Tagged in: wrestling

The First First Lady of Louisville Wrestling

Louisville, Kentucky is unique among wrestling cities because it is one of the few cities to have a female promoter. Teeny Jarrett never served as the booker for Memphis Wrestling, but there was no doubt she was the boss. She kept the fans happy, the wrestlers in line, and the Kentucky Athletic Commissioner at bay for more than two decades. She even gave breaks to a few of Louisville’s most famous wrestling faces, including a Louisville police officer named Dean Hill and a a young teenage photographer named Jim Cornette.

It’s unusual for a city to have one woman serving such a powerful role in a wrestling promotion, but Jarrett wasn’t the first woman to do so. Thirty five years before Teeny’s son Jerry began running at the Louisville Gardens, a pretty young Kindergarten teacher signed her name on the dotted line, becoming a partner and owner of a professional wrestling promotion.

When Heywood Allen went into business for himself, forming the Allen Athletic Club in 1935, a Betty McDonogh made a pretty big leap of her own. The newlywed bride of Allen’s press secretary, former Louisville Sports writer Francis “Mac” McDonogh, left her chosen vocation to become the ticket office manager for the new wrestling promotion. It was a huge risk for her and her husband, but it was a risk that paid dividends for the McDonoghs and the Allen Athletic Club.

Miss Betty, as she was known by the fans, was a remarkable woman with a keen nose for business and marketing. Over the years Betty created and maintained a massive card file of the regular wrestling patrons. She not only had names, addresses, and telephone numbers, she knew where they preferred to sit, what type of matches they enjoyed most, and other details that helped her sell more tickets and keep everyone happy.

Betty kept a relentless schedule, managing a family at home as well as running the business of the promotion. In the late 1940s she gave an interview to the Courier-Journal and outlined a typical day:

7:15 AM – Prepare breakfast.

8:30 – Drop her son Allen at school, return home for house cleaning.

9:15 – Leave home and head to the ticket office.

11:40 – Pick up Allen at school and take him home for lunch. After lunch, drop Allen with his grandmother and return to the office.

1:30 – Back in the office.

5:30 – Leave the office and head home to prepare dinner, unless it’s a show night.

On show nights, Betty was there before the fans to run the ticket table. She greeted everyone personally, many by name, and after the last patron was admitted, it was her job to count the gate. Betty usually stayed until 12:30 or 1 AM to finish up Club business before returning to the McDonogh apartment in Shawnee Park, only to get up at 7 AM the next day and start again.

Betty loved her job, and even as business grew, she refused to cede her responsibilities to anyone – save for a brief hiatus in 1942, when she became a mother to Allen, who was named after Heywood. Betty rarely got to see any of the matches, but she met everyone who worked for the Club and enjoyed their company, describing them as “always very courteous and intelligent nowadays since most are college graduates.”

Fans were often surprised to learn that it was Betty, not Mac, whose name was listed as one of the owners of the Allen Club. From the very beginning, the McDonoghs held a stake in the promotion, and Mac made sure their ownership was in Betty’s name. Betty more than earned her keep as a valued member of the team, especially in the late 1930s.

When business took a dive in 1938, it was Betty, along with Allen’s wife Mabel, who pointed out the lack of females in the crowd. Betty and Mabel believed that the Club could do more to attract female patrons to the matches, and with Mr. Allen’s blessing, they went to work.

Betty suggested giveaways for the ladies including flowers, candy, and other free gifts. They also instituted a “Ladies Night,” when women were admitted free. They also convinced Allen to begin tossing out the rowdier fans who made female patrons uncomfortable. Allen admitted that he often felt the shows were no place for a lady, especially when the fans got out of hand, and he consented to policing the crowd and removing offenders.

Betty’s efforts began to pay off slowly but surely. Beginning in 1939 and continuing through the war (when many of the male patrons were overseas fighting), attendance began to rise. By the mid 1940s the Allen Club was drawing 55% women on Tuesday nights. Louisville was one of the hottest towns in the country, drawing 4000 to 6000 fans for special events at the Armory. Betty was exceedingly proud of her accomplishments.

In 1947 Betty and her husband took another risk, buying out Heywood Allen when he chose to retire from the fight game. It was a calculated risk for Mac because he knew he had a solid business partner by his side. While Mac remained the public face of the Allen Club, Betty continued to manage the box office and handle the money on show nights. The McDonoghs were active in the Louisville community, supporting numerous local charities and events. They frequently hosted wrestlers in their home, and top stars like Baron Leone were their guests at the Kentucky Derby.

Betty took time away only twice: to give birth to their son Gary, and to care for her ailing husband when Mac was diagnosed with cancer in 1946. When Mac passed away in May of 1947, Betty sold the Allen Athletic Club to former Louisville baseball player Al LeCompte. The combination of the ownership change and a forced change of venue brought the promotion to a swift end.

