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New Artist Supplies Grappling by Gaslight Cover

From day one, I’ve enjoyed working with independent artists and designers on the book covers for Eat Sleep Wrestle. It’s always been a point of pride for me, and many of my long time readers appreciate the variety and uniqueness of the book cover art we’ve commissioned.

Grappling by Gaslight is a project that has percolated for more than five years, and I wanted something special. I wanted original art that would capture the spirit of the stories within and the era depicted. I put out an open call on Facebook, and my friend Korey Dawson jumped on it.

Korey is proprietor of the most dangerous bookstore in the civilized world, Paradox City Books and Games. It’s a little place on Main Street in Rising Sun, Indiana, not far from the casino, and it’s so worth the extra drive from Cincinnati, Lexington, or Louisville if you’re ever in the area. You might want to message him first through the store’s Facebook page to make sure he will be open.

Korey is not an artist himself, but his friend James Grant is. Korey had mentioned James to me in the past as a guy who didn’t know how talented he was and needed someone to show him he could actually make money at this. Korey put us in touch, and I pitched James the idea.

A day later, Korey messaged me excitedly. “I’m sitting next to James, and you have to see this!” He sent me screen shots of two pencil sketches that became part of the final design. I knew I was going to get the cover I wanted.

James crafted a beautiful book cover that I cannot wait to see in actual print. I’m proud to say I was his first paid client, and it was well worth taking a chance on a new and talented artist.

I asked James where I could send people who admired his work and might wish it hire him for themselves. He says you can add him on Facebook and also visit him on DeviantArt. Click the links, and enjoy.

Thank you, James, and thank you Korey. I’m very excited about this book!

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Midnight Girl Fight Returns Thanksgiving Eve

As soon as Halloween is over, I’m ready for Christmas. I was jamming to “Christmas in Hollis” right after I dropped my kids at a friend’s house to go trick or treating last Thursday night. I’ll have Christmas decorations sorted next weekend, my outside lights hung (but not yet lit) the following weekend, and five full sized Christmas lit and decked the weekend after that. And yes, I’m already rolling with purchasing Christmas presents.

That’s not to say I am overlooking the last week of November. No way! I’ll be up at 9 am Thanksgiving morning, watching the Macy’s Parade and preparing the creamed corn, the sweet potatoes, and the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s house. But before that happens I’ll be staying up late Wednesday night to catch this year’s edition of Midnight Girl Fight.

“Pick Your Poison” is the theme for the second ever Thanksgiving Midnight Girl Fight, and the eight ladies competing on Wednesday November 27 beginning at 11:59 pm have all chosen a male tag team partner for the occasion. Eight intergender teams will compete in a winner take all tournament, and the lineup is stellar.

The Bomb Shelter will be in the house, with Randi West bringing husband Joseph Schwartz as her partner. Charlie Kruel has teamed up with Akira, and Girl Fight’s current number one contender Ella will be teamed up with Titan. Teen sweetheart Billie Starkz has chosen her IFHY stablemate Jonathan Wolf as her partner, and Wolf’s regular partner Shawn Kemp will be tagging with Allie Kat.

The newly crowned Shimmer champion Kimber Lee will be making her long-awaited return to Girl Fight for Pick Your Poison. In her corner is current Impact star and a member of the Rascalz, Zachary Wentz. Joseline Navarro has to be considered a heavy favorite given that her partner is none other than the powerful heavyweight Calvin Tankman, but it’s the final pairing announced today that will no doubt get the most attention. Girl Fight founder and Deathmatch Hall of Famer Mad Man Pondo has teamed up with a true Girl Fight legend. Making her long awaited return to the ring, after a year’s absence, it’s former Girl Fight champion Mickie Knuckles!

It’s anybody’s guess which poison paring will claim victory, but it’s a sure bet you will miss all the action if you wait until after the turkey is done to show up at the Arena. Midnight Girl Fight begins Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, at 11:59 pm. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Mad Man Pondo on Facebook. Click here to visit his page and send him a message now!

 

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Hurricane for Hire in 2020!

