Sharkey’s Shmazz – 2/8/09

People who join the Cauliflower Alley Club have their own individual reasons why they have done so. Sometimes, you hear the stories from each individual that explains these reasons. Other times, you might wonder why but never bother to ask. It is this collection of unasked questions that I hope to formulate the basis for my future columns.

The first few years I attended CAC reunions, I didn’t have an agenda other than to have the experience my broadcasting friends like Dale Spear and Mick Karch told me I owed to myself. These guys helped me to bridge the remnants of my active time in wrestling to a place where I could share my experiences, learn even more from some all time ring greats, and continue to be a student of the game. I’ve attended CAC’s reunion every year since 2003, making it a priority to schedule vacation time for it. The people I meet and the knowledge I’ve gained is priceless. The ten years I spent as a wrestling fan and the dozen years afterward trying to be a viable part of the business give me a great sense of enjoyment when I can pass that passion along, sharing it with fellow members young and old.

But as much as I manage to connect with old friends and make a few new ones each year, I see many familiar faces who I have never spoken with. What are their reasons for coming? Which wrestlers did they enjoy seeing in their youth? What part of the country or world are they from? And perhaps the questions I might ask of them first and foremost: are they enjoying their CAC experience, and what could make it better?

I understand the fact there is only so much time to spend with people each year, and someone will always miss out on the chance to renew an acquaintance or meet a person they have plans to introduce themselves to. But many CAC members might enjoy chatting with someone they haven’t yet met; if only they knew what some of their common interests were.

In talking with Morgan Dollar, who will be updating the website regularly, he agreed to set up an email address for me where members can correspond. You can email me at Tell me what your interests in wrestling are or maybe you have a project you want to publicize. Send a photo of yourself; maybe we’ve passed by each other at the gimmick tables and never spoken. From one column to the next, maybe we can give our fellow members a reason to approach each other that they might otherwise never act on. If we can put a name with a face and their interests, we’ve taken a large step into making our large membership a bit more intimate. These days, they call it social networking, with the websites like LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace providing the tools to make these kinds of connections. Perhaps, though, you need a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

Since I’ve been coming to CAC reunions in 2003, I have had encounters that should have led to me trying to learn more. In elevators I’ve run across Killer Brooks and Bullman Downs; I should have asked more about their efforts to keep their training camps and shows alive and well in Texas. Another elevator yielded a man working on finding career information on British wrestler Bert Asirati. In 2005 I noticed Jack Kruger in attendance; he’s wrestled as The Iranian Assassin, The Bounty Hunter, Sheik Abdullah and a number of other personas; I wish I’d spent a few minutes to ask him how easy it was to morph in and out of his roles from one area to another.

More existential questions to chew on: What was it like for female wrestlers to get bookings if they didn’t have a Moolah or Billy Wolfe representing them? What unique qualities do you remember from certain buildings, like the Saddledome in Calgary, the Portland Sports Arena, or the Madison Square Garden in Phoenix? Who remembers anything about Harry “Georgia Boy” Smith, Danno O’ Shocker, Gregory Jarque from Spain, or George “Catalina” Drake? What are some of the worst driving loops to make across the continent? Was Bob Freed really as friendly as advertised? How did a wrestler pack for a week long trip; what helped keep your sanity on the road, and what would it take for you to lose it?

What was the atmosphere like for a tour in Germany, where the matches were held at one venue for weeks at a time…and what kept the crowds interested to come back? Can you make a successful living doing only one aspect of the business, like building rings or making boots or working in the booking office? Was it a tougher case to be a Russian or German heel after World War II because of fan sentiment, or because of a glut of wrestlers saturating those spots in various promotions? What referees counted too fast or too slow? Who was too stiff between the ropes that couldn’t help themselves? What restaurants became legendary as being wrestler-friendly, and by contrast, which places were sure to cause a riot? What passed for a ring bell when the promotions didn’t have one? Do you recall a card that had to be totally rebooked due to bad weather or other unforeseen reasons?

This column will be exactly what it’s titled; a schmazz of people who have answers to the questions I’ve posed above. They’ll be wrestlers, referees, and the fans who came out to see them every week. If you choose to email me, you might find out about someone who shares your interests in the process. By looking back at your careers and your childhood memories, I hope the column will be something you’ll look forward to.

Jeff Sharkey

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