Kindle edition: 538 pages
Publisher: Crowbar Press
Item #: cbp21-wa-kindle
For years, readers have been asking us to publish the interviews originally featured in the classic "Whatever Happened to ...?" magazines. In what will be an entire series of books filled with interviews, both old and new, we are now publishing all the interviews we've done with the professional wrestling legends of yesteryear!
Scott Teal conducted most of these interviews in the days of "kayfabe," a time before anyone else was getting the inside scoop on the business of professional wrestling, and most of the people he talked with have never been interviewed by anyone else.
The "MAIN EVENT" for the first volume is a 117-page, never-before-published, interview with BUDDY COLT.
Two other exclusive interviews never-before seen in print are with Adrian Street and Mac McMurray. Filling out the book are interviews with Benny McGuire, Dandy Jack Donovan, Dick Cardinal, Frank Martinez, Gene Dundee, Gene Lewis, Gorgeous George Grant, Ernie "Hangman" Moore, Joe Powell, Lord Littlebrook, Lou Thesz and Pepper Gomez. They open up to Scott with details about their lives and careers as they have with no one else — before or since.
Go behind the scenes with the true legends of professional wrestling with indepth, hard-hitting, no-holds-barred interviews.
— A note from pro wrestling historian J Michael Kenyon —
Finally! Scott Teal has returned to doing what he does better than just about anyone else — sitting down with the wrestling legends and asking them tough, probing, insightful questions that give us an insight into what professional wrestling was all about in the days before "sports entertainment" became vogue.
I have — actual count — 511 computer files full of things Scott has said, or has heard someone else say, or is going to say, or has written down about professional wrestlers who have strode the planet Earth in the past 80 or 90 years.
The files average 80,000 words apiece. Do the math and you'll know my files contain over FOUR HUNDRED MILLION words generated, one way or another, by Scott Teal about the history of the grapple game.
I kid you not.
I mean, if I have 400 million words, can you imagine how many words Teal himself has collected at Crowbar Press headquarters in central Tennessee?
Thank goodness, before it's too late, he's now getting around to sharing some of it with the rest of us.
Now I am kidding — because Scott Teal HAS been making available his interviews with professional wrestlers for — oh, say the past 40 years, beginning with excerpts planted in the arena programs he knocked out as a young man for Nick Gulas' Nashville-based promotion.
But that was kid stuff, compared to when he got serious about recording what hundreds of wrestlers — male and female — had to say about their lives and careers. The first real fruits of those labors wound up filling 53 volumes — issued between 1996 to 2003 — of an incredible publication called Whatever Happened to — ?
Teal, meanwhile, continued to churn out dozens of volumes full of newspaper clippings, results and/or photos — all the while co-writing/editing and publishing full-length autobiographies and biographies of some of the game's greatest stars. The latter list of fascinating tomes is now at the two dozen mark — and guess what?
As this book goes to press, Teal is about to quit what he calls his FT (full-time) job for UPS. All the above was the product of a part-timer. The mind boggles at the thought of what may spring from the industry of this tireless Tennessean as his burning love of pro wrestling history advances from avocation to a full-time vocation.
I, for one, can scarcely wait.
J Michael Kenyon
2010 Jim Melby Award recipient National Wrestling Hall of Fame
Foreword by Scott Teal
1. Buddy Colt
Buddy has been interviewed less than a handful of times, but this is the time he decided to open up completely about all phases of his life. In this interview, he talks about —
— how he got into wrestling
— wrestling his idol, Buddy Rogers
— run-ins with the law due to being so brutal in (and out) of the ring
— the story behind his winning several titles
— his tag team partners
— the people he likes and those he doesn't
— making the switch from babyface to heel
— what he thinks about Eddie Graham, Jack Brisco, Danny Hodge, Ole Anderson, Leo Garibaldi, Hiro Matsuda, and many others
— wrestling in Japan and how he adapted to the different style
— his favorite bookers
— being involved in riots
— the promoters who were good payoff men, and those who weren't
— buying into the Georgia and Florida promotions and whether or not he profited
— breaking Brian Blair into the business
— working as a manager, a referee, and in the Florida office
— who worked in the Florida wrestling office and what their duties were
— his thoughts on using a blade
— staying in shape while on the road
— drugs in the wrestling business
— Eddie Graham's suicide and a conversation he had with Mike Graham that foretold future events.
