Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vic Hill vs Jack Gacek

Vic Hill vs Jack Gacek
I'm just moving these films back to the top of the blog. If you're interested in the early days of wrestling I just recently posted the contents of Fall Guys The Barnums of Bounce to this blog.
This is a transfer I made from my 16mm sound film called Modern Gladiators. The film itself was issued in 1940 but I think the match would date from the late 1930's.

Browning, Londos, Savoldi, Dean, Kashey, Reilly

This is a short set of clips that I transfered from a silent 16mm film I have. It has clips of a "Jumpin'" Joe Savoldi vs Man Mountain Dean, Jim Londos vs Jim Browning (I believe this is the match where Londos unifies his title with Browning's NY version) and finally Abe "King Kong" Kashey vs Pat "Rough-House" Reilly. They are very short clips but still rather interesting.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fall Guys The Barnums of Bounce

I recently sold my original first edition copy of this book. I have read and enjoyed the book a few times. I also have this public domain book in electronic format which made my decision to sell the book a little easier. It is a very informative book on wrestling and I felt it should be available to those interested in the early days. If you're interested in this era of wrestling take a look at my dvd.

Fall Guys Chapter 24


Wrestling recompense far exceeds that obtained by other professional athletes but the penalty for their earnings is also far greater.

Disease dogs the footsteps of the modern pachyderms. Nightly jumps in trains, eating in out of the way restaurants, lack of proper rest and the strenuous schedules all contribute toward the sapping of a grappler’s strength, and while countless wrestlers earn fortunes their lives at best, despite the programs, often tax the body beyond human endurance.

Some matmen die in the ring, others succumb from the shocks sustained while taking those trick falls and out of the ring dives, and others end up mumbling and spatting like punchy fighters who walk on their heels.

Stanley Stasiak was the greatest of all the modern villains who graced the wrestling ring. A roaring lion when once within the ropes, outside the arena Stanley showed the tenderness of a mother toward a new born babe. He died from blood poisoning after being cut during a bout in Worcester, Massachusetts, with Jack Sherry.

Steve Snozsky, another superman of the mat succumbed from an attack of locomotor ataxia, directly traced to injuries caused from falls taken during wrestling bouts.

The strenuous schedule which a champion is called upon to observe sapped the strength of Jim Browning, one time world’s title holder, who died in June, 1936, after an operation for ulcers of the stomach.

Browning, though rated one of the toughest grapplers who held the title during the modern era of wrestling, spent the last few months of his life half blinded from the ravages of trachoma and in intense pain from the stomach ulcers. During the last months of his life Browning’s weight fell from two hundred and thirty pounds to one hundred and forty. He could scarcely lift his hand when taken to Mayo Brothers Hospital at Rochester, Minnesota, in May of 1936.

Mike Romano, veteran grappler who held over from the Sandow era, collapsed in a Washington, D. C. ring one night in June, 1936, while engaged in a bout with Jack Donovan, a run of the mine grappler.

When ambulance surgeons arrived at the scene to treat him they pronounced Romano beyond human aid. He had died from athlete’s heart, an ailment so common to other grapplers who follow the hard and strenuous schedules that participation in professional wrestling requires.

We pause at this point in our revelations of the machinations of the wrestling business to reveal the other side so that readers of this work won’t think it’s all peaches and cream for the neckbenders.

They, too, run hazardous risks in their efforts to please the public. At times their efforts lead to more serious consequences than injuries suffered by fighters, ball players or tennis stars. For it is sometimes more exacting to make a match interesting when the finish is a planned one than it would be to let the course of events develop.

Lansing McCurley, sports editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, presented the best argument in favor of the bonecrushers when on June 28th, 1936, he wrote:

I’d like to point out that you can’t fix, by any means or manner, this cold gray man of the night we know as Death. You can’t lodge the golden dollars of man’s coinage in his bony palm, you can’t buy betrayal from the hollow of his cavernous skull. What most wrestlers fake, if you really want to know, is that they like it all, that they can’t be hurt, that they are supermen. Even the tough Ernie Dusek said to me one night in all seriousness, “Look at me, Lanse, what a life I lead, cut and bruised and beaten if I win or lose or draw.” It’s a tough life, you fans, who make your living selling bonds or cigars or refrigerators or eight hours of mental exercise. Theirs is a life that leaves you with big ears that make people stare and talk below the ordinary tone and point and look quickly away when you catch them looking. It’s a life that leaves you lopsided, with great white stripes of scar tissue across your face and body, with endless boils from endless bouts in endless ill-equipped dressing rooms, with endless worries and endless fights, until they all seem one worry and one match.

Your head is squeezed until the bees of a thousand hives drone you to sleep. Your very insides are flattened until your organs make great knots of pain against your ribs and your chest is full to breaking and your heart cramps and your eyes see black streaks and floating bubbles and myriad specks. Your arms are pulled out of their very sockets and your legs twisted into bows of pain. And the chances are 100 to 1 you go blind in the end and see only with the mind the bitterness of the might have been.

And you get what? A few dollars that you spend on trains and hotels and doctors and rare vacations, or send home to the wife and kids like other married men send home their money. Only you can’t have any fun because you have to be fit and ready. You get great gashes over the head from ring posts and cracked bones and torn muscles.

You get noises in the head and funny spells. And you get shouts and accusations of fake and in the bag and one hundred and one other epithets.

Fake or not, the fact remains the bonecrushers do suffer injuries, and as Lanse McCurley observes: “You can’t beat death.” He doesn’t work programs!

