Tagged in: gorgeous george

Lou Thesz vs. Gorgeous George

The Champ vs. the Human Orchid… it happened in Louisville. Thesz and George met on November 27, 1954 at the Jefferson County Armory (now the Louisville Gardens).

Thesz and George split the first two falls, but George refused to come out for the third fall while a “physician” examined George’s injuries. The unidentified medic said he believed George could go on, but George was reluctant. He finally decided to go to the ring, but as he was making his way to the ring, referee (and LPD homicide detective) Ellis Joseph was already raising Thesz’s hand, declaring him the winner.

Earlier in the evening, “The Mask”  defeated New Albany native Stu Gibson via DQ, Sonny Meyers drew with Johnny Valentine, and Billy Blassie defeated Sgt. Buck Moore. 4200 attendance.

Below is the Saturday newspaper ad for the big event, plus a page from a notebook kept by then-teenage fan Jim Oetkins, recording the results from the night.

Louisville Wrestling Talk on the 6:05 Superpodcast!

Episode 67 of the 6:05 Superpodcast is now available for download. It was my pleasure to do an interview with The Great Brian Last this week about the lost history of Louisville wrestling covered in the new book, Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club. Brian and I cover everything from promoters Heywood Allen and Francis McDonogh to Lou Thesz, Gorgeous George, Buddy Rogers, Bill Longson, Elvira Snodgrass, and more. We cover tag teams, midgets, masked men, bears, alligators, and even weddings.

The 6:05 Superpodcast is a must-listen for die hards, and Brian Last does a phenomenal job bringing the stories of yesteryear to life through a variety of guests and regular segments. Download the 6:05 Superpodcast on iTunes or visit 605pod.com and listen today.

Louisville’s Greatest Show is now available on Amazon.com

Louisville’s Greatest Show – Coming Soon!

Coming Soon!!

For 22 years, the Allen Athletic Club’s weekly wrestling show at the Columbia Gym was the place to be on Tuesday night. Promoters Heywood Allen and his successors Francis and Betty McDonogh overcame the Great Depression, the 1937 flood, a World War, and a “crooked” athletic commissioner to bring the best of the golden age of wrestling to Louisville.

Now for the first time, author John Cosper (Bluegrass Brawlers) presents the full story of “That Gang of Allen’s,” the wrestlers, referees, announcers, and others who made Tuesday Louisville’s favorite night of the week. This is the story of the true golden age of wrestling, when men and women wore their Sunday best to see hometown heroes like Blacksmith Pedigo, Kid Scotty Williams, Stu Gibson, Mel Meiners, Sgt. Buck Moore, and “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell mix it up with Lou Thesz, Gorgeous George, the French Angel, Buddy Rogers, Freddie Blassie, Johnny Valentine, Mildred Burke, Mae Young, Bobo Brazil, and Ginger the Wrestling Bear.

From mud matches to masked men; from Wild Bill Cantrell to Wild Bill Longson; from live TV to live alligators, the Allen Athletic Club was Louisville’s Greatest Show. This is the story of Louisville’s first great wrestling promotion and the families that made wrestling a vital part of the city they loved.

Louisville’s Greatest Show will be released in March!

The Tale of Lord Leslie Carlton

It was my honor to spend a year working with the daughter of Lord Leslie Carlton on his biography. Lord Carlton isn’t as well-remembered as many of his contemporaries, but he was one of the biggest draws in the 1950s.

Born Leo Whippern and descended from Hungarian royalty, Carlton began his wrestling career as “Sailor” Tug Carlson. He rode the roughhouse sailor gimmick as far as it would take him and then transformed himself into a main event star in the 1950s, becoming the English royal Lord Carlton.

Carlton’s legacy has been overshadowed by the great Gorgeous George, who had a similar gimmick, but neither man copied the other. In fact both of them copied off the original wrestling aristocrat, Lord Patrick Lansdowne. Carlton was successful enough in the ring to retire in style. He spent his latter years managing real estate and enjoying his first love, painting. But it was not a happy ever after ending. Carlton’s first wife was murdered by his own son, and he survived multiple attempts on his own life perpetrated by his second wife!

