Wednesday, December 16, 1970 was a day of infamy for me. That was the night Mike LeBell kicked me out of the Olympic Auditorium and banned me for life! If I ever returned he would have me arrested for trespassing. I had to give up my first row seat which I had for over 4 years. No more Wednesday nights! No more Friday nights! No more Freddie Blassie, John Tolos, Mil Mascaras, Black Gordman, The Sheik, etc.! No more Stretcher Death Matches! To more Cage Matches! No more Gladiator Death Matches! No more hanging out with my friends in the first row! No more anything! Banned for life! That's a long time!
Why! Because Mike LeBell hated my guts! And it was all Los Medicos' fault. There were times I thought they were in cahoots. I'm convinced LeBell asked wrestlers to bait me and Los Medicos took the bait. We weren't angels sitting in the first row. We yelled and screamed at the wrestlers but never used any profanity, finger gestures or used any ethnic or racial slurs. We just had a knack of getting under certain wrestlers' skin. LeBell didn't like that. He just wanted the fans to sit there, watch his crappy matches and spend money, but don't cause any problems, make loud noises or get the other fans all riled up. We weren't getting the rest of the fans riled up. When you give them horrible matches and lie to them all the time fans will become very upset. If you can't have fun cheering or heckling the wrestlers then why go?
Los Medicos returned to the Olympic in September 1970 after an almost two years absence. But these guys weren't the original Los Medicos. These were impostors. PHONIES! The originals debuted in January 1968. They were Tony Gonzales and Luis Hernandez. We figured Hernandez was one of them from the start. His huild and style gave him away. We weren't sure on the other Medic. Some said it was Benjy Ramirez, the original Mummy. Others said it was Luis Martinez. Much later we found out it was Gonzales, but bhe never appeared here before under his real name, at least since I was attending, so back then we never knew who it was. Anyway, they left in March 1969 and Gonzales returned as El Medico and wrestled as an individual and in tag-teams with Alfonso Dantes and Pepe Lopez. He was finally unmasked by Freddie Blassie in a "hair vs. mask" match in February 1970 and left town. Even after he was unmasked we still didn't recognize him. No more Los Medicos or El Medico around.
Then in September 1970 here come Los Medicos again. Like I said. These were PHONIES! These guys didn't have the same build as the originals. One had a lighter complexion while the other had a darker complexion. They both had chest hair. Both the original Los Medicos had dark complexion and no chest hair. You get to know the differences even when wrestlers wear masks and obviously these weren't the same guys. Once again, LeBell and the Olympic were trying to pull a fast one over the fans. These guys were probably some jobbers pretending to be Los Medicos and LeBell was putting them in main events and even had them win the tag-team title. But if the Olympic told the fans they were Los Medicos, then they were Los Medicos. Most wrestling fans will believe anything. We didn't like it! We got tired of being fed crap! If you but a masked jobber in prelims on Wednesday night TV shows that's fine. But don't force us to pay top dollar to watch them in main events on Friday nights. Sometimes Los Medicos would change from week to week. One week they both had light complexion. The next one would have a darker complexion. One week they both chest hairs. The next week only one had. Did LeBell think we didn't notice this? He thought all wrestling fans were stupid, but as long as we spent our money I guess he didn't care.
This went on for a few weeks. We finally starting giving them the "business." That's part of wrestling. We'd yell at wrestlers and try to get under their skin. Most played along and yelled back or demanded us to get the ring with them. They were professionals. They'd seen and heard everything. Rocky Montero spent half of his matches strutting around the ring arguing and yelling at the fans, but he never physically engaged with them. Blassie would yell back of flip someone off but he never left the ring the confront anyone. They were professionals. Crybaby Cannon and John Tolos were two wrestlers that we REALLY got to. I'd yell at Cannon that he was so fat that it looked like he was about to give birth to 10 midget wrestlers. He got to irate that he demanded I get in the ring and punch him in the guts as part of his pre-match gimmick. I took him up on it. The following week Jerry had the honor. He hated us and the feeling was mutual, but he never left the ring to confront us. He was a professional. When Jerry and I punched Cannon in the gut guess who was standing in the back watching us? LeBell was standing there shaking his head and looked disgusted.
Tolos was another wrestler we constantly heckled. He would go ballistic and stomp around the ring like a spoiled child. He didn't care. It was good for business. I'd yell: "Toilet Tolos! You're nothing but scum from the gutter!" He would rant and rave and hold the ropes open and demand I get in the ring and say that to his face. I yelled back: "Your face is so ugly that I didn't to get close to it!" Once again he would stomp around the ring but always with a half smile. During locker room interviews he would ask: "How to you spell WRESTLING?" And then he would answer: "T-O-L-O-S!" Later I would counter with: "How do you spell TOILET?" And I'd answer: "T-O-L-O-S!" Once again he would come unglued and demand Jimmy Lennon to get me to sign a contract. We went back and forth for years but he never left the ring to confront us. He was a professional.
The only wrestler who ever jumped out of the ring and confronted us was Texas. But he wasn't mad. Frank Zamar just wanted to confirm if we were going to Tommy's Burgers after the matches because he wanted to meet us there. He'd yell and point his finger at us like he was going to kill us but he'd yell: "Are you going to Tommy's?" We all would shake our heads. "OK! I'll meet you there." Nobody else knew what he was saying. He would always tell us the more heat the better because it could mean more matches and more money.