— and much, much more!
For the first time, Buddy really opens up and gives a play-by-play description of the airplane crash that took the life of his friend and tag team partner, Bobby Shane, and prematurely ended his in-ring career. He puts an end to all the false stories about how Bobby died and the fabrications made in a book written by one of the wrestlers who was in the plane crash. He tells about what happened in the months that followed the wreck — his recuperation, how he was treated by the wrestling office and the other wrestlers, ensuing health problems that stemmed from the accident, managing King Curtis Iaukea, refereeing, doing color commentary with Gordon Solie on Championship Wrestling from Florida, and how his life changed completely.
Finally, he talks about an attempt to resurrect pro wrestling in Tampa; his life and hobbies after wrestling; whether or not he misses wrestling; attending wrestling reunions; and what he would do differently if he could go back and do it again.
Other interviews include:
Dandy Jack Donovan
A Letter of Explanation, by Len & Joe Rossi
Gorgeous George Grant
Hangman Ernie Moore
Excerpt from the interview with Buddy Colt
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
As an owner, did you have any say in what went on?
Yes, I sure did. More than I ever had before. At one point, Harley Race came in as the booker. At the time, Harley and I were the top heel singles. Harley brought Andre the Giant [Andre Rene Roussimoff] in for a match and he wanted me to do a job for him on TV. I said, "No way in hell." I said, "How would that help either Andre or me?"
A match between Buddy Colt and Andre the Giant could headline any town in Georgia, Florida, or the Carolinas. Our tape went into the Carolinas, and the people in north Florida could pick up the show when it was aired in the southern Georgia cities. If I did a job for Andre on TV, all that goes out the window. Harley was looking out for himself. If I put Andre over in the middle of the ring, it would position Harley as the top heel in the territory, but it wouldn't draw a house. Harley was in the office with Jim Barnett when he came up with the idea. Jim called me and said, "Buddy, my boy. I think you need to come down to the office. There's something we need to go over with you." I was flabbergasted that Harley wanted me to do that. When I explained my position, Barnett said, "You know, Harley. I kind of agree with Buddy."
The people didn't expect anybody to beat Andre on TV, so we agreed on a double count-out on the floor, which is what happened.
If it was such a good idea, maybe Harley should have gone in there and done the job.
I told Harley that. "Why don't you do the job for the Giant?"
"No, we can't do that."
Normally, you don't question the booker, but I owned part of the territory.
The situation with Harley goes back to what we were talking about earlier, about bookers actively wrestling.
Absolutely. They book the territory in favor of themselves. Doing a job for Andre would've killed me everywhere. I'm sure Harley realized that. He was pretty slick. They brought the Sheik [Edward Farhat] into Atlanta to wrestle me. I was a heel. It's hard to wrestle the Sheik when you're a heel. He pulled chains and pencils out of his trunks. It was too unbelievable.
Excerpt from the interview with Adrian Street
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
Where did you get your first ring gear?
We used to get boots from Lonsdale, but they were boxing boots. I don't think there was any such thing as wrestling boots, but they had some that looked somewhat like wrestling boots. I had them make me some that were a powder blue, like a baby blue. Nobody had ever seen any boots like them. They were all black or brown in those days. I had trunks made to match and a jacket that was powder-blue velvet with a lining. It had the puffy sleeves that became so popular later on. When I walked out there, I imagined I'd get a great response, like, "Oh, doesn't that guy look tough? Doesn't he look great?"
I came struttin' out, with the long blond hair and all. I was a good guy, too, at the time. That wasn't quite the response I got, though. "Ooh, isn't she cute? I could give you a kiss. I'll see you later, Mary."
One guy yelled, "Hey, Wooly-Woofter!" Again, that was Cockney slang. Wooly-Woofter — poufter, a male homosexual. People would call them Ginger — for Ginger Beer — queer.
