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.