We're still grieving the loss of our friend Pat who I'd known since the early seventies in both the San Francisco and Los Angeles wrestling offices, my two home-base promotions as a ringside and backstage photographer for the programs sold in both territories.
Pat first attended CAC in 1996, where he received one of our few unnamed "surprise" awards delivered by then President Lou Thesz right to Pat's front row table seat where we sat also with Ray Stevens, Bobby Heenan(his first CAC), Pepper Gomez, Don Manoukian(who worked with Pat in S.F., L.A. and Portland) and CAC legend Pepper Martin. All of these men were CAC honorees and part of Pat's long in-ring history(Ray that year on-stage received his Men's Award and it was his only CAC before we lost him) and Pepper Martin has been a lead host and M.C. for us in years past. But Pepper was instrumental in referring young Pat to San Francisco promoter Roy Shire in 1966 telling Roy on the phone "this kid really has potential and looks like a young Ray. He could pass for his younger brother if you team them up." Roy brought him in and Pat created magic for a decade at the Cow Palace and all of Roy's other empire venues like the San Jose Civic, Sacramento Municipal Aud and more with year after year of sell-outs. And when Lou announced that he and our board(which I was on at the time)had decided to give Pat a surprise plaque for all his contributions to the biz, Pat broke down and cried. It was a great moment with everyone giving him a standing O.
That year was a special CAC because international promoters were all in town for Antonio Inoki and New Japan's World Wrestling Peace Festival that was coming up there in Los Angeles at the famed Sports Arena. And Pat was one of the earliest Inoki brought into NJPW to give it initial credibility after first bringing in Thesz, Karl Gotch and then bringing in Johnny Powers. Pat and Powers dropped the NWF World Tag Title to Inoki and Seiji Sakaguchi in 1974 and those titles are now the celebrated(and renamed)IWGP Tag Championships. Inoki, Sakaguchi from NJPW; some CMLL/EMLL representatives, Japanese female legends Chigusa Nagoya and Devil Masami as well as CAC first timers Stan Hansen and Ted Debiase, amongst many others. It was one of our biggest international nights. Barry Blaustein was filming pre-production footage for his upcoming Beyond the Mat documentary at our CAC Sportsman's Lodge Hotel during the day with Pat, Ray, Heenan, Nick Bockwinkel, Ted Dibiase, Tiger Conway Sr, WCW Producer and Talent Eric Bischoff and others. Any time Pat saw Inoki at a CAC, magic and emotion would be on full display as here. That was replicated in 2002 at our CAC with Jack Brisco beaming at seeing his old friends Pat and Inoki. Jack brought fellow Florida and global legends Buddy Colt and Paul Jones with him who put Pat in repeat bearhugs.
When we moved CAC to Las Vegas in 2000, Pat attended many of them and for four years in a row, ended our main awards night by singing his rendition of Sinatra's My Way with all honorees and many other workers on stage behind him. WWE in their recent RAW, NXT and Smackdown tv tributes masterfully wove footage of Pat singing it meshed with that of Sinatra's original version. The footage of Pat singing it was from a WWE Montreal "Thank You Pat" event filmed several years ago. But Pat sang that at every fanfest I dragged him to including a 2005 WrestleReunion in Tampa and a non-WWE one in Northern California a few years later right in front of Bret Hart. The night before, we drove Pat to one of his favorite restaurants in the world, and one he often dined at after Cow Palace spectaculars in Westlake Joe's. Pat loved Vegas because he could golf during the day. I'm trying to dig up my photos of him playing with Ted Dibiase and several other former name CAC honorees when we held CAC at the Union-Plaza on Fremont Street at a nearby course.
Pat usually said in his speeches at the podium, that life had to always have an element of fun and helping others or it wasn't worth living. When he spotted one of his heroes at CAC in Sputnick Monroe(who fought promoters to allow Black fans to sit anywhere they wanted to watch him wrestle in Memphis instead of only in balcony seats)he playfully poured some of his bright red Cosmopolitan(a Pat fave)over Sput's head, yelling "gimmick!" Rather than get upset, Sput said "Pat, you shoulda poured that into my catheter I've got right here!") That was just Pat being playful as his ribs were usually gentle. "I only rib the ones I love," he'd always say.
At a CAC-affiliated Moolah and Mae Young LIWA event in 1994 also in Vegas, former CAC Prez Red Bastien wore Road Warrior Zubaz while onstage helping induct All Japan Women greats Akira Hokuto and Bull Nakano. Pat snuck behind Red and pantsed him exposing Red's "shortcomings." Akira and Bull(as well as their mothers gasped and then laughed)while Pat and Red were already in hysterics.
Pat exhibited courage in living his life the way he chose and he eventually came out on a WWE House sitcom show with Roddy Piper, Gene Okerlund, Howard Finkel and other CACers. But pretty much all the boys had known since the late 1960's Pat was gay. And none seemed to care which at the time could not have occurred in other professional sports(meaning wrestling was ahead of it's time in terms of tolerance and acceptance back then).
Pat is deservedly called a genius for all his booking, TV and PPV, motivational and creative brilliance he brought to first Vince McMahon Sr and then his son. Whenever I'd ask him where he got all that he'd say as he did in 2007 "really from all the promoters and great minds I met and worked with over the years. Like Bill Watts I got to work and absorb like a sponge from the best like Roy Shire, the Vachons, Red Bastien, Ray and Nick, Heenan was always brilliant, Verne Gagne, Eddie Graham, Vince Sr and so many others along the way. You combine all the great things from each and make them your own. Roy Shire's every-January 18-man-battle-royals were looked forward to by our fans as their biggest event of the year as often there were surprise names brought in just for that one night. And that was partly my inspiration for the Royal Rumble. Bring surprises and happiness to the people. If that's genius, ok. It's genius. I just always loved this business which I consider to be genius itself."