The masked jobbers were the best to heckle. When we yelled their real names they couldn't react or they'd give away their real identities so we took advantage of that. Jobber Lou Anthony showed up wearing a mask and was The Mysterious X. It was easy to see that it was Anthony so we'd yell: "Anthony, you suck with your mask and you suck without your mask! You're a double sucker!" You could tell he was pis*ed but he couldn't react. Jobber Jack Garfono was also The Invader. We'd yell: "Hey Garfono! I hope you don't wear that ugly mask while you're making our pizza! I'd hate to see you accidentally put anchovies on it instead of pepperoni!" He would smile and give us a two thumbs up. Gene LeBell was The Hangman and had been for many years. Everyone knew it. When he came into the ring wearing his Hangman outfit we yell: "Hey LeBell! You're better looking with the mask on!" He would just stare at us. Talking about Gene LeBell. One night when he was a referee Jerry went to ringside for his autograph. LeBell, with a big smile on his face said "sure kid." Jerry gave him a piece of paper and a pen. LeBell autographed the paper and handed it back to Jerry. Jerry then ripped the piece of paper in little pieces, threw them on the floor and then stomped on them. LeBell, who was still holding Jerry's pen, then snapped in half and flung it at him. Everyone was laughing. He was not happy. I'm sure that got back to brother Mike.
Anyway, back to Los Medicos. They were different, at least the two who were usually in the ring. Whoever they were they weren't professionals. They let our heckling get to them or LeBell put them up to it. They acted like a couple of hotheads. They were more worried about our heckling than wrestling. They knew that we knew that they were PHONIES! One of them would always yell at us: "If you guys don't shut up we're coming after you. You'll be sorry and we're not the only ones coming after you!" Whatever that meant. The other would yell something in Spanish that I didn't understand but I'm sure it wasn't saying nice things. We continued to get on them but we never used profanity, finger gestures or ethnic slurs. We were just having fun despite LeBell trying to con us.
We come to Wednesday, December 16, 1970. One of Los Medicos was in an early bout against house favorite Pepper Martin. All throughout the match we gave Los Medico #1 or #2, whoever it was, a lot of crap. We were yelling: "You're a phony! You stink! You're nothing but a crummy jobber!" on and on we yelled, but nothing x-rated. He became irate. He kept looking at us and pointing as us and flipping us off. At one point Martin had to tell him to look at him! Forget them! When the match ended he walked over to us while still in the ring, swore at us, flipped us off and flung sweat on us. Now that's not professional!
Later on the card Los Medico #2 or #1, whoever, faced John Tolos who was getting ready for his big cage match with Blassie to close out the wrestling year. Tolos was really giving hom a going over. So were we! Our insults were relentless. Tolos gave us a puzzled look. We told him "not you! It's for Medico!" He then gave us a look like "Oh, go ahead, whatever!" We were yelling stuff like: "You're a phony! We want our money back! Get out of town! Go malpractice you wrestling somewhere else! We're tired of you because you stink! That did it! Right in the middle of the match he went to his corner, grabbed a towel, jumped out of the, twisted his towel, walked over to me and slapped me across the face. My glasses went flying three seats away. He then spit on me, yelled something Spanish and then jumped back into the ring. Jerry claimed he heard Tolos yelling and pushing him and saying something like "what the hell are you doing? You can't do that! What's wrong with you?"
I was stunned! We were all stunned! It happened so fast we had no time to react. I found my glasses but they were broken. Josephine, the chicken lady, threw her rubber chicken at him. One minute shes rooting for Medico and then the next thing you know she's throwing her prized rubber chicken at him. It didn't take long for the LAPD cops to run to ringside. Officer Griswald was the first arrive. He told the other officers that he would handle it. All of us in the first row always got along with Griswald. He would talk to us in between matches and commented about what a great time we all had and that we really loved wrestling. I even saw him off-duty a couple of times. He lived in Whittier, Ca. That's right next to my hometown, Pico Rivera, Ca. One morning my girlfriend and I saw him and his wife having breakfast at a local coffee shop and they invited us to sit with them. We had a nice conversation. I also saw him at a local nursery when I was trying to rent a gardening tool. Someone behind me in line yelled out: " There's a great nursery downtown on 18th & Grand"(that's were the Olympic is located). I quickly looked around and there was Griswald standing there laughing. He was a good guy.
Griswald asked it I was OK. I answered I think so but my glasses are broken. He looked at me and told me he didn't see any apparent injuries except for my red face (from the slap or from anger). He then asked me if I wanted to press charges against the wrestler. He said he observed and heart everything and you guys didn't do anything wrong. It was the wrestler's fault. He had no business coming out of the ring and doing that. I answered I wasn't sure. I was still a little dazed. He said if I wanted to he would escort me upstairs to the LAPD office and help me fill out a complaint form for assault and advise the Olympic of the formal complaint and inform the wrestler that a formal assault charge would be filed against him. I told him I didn't know if I wanted to go through all that but what Medico did was uncalled for plus someone should pay for my broken glasses. He agreed.
Just then two more LAPD officers came to ringside. One of them was Officer Cooper. Cooper was a "di*khead!" Not only did he hate us, he hated all the fans. He hated it when the fans stood up and cheered, screamed or booed. He would rush to them and tell them to sit down and shut up. Every time the fans saw him hassling someone everyone would chant: "Cooper The Cop! Cooper The Cop!" He didn't like and would tell everyone to shut or he'd throw everyone out. That's the way he was. A real "as*hole!" He was always on our case. Always telling to sit down, shut up, don't make so much noise, quit getting all the others worked up. Stuff like that. Griswald once told us that Cooper hated wrestling assignments and that it was beneath him. He hated to see people having fun while he had to work. Word to the wise he would always tell us. Just stay out of his way and try not to show him up. I know you guys are OK but he doesn't like you so watch it.