Lord Carlton led an amazing life. He is an icon of a bygone era, a super heel whose story every aspiring modern heel should read. Even if you’re not into all that “rasslin'” talk, you’ll be thrilled to see just how many times he cheated death at the hands of his own bride.

Lord Carlton’s story is available on Amazon.com with a brand new book cover.

A Dangerous Book in the Wrong Hands!

Fans of Tier 1, and wrestling fans everywhere, I am sorry.

I have done a terrible thing.

After hearing Mr. Darius Carter, the current Tier 1 Wresting Champion on the Kick Out at Two Podcast, I got in touch with him to tell him how much I enjoyed the interview and admired his appreciation for wrestling history. I shared with him the books I had written, and I offered to send him a few if he wanted to have a look. Mr. Carter thanked me for the offer and asked for a copy of a biography, Lord Carlton.

Mr. Carter seemed like such a nice man, and he was so gracious to me on email. I had no idea Mr. Carter was one of the most dastardly villains on the East Coast. Now, with the biography of one of the most hated and reviled villains of the 1950s in his possession, I fear I might have only made things worse.

Lord Carlton was a monster. Sure, he dressed nice and conducted himself with the grace of a gentleman, but he as nasty as they came. Like Mr. Carter, Carlton was not a “sports entertainer, nor was he the kind of guy who “wanted to get his spots in.” He believed in winning at any cost, and there was no low too low for him to stoop.

Will Mr. Carter adopt some of Lord Carlton’s dirty deeds as his own? Will he follow Carlton’s lead by traveling to the far east to pick up a sinister Swami to assist him in his conquests? Whatever happens, I take full responsibility.

If you want to see Darius Carter, he’s currently taking the Tier 1 title around the United States on a rampage of destruction. If you want to know more about Lord Carlton and see where Mr. Carter may be headed, you can read about him only in the pages of Lord Carlton: Wrestler, Artist, My Father.

One Road Ends, Another Begins

One year and a day ago, I sat in a coffee house in New Albany, doing research on the Allen Athletic Club, the wrestling promotion that entertained Louisville for 22 years from 1935-1957. It was there that I finally stumbled upon an article I had searched nearly two years to find: Heywood Allen’s obituary. The article told me that Allen was buried in Jeffersonville, just fifteen minutes away. I raced out in the rain and found the final resting place of the promoter, his wife, and his ill-fated son Heywood, Jr.

Today the story of Allen and his partners Francis S. McDonogh and Betty McDonogh is nearly complete. Louisville’s Greatest Show  is stacked with stories and photos that haven’t been seen in decades from the era of Lou Thesz, Mildred Burke, Gorgeous George, Wild Bill Longson, Bobo Brazil, and Buddy Rodgers, as well as local heroes like Mel Meiners, Wild Bill Cantrell, Stu Gibson, and more. There’s some proofreading and fact checking to do, plus a book cover to finish, but the book will be ready to read in March.

Fifteen minutes ago, sitting in a Dunkin Donuts in Louisville, I opened a new file on my laptop and began work on my next book. There’s a new story to tell, a new autobiography, and this one’s going to be a ton of fun. If you want to know who it is, give the video below a look.

Crowbar Press: A gold mine of golden age wrestling

Just passing on a quick plug for my friends at Crowbar Press. They currently have 25 wrestling titles available with four new ones on the way. Hooker and Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George? are two of my personal favorites, books I highly recommend to any wrestling fan. Visit them at www.crowbarpress.com to see what else they have to offer.

15492086_10211403899964084_8245603190117055_n

The Legend of Wild Bill Cantrell

If you’re a fan of racing on the road or the water, the name Wild Bill Cantrell might sound familiar. Cantrell’s wrestling career was not a long one, lasting not even a decade if we go by newspaper dates, but Cantrell is duly enshrined in the Motorsports Hall of Fame for another sport: Unlimited Hydroplane Racing.