Surprisingly, Betty almost went back into the business a year later. Wee Willie Davis, a wrestler/ movie star/ famous game show winner moved to down and decided to open up a promotion of his own to fill the void. Betty agreed to partner with Davis on his first promotion, and the two applied for a license for what became known as the name Golden Rod Club.

Golden Rod ran for only a few years. When the business closed, Davis went on to open another promotion in conjunction with Dick the Bruiser in Indianapolis. Betty quit the business and went back to teaching, but she remained a member of the ticket sellers union. Gary recalls traveling all over town with her while she sold tickets for this show and that.

Betty made sure her boys got a great education, and both of them made her proud. Dr. Gary McDonogh is a professor of anthropology at Bryn Mawr College, and Dr. Allen McDonogh is a retired professor of political science. Allen and his ex-wife Dr. Karen O’Connor, herself a professor of Political Science at American University, have a daughter named Meghan O’Connor McDonogh who earned her doctorate in Sports Management at the University of Louisville and is now the Associate Athletic Director at the Catholic University of America.

Meghan made her own impact on Louisville’s sports scene as a graduate student at U of L. After founding a club program for women’s lacrosse at the University of Georgia, she began a similar program when she arrived at U of L. Women’s Lacrosse has since become part of the school’s growing Division I athletics program and is growing in popularity among Louisville area high schools.

“I recall a time when my daughter was growing up and she and her friends were caught up with the mega-wrestling,” Allen McDonogh told me. “All were stunned to find I knew anything about wrestling.”

Sadly, neither Karen nor Meghan ever had the opportunity to know Miss Betty. Betty McDonogh passed away in 1971, before Allen and Karen met. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Louisville next to her beloved husband.

No doubt Betty McDonogh’s proudest legacy is her family, but the legacy of the Allen Athletic Club owes as much to her as to Allen and Mac. Betty was there from day one as an owner and a partner. She knew the Louisville audience better than anyone, and her tireless efforts kept the Columbia Gym full in good times and bad. If there were a Hall of Fame for Pro Wrestling in Kentucky, Betty would deserve a place of honor alongside her husband and the Allen Club’s namesake. She is, without a doubt, the First First Lady of Louisville Wrestling.

Read more about Francis and Betty McDonogh in Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club.

Is This the End of Righteous Jesse??

This week the Kick Out at Two Podcast welcomes Air Paris to the program. Righteous Jesse talks with Air Paris about partnering with A.J. Styles, NWA Wildside, and being the father of a young wrestling fan.

It’s a shame to think that after 87 episodes, this could be the end of KOAT as we know it. Why? Because Saturday night, Righteous Jesse is going to die. He’s promoting his second show ever with Southern Underground Pro “Don’t call it SUP GRAPS” Wrestling, and he’s booked himself in a deathmatch against former KOAT guest and legendary deathmatch wrestler, Tank. I’m not sure why Jesse would do such a suicidal thing or why his friend the Wilkman or girlfriend Bonnaroo Brittany would allow it. We can only pray that Jesse will survive and live to podcast another day.

The Kick Out at Two Podcast is available on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher every Friday.

Southern Underground Pro Wrestling’s second show, Show You No Mercy, takes place Saturday night, June 10, at The Cobra in Nashville and features Bonestorm champion “The Lodestar: Curt Stallion, “The Blue Eyed Devil” Tripp Cassidy, Kevin Ku, Percy Davis, Brett Ison, Chase Jordan, Matt Lynch, Caleb Courageous, and Jeremiah Plunkett. Show information can be found on Facebook or Twitter.

Condolences on the loss of Righteous Hesse can be sent via Twitter to Bonnaroo Brittany.

Big Zo’s Big Impact

Some people like deathmatches.

Some people like the WWE.

Some people like flips and dives.

Some of my favorite wrestlers are guys like Big Zo, who are more concerned with making an impact outside the ring than inside. Click Here to see what this amazing young OVW star is doing to make a difference in the lives of kids.

 

 

Christmas for Kool-Aid Drinkers

For IWA Mid-South fans, this is the biggest weekend of the year. It’s bigger than birthdays, weddings, even Christmas. It’s the high flying, anything can happen blood fest known as the King of the Deathmatch.

This year’s event has sixteen competitors vying for the title including the reigning Prince of the Deathmatch Nick Depp, John Wayne Murdoch, Reed Bentley, Aidan Blackhart, Ludark Shaitan, Masada, Bryant Woods, Brad Cash, Mance Warner, Rickey Shane Page, Dale Patricks, Marcus Crane, Eric Ryan, Devon Moore, G Raver, and Jeff King. Round one has already been announced, with four tantalizing match stipulations advertised:

Home Run Derby Light Tube Fence

The Great American BBQ Deathmatch

Fans Bring the Weapons

Log Cabins of Glass/Four Corner of Pain.

The violence takes place at the Flea Market off I-65 N, exit 16, in Memphis, Indiana. Bell time is 6:35 PM Saturday night, May 20. Front Row tickets are $30. General admission is $25. Tickets can be purchased via PayPal when you email BestMistyEver@gmail.com. Tell Misty I sent you.