So Cooper is now at ringside. Griswald tells him that he's got everything under control and that none of us were at fault. It was the wrestler's fault and there might be an assault charge filed. Cooper, with a big grin on his face, said it was out of his control and that "Mr." LeBell wanted to see him in the office right now. Griswald asked what hell was going on and Cooper said it was none of his business. Cooper and another cop escorted me up the aisle towards the Olympic office. I was nervous thinking "the MAN wants to see ME? Oh sh*t!"
We walked into the Olympic office where Mike LeBell was standing there looking really pis*ed. He motioned us in and told me to stand up against the wall. He had Cooper frisk me and they looked really disappointed when Cooper didn't find anything. Le Bell looked at me and said he'd been watching me (us) for several years and this was the last straw. I told him that I'd had done nothing wrong and Officer Griswald saw the whole thing and could back me up. He told me to shut up!. He then asked Cooper for a first hand report. I said Cooper wasn't there so he wouldn't know what had happened and Griswald said it was Medico's fault. Once again he told me to shut up.
Just then Griswald walked in and wanted to know what was going on. He told LeBell that I had done nothing wrong, none of us had. When Griswald told him that a possible assault charge could be filed LeBell looked at me and said "fu*k your charges!" It was all my fault and you're going down. Griswald then told him that he had known us for a long time and that we never broke the law. They never use profanity, throw stuff in the ring and never charge the ring. They're just having a good time with some innocent heckling. Most of the fans do worst. LeBell countered that we were always causing trouble and getting the fans all worked up.
Of coarse I had to put my 2 cents in. I told LeBell, to his face, that if he hadn't put a couple of phonies out there like Los Medicos or feed the crowd a bunch of crap matches or lie to them all the time the fans wouldn't get so worked up and stuff like this wouldn't happen. I think that little tirade really buried me. He almost exploded and told me to shut my mouth. He said Cooper had a whole different story about what "really" happened (so Cooper was LeBell's snitch. I should have known). What Cooper told LeBell was a big fat lie. He claimed I was yelling ethnic profanities and using foul language. Both Griswald and I said that was a lie! The next thing you know both Griswald and Cooper were arguing. Le Bell kept saying "fu*k your charges! Fu*k your charges!" What a sight. Mike LeBell, 2 LAPD officers and myself all standing in the Olympic office arguing! (Too bad we didn't have cell phones back then!).
Finally, LeBell told everyone to shut up. He told me if I wanted to press charges then go ahead. It's a free country but he would see me in court with a slew of his attorneys so good luck with that. He finally says he's kicking me out and banning me for life and if I try to come back in he would have me arrested for trespassing. BANNED? FOR LIFE? Are you kidding me? I was shocked!
Then I told him I had two $5.00 tickets for Friday night. He said I don't anymore. He had me give him the tickets and gave me $10.00. There! We're even! He asked the box office manager what my name was. He saw the tickets, checked his list and told him. LeBell told him to scratch my name off the list, sell my 2 tickets to whoever and told him never to sell me a ticket again. He told Griswald that this was no longer his concern and to go back on crowd control. Griswald stormed out. He told Cooper to escort me to the exit and make sure he doesn't try to sneak back in. As Cooper grabbed my arm and began to escort out of the office and down the hallway Griswald was standing there. Griswald told Cooper: "I'm your senior officer and when I get back to the station I'm writing you for lying!" Cooper told him to fu*k himself. Even cops don't get along! Griswald told me if I changed my mind about the assault charge he would be out back in an hour or so. I told him to forget about it and that I just wanted to get out of here. Cooper then smirked "and that's just where you're going! Out!" As he pushed me out the door his parting words were "so long as*hole!" And which I countered "you know Cooper, you're not only a liar, you'e also a miserable human being!"
So that was it! Ten years as a wrestling fan at the Olympic Auditorium was down the drain. Banned for life! That didn't sit too well. Looking back, though, it was perfect timing. Earlier in the evening Jerry informed us that this was his last night of wrestling at the Olympic. He was starting a new job the next day and would have to work Tuesday through Saturday nights from 4 to midnight. No more wrestling!. What the hell was I going to do? I couldn't go to wrestling if Jerry wasn't there. First, Sue left year year for nursing school and now Jerry. I also found out I had been accepted into Cal State Fullerton and would start the summer semester next spring. I probably wouldn't have for wrestling anymore with college, homework and work, but it wasn't spring yet so what was I going to do? LeBell made my decision for me! 1971 came and I would sneak in with a couple of friends and sit in the balcony for a few Friday night cards, but I wouldn't go downstairs fearing I'd run into Cooper or LeBell. On a few Wednesdays I'd sit downstairs under the balcony over hang next to the rear snack bar hoping to one would notice me. But it wasn't the same without Jerry and not sitting in the first row were we had all those great memories. I just stopped going. I lost interest.
I used to think about what happened. I still think LeBell had Los Medicos bait me. IT WAS A CONSPIRACY, although I can't absolutely be sure. I can't think of a good reason why Los Medicos would be so upset as to assault me over some silly heckling. Something was fishy. As for LeBell he was a strange character. I won't mention names but a few people told us that LeBell was an odd person. He could be the nicest guy in the world and all of sudden he was a jerk. They would complain about being short-changed when it came to money. If you got on the bad side of him you wouldn't get any matches. One even said he trusted LeBell as much as he could throw the Olympic across the Santa Monica Freeway. I never trusted him and would be on the look out for him. He was always lurking in the background. He had a fit when Jerry and I punched Cannon in the gut. He stood with his arms folded shaking his head. He didn't look too pleased. He was always lurking. Always watching.