Not much is known about Cantrell’s early days. He was born in West Point, Kentucky in 1908, and by his account, his family lived in “dire poverty.” Despite his early disadvantages, Cantrell was an ambitious young man, competing in his first boat race in 1924.

Cantrell was piloting an Outboard motor in a race on the Ohio River early in his career when he lost control of his boat and crashed through anchor chains and moored spectator vessels. The incident earned him the nickname “Wild Bill,” one he proudly wore in all of his sporting endeavors. Cantrell scored his first major boat victory in 1927. Only 19 at the time, Cantrell won the Ohio Valley Championship for Class B Outboards.

Cantrell took up wrestling in the early 1930s at the Savoy Club, where he first got to know matchmaker Heywood Allen. Cantrell was one of many who followed Allen when he went into business for himself. He appeared on the inaugural card for the Allen Club in 1935, appearing as the Louisville representative in a “Louisville vs. Kentucky” match against Billy Fruechtenicht. Cantrell lost the match.

Cantrell once squared off with one of the greatest heels in wrestling history, though a the time, the heel had yet to come into his truest form. On September 28, 1937, he defeated a dark-haired Californian named George Wagner, who was a few years away from becoming the legendary heel Gorgeous George. In 1939 he wrestled “Sailor” Bully Curry as well as Lon Chaney – who it turns out was no relation at all to the iconic horror movie family.

Cantrell was a regular for the Savoy and later Allen Clubs who came out on the winning side more often than not, but Cantrell’s first love remained racing. He continued to compete in boat races throughout the 1930s, and he may likely have dabbled in other sporting arenas as well. A July 1935 article about the Allen Club lists Cantrell, then 27, as the Deputy Game and Fish Commission warden.
Cantrell’s last match was at the May 17, 1939 show at the Sports Arena. Cantrell scored one last victory over Pasha Biram Bey and bid the ring farewell.

For the next decade, Cantrell divided his time between auto racing and boat racing. He set track records all over Indiana in 1940 and 1941, but his career nearly ended early when he broke his neck in a crash in Evansville during 1941. Cantrell recovered and resumed his pursuit of speed.

In 1948 Cantrell ran in his first Indianapolis 500, running 161 laps in the fabled race. He returned a year later and only managed 95 laps in his second go-round.

Despite a disappointing finish in the Indy 500, 1949 proved to be a break out year for Cantrell. He won five of six major championships in Unlimited Hydroplane racing that season, including the coveted Gold Cup in Detroit. George Davis, a friend who was dockside for the victory, recalls Cantrell’s reaction when he won the top prize in his sport. “When he came in by the judge’s stand, Bill got out of the cockpit and kissed the deck of the boat! Then he pulled his old dollar watch out to see what time it was.”

Cantrell survived another brush with death in 1952 when his boat exploded during a race. A rescue pulled his unconscious body from the wreck as the boat burned to the waterline. Cantrell spend 46 days in the hospital that time.

Cantrell continued racing for two decades more, winning the National High Point Championship again in 1963. He was the back-up driver for a race in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 1968 when he officially competed for the last time. At the age of 60, Cantrell boarded the boat dubbed Roostertail for one final ride. “Cantrell’s last appearance in competition was at the 1968 Diamond Cup in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at age 60 as a relief driver for Jerry Schoenith in GALE’S ROOSTERTAIL.

“When I came up for the start, I wasn’t afraid to go fast,” he said, “But I didn’t want to go fast.”
Wild Bill finished in second place in Heat 2-A. Right after the race, he told a radio interviewer, “This is my last race.” Wild Bill’s amazing ride was finally at an end.

Wild Bill Cantrell stayed active in the sport, even though his racing days were over. He moved to Madison, Indiana, home of the Madison Regatta, and he worked as a consultant for the Cooper Express team among others.

