who tormented the opposition with illegal tactics on the mat front.  Mike Mazurki was a topnotch matman in the ’30s and ’40s who took on the best in wrestling’s Who’s Who.  Mike tangled with Jimmy Londos, Stranger Lewis and Joe Stecher.

“Stranger was the best in my book.  I’d have to rate him the greatest with Londos, Stecher and Ed Don George right there,” said Mike.

The name Al Baffert may not mean as much to wrestling fans as Stranger Lewis but Baffert distinguished himself as a colorful matman in the ’20s and ’30s.  Al had over 2000 matches in 25 years and was United States Navy champion in the 1930s.  Baffert pioneered wrestling in the Phillipine Islands and later became a noted actor and stuntman in Hollywood.

George Zaharias, the popular “Crying Greek” from Michigan, was a stellar mat star in the ’30s.  He headlined at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles for many years against the likes of Jim Browning, Ed Don George, Hans Steinko, George Galza and Man Mountain Dean.  Later, the colorful Zaharias became a leading amt impressario and avid golfer and was married to one of the world’s greatest female athletes, Babe Didrickson.

Popular Dan Sebastian who wrestled for many years at the old Hollywood Legion Stadium in the ’40s, enjoys the great atmosphere and camaraderie of Cauliflower Alley.

Likewise for Count Billy Varga the former world’s kingpin who inherited his Herculean mat talents from his famous dad the Count of Hesberg.

Barone Leone and Lord Carlton, colorful matmen of noble blood, or just down-to-earth gladiators like Vic Christy, they’re all alike to the rambunctious members of Cauliflower Alley.

“Laugh to Win” is the club motto with president Mike Mazurki, the noted actor and philosopher, on had to welcome one and all.

“You don’t need a cauliflower ear to join the club, just a ready smile and hand shake,” said Mazurki. “Everyone is a champion in the club.  A super-duper human is what we want, not just world champions.”

The Cauliflower Alley gang is wrestling’s most prestigious and star-studded sports fraternity.  It’s the home base of today’s forgotten stars and yesterday’s heroes!

 


A meeting of the Cauliflower Alley Club brings together some greats and near greats of the wrestling world. 
Left to right are Ted Christy, Billy Varga, Vic Christy, Dr. Fred Myers, Tiger Marsh, Al Baffert and
Mike Mazurki, president of the club.