I was just a fan and loved wrestling. We had great time down there blowing off steam from school and work trying to mess with the wrestlers. Not Los Medicos. They didn't know how to play the game. It didn't much to get them teed off. I wish I knew who they were so I could curse them before bed time every night so I could sleep in peace.
The things I missed the most was hanging out with the guys at Roscoe's, the hamburger stand behind the Olympic on 18th street talking about wrestling and just shooting the breeze. Sitting in the car before the Friday night matches having a few beers and listening to the radio and bs ing. Going to Tommy's Burgers (best chili burgers in L.A.) after the Wednesday night matches and hanging out our buddy Frank Zamar. Going to Jack Garfono's Pizza Parlor on Valley Blvd. across from Cal State L.A. every once in awhile after the Friday night matches. He would come over a sit and talk with us. He was a cool guy.
Too bad there isn't a lot of footage out there of matches from the Olympic from the 60's. It would be great to see some of those matches. I guess LeBell threw out most of the film of those matches. STUPID IDIOT!!
For years my friend Jerry would kid me saying I was probably the only person ever banned from the Olympic. "Banned from the Olympic? What a distinction! That's like being banned from a porta-john!" And I respond "Yea! They're both full of crap!"
PS - After I was banned from the Olympic I worked for Jeff Walton and Larry Korn selling the "Freddie Blassie Photo Album." This was a personal project by Walton so he couldn't get the Olympic program sellers to push it for him. I used to play baseball on Sunday mornings at Hamilton High in West L.A. and Larry Korn often played with us. One day he asked If I wanted to sell Walton albums. Sure! Why Not! So on a few Fridays they would sneak me in the back door, hand me a stack of the albums and sell them for either 50 cents of a buck, but I can't remember. They told me not to near the Olymnpic office because LeBell didn't know about this and wouldn't make any money from it. I didn't want to near the office either because someone might recognize me. This was in March and April 1971. I think Walton gave $10.00 or $15.00 to sell the albums, decent money for back in the day. The album was pretty good. It had photos of Blassie and highlights of his wrestling career. He gave a couple of copies but I don't remember whatever happened to them. Probably got lost with a lot of other wrestling stuff that disappeared during many moves. For me, it was just a chance to see wrestling for free and get back in the old Olympic. So take that LeBell! Not only was I in your Olympic, but you weren't making any money off that project! So There! It was a small revenge but it felt good!
PS - Even though it's been almost 50 years I can still see the look on LeBell's face when I told him about all the crap he pulled and the lying to the fans. He was so mad his face was red and he was shaking. He was a sight to see. I figured if I was going down I was going down in a blaze of glory!!!
I was once banned from New York's Metropolitan Opera House by a temporary press-agent hired for a short run of Drunken Martha Graham's modern-dance company.
But I had gone there, in the middle of the day, for a press conference upon behalf of a then-national publication. So I got senior management of the arena on the telephone (no cell phones back then, I used a pay phone; the place is larger than some airplane terminals) to come and walk me though the front entrance, and then took it up, without involving my newspaper, with the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Opera.
The press agent was gay and I'm straight and he's the only gay guy who ever let his penis rule what was left of his rotted brain in my contact with the gay community anywhere. I would not sleep with him and that made him unhappy.
The Met then promptly fired this press agent but instead of picking another fight with me, he went after the Met's Executive Director at the time, who was a well-deserved legend in New York cultural circles -- Anthony A. Bliss. The pr flack attacked Bliss in a press release he must have sent to every living person in North America. That was the worst decision he ever made.
The pr guy, as best I recall, never worked again in New York. The flack, in time, died.
Al, had you agreed to be quiet and well-behaved, and worked for a newspaper, and had the Olympic been located in New York City, you could not have been barred from the joint. It's a violation of New York State law, as long as you have purchased your own ticket and are a newsman/woman and do not disrupt the show/game/racket.
Was Aileen Eaton still alive when you were barred? If so, how did she feel about it?
The only thing I knew about opera was "Das Reingold." My friend Jerry and I both had a Music "Depreciation" class in junior college. He went to Glendale City College and I went to Rio Hondo JC in Whittier. We each had to go to some many outside concert events so we decided to go the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. to see this opera and went together.
We sat out in the car and had several rum & cokes before we went in. We were half crocked. Opera just wasn't our thing. We sat there watching and the opera had a green film screen in front of it and English subtitles above on a screen because it was in German.
Between looking through that screen and looking up at the subtitle we were both getting dizzy. We had not idea what was going on. Anyway, Jerry got bored (and being half drunk) he started blurting out things like at he was at a wrestling match. I don't remember what he said but some of the patrons told him to shut up. Finally an usher showed up and kicked us out. So not only was I kicked out of the Olympic, I was kicked out of an opera. It was great to be young and not give a crap!
Great story, First Row. I enjoyed that. Here I always thought Mike LeBell was one of the premier promoters (based on the national wrestling mags). Never knew what a lowlife he was. At least you told the SOB off. LOL.
They sell hard liquor at every opera house I've been in and the trick to sitting through a performance of an opera in German and by Wagner is to get loaded to the point where you fall asleep while sitting-up in your seat (quietly; no snoring). Booing and catcalls used to be very-much acceptable as long as it was kept brief.
Most old opera houses hosted professional wrestling in their earlier years since they often had the largest seating capacities in many towns.
New York City's previous Metropolitan Opera House (replaced in 1966 and quickly torn down the next year because many thought it was better than the new one, and it was), on Broadway south of Times Square, hosted various major wrestling cards at around the turn of the 20th century.