Ohh! It really pissed me off. I was so upset. I kept thinking to myself, "This is not the reaction I was looking for, for crying out loud." I suddenly realized, "It's not the reaction I was looking for, but nobody else ever got a reaction like this."
A lot of promoters told me, "Don't do that! You're a good wrestler. You don't need to go in there and do all that bloody poofy stuff." The thing is, I was captivated by the reaction from the people. I wasn't giving that up for nothing. I was like a heroin addict. I was addicted to all the shoutin' and screamin'. There was no controlling me after that.
Excerpt from the interview with Benny McGuire
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
I rode to Louisville with Sam Bass one time, but I didn't ride back. He's crazy! He had a brand, new car. He'd go through those toll booths at 100 miles an hour, so he wouldn't have to pay toll. (laughs) He'd drink a half pint of liquor before he went to the arena, and the other half when he got out. He said, "Ride back with me."
I said, "No. I'm gonna catch a ride back with my brother. Thank you very much."
That's the last time I rode with him. (laughs) The guys used to get their soda pop by shooting out the soda machines at service stations out in the middle of nowhere. Sam Bass, especially. He carried a gun to the ring.
When we was coming back from Birmingham ... you know how we used to do. All the guys decided they're gonna moon Nick [Gulas]. We got about fifty miles outside of town, out in the middle of nowhere. Usually, now, me and Billy was the first ones to drop our britches and moon 'em. We decided not to do it that night, and everybody else did. It happened to be that Nick's wife [Katherine] was in the car that night. She didn't usually go. Nick sent word to the Sam Davis Hotel, where all the rasslers used to stay, for all the rasslers to be at the office at eight o'clock in the morning. He gave everybody down the pike. He said, "You boys take these McGuire twins. They're good people." (laughs) And that was the first time we didn't do it.
He was very protective of Katherine.
Yeah. He used to drive a hundred miles an hour. He had that special permit and would pass me when I was doin' eighty. He'd blow his horn and go on.
We used to have contests on a full moon night to see who could drive the farthest without their headlights on. The problem with that is you couldn't see how fast you was going. You could be doing a hundred miles an hour, you could be doing fifty.
One night, a highway patrolman got in behind us and turned his lights off. He radioed ahead and here comes the cops to pull us over. We talked our way out of it, but the other cops charged everybody else with a fine. (laughs) We gave 'em autographed pictures. The other guys were mad over that. They said, "Yeah, the McGuire twins get out of everything." (laughs) "We had to pay a seventy-five dollar fine."
Back then, it was kayfabe from the get-go. Now they expose the business to everybody. You know how Nick was about kayfabe. People paid their dues back then, too. You come out of Gold's Gym, pay your licensing fees, and you're rasslin'.
Excerpt from the interview with Jack Donovan
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
Well, it climaxed the next day [July 18, 1972] at the television studio. I went to the television station to make the interviews. We made all the interviews for the towns on Wednesday. Nick [Gulas] had been on vacation, but got back in time to make the interviews for that week. He was late getting to the station, though. The McGuire Twins [Benny and Billy McCrary] were there, the Garvins [Ronnie & Terry]. Len Rossi came in and picked me out of the crowd and said, "Come here. I want to talk to you." I thought it was something pertaining to the night before, but he didn't mention it. He just said, "Nick and [Jerry] Jarrett want to talk to you after the interviews are over."
I said, "Yeah, I probably know what it's about."
Anyhow, he says, "I don't know what it's about." He looked at his watch and said, "I have to go do an interview for Johnson City."
Well, he hadn't been gone for two minutes when the door opened and Tojo [Yamamoto] popped into the room. Right behind him was Jerry Jarrett. Right behind him was Jackie Fargo. I just sat there. Tojo had his hand in his pocket. When I realized I was going to have to defend myself, I stood up. Tojo swung at me with his left hand and I ducked under it. When I did, I went behind him and shoved him up against the wall. He had a gun in his hand, but it was stuck in his pocket. He had on those double-knit pants, and the hammer hung on the pocket. I just concentrated on the hand he had the gun in. When he got it out, it fell onto the floor and spun around. It was a snub-nosed .38.
