Had another visit with John Wroblewski at Every Day Fan, this week. This is becoming a habit!
This time we’re talking a lot more fiction than wrestling, but we do hit on both. If you want to check out Girl Most Likely to Kill You, Zombies of Oz, or the Dead Park book series, please visit www.deadparkbooks.com
Much ado has been made about a comment from a certain wrestling executive about how wrestling only took place in tiny bars before the WWF came along. Today I decided to share a few programs I have from one of those tiny bars: The Jefferson County Armory, now known as Louisville Gardens.
The first program is from way back in 1952. This tiny bar program saw World Champion Lou Thesz defend his title against Enrique Torres with former champ Ed “Strangler” Lewis in Thesz’s corner. Ray Eckert, Stu Gibson, Ethel Johnson, and Bill Longson were also on the card held in front of a meager 9281 fans in this tiny bar.
A year later, the same bar wrestling promotion, the Allen Athletic Club, presented this card:
Baron Leone was the victor in the main event that night, defeating Gentleman Jim Doby. Other stars included the Great Zorro (pictured), Mae Young, Bill Longson, Stu Gibson, and Gloria Barratini. The bar was really packed that night, with a new record attendance of 9384 reported in the newspaper.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited to see some of the changes this innovative WWE executive is already bringing to television. But if we’re really going to go all the way, perhaps we should drop the company line that pro wrestling was irrelevant before WWF at the same time we drop the word Superstar in favor of Wrestler.
Who would you say is Louisville’s biggest wrestling fan?
I know more than one person who would say it was their grandma. Not grandpa, but grandma. That’s no accident. As far back as the 1940s women were as frequent a site in the stands as men, thanks in part to the efforts of Betty McDonogh in the Allen Athletic Club ticket office. Even in the 80s, many old ladies never missed wrestling at the Louisville Gardens or the chance to tell their least favorite wrestler too kiss their wrinkled butts.
You could also make a case the biggest fan ever was Jim Oetkins. Jim reached out to me after I published Louisville’s Greatest Show and asked if we could meet. He brought along a spiral notebook he kept in the 1950s, recording the results from every week at the Columbia Gym on 4th Street. All those records I pulled off the Internet, he’d kept them in real time as a boy!
And let’s not forget the woman who went into labor one Tuesday night at the Gardens. She was on a gurney, ready to be rushed down the street to give birth, but she refused to leave. Teeny Jarrett pleaded with her, promising to let her know who won the main event, but the woman wanted to see for herself!
And then there’s the man who tried to get a wrestling ticket in exchange for a horse.
The incident took place on March 9, 1933 out in front of the Savoy Theater, now long-vanished from Market Street downtown. In the midst of The Great Depression, the Savoy Theater’s manager C.B. Blake (pictured below) announced that for one night only, the theater would accept “scrip, certified checks, promissory notes, merchandise, or pawn on valuables as par values.” Cash was, of course, still accepted for those who had it.
The Savoy wrestling show was the hot ticket in 1933, and many fans took them up on the offer. According to The Courier-Journal, the box office accepted a variety of items in lieu of money for tickets that night: oats, sauerkraut, sauerkraut juice, razor blades, a sewing machine, coffee, malt, cheese, socks, canned milk, canned chile, a card table, rings, lavaliers, watches, $3 in Courier-Journal scrip, crackers, flour, soft drinks, tomatoes, peas, corn, IOUs from four barbers, a ham, fifteen dozen eggs, and five chickens. Attendance that night was 1567, and the box office collected $809.75 cash in addition to the $90 worth of merchandise.
There was one offer refused by Blake and company. A man rode up shortly before bell time and asked if he could get a wrestling ticket in exchange for a horse. There’s nothing to indicate if the horse was in fine condition of a swaybacked nag, but the offer was refused.
You can hardly blame the guy for trying. Jack Reynolds was on the card that night, along with former Kentucky Wildcat Billy Love and speed boat racer “Wild Bill” Cantrell. Everyone wanted tickets to the Savoy!
The tale of the Savoy Theater is a fascinating saga that was missed when I first published Bluegrass Brawlers. Blake and his booker would fend off multiple challenges from rival promoters (including Abe Finberg down the street at the Gayety Theater) as well as two different incarnations of the Kentucky State Athletic Commission. They were the top draw in Louisville for many years – until Blake’s booker, Heywood Allen, decided to part company and start his own wrestling promotion.
I’m so excited to see the reaction to this book so far. When you write about a wrestler who was born 100 years ago (this August) and died 65 years ago (also this August), you don’t do it for the money. It’s for the love of the person. It’s a real joy when other people fall in love with them too!
Mars Bennett caught my eye while I was writing about Elvira Snodgrass. She appeared in a “cheesecake” publication from 1948 that Elvira was also in. Elvira was part of a pro wrestling pictorial. Mars was one page over, featured separately. She was hugely popular with the pin-ups and a favorite with those who liked girls with muscles.