The joint was a sort-of-cooperative, owned by wealthy families who had permanent "boxes" of seats and they ordered the manager to stop booking rasslin' shows because, although the profit to the Met was nice, there were several riots during the events.
The local police cracked enough heads at one riot that lore has it the joint was redecorated with red seats so that blood-stains would blend in.
I've been to the Shrine and that has to be the largest indoor theater still around that is as old as it is. Has wrestling ever been booked into that auditorium?
To my knowledge there has never been any wrestling at the Shrine Auditorium. It's just too big and unless you were sitting in the first few rows you wouldn't be able to see very good. I think the Academy Awards were held there several times.
We bought our own booze and sat in the car and drank while listening to The Doors, Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc. on the radio. A perfect way to get in the mood for an opera.
I don't want to put Mike LeBell in a completely dark light. He did promote some great matches over the years. I don't want to put the whole blame on him. He can only promote what the bookers and matchmakers provide him. The Olympic paraded a slew of great wrestlers for us fans over many years like Blassie, The Destroyer, Austin, Brazil, Mascaras, Baba, Tolos, Gordman, Carpentier, Lewin, Morales, Dick The Bruiser and many more. Sometime their long term programs worked and sometimes they fell flat on their ass and what worked one time with certain wrestlers didn't mean it would work again with different ones. Sometimes it's a crap shoot.
As a person, though, I guess I was bias because of some of the crap he pulled at the Olympic and we were up close to witness it. Others probably thought he was great. I know Jeff Walton had always spoke very highly of him because he worked close with him and he gave him is start in the business. He was one of the top wrestling promoters in the country, but in later years he was spending more time promoting his weekly boxing shows and leaving wrestling to others.
Your problem seemed to be sitting in the front row. Did you ever try the balcony with Yohe.
I didn't know they could kick you out for practicing free speech. Seem the matches were a proper place to blow off steam. So they banned the major front row part of their base because your jokes were better that normal fans. Maybe they were used to Spanish? Every wrestling promotion in the nation had loud fans ringside.
I don't yell at the matches. Not the cheer leader type. I'm a watcher.
I talked to LeBell on the phone a few times & he was always nice to me. Seemed to miss the business. But he was a bad interview. Took credit for everything & wasn't good talking about the actual wrestling. When Tolos died, he called me and talked for 30:00. He was kind of emotional about it. As far as I know, everyone hated him in LA except for Jeff Walton. Everyone was surprised when he showed up at a CAC dinner one year. Gene didn't like him. I think he was a terrible wrestling promoter & everything fell a part after Strongbow died.---Yohe
It's interesting how different styles of audience-reaction developed in different venues and territories.
At Madison Square Garden, during the years I attended wrestling shows there -- 1957 into 1963 -- once I could afford the $5 price for ringside seats, I noticed no one in the front few rows heckled the wrestlers or hooted.
I tried to sit on the side where the wrestlers entered the arena from the tunnel and walked the aisle to the ring. (One of the reasons I sat in the second row was that I was warned wrestlers could be dripping perspiration and, occasionally, blood and stuff, and the fans' seats started behind the aisle to the ring, and that was behind two rows of press seats adjacent to the ring itself.)
Upstairs, in the top balcony, which in the old 49th Street-50th Street Garden, which was so far from the stage it really was hard to tell the wrestlers apart unless you brought binoculars, which no one I saw did, the game was different.
Up there, fans hooted, cursed, threw empty wine and liquor bottles, which they'd sneaked in, at the ring and sometimes brawled with each other, tossing paper containers that the Garden concessionaire sold beer in.
Ringside fans wore suits or at least ties and jackets and upstairs, ya wore whatever ya had on that day. even if it was stained.
At the televised Hollywood Legion Stadium shows whose films I've seen, fans regularly walked right up to the ring and yelled at the heels. Rose Marie comes to mind. Al, were you a regular at Legion Stadium shows?
When Buddy Rogers left the ring after a Madison Square Garden show, as he walked the main aisle back to the dressing rooms, fans behind rails put up after people were seated did throw punches at him and he punched continuously, in defense of himself, straight ahead, sometimes hitting a fan on the arm or hand if they leaned too far over the rails and got their arms between the phyalax of "specials" police hired for the night to protect the wrestlers.
Rogers, IIRC, rated eight or so "specials" surrounding him as he left, as did Dr. Jerry Graham and perhaps others.
The lack of ringside disputes, during the matches themselves, between fans and wrestlers was also true of the nearby suburban New Jersey armory shows and various small-arena shows within the City, that were not televised.
I don't think sitting in the first row was the problem. There was an empty row of seats in front of us that the cops, Lennon, Doc Schwartz and others would sometimes sit in. Outside of Los Medicos the other wrestlers just played along and got as much heat as possible. Wrestlers like Tolos, Cannon, Kox, and the masked jobbers loved it. They would get into it. Los Medicos from 1970 were the only two who had a real problem with our heckling.
We sat in balcony a lot. If we bought GA tickets we would always sit on the south side in the very last row up against the wall. There was sheets of wood used as seats and we would lean back against the wall and sprawl out. A couple of times I scored some tickets in the first row of the balcony on the south side. Actually those were the best seats. You were almost right over the ring and could see everything. Once Jerry and I were able to get those first row seats I hardly ever sat up there.
Wrestling at Hollywood Legion Stadium was before my time. The first wrestling match I ever attended was when I was 10 in 1960. I don't think there was wrestling in Hollywood anymore by 1960, but I could be wrong.