For almost 50 years, Hurricane JJ Maguire has been making music with the Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart. The pair met in 1971, when JJ won an audition to become the new drummer for The Gentrys, laying down the beats on their hit single “Cinnamon Girl.” Since that time, Jimmy Hart has relied on JJ Maguire to be the music to his lyrics, and the two of them composed some of the most iconic songs in wrestling history.

“Sexy Boy.” “Cool Cocky Bad.” “American Made.” “Demolition.” Jimmy Hart and JJ Maguire penned 114 pieces of music for WWF and WCW including the entrance themes for Bret Hart, Greg Valentine, Jimmy Snuka, The Million Dollar Man, the Nasty Boys, and many more. They were also the music and lyrics on Hulk Hogan’s solo album “Hulk Rules,” and they teamed up to form the beachside bar house band on Hulk’s TV show Thunder in Paradise.

Outside of wrestling the Hurricane had his own solo adventures playing in bands and working for a recording studio in Hollywood, California. He shot pool with Jackie Gleason, talked cars with Henry Winkler, talked Kentucky burgoo with Bob Hope, and even got a kiss from Farrah Fawcett.

In spite of all his success, JJ Maguire was content living a humble, quiet life back in his hometown of Somerset, Kentucky. That is until the day his son came home from school and asked, “Dad, is it true you wrote all those wrestling songs back in the 80s?” Inspired by his kids, the Hurricane chose to come out of retirement and share his story, now chronicled in his autobiography My Life in Heaven Town. Looking ahead to 2020, the Hurricane is looking to get out on the road to meet the fans and even perform a little music.

Hurricane JJ Maguire is currently scheduled to appear in East Elmhurst, New York on November 16 courtesy of Monte and the Pharaoh. He is also booked at the New England Fan Fest in Warwick, Rhode Island in July 2020. He is available for appearances to sign autographs, give interviews (including podcasts), work as a master of ceremonies, appear ringside with talent, and even perform a little music.

If you’re interested in scheduling Hurricane JJ Maguire for your event you can contact him directly. Email him at hurricanejj53@gmail.com to get the ball rolling. You can also email me at johncosper@yahoo.com if you’re interested in having both of us attend and event.

JJ Maguire loves meeting the fans and he’s an energetic and dynamic storyteller. It’s long past time he had a chance to have his own story told!

 

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New Book Announcement: Grappling by Gaslight

It’s fitting that I am packing up a copy of Bluegrass Brawlers just purchased from my website tonight. Fitting because the first wrestling book I ever wrote has been the gift that keeps on giving. Not only did Bluegrass Brawlers lead to opportunities to work with Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin, “Dr. D” David Schultz, Mad Man PondoHurricane JJ Maguire, and Tracy Smothers, it inspired three more books on its own.

By the time I finished Bluegrass Brawlers, I knew I wanted to write at last three more books: one on Heywood Allen, one on Jim Mitchell, and one about the wrestlers of the 1880s. I wrote a thorough history of Heywood Allen’s promotion in the book Louisville’s Greatest Show, and I released Jim Mitchell’s biography The Original Black Panther earlier this year. Now, finally, there’s a book about the circus wrestlers and barnstormers of the 19th century on the way.

Grappling by Gaslight is not a history, but historical fiction based on the real life stories from the time. It’s a collection of five short stories inspired by the exploits of Ida Alb and her sister Mademoiselle Marcia; former slave Viro Small; strongman Robert Pennell and his rival Charles Flynn; and many more. I wanted to capture the spirit of the times, allowing readers to see these legendary wrestlers through the eyes of the fans, and early reviews have been very positive.

Grappling by Gaslight will be available by Christmas through this website and Amazon. It’s a short book, less than 110 pages of actual story, but it’s laced with romance, humor, and even a dash of murder. It’s going to be a treat for anyone who loves a good rasslin’ tale.

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Because Six Books in One Year Wasn’t Enough

It’s been a busy year. I’ve released four wrestling novellas, one biography, and one autobiography in the last 10 months. I’m also hard at work on a spring 2020 release with Tracy Smothers that will blow you away.

I guess it wasn’t enough for me though. Three weeks ago, I started work on a long-dreamed of project. It took me less than a week to complete a first draft. A wrestling historian friend who will remain secret for now proofed the first draft, and it’s now in the hands of a second.