A natural athlete, Mars excelled at sports in high school. I’ve seen many photos of her athletic prowess, including some fun, acrobatic shots on the beach with her brother. She was a natural on the webs and the trapeze when she joined the circus, and she became a stellar pro wrestler.
Mars crammed a lot of living into 35 years. She loved performing and being in the spotlight. She loved meeting famous people and collecting autographs. She was engaged twice: once to a jeweler, and once to comedian Larry Storch, before he became a TV legend. She also found love with one of her fellow lady wrestlers, Belle Drummond. The two shared a home, a car, a pair of dogs, and hundreds of adventures.
The Girl With The Iron Jaw includes over 70 photos, many of them from the family archives. You’ll read dozens of great stories including a bar fight, Texas death matches, a kidnapped dog, and the night she took a punch in the ring from Dory Funk, Sr. It’s a wild ride that comes to a sad, tragic end, but a true celebration of a bygone era and a legendary figure.
I met Mike Rodgers three years ago in Las Vegas when he was given the James Melby Award at the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion. Mike has been chronicling wrestling history far longer than I have, and it’s been an honor to act as his publisher.
John asked me to write a little bit on his blog and I thought that would be fun. I will introduce myself and talk a little about my projects.
I started a bulletin in 1983 called Ring Around The Northwest. It was 3 pages, 50 cents and I sent it out to about 50 people, and a few of them even paid.
Jump ahead a few years and computers came into being and I increased the bulletin to 10 pages and started doing interviews. I was fortunate to have a number of interviews with people who had wrestled in the Northwest including Lou Thesz, Don Leo Jonathan, Bryan Danielson, Mad Dog Vachon, John Tolos, Rick Martel and a number of others.
The bulletin continued for 30 years until 2013, upon which time increased costs and the internet pretty much put print bulletins out of their misery.
At times several people had visited with me about producing a book, both on these interviews and a history of Portland Wrestling. Lack of time forced these people to back off any involvement.
When I discovered Portland Wrestling at the age of 8, I also discovered that the lineups and results were in the Portland papers. At age 8 my family moved out of the Northwest. I made my grandma save the sports sections so when I returned I could look at the wrestling results and catch up on the entire year that I had missed.
When I became aware of wrestling, I always felt like I had walked in halfway thru a movie. I wanted to know what had happened before.
When I returned to the NW in 1972 and started watching wrestling, I started recording everything that happened in a notebook. I recorded the matches, any special moves, the finishes. What each wrestler talked about on their interviews. Every aspect of Portland Wrestling. That notebook proved to be so valuable as I wrote Katie Bar The Door.
When I was in college I discovered the library had microfilm of the Portland papers. I spent hours going thru roll and roll of microfilm recording wrestling results from years prior.
Now we are up to this past summer (2021). I was having lunch with Frank Culbertson and he revisited the book idea. He said, “You should write a book.” I laughed and agreed. Then he said, YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK and I can help.
So we started rounding up these interviews and we started gathering up photos and doing the preparations to get it ready. Finally we had a title, a cover and the layout and we had edited it. We sent it to John. I had no idea what the timeline might be at that point. I figured a month or so until the first book hit the light of day. The next morning I noticed our book is available on Amazon. That was the moment I became a BIG John Cosper fan.
The second volume of Excitement in the Air. We had a interview with Buddy Wayne who has passed and we got an update from his son Nick. Nick is 16 but traveling every weekend and working all over the country. We grabbed a photo of a match Nick had on a Saturday night. The following Wednesday the book was ready and available on Amazon. I find that turnaround amazing.
The latest book that has just come out this week is a culmination of a lifetime passion. There are over 500 photos that have come from my collection, photos I have taken and 2 photographers will really help make this book special. There are many photos by Ken Hamblin who has been my friend for over 40 years. Also Lloyd Phillips has some amazing photos from the early 70’s. His photos are in black and white and are so clear and sharp. I told Lloyd years ago that if a Portland Wrestling book ever came to be, it had to have his photos included!
Whenever the action really got going, the TV announcer would always shout Katie Bar the Door. That meant that the the wrestling was going to be fantastic.
I hope this book can bring the flavor of what a tradition that Portland Wrestling was.
You may have noticed a few changes to the book shop on this website. Not too long ago, I added several new titles that have nothing to do with wrestling. These are my fiction books. They include some sci-fi, horror, noir fairy tales, and even a kiddie book about an evil snowman. I put them here to bring all my books under one virtual roof. Why? Because I want you to buy them. From me.
That’s not the only change. A number of titles I haven’t stocked on a regular basis are now back in the store. What’s more, the links I used to have to Amazon are gone. You can still find my books on Amazon if you like, but I hope you’ll consider buying direct instead.
When you buy direct, you do more to help the independent authors and publishers. That doesn’t just go for me. That goes for guys like Scott Teal over at Crowbar Press and Kenny Casanova at WOHW. It also goes for fiction authors like the incredible Lydia Sherrer, who, I should add, inspired this move. Simply put: we make more money selling direct than we do on Amazon.