I never could put my finger on why LeBell hated us. He was always watching us for whatever reason. Maybe some of the wrestlers complained, I don't don't know. Frank Zamar once told us that Cannon would rant and rave about us in the locker room all the time but he never actually confronted us outside of the gut punching gimmick. I think LeBell just wanted the fans to sit there and watch the matches, not make any trouble and spend money.
To this day I wish I knew who Los Medicos from 1970 were. They were both a couple of hot heads who couldn't take the heckling (or LeBell put them up to it).
I was just thinking ( now I have a headache)! Back in 1969 when Black Gordman turned heel and claimed he was from NEW MEXICO and no longer wanted to be associated as a "wetback" from Mexico like all the other Mexican wrestlers here, the atmosphere at the Olympic really changed. When Mil Mascaras and Gordman faced each other there were riots there. They were coming up from Tijuana in busloads to watch those matches and the LAPD cops had there hands full. You wouldn't belive the crap that was being thrown in the ring. Beer, sodas, bottles, cans and loose change would fly toward the ring either interfering with the matches or falling short and nailing us in the first row. It was total chaos.
The cops were constantly either arresting people or throwing them out. Some of the "new" fans tried to light seats on fire. Anyway, the cops and even LeBell could have became too sensitive to the fans' reactions to the matches. When Gordman left the area things seemed to calm down. When Gordman returned in late summer of 1970 the heat went back up and when he started teaming up with The Great Goliath they went back to the Mexican "wetback" theme again getting the Hispanic fans all worked up.
That could explain some of LeBell's or the cops' reaction but LeBell created the mess with the Gordman fiasco in 1969 so why try it again a year later? It also doesn't explain his disdain for us even before Gordman arrived and started his anti-Mexican gimmick.
Anyway I was just thinking. I get into more problems when a think!
There was a lot of problems with the real Mexicans from TJ at the boxing matches during the late 60's & early 70's. One of the riots led to The Olympic being remodeled.
I went to a lot of boxing matches, maybe more than I remember. If a black boxer beat a Mexican, he had to really behave himself or a riot would start.
I was at one where a black fight screwed around with the crowd & the place exploded. They must have see it coming because the riot squad was there in a few minutes. About 20 cops with cubs just cleaned out the balcony breaking heads. I stood around watching because I was white & my long hair made me seem cool to the Mexicans. The police just walked by me.
I never saw anything like that at the wrestling matches. There were always fights at the boxing matches & Dodgers games, but never at the wrestling matches...or Laker games.---Yohe
I went to a few boxing matches mostly 1968-1970 but never had a problem down there when we went. I have to admit though we saw some great boxing that LeBell promoted. Probably influenced more by Eileen Eaton.
But when Mil Mascaras faced both Black Gordman and Bull Ramos in 1969 it got so bad that we almost decided to give it up and stop going. A lot of matches we wore old clothes because we knew we were going to get drenched with beer and soda. I remember one time when I looked around a beer can hit me on the side of the face. Thank God it was empty. I still don't know why the Olympic played that Gordman anti-Mexican bit. It sure sold a lot of tickets but to the wrong people. For several months it was a mess.
Thank God LeBell never got his hands on something like that. Who knows what would have happened. He might have shared it with the Shrine Auditorium and we would have never gotten in so we wouldn't have got kicked out! If they wouldn't have let us in I wouldn't have been able to turn in my phony report to the teacher about what a great opera experience I had. Of coarse I failed to mention that we got kicked out.
From what I've seen from other wrestling venues the Olympic was the best. You were right on top of the action from just about anywhere in the auditorium. Even in Yohe's balcony the view was pretty darn good. In the first row we were only about 5 feet from the ring. It was truly a great venue for both wrestling & boxing. Too bad it's now a Korean church. What a waste!!
Threads like this are exactly the reason WrestlingClassics is the best messageboard on the internet. Bravo fellas, please keep it up. I love these precious first hand recollections. FirstRowAl I thought I was right next to you in the Olympic with that tale!
quote:Originally posted by Steve Yohe: There aren't a lot of guys like Al who are smart & can write or will take the time.From LA there are like two. At least as far as I know.---Yohe
Please include yourself in that illustrious rarified air as well! Where I'm from "Steve Yohe" is a symbol of excellence. I'm not ashamed to say I love reading your rants, lists, match results and most importantly, first hand recollections. I've also used tons of this stuff in my own Mash-Up Wrestling research. A long time ago Ken Viewer suggested you start similar threads as this one, where you just post train of thought stories and such, and I couldn't agree more! We need more first-hand information from those who LIVED the scene. There is literally no place else on the planet where we can get these stories! At least at Wrestlingclassics it feels like a sort of digital immortality (I'm thinking specifically of the old Thesz, Jimmy Garvin or Brisco replies that I still read here.
FrontRowAl, Mr Yohe, Ken Viewer and everybody else please keep kicking that golden age flavor! True wrestling fans of future generations will thank you; I guarantee it
Thanks for the kind words, TheMadStepDad. I've never been to a wrestling match in California. There have been a small bunch of us who frequented Madison Square Garden in Manhattan in the later 1950s and early 1960s posting here over the years, but most have moved on.
The guy who knew Northern New Jersey's great cards, held at armories and sometimes outdoors at minor-league ballparks, is Doc, who no longer posts at any wrestling board I know of, but he's holding his own in retirement. I generally saw a better show at the New Jersey bouts than at MSG, but they rarely sold out -- they must have known I was coming via bus. (They should have blocked the Lincoln Tunnel; that would have stopped the buses. Doc couldn't warn them because we didn't know each other 60 years ago.)
