Wrestler Shad Gaspard (only 39) of former WWE tag team Cryme Tyme(with partner JTG) drowned last Sunday afternoon after first asking lifeguard and rescue crews who swam and rode out in dangerously choppy water to "please save my son first." And sadly about a day after California Governor Gavin Newsom had just reopened that particular beach(Los Angeles Counties' Venice Beach, of the city of Venice, CA). Shad and his son just wanted to get outside for fresh air, sun and to swim for fitness. Many others also hit that very beach in droves Sunday, unaware that there were severe rip ocean currents and tides running from Venice down to Newport Beach. Shad and his 10 year old son were pulled by the tide to a reported 300 scary yards off shore and began yelling for help when they couldn't fight the current and swim to safety. Lifeguard and squads rushed out(noting how dangerous the waves were even for them as experienced rescue squad members) to save them. Again at Shad's request, they saved his son but almost immediately after that, a huge wave took Shad down at 4:05 pm PDT Sunday. They continued searching that evening on up to late Wednesday afternoon when conditions forced them to temporarily give up the search. Early this morning, two people walking the beach found Shad's body washed ashore.
All L.A. news stations and in particular KTLA-5Los Angeles reportedly regularly since Sunday, even interrupting evening CW programing saying the lifeguards, rescue teams, etc searched well over 70 square nautical miles and along multiple beaches beyond the Venice Beach/Marina Del Rey, CA area for Shad. And that the family had already accepted the fact he probably hadn't made it after that massive rip current took him down after he first made sure his son was rescued to safety. Network area tv and radio affiliates(ABC, NBC, CBS) also began showing footage from early this morning at the beach stating that three female family members were called to the area and that at about 7:30 am, Shad's wife finally had the awful task of positively identifying the 6'7" giant as her beloved husband. All area media including the Los Angeles Times continue reflecting on what a hero Shad Gaspard was, even in his last moments.
I've personally known Shad from covering him in WWE to long after he and tag partner JTG left. They continued working for many California indie shows and promotions I was photographer for. Shad and JTG were regulars for former Roller Derby Bay Bombers skater/wrestling manager/CAC attendee Icebox Robert Smith's "Oaktown Championship Wrestling" and "Stars of Wrestling" with regular shows in the Oakland and East Bay area. Shad often helped run the locker room plus added booking ideas to what was a very diversified promotion of talent including Bobby Lashley from TNA/Impact before his return to WWE plus other African-American stars like Godfather Charles Wright(a CAC men's wrestling honoree) and Boogieman; besides Spanky Brian Kendrick JR Kratos and Jeff Cobb(all CAC attendees and international athletes). When I told Shad their Cryme Tyme gimmick was lifted straight out of Fox's popular In Living Color TV show, Shad laughed and admitted they were playing over-the-top versions of ILC's Keenan Ivory Wayans and David Allen Grier's "Mo Money" recurring character sketch. Shad also was one of the main stand-up guys during that 2007 Cow Palace Fanfest ripoff fiasco(the first-time husband and wife promoters fled the scene with the cashboxes meant to pay all the wrestlers and MMA athletes for the full three days, later even cancelling everyone's hotel room and return flights back home. Shad immediately took charge and helped set up free rides to drive the many stranded wrestling legends like former CAC President Nick Bockwinkel, Jimmy Snuka, Nicolai Volkoff, Iron Sheik, Harley Race and others to the airport to finally get back home. Shad not only stepped up to volunteer for that entire Monday after the fiasco, putting driving himself home aside, but took it all in stride continually asking "how else can I help?" Always with a smile on his face, always concerned about others before himself. He was a hero then and even more a major inspiration and hero today. He wanted to hear the whole scoop of CAC helping out one of his own heros in Brickhouse Brown several years ago. Comparisons were made after a documentary debuted globally last night(5/19/20) on tv to Owen Hart reportedly saying "look out!" as he fell to his death during a pay-per-view match, warning referee Jimmy Korderos and others to help them avoid getting hit. Few knew or had heard of Owen's equally heroic warning before last night and just hours after Shad was finally found. Shad and Owen, all your friends will continue to love and respect you both.
KTLA channel 5 was SoCal's longtime, primary pro wrestling channel during it's earliest television ratings peak soon after TV itself began airing programming. Jules Strongbow/Cal Eaton's group on KTLA aired their nationally syndicated weekly Hollywood Legion show(later Long Beach Civic and classic Olympic Auditorium/Los Angeles tv wrestling from nearly the birth of tv until 1970 with Jules doing the "locker room" interviews of CAC greats like Lou Thesz, Leo Nomellini, Baron Michelle Leone, Count Billy Varga, Fred Blassie, Rikidozan, Charlie "Mr" Moto, Bobo Brazil, Warren and son Tricky Nicky Bockwinkel, Sandor Szabo, Fabulous Kangaroos, Sharpe Brothers, Johnny(known as Cowboy Rocky) Valentine, etc legends. Later with Dick Lane calling the action and Jimmy Lennon Sr doing ring intros during it's 50's and 60's and beyond heydays. About 1969, Cal Eaton's stepson promoter Mike Lebell was forced to move the weekly show to lesser station KCOP13(the weekly L.A. one hour English-language version) while rebranding the name of the longtime "live on tape" Wednesday night show to "Lucha Libre" and hiring CAC attendee Miguel Alonso as lead commentator with Luis Magana doing color commentary. CAC honorees Gene Lebell and Jeff Walton traded off doing "locker room" interviews(which was filmed against the set of what actually was the wrestler's main, huge and heavy sliding metal door to their parking lot, but jassed up with an NWA/Sam Muchnick President blue circular sign affixed to the wall) with Alonso and Magana. That long nationally syndicated 50's and 60's Wednesday 90 minute show several years later returned to national syndication in 1971 by station KMEX, TV 34 via SIN(Spanish International Network) to Northern California, New York, Boston and part of Florida like Miami and Tampa.