The added benefit of buying here is the books are signed. All of them written by me are signed by me, but you will also find signatures from many of my co-authors and publishing clients: Karen McDaniel, Jonny Candido, Princess, Victoria, Mad Man Pondo, Mike Rodgers, and more.
Scott Romer was thrilled to release his autobiography two years ago, but there was so much more story to tell. Earlier this year, he decided to go back and update his book, with more stories and more photos. In short, he wanted to give readers more Romer!
When It Was tells the story of a boy who turned a side hustle into a life-long adventure. It’s the story of a young man who became Dick the Bruiser’s son-in-law and the nefarious manager Saul Creatchman. It’s the story of the most unlikely “heavyweight” fighter in Midwest boxing history. It’s the story of the man who exposed the infamous Onita Stabbing Angle and had a scary run-in with Israeli intelligence. It’s the story of a gifted photographer who has rubbed shoulders with Presidents, heads of state, U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Hall of Fame athletes, movie stars, and mobsters.
The book combines Scott Romer’s own narrative with hundreds of photos from his remarkable life. You’ll also read first hand stories told by long time friends including MMA Hall of Famer Monte Cox, wrestlers like Andrew Anderson and Dr. Jerry Graham, Jr., boxing promoter Fred Berns, international boxing star Johar Abu Lashin, legendary wrestler and trainer Rip Rogers, wrestling magazine legend Bill Apter, and GLOW/WOW creator David McLane, all of whom can validate Scott’s remarkable adventures.
The new edition is now available on Amazon in paperback and hardcover! You’ll read new stories in this edition, including the tale of a cranky boxing office cat and Romer’s Vegas adventure from the 2021 Cauliflower Alley Club. And you’ll see many more photos, including a gallery of images that truly showcase his eye for the camera.
This is a story for anyone who had a dream about making a living doing what you love. This is the True Story of Scott Romer, world renowned photographer, and his life on both sides of the camera.
Whatever your feelings are on this promotion and that, this weekend is Super Bowl weekend for pro wrestling. So hey, let’s celebrate!
Right now, you can get 20% off your entire order using the coupon code “mania” at checkout. And right now the store is loaded down with copies of Wahoo, Princess Victoria, Chris Candido, Tracy Smothers, Mike Rodgers, Chris Michaels, Hurricane JJ Maguire, The Black Panther Jim Mitchell, and more.
It’s been almost 10 years since I started writing about pro wrestling in December 2012. Okay, so that’s eleven months out, but what’s pro wrestling without a little exaggeration?
The book that started it all, Bluegrass Brawlers (2014), is no longer available on Amazon or Kindle. That’s because I’ve gone back to the beginning to create a new edition, a 10th anniversary edition, if you will.
Bluegrass Brawlers is getting a major overhaul. I spent the last several months compiling every wrestling result from 1880 through 1966, when Louisville went dark before the Memphis era. I also conducted more than a dozen new interviews including Jeff Van Camp, Al Snow, Billie Starkz, Bryan Kennison, Charlene McKenzie, Hy Zaya, Cash Flo, Josh Ashcraft, Judi-Rae Hendrix, Maria James, Haley J, Ryan Howe, and Doug Basham. And I still have a few more to go.
The original book covered four distinct eras: The Pioneers (1880-1920), The Allen Athletic Club (1935-1957), the Memphis era (1970-1997), and the OVW era (1996-2014). All four of those sections have been expanded, some by a little, some by a lot. I also expanded on the Dick the Bruiser era (touched only briefly in the 2014 edition), filled in the time gap between 1920-1935, and told the story of Louisville since 2014.
New stories covered in the new edition include:
Steve Callaway, a long forgotten African American wrestling hero from the turn of the 20th century.
Promoter Abe Finberg, who booked wrestling at the Gayety Theater and later created a heavyweight promotion.
C.B. Blake and the Savoy Theater.
The feud between Blake, booker Heywood Allen, and the Kentucky State Board of Athletic Control, the first state institution that attempted to regulate wrestling.
Louisville fan favorite Jack Reynolds.
Gorgeous George comes to Louisville – and to dinner.
Wahoo McDaniel in Louisville in the early 1960s.
Phil Golden’s All Star Wrestling.
New Albany native Jeff Van Camp, better known in the ring as Lord Humongous.
A hilarious fan story about Flex Kavana, aka Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Tales from the first students at OVW including Doug Basham and Nick Dinsmore.
The sale of OVW to Al Snow.
The rise of the Legacy of Brutality.
The growth of the indie scene in Southern Indiana.
Crazy Mary Dobson becomes Sarah Logan in the WWE.
And the rise of women’s wrestling in Louisville and beyond.
The new book includes a lot more photos and 50% (and counting) more written content. Thanks to a more professional layout, it’ll still be around 330 pages.