Someday somebody will collect these stories in a mega-thread and we'll have a literal timeline diary that spans the entire nation (and perhaps beyond). For now I'm content to read whatever recollections come to mind. On that note, has anybody ever been to shows in Boston or surrounding areas back in the day that they could share?
What a great story of LeBell and The Big Olympic Auditorium[18th and Grand Richmond 95171]often promoted by Giant Filex Chevrolet[2blocks south of Adams]...
Anyway, I never sat in the front rows, but did sneak down from time to time and sit in the first 5 rows, once me and a school pal jumped in the ring after the last match and ran rope to rope, trying to "bounce" off the ropes like the pros, but we were barely 5'5" and 100 lbs then and the ropes felt "stiff"...
One night, we stayed til almost everyone had left the arena, we were near the front snack back area and saw a few of the wrestlers come out of the "locker room, behind the snack bar]and walk out of the arena into their cars, some would readily sign autographs and chat with the fans, usually someone was picking them up after the matches and ferrying them off to the next stadium[Bakersfield, San Bernardino,etc].
All the matches were over that night and most of the wrestlers had left he building, then we saw Classy Freddy Blassie come out of the locker room, almost running up the stairs to the lower balcony where the "TV locker room" interviews with Dick Lane were, we practically ran up the stairs with Blassie, saying "Hey Champ" ,etc as Blassie returned our small talk and quickly went into the TV Locker Room for the interview with Dick Lane and Mr Moto!
We "tried" to follow Blassie inside, but a big guy was at the door and said "stay out kids"! and we waited in the hallway when we suddenly heard Mr. Moto cry "oh Dick Lane", the lights inside the Locker Room quickly went out[we could see thru cracks under the door]and Blassie came out of the TV Locker Room fast, and back down the stairs.
We tagged along trying to get Blassie to talk with us, but we were mostly in aww and didn't really know what to say other than, "Hey Champ what's your next match,etc"...
Once back downstairs, almost in front of the snack bar[real Locker Room enterance], these two BIG Latino guys[we'd seen them hanging around earlier[they were big fellas, one was 5'10 maybe 240lbs and the other guy was 6'4 220lbs]they actually said to Blassie:
Hey Blassie, which corner does your mother work on"!!!
OMG, Blassie quickly turned around and got right in their face and replied "DON'T EVER SAY THAT" and at the same time, BOTH of the big Latino guys started swinging at Blassie!
We'll this was all in a blur 4sure! Maybe within 15 seconds, Blassie had RIPPED off the shorter guys sport coat and roughed up the bigger guy, the bigger guy RAN for the exit door, he grabbed the first exit door and it was LOCKED, the guy panics and instantly went to the next exit door and it was open and Blassie almost had his hands on the guys sport coat as he RAN out the door, menawhile, the smaller Latino guy ran out the other open door...
All the time Blassie was yelling "DON'T EVER SAY THAT", over and over and over..as the two big Latino guys escaped Blassies wrath, Blassie yelled at them, Ya Yellow Pepperbellies, you're all yella"!
Soon, the two big Latino guys returned WITH LAPD cop, the cop went to Blassie and he said "ask thoses kids, they saw it all"!
We told the LAPD cop what happened and he gave the two big Latino guys the bums rush and told them NOT to return to the Olympic or they'd be arrested,etc..
The two big Latino guys left, Blassie smiled at us and went into the locker room.
Me and my school pal went outside into the night of LaLaLand, we'd just seen "real" wrestlin!
That was a great story. Sounds like another exciting night at the Olympic.
After reading your post I just remembered a little interaction we had with one of the wrestlers after the matches. I think it was in 1962 and I was 12. We all took the bus down Washington Blvd to Grand Ave. to go a Wednesday night card. After the matches we went around back to watch the wrestlers come out. Veteran Hans Herrman walked out and one of my friends yelled out, "Hey Hans! You're nothing but a dirty Nazi!" He almost came unglued. He yelled at us to shut up. My friend (he was a year older than me and was feeling very frisky) countered with, "I bet you used to sleep with Hitler every night!" Holy cow! Herrman turned red and chased us through the rear parking lot until we lost him and then ran to the bus stop. We were out of breath and vowed never to yell at a wrestler again, at least not out of the ring.
I remember the Felix Chevrolet commercials. Nick Shamus would sit at a desk and say, "Hi, Nick Shamus here, president and owner of giant Felix Chevrolet." Remember the Reliable Mortgage Corporation adds that Dick Lane did? "The easier, faster, better way to borrow money!" Every week he did those adds.
Those were great days. I'd give anything to go back in a time machine and watch it all over again. Too bad we didn't VCR's or DVR's back then.
A school pal and I would hitch hike to the big Olympic Auditorium, some times it was tuesdays[Roller Derby], wednesdays[Wrestling]Thursdays[Boxing]and if we were lucky and had $5, we'd go to a few of the big Friday night wrestling shows too, but not often.
Our "regular" admission ticket cost $2 then[early 60's] and we'd often collect pop bottles or "match" with other kids in school to get enough to go see the shows at the Olympic.
My first time there, WOW< every side of the auditorium had HUGE pictures of fighters, WOW, this place was something else!
Once inside, we'd get some candy at the snack bar and try and find our seats, often WAY back, but usually on the ground floor seating...
After the matches had started, we'd often sneak or try to go to "open" seats we'd see close to the ring, sometimes we'd even go UP to the lower balcony and sit behind DICK LANE and hear him give his pitch for "Moxie:2 in 1 Massager",etc.etc.etc..We were totally fascinated watching Mr Lane read the script for the matches, sometimes he'd say stuff on the side[OFF MIKE]like "geez, who wrote this", often about one of Blassies storylines or his "hollywood" designed clothing.