This is an historical fiction project, and like Black Panther and Louisville’s Greatest Show, it’s an idea that first sprouted back in the early days of writing Bluegrass Brawlers.

Title and cover reveal soon.

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Hurricane JJ Maguire Book Preview: Wrestlemania II

Hurricane JJ Maguire was the music to Jimmy Hart’s lyrics on more than 100 songs for WWF and WCW. He had a ringside seat – literally – for some of the greatest moments in the early days of the WWF and Wrestlemania, and his memoir, My Life in Heaven Town, is jammed full of stories about wrestling, music, and Hollywood. 

The following is an excerpt from the book selected by JJ Maguire himself. It’s about his first trip to Wrestlemania, and it begins as many of his adventures begin, with a phone call from Jimmy Hart. 

Jimmy Hart called me up one day and said, “Maguire, I’m coming out there with WWF for Wrestlemania. I don’t know my way around LA,” said Jimmy. “The only other time I went out there was when I did a bikini beach movie with the Gentrys. Can you show me around?” I told him I would be glad to.

I picked Jimmy up at the airport along with one of the wrestlers he was managing: King Kong Bundy. Bundy got in the front seat, and I took the two of them to the hotel. They were sharing a room together, so we went upstairs and I sat on the bed while they got unpacked. We watched TV for a bit, and then Bundy decided he was thirsty.

“Do you and Maguire want a Coke? I’m going to go get a drink.” 

“Sure, Buns,” said Jimmy. “I’d love a Coke.” 

Bundy left the room, and the two of us went back to watching TV. It was pretty quiet in the hotel, and we were having a nice conversation when all of the sudden – CRASH! BAM BOOM! We heard a terrible noise and felt the floor shake. 

“Maguire!” said Jimmy. “It’s an earthquake!” 

“No, Jimmy,” I said. “I’ve been out here long enough to know what one feels like. That wasn’t an earthquake.”  

Jimmy’s face dropped. “Oh my gosh. That must be Bundy. Go down and see if you can find out what happened.” Jimmy didn’t want to get involved so lucky me, he sent me to find out what happened. 

I went down the hall and around the corner to where the vending machines were and saw a Coke machine overturned and smashed. This wasn’t the kind of soda machine you see today with the plastic front. This was solid metal, and it was in about forty pieces. It looked like an atomic bomb hit it. 

Bundy was standing there drinking a Coke. “What happened?” I asked. 

Bundy nodded to what was left of the machine. “That damn thing ripped me off, and I’m not taking it. I body slammed the machine.” 

I looked and saw Cokes everywhere. It’s a wonder none of them burst. 

“Hold your hands out, Maguire,” said Bundy. I held my arms out, and he loaded me down with about twenty Cokes, and he grabbed an armload for himself. We started walking back down the hall, and Bundy was handing them out to other hotel guests as we passed them. 

We walked back in the room, and Jimmy sat up. “What happened down there, Buns?” 

“The machine ripped me off, so I body slammed it. We don’t have to worry about running out of Cokes for the weekend.” 

“Okay,” said Jimmy, and not another word was said about it. We had plenty of beverages to last us the weekend, and we enjoyed every one of them. 

When it came time for the show, which took place at the Coliseum, Jimmy and Bundy took me with them. This was Wrestlemania II, and even though I didn’t work for the company, I had full access to everything. 

Wrestlemania II was a star-studded event, and I got to meet some great people that day… The biggest thrill for me that weekend was getting to meet the legendary Robert Conrad, who starred in the classic TV show The Wild Wild West. Robert Conrad was the guest timekeeper for Wrestlemania II in Los Angeles. I was such a huge fan of Robert Conrad growing up, meeting Elvis would not have been as big for me. Bob, as I came to know him, brought his grandson with him that day, and we walked all over the arena that night, from set up all the way through the show that night. We spent the whole day together, getting to know one another. 

What impressed me most about him wasn’t just as he was nice (he was!) but how massive he is in person. When he was getting his tuxedo on right before show time, I reached around him and gave him a hug from the side. I’ve since given that same side hug to wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan. Hulk is big, but I swear to you, Robert Conrad was even bigger around the shoulders! 