There is, of course, the serious side and the comic to all mat bouts. When Mike Romano died he took many a secret to the grave with him and though many of the matmen can’t grapple worth talking about, yet in a profession so packed with trickery and double crossing, the fact remains that the public likes and supports wrestling despite the many smelly scandals with which the sport has been identified during the years past.

Wrestling is in its second childhood. Matdom took advantage of the slowing up in boxing interest and when the fighters began to wrestle, the wrestlers began to fight. Some of the fans know they are watching a show and feel certain of it when they witness the hokum and byplay between mat clowns, but when the going is rough and exciting they are less doubtful.

Wrestling, according to the theatrical trade paper, Variety, has an edge in the human spectacle it offers. Huge two hundred pounders, wallowing around the ring, flying through the air from human catapults, and landing heavily and noisily on domes and spines is a sight. Through this flash wrestling has its advantage over boxing.

A bad wrestling match can’t be as bad as a poor boxing bout. In a poor wrestling match there is always the heft and sometimes much more to laugh at.

The big pachyderms possess a natural comedy element lacking in other sports. The antics inside the ropes, the postures, and gestures and the grimaces are funny.

The apparent cruelty of the sport appeals to men. They roar when a victim’s head is apparently caught in a strangling arm vice. The women fans howl, too. Those fine looking college men in the mat game account for the feminine draw.

Bending an opponent’s foot back until it seems to touch a bald headed man’s conk in the first row is one of grappling’s most appetizing gestures.

They struggle, gasp, squirm, toss, roll, yelp and grunt to keep the shoulders off the mat and after a good deal of the “Toots” Mondt showmanship formula, the shoulders touch and it’s all over, not including the shouting.

It must be a pleasure for a wrestler to go home at night, slip into the soft hay, and lay both shoulders on the mattress without worrying about the referee slapping an opponent on the back as a token of victory.

So next time you see the mat harlequins bouncing around the canvas don’t take it too seriously.

And remember you never can tell when there’s going to be an epochal wrestling double cross. It has happened before and will happen again. Faction against clique and trust against small fry.

The fight goes merrily on -

And so as Thackeray says:

The play is done; the curtain drops, slow falling to the prompter’s bell and when he’s laughed and said his say he shows, as he removes his mask, a face that’s anything but gay.
Au plaisir de vous revoir!

Fall Guys Chapter 23


Dracula was an angel, and King Kong was a sissy, compared with Richard Shikat, who schemed and connived as the attorneys for Haft, Sandow and Weismuller crossed swords with the legal batteries of the wrestling trust.

At this late date credit for the operations and maneuvers of the German are given to the late Mrs. Shikat, who was then constantly at the German’s side and ready at all times to advise him as to the necessary moves in the chess game the Teuton was playing with the entire wrestling business.

The early part of the trial on April 24, 1936, was taken up with the unimportant testimony of Leon Balkin, agent for Rudy Dusek. Knowing the facts in the case, it is only too evident Dusek and Balkin were playing fast and loose with the men with whom they were supposed to be working.

Dusek had sent Balkin to Columbus to cover up and lull the unsuspecting partners, but his presence proved the last straw for Shikat.

Quoting the Columbus Dispatch:

Much of the time during the morning session was devoted to objections as Leon Balkin, snappily groomed booking agent for Jack Curley in New York, was on the witness stand.

Another time John Connor, attorney for the defendant, asked Balkin how many different towns he booked matches for, and who the promoters were.

“Sure,” replied Balkin, reaching into his pocket for a list. “I’ve got it right here. There are about 30 of them.”

Balkin then proceeded to read the list, but Connor stopped him indignantly, saying he didn’t intend to take the time of the court to read such a long list.

“Well,” Balkin replied indignantly, “you asked for it.” After Balkin left the stand, receipts received by Shikat, signed by “Toots” Mondt, New York associate of Curley, were placed among the exhibits, which brought a long series of bickering between counsel concerning Alvarez’ connection with Shikat as his manager.

The Shikat-versus-the-mat-trust case was dying of its own lack of steam on Friday morning, April 24, when Judge Mel Underwood opened court.

If interest was lagging, however, Mr. Shikat was going to supply a few little surprises on his own part. As the court opened, according to the Columbus Dispatch:

Counsel for Alvarez moved to reinstate the temporary order restraining Shikat from wrestling, but decision on this was reversed, thus permitting Shikat to go through with a scheduled bout in Detroit tonight against Ali Baba.
It was pointed out by those who decline to believe in lily white business tactics, that Shikat might lose his title to Ali Baba, thus scrapping the importance of the present case.

It is assumed by inference that Alvarez and his associates are interested principally in the title Shikat holds, rather than in Shikat himself.

Ah, how well the mat moguls knew the ways of a wrestler. What they anticipated happened. Shikat hurried to Detroit and there, on April 24, 1936, lost his title to Ali Baba, former U. S. Navy gob, named Harry Eskisian, who, by benefit of a close haircut, shave, and sun lamp treatments, had become a “Terrible Turk.”

With the title lost, the mat moguls let the trial go by default to Shikat.

Shortly thereafter, on May 5th, 1936, just to make it official, Shikat came into Madison Square Garden in New York where, under the promotional “genius” of the Johnston brothers and Jack Pfeffer, he again lost to Ali Baba. Only twenty-five hundred people witnessed the New York bout, but Haft, Pfeffer, Weismuller, the Johnston brothers and Sandow were satisfied that they had established Ali Baba’s New York State claim to the heavyweight crown.

A few days after losing a second time to Ali Baba, Shikat returned to Germany with the body of his wife, who had been killed just a day after the New York bout with Ali Baba, in an automobile accident in Columbus, Ohio.

“Toots” Mondt came to the rescue again.

Figuring