 

Manscout Jake Manning on Kick Out at Two

This week, the “cool kids” of the Kick Out at Two Podcast welcome Mascot Jake Manning to the show. Manning is a seasoned veteran in the indy wrestling ranks from Preston, Iowa and the current reining PWX Champion. Jake and Righteous Jesse talk about everything from wrestling to being a stand up comic to why Jake considers the KOAT crowd to be “the cool kids table.”

Download the Kick Out at Two Podcast every Friday on iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud!

Pondo Revives 102 Year Old Tradition

On May 7, 1915, the night before the Kentucky Derby, wrestling promoter George Beuchel presented a show at Jefferson County Armory in which the World Champion Charley Cutler defended his title against Louisville favorite Yussif Hussane. For decades after, the Derby Eve fight show was a tradition for fight fans. The wrestling and boxing promoters competed heavily (and some would say underhandedly) for the coveted Friday night spot in the Armory.

On Friday night, May 5, Mad Man Pondo put on a Girl Fight Show at Derby Expo 5 for a Girl Fight Show. The ladies put on a stellar show, as always, and as you can see for yourself, they drew a standing room only crowd.

Could this be the revival of a classic Derby Eve tradition? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Congratulations, ladies. Here’s to many more!

Thank you, JMK

J. Michael Kenyon refused to read my last book.

After reading Bluegrass Brawlers and Lord Carlton, JMK refused to read Louisville’s Greatest Show. He got a few pages in before he gave up and emailed me back. The draft I thought I had proofread fairly well was not nearly up to his standards. The legendary Seattle sports writer is a stickler for proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, the words, and he would have found it nearly impossible to read the manuscript for historical errors with all those distractions in the way.

Two weeks later I emailed him again, this time with a thoroughly proofed and edited version of the same book. Thankfully, this draft passed muster, and he was able to get out of the introduction and into the meat of the book. Of course he found a handful of historical errors that needed correcting, but that’s why I sent it to him. The man was a walking encyclopedia of wrestling history. His instant recall of events, people, places, etc. was second to none. As I understand it, he had both physical and electronic files far more extensive than any other wrestling writer. Having seen the stacks of files and documents at Castle Cornette in Louisville, I can only imagine what a treasure trove he amassed.

I never met JMK in person. My first encounter with him was online, when he responded to a post I placed on the Wrestling Classics message board looking for information about the Black Panther Jim Mitchell. JMK decided to check me out first, so he bought a copy of Bluegrass Brawlers on Amazon. He sent me quite a few notes and corrections on the book, starting with my audacious claim that at one time, wrestling was more the American past time than baseball! In spite of those errors, I think he saw enough potential in me to share what he had about Mitchell.

We traded emails several times over the last few years. He was always happy to answer questions, and he always gave you more than you ask. When Lord Carlton’s book was ready, he happily read it over for factual errors as well.

One of the rare non-wrestling subjects that we discussed was the murder of actress Thelma Todd, one of the greatest mysteries of Old Hollywood. It was an obsession for him, so much so that he had even walked the site where she was killed for himself. He shared his own theory about whodunnit and why. I never got the chance to tell him this, but I incorporated that theory into a science fiction project I am working on for future release.

JMK never minced words. He left no detail unchecked in making sure I got every story right. He had a charming curmudgeon-like way about him in his emails, but his critiques made his praise mean all that much more.

I will forever be grateful for the brief time I had to interact with him. Everyone needs mentors to help them become the best they can be, and J. Michael Kenyon pushed me to be the best wrestling writer I could be. He demanded excellence, and while I have a long way to go, I am where i am because of his generosity and wisdom.

The wrestling world has lost its greatest historian. RIP, JMK, and thank you for everything.

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

The 1942 Derby Eve Wrestling Show

Seventy-five years ago today…

May 1, 1942 – Jefferson County Armory

Derby Eve Show, presented by the Allen Athletic Club. Heywood Allen, promoter.

NWA World Heavyweight champion Bill Longson def. Sandor Szabo two out of three falls.

Women’s World Champion Mildred Burke def. Mae Young

King Kong Clayton def. Haille Samara to capture the Negro World Heavyweight Title, two out of three falls.

Buddy Knox and Herb Welch drew

Chief Little Wolf and Don Louis Thesz drew

2800 attendance. Gate: $3,335.50.

Read more about the legacy of the Allen Club in John Cosper’s new book, Louisville’s Greatest Show!

The 1954 Derby Eve Wrestling Show

63 years ago today, the Allen Athletic Club presented a Derby Eve wrestling show at the  Columbia Gym. The show drew 2100 in attendance that night.

Baron Leone def. Wild Red Berry
June Byers def. La Claire
Johnny Valentine def. Menace via DQ
Tangara drew with Vic Holbrook
Menace’s manager def. Tommy Tucker
Notes: 2100 attendance for the Derby Eve show.

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