We were always quiet and didn't mess with Mr Lane while he did the shows, wrestling or roller derby, a few times we even hitched to "Auction City" on sundays to watch him pitch stuff there[it was years be4 Cal Worthington took over with his pony rides and stuff]...Auction City was like a big swap meet, only pseudo professionally run, they made big $ selling mostly junk and gadgets on TV...
We'd talk to Mr Lane after he'd packed up the Moxley unit and climbed out of the booth that hung off the side of the lower balcony until he'd disappear inside one of the upstairs "locker rooms" for TV interviews, we were never allowed inside, but would listen at the door and thru the walls at the wrestlers yelling at each other on TV, it was fun.
Many probably don't realize this, BUT..Mr Dick Lane[at the time]had been on TV, mostly LIVE in those days for longer than ANYONE in the world..
Years later, Johnny Carson finally broke Dick Lane record, but remember, Dick Land was on 3-5 shows per week + commercials by the score in those days..
Dick Lane, simply the best "straight man" in ProWrestling/Roller Derby/some boxing.
While pro wrestling fans today adore Gorden Solie, Jim Ross, Tony Shiavone, Gene Orkerluind, etc, none of em could how a candle to Mr Dick Lane...he MADE KTLA Channel 5 sing!
Dick Lane was the greatest. I just watched him a couple of nights ago in the old "Boston Blackie" series on TCM in which he played the clumsy Inspector Faraday.
We used to sit and talk with him before the Olympic opened on Wednesday night. He would go around back and have a cup of coffee at Roscoe's (that was the hamburger stand behind the Olympic facing 18th Street). We would eat there and kill time there waiting for the doors to open. He would sit and talk to us. This was when we were sitting in the first row. He would always tell us, "You guys are on TV more than I am." We asked him about his movie career and he told us we really enjoyed acting. He said his proudest role was when he played the Montreal manager in the 1950 "Jackie Robinson Story" where Robinson played himself.
He liked the 40's big band swing music but he really enjoyed country western music. I remember back in the 50's he used to host a country western variety show on KTLA-5. He used to do a lot TV stuff for channel 5.
The Olympic was a great place. No matter where you sat you could see pretty good. Before I sat in the first row I used sit every once in awhile in the first row in balcony right above the TV booth on the south side. You were almost hanging over the ring.
One week my friend Jerry and I pulled an Olympic week. We went to Roller Derby on Tuesday, wrestling on Wednesday, boxing on Thursday, wrestling on Friday, and Roller Derby on Saturday and Sunday. The Olympic was closed on Mondays. One week of that was enough. Never again. It's pretty bad when the usher asked us if we had a home.
We had some great times down there. Today's kids don't realize what they missed.
Aug. ?, 1942 Los Angeles, CA: Dick Lane, well known Hollywood character actor, met with Klaus Landsbery, pioneering electrical engineer who was working on creating commercial TV telecasts, in June 1942. Two months later Lane became the voice of W6XYZ, an experimental television station in Los Angeles from 1942 to 1947. It's claimed that months later pro wrestling was televised from a sound stage at Paramount Studios, with Dick Lane becoming the first person to announce wrestling on TV. There was less than 600 TV sets existing in Los Angeles in 1947. Klaus Landsberg, who had fled Nazi Germany after helping in the creation of radar in 1937, died from cancer at age 40 on September 16, 1956 in Los Angeles.
I know there also was an experimental TV channel in New York City, and Dennis James used to claim to be the first wrestling announcer. Orville Brown claimed to have wrestled on the first experimental TV show in NYC.
My brother used to race at Asgard (sp?) Park & he'd take me. Remember Lane announcing there. At times they had masked drivers just like wrestling.---Yohe
I remember Dick Lane announcing the racing from Ascot Park in Gardena. I enjoyed the figure 8 contests and the demolition derby. When two cars hit each other Lane would yell out his famous "Whoa Nellie!"
I ended up working a couple of blocks away from Ascot Park on Vermont Ave. We were just south of 190th Street and the race track was just north of 190th. They finally tore it down and it became an auto auction center.
I don't tell jokes & my stories are limited, because I like the truth. The two I do tell over & over is the 1--Me wrestling Victor the Bear, and getting a draw in East LA, 2-Me getting Mr Moto's beard (Go T ???) from the ring after Blassie beat him in a hair vs beard match....I then kept it in my wallet...until it was stolen when I was in a Japanese hospital in 1968...my punch line is that Charley is buried in Hawaii, but his whiskers are in Japan. I think both are really funny...well they're funny to me. Both are true.
It's my believe that if you tell a story over & over & over again...it gets to be funny. Every night in the hospital....when we were sitting around with nothing going on (or after a code & someone died)...I'd say "Did I ever tell you about the time I wrestled Victor The Bear?" The girl I worked with, would then counter: "It didn't count...it wasn't on TV!" Then we would pretend nothing happened. I thought it was ******* funny.
So don't ask me about stories.I'm glad I never told those stories to Mike LeBell...I'd been banned from The Olympic Auditorium.---Yohe
Steve, I saw Victor The Wrestling Bear at the Olympic back in the mid-60's. He wrestled two guys I never heard off, The Masked Marvel and some guy who's name I can't remember. I'll bet you waited outside in the back and beat up the Masked Marvel, stole his mask and then put it on and subbed for him during the match. So that was you wrestling the bear! I suppose if you ever told LeBell about that he would have banned you from the Olympic.