Bob invited Red and his son to come backstage later on that evening. The two of them were old friends, so much so that when he was alive, Elvis was jealous of Robert Conrad because he and Red were so close. 

When Wrestlemania II came to a close, I said goodbye to Jimmy and the WWF and went back to my work with Glen Glenn Studio. I was working a lot of hours at Glen Glenn with some amazingly talented people, but I had no idea that I would soon become a part of the growing entertainment juggernaut that was the World Wrestling Federation. 

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Two new releases for October!

It’s October. It’s Halloween. And two of the creepiest ladies in independent wrestling want you to read their stories!

Charlie Kruel: Escape from VHS Hell is now available to pre-order, and all copies ordered through Eat Sleep Wrestle will come signed by Charlie Kruel and John Cosper. Escape from VHS Hell is the story of two horror fans who accidentally unleash some of Hollywood’s notorious serial killers in real life thanks to a cursed VCR. Their only hope is to bring one more psycho killer to life to defeat these monsters: the ahead-of-her-time VHS horror queen Charlie Kruel!

Ella: Wrestling with Madness is a chilling ghost story about an aspiring wrestler named Ben who is on the verge of signing with the biggest wrestling company in the world. But a chance encounter with a beautiful girl named Elizabeth plunges him into a terrifying ghost story filled with jealousy, revenge, and murder.

Charlie and Ella will both have books for sale at a show near you by the end of the month. Once again, you can pre-order Charlie’s book signed by Charlie and John right here at eatsleepwrestle.com. Click here to order.

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Lucha Libro a Smash in Indy

I have to admit, I had my doubts. It was Friday when I learned that the streets on either side of the Central Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library would be shut down Saturday morning. I was emailed a pass and given instructions for getting the police to allow me to pass through into the parking garage, but I knew that everyone who wanted to attend the Lucha Libro event would really, really have to want to get there to deal with traffic, road closures, and the parade.

My daughter and I arrived just before 9 am. Turns out we were one of the lucky few the police allowed to enter the garage. By 9:30, all vendors were being turned away and made to park elsewhere. The library staff was nervous. “The parade was supposed to be next weekend,” one of them told me. The guys who organized the event from La Sardina remained optimistic, but with only a handful of vendors set up and waiting by the time the building opened at 10 am, we were all wondering if the event would be a bust.

It was anything but a bust!

Lucha Libro was a first of its kind free event celebrating of Lucha Libre wrestling hosted in the gorgeous atrium of the downtown Indianapolis library. The event included vendors of wrestling memorabilia, arts and crafts related to Lucha culture, and of course, lots and lots of Lucha Libre wrestling. In spite of the traffic and parking situation, the crowd began to gather for the day’s festivities as soon as the doors opened. I don’t know where they parked or how far they had to walk, but no one seemed to mind. It was a beautiful day, and the families and fans that braved the traffic situation came ready to have fun.

The wrestling got under way around 11:30, about half an hour after it was scheduled to start, and fans were treated to some terrifically entertaining matches. There were plenty of masked men and luchadores performing death-defying aerials and acrobatic maneuvers, but there are some surprise treats that delighted the indy wrestling fans in attendance. Not only did Calvin Tankman put in an appearance, delighting the crowd in the “technico” role by squashing a “rudo” who insulted the crowd, we also got Dylan Bostic vs. Dale Patrick, a match my friend Randy (the guy who got me into wrestling books all those years ago) commented he would have paid to see.

It took the non-wrestling fans and kids a while to get into the spirit of things. The bi-lingual master of ceremonies, who did a tremendous job all day, brought the crowd along by explaining the good vs. evil nature of Lucha Libre and helping the new fans know how to play along. By the third match of the day people were beginning to get into the spirit, and when the first luchadore took to the air, flying over the top rope to land on an opponent, the gasp from the crowd was magical.

By the end of the afternoon, when technico Jake Omen won a title vs. hair match to save his long locks and win the Lucha championship, the crowd in the atrium had easily swelled to near 300. “Any independent promoter would kill for a crowd like this,” Randy commented.