Cantrell was known to be a fan of the fairer sex, but he never married, saying his first love would always be the boats. He was enshrined in the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 and remained one of the sport’s most beloved and revered ambassadors.

Wild Bill Cantrell passed away in 1996. Six months later the people of Madison honored him by naming the Governor’s Cup Race Course at the annual Regatta the Wild Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course. His ashes were scattered out in the waters, the same water Wild Bill first raced over in 1929 in a hydroplane named Falls City Baby.

Wrestling was just a lark to Wild Bill Cantrell, a way to make a few extra bucks when he wasn’t racing. Nevertheless, Cantrell played a vital role in keeping wrestling alive through turbulent times. His colorful personal, groomed in the ring, carried over to the race course, and hydroplane fans still cherish the memory of Wild Bill to this day.

Gorgeous George in “Alias the Champ”

In the early days of broadcasting, two stars did more to put televisions into homes than anyone else: Milton Berle and Gorgeous George. Born George Wagner, the gorgeous one began his wrestling career as just another brunette babyface in black trunks. Hoping to make himself stand out, Wagner found inspiration in a fellow wrestler named Lord Patrick Lansdowne. Lansdowne was a farm boy from Ohio, but a fancy wardrobe and a butler named Jeeves transformed him into one of the most hated men in wrestling.

George took Lansdowne’s idea several steps further. He grew out his hair, dyed it blonde, and commissioned a distinctive hairstyle known as the marcel. He began wearing purple trunks and had a series of lavish, expensive robes made to fit his 210 pound frame. Gorgeous George was hated by men by adored by women, who made up half the wrestling audience in the 40s and 50s. Wrestling from Hollywood became a television hit, and George became one of the most sought after guest stars. He even worked a celebrity wrestling match for charity against Burt Lancaster, with Bob Hope filling in as his own personal assistant Jeffrey.

Alias the Champ would be just another B-movie from the 1950s if it were not for Gorgeous George. The plot centers on a New York mob trying to muscle in on the California wrestling scene, and while George isn’t the focal point of the story, but judging from the posters and ads put out for the film, it’s clear Republic Pictures was counting on him to be the draw. Keep an eye out for some other wrestlers in the film as well, including Sammy Menacker and Tor Johnson, who became a cult favorite when he appeared in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Gorgeous George changed the face of television and professional wrestling. His charismatic personality gave rise to future wrestling stars like Ric Flair, Adrian Adonis, and Tyler Breeze. His influence can also be seen outside wrestling in the careers of James Brown, Bob Dylan, and Muhammed Ali.

“Alias the Champ” is now available to view free on INC – The Independent Network Channel. The INC channel is available for free only on ROKU.

Lord Carlton: Now available on Amazon

lord carlton cover-3From the author of Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville and the woman who co-founded Kranken Welpen, the world’s only heavy metal polka band, comes the story of a budding young athlete who went from sailor to royalty to artist by way of the wrestling ring.

Lord Carlton: Wrestler, Artist, My Father tells the story of Leo Whippern, a promising young artist from California who became one of the top stars of the golden age of wrestling. Whippern made a name for himself during the 1940s as Sailor Tug Carlson, but when he realized he was just another strapping young war veteran in black trunks, he traded in his sailor’s cap for a monocle.

Inspired by Lord Lansdowne, the same man whose gimmick inspired Gorgeous George, Whippern transformed himself into the British heel Lord Leslie Carlton. His new heel persona made him a rich man as he created drama in and out of the ring, but his family life after wrestling proved to be even wilder than any wrestling storyline.

Lord Leslie Carlton’s tale is a story of triumph and heartbreak. It’s the story of a stellar athlete and a talented artist, an eclectic migrant family, a tragic murder, a vengeful wife, and the daughter who somehow found the God her father never believed in.

Lord Carlton: Wrestler, Artist, My Father is available now in paperback on Amazon.com.