While I struggled with him, I heard Jackie Fargo go, "Get that gun. It's mine."
When I shoved Tojo, I watched Fargo to see what he was going to do with the gun when he picked it up. I didn't know whether he was going to shoot me or not. The next thing I know, Fargo and Jarrett are each holding one of my arms, while Tojo hit me over the head with that wooden shoe of his. The next time we're together, I'll show you that scar on the end of my nose. He also busted my lip. One of the blocks across it hit me on the top of the head and split my head open, and it just took the end off of my nose and split my lip clear up through my nostril. When he hit me on the head, I went to my knees and I could hear someone say, "Close the door! Close the door!" Luckily, they had left the door open when they came in. If they had closed it, I honestly believe they might have killed me. I was probably five foot from the door. They already had me on my knees, but I just caught my foot on the edge of the shower and used it to launch myself at Tojo and knock him back onto the chair. I went on out the door and got outside where all the boys was. I turned around and waited for them to come out, but they didn't come out that way. They went out the other door. There were two doors. One came out into the hall, the other out into the studio.
Excerpt from the interview with Gene Dundee
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
Did you ever wrestle in Boston again?
I had been back several times. I was booked into the Boston Garden one night when Jack Pfefer was the one who was promoting it. He was using my father's boys. I got a copy of the program and I don't see my name nowhere. No "Gene Dundee," no "Kilroy." Jack comes in and I said, "Jack, am I working tonight?"
He says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I told you I'd make you a hundred dollars."
Well, the crowd was dead, it was the middle of winter, and a snowstorm was howling outside. The trains weren't even coming in. So, just before it comes time for me to go into the ring, he tells me who's who. Well, Wild Bull Montana and me were the Jumping Zangaroos. [Bull] Curry's kid [Fred] was on the card that night and it was probably one of his first matches. Mario Galento was up there with another guy and they wrestled as ... I can't remember. They were cowboys.
You could write a book about the deals and characters that Jack Pfefer created.
There was nothing too sacred for Jack. We billed one guy as Bruno Sanmartino, just changed the first "m" to an "n." It made them money. There was a time in Boston, before the New York office really got a firm hold, that when Bruno Sammartino did come to Boston, they thought he was an imposter. Like Buddy Rogers. Pfefer had a hard-on for Buddy Rogers and didn't like the guy. So he had a Bummy Rogers ... and a Hobo Brazil.
A lot of people either disliked or were afraid of Jack Pfefer, but being associated with Jack, I think that really helped my father. He'd bring in talent from all over the country. He was strong right up until the time he died. My father took care of him in his dying days. He put him in a nursing home there in New England, visited him every day, and made sure he got all the attention he needed.
Excerpt from the interview with Gene Lewis
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
I was with [Skandor] Akbar in a group called Devastation, Incorporated, along with Kamala and Friday. Their TV syndication almost doubled during that time. It was the hottest TV on the air. I was like the third or fourth heel on the totem pole, but when they ran spot shows, they could book me with the Von Erichs, or Chris Adams, in the main event. The crew they had was such that, they could take the top and bottom guys, switch them back and forth, and it didn't matter.
I was there through that whole transition period. I first went to Dallas when ... I think it was '83, when they had the Von Erichs, the Freebirds, Kamala. The territory was just starting to come up. They were on Channel 39 and ran about fifty markets. A year later, they were in 159 markets. Actually, they were promoting out of their area before the WWF was, and before Atlanta made the big move. They went up to Boston and a couple other markets and just did great. Except for TV, the people hadn't seen the Von Erichs. Kenny [Mantell] got it to the point where the Von Erichs were dead in Texas, but they had the whole world. They had 159 markets to go to.
Kenny's idea was to put the boys on the road to get them out of Texas, so they wouldn't burn out, but Fritz didn't want to expand. They had the chance and the talent to do it, but Fritz didn't want to do it. I think it just killed Kenny because he was building up to that point, to have two crews on the road. The TV was getting top ratings and they could have gone into any town, any major city across the country. After that, it was constant fighting with the boys. I mean, you can imagine what that territory was like, not only having to deal with Fritz, but with Kevin and Kerry. David was alright. He was pretty cool.