Many of the fans who came early stayed for the full day’s activities, and folks who just happened to be visiting the library ended up sticking around as well. I had a fantastic time not only enjoying the wrestling with my daughter (who was seeing wrestling live for the first time) but sharing a table full of Jim Mitchell memorabilia with fans.

I don’t know if the library and the boys from La Sardina have plans for the future, but I would say the event was a smash hit. Here’s hoping this becomes an annual tradition.

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Hall of Fame Induction Sheds New Light on Stu Gibson

I just got back from the my alma mater, New Albany High School. I was in attendance at a banquet with Stu Gibson’s sisters Mary Lou Heinz and Linda Berger and my wife Jessica to induct Stu into the Hall of Fame. In my speech I told a story I have told many times before about a boy from nearby Jeffersonville and Stu’s car. You can click the link to read the full story, but here’s the paraphrase from my speech, as I was discussing Stu’s run in Louisville as a heel:

“While fans in New Albany and Louisville felt betrayed by Stu, hating Stu Gibson came easily to the fans of the Jeffersonville Red Devils. One night in 1952 when Stu wrestled at the Fieldhouse in Jeffersonville, a Jeff High freshman named Billy Tanner climb on top of the marquee sign in front of the gym and jumped onto the roof of Stu’s convertible, collapsing the top. Billy ran and hid with his friends to watch and laugh when Stu came out and saw the damage to his car.

“Three decades later, Billy told the story about Stu’s car to a work colleague, never suspecting that the work colleague was Stu’s brother-in-law. The next time Stu came into town, another lunch was arranged. When Tanner walked into the restaurant, Stu’s brother-in-law gave a signal. Stu caught Tanner in a headlock and said, ‘Do you know who I am? I’ve been looking for you for thirty years!'”

About fifteen minutes later a man named James Morris got up for his induction into the Hall of Fame. Mr. Morris was a staff member at New Albany for eight years, but he was a graduate of Jeffersonville High School.

“If you were to have told high school me I would one day be inducted into the New Albany High School Hall of Fame, I’d have said you were crazy. New Albany and jeffersonville hated each other back then. In fact we weren’t allowed to play each other in sports, except in state tournaments, because there had been so many riots.”

Then Morris added. “I remember Stu Gibson’s car. I disavow any role in the incident, but I saw the car!”

After the ceremony, Mary Lou and I made our way over to Mr. Morris, who reasserted he had nothing to do with the car but told us what he remembered. “I’ll tell you how they did it, though. We had a guy named Tiny Hall, who was probably 6’9″ huge guy. Stu had parked his Studebaker right by the sign. Tiny was the guy who lifted Billy up on the sign, and then Billy jumped down on the roof.”

Talk about serendipity.

Much congratulations to Mary Lou, Linda, and the entire Gibson family on Stu’s induction. Congrats to the innocent bystander Mr. Morris as well, and all the 2019 Hall of Fame class. What a great afternoon.

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Updated Fall Schedule

One show is in the books on my fall book tour. Here are your next three chances to catch me at a show!

Saturday, September 28

Lucha Libro at the Indianapolis Central Library – 10 am – 3 pm

An amazing event celebrating Lucha culture featuring artwork, films, exhibits, and of course – Lucha Libre wrestling. I will have books available for sale, and I will be bringing some of the Black Panther Jim Mitchell’s artifacts to display.

 

Saturday, October 5

Heroes and Legends – Allen Co. War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana

I’m returning to Heroes and Legends with both Hurricane JJ Maguire and Mad Man Pondo this fall. We’ll have copies of both of their books available, plus other titles.

 

Wednesday, November 27

Midnight Girl Fight 4: Pick Your Poison – The Arena in Jeffersonville, Indiana

What’s better than a Girl Fight show? A Midnight Girl Fight Show of course! For the second year in a row, the ladies will do battle in the wee hours of the morning before turkey day. Bell time is at 11:59 pm, on minute before midnight, and this year’s “Pick Your Poison” event will be a mixed tag team tournament.

And yes, since it is Black Friday weekend, I will be offering some deals exclusively for the Girl Fight fans in attendance!