Excerpt from the interview with Gorgeous George Grant
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
Lillian Ellison [Fabulous Moolah] will verify this. There were two burlesque houses in Toledo — one down on Front Street and one on River Street. Every wrestler that worked for Pfefer would go to the burlesque houses free of charge. There was a girl stripper, an Indian, Princess Bonita. At that time, Pfefer brought in an Indian named Indio Cherokee [Jesus Vasquez]. Pfefer brought him into Toledo and booked him as Lone Eagle. He got Bonita to work in his corner and beat the drum for him. They eventually got married.
We were drawing tremendous crowds at the Sports Arena in Toledo. One night, when Buddy Rogers was Pfefer's version of the world champion, Pfefer was giving Rogers and Lone Eagle the finishes. He told him that he'd be getting the best of Lone Eagle in the third fall. Bonita would start beating the drum and that was the signal for Eagle to make the comeback and beat Rogers. Rogers got very indignant and said, "Alright, Jack. You want me to put your Indian over? I'll do it."
Rogers got in the ring and mopped the ring up with Lone Eagle. After slamming him four times, he picked him up the fifth time and fell over backwards with the Indian on top of him for the three count. In the second fall, Rogers did the same thing. He put Lone Eagle over two straight. Rogers stood up in the middle of the ring, dusted his hands off, and went back to the dressing room. Pfefer was screaming and hollering the whole time. Pfefer could cuss more vile than anything you ever heard. Rogers just ignored him, got his bag, turned to Billy Darnell, and said, "Come on, Billy. Let's go." They walked out and went over to Al Haft.
Columbus really boomed when Buddy Rogers took the book over for Al Haft. That's when Roy and Ray [Stevens] Shire broke in.
Excerpt from the interview with Lord Littlebrook
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
Did you start your career as Lord Littlebrook?
When I first started in the wrestling business, I really had a strong brogue because I was English, and I hadn't been over here very long. Jack Britton said, "We're gonna make a Lord out of you."
I said, "Hell, if anything, I'm a peasant. I'm not a Lord! I come from the rough part of London." But that's what he wanted.
He said, "You're Lord Littlebrook."
Did Jack Britton arrange all your bookings?
Did Bert Ruby or Harry Light have much to do with the midgets?
Oh, yeah. They were part of the booking, too, but nobody ever thought of them as bosses. Jack Britton was our boss. Jack would travel on the road a lot with the boys. When we went on the road back in those days, we had a driver. We weren't allowed to drive. They figured, "Small man, small brains, can't drive a car!" That was their feelings towards us. I'm sure of that, so we had to have a big guy drive the car for us. That big guy used to be trained to steal the money from us for the office.
I ain't jokin'! (laughs) I ain't jokin'! We wasn't allowed to pick up our own money [from the promoters]. It would have to be given to the driver, then the driver called the office and told them all this shit about what was made. We'd get whatever he told us we got. I found out from one of the big guys that we made a hell of a lot more than what they told us. Supposin' we had a thousand-dollar week. He'd have to call in and tell the boss. "They did a thousand dollars this week." Of course, we weren't allowed to be there when he talked to the boss. He'd say, "What do you want me to do?"
They'd say, "Well, take three off the top for the office."
On top of that, we had to pay 35 percent. That was booking. They didn't know we knew that. The driver told me what they were doin' to us. That was when I quit and left.
So, I spoke to Gust Karras. He said, "My job is to send the money in, but I'll tell you what. If you ever want to break away from 'em, I'll book you."
I said, "That sounds good to me."
Within a week, I had three other boys that wanted to leave, too. We came in here and I've been here ever since.
Did they pay you on a percentage of the house?
We were never told any of that stuff. We were too stupid. We were just midgets. All we knew was we got a check at the end of the week. They gave it to the driver.
Excerpt from the interview with Lou Thesz
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
Who were some others who were trained in hooking?
George Tragos, one of my coaches. Rudy Dusek. A lot of people didn't know that, but Rudy was a damn good wrestler. Ray Steele, Jim Londos, Dick Shikat. Ed Don George, a two-time Olympian who learned to wrestle. That sure wasn't a very nice thing to say (laughs), but he learned something about hooking after he got out of the Olympics. I wrestled him one time up in Montreal. It must have been '48 or so. He was a pretty good wrestler. He used to work out at [George] Bothner's. A lot of the good wrestlers used to work out there ... Ed Lewis, George Tragos. Bothner himself was a hell of a good wrestler. I worked with Don [George] one time in Montreal. We wrestled ... oh, I think it was a thirty-minute broadway or something. But, I really enjoyed it because with guys like Don George, if all else failed, all you had to do was wrestle. That's what we call it. If you hook a guy, and have him nailed, you just loosen up and let him get away.
Considering his reputation, what promoters would dare use Tragos?
Tragos couldn't get booked anywhere outside of St. Louis because the promoters just didn't trust him. When he made his mind up, it couldn't be changed. There was a fellow by the name of Ford who owned coal companies up in Missouri. He was a very wealthy man and liked to work as a referee. He offered George a thousand dollars to put him over. George just said, "No, no. People would never believe it."
He said, "Well, I'll offer you two thousand dollars."
Now, that was a lot of money at that time. You could buy a house with that. George said, "No, you couldn't beat me and the people would know it."
If Ford had gotten into the ring with George, they would have really known it. (laughs) Anyway, that's the way George was, and you couldn't change him. He had a ramrod in his back and he wouldn't bend for anyone. But, that was George. He didn't fool around too much.
Excerpt from the interview with Mac McMurray
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
Another night, we were in Barbourville. The dressing room window was at ground level. You open the window and you can pat the ground. I made the mistake of telling [Ronnie] Garvin where to find M-80 fireworks. Later that day, I was down at the car wash where we used to keep the ring truck. I had the hood up, checking the oil, and all of a sudden I heard this loud bang. I look over and saw a big cloud of smoke, but I didn't see anybody. The next thing I know, I hear another bang ... and I felt that one. It blew a hole in my right ankle. I was hollering bloody murder. Garvin walked up and said, "Man, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that."
I couldn't work for two weeks. I told him, "I will get you back."
One night we were back in Barbourville and it was really cold. It was well below freezing. I was getting dressed before the matches and looked out the door to see Garvin's truck not too far from the window. I found a garden hose and sprayed down that truck until it was nothing but solid ice. I laughed so hard. I rolled up the hose, went back inside, and we had the show.
When the matches were over, Ronnie walked in while I was changing. He was getting ready to leave. He said, "Be careful going home. I'll see you tomorrow."
I said, "Okay."
I ran over to the window to watch, laughing my butt off the whole time ... and saw this poor, little redneck with his penknife, trying to chip the ice off the door to his truck. It was a dead-ringer for Garvin's truck. (laughs) I went out and helped him get the door open so he could turn on the heat and melt the ice. (laughs) By the time we finished, I was frozen to the bones, so the joke was on me.
Excerpt from the interview with Pepper Gomez
Copyright 2015 © Scott Teal
I made a lot of money, and I made Verne [Gagne] a lot of money, but he wanted to get me out of there. It killed Verne when I outdrew him. For instance, I was the man in Denver [CO], and he couldn't stand the competition, so he told me that Fritz Von Erich wanted me in Texas. I said, "I don't want to go to Texas. I'm doing fine here. What do I want to go for?"
He says, "Well, he promised me he'd make you a lot of money."
I said, "Well, if that's what you want."
Then he tells me, "Pepper, if it doesn't work out, you come back."
I says, "Okay." That was understandable.
I went to Dallas and Fritz put me on the first match. Go through. The second match. Go through. All this stuff. He took everything away from me. I said to Fritz, "No, no, no! You've got no plans for me." I called Verne and said, "Verne, this guy brought me here to kill me." I was such a big card there that Fritz wanted to kill me. He wanted his sons and him to be the top men there. I says to Verne, "I want to come back."
Verne says, "Well, Pepper. We've got all these guys coming in. Maybe next time."
I said, "Okay, Verne. Thank you," and I left. I came back to California. Verne was an asshole. I never forgot him and I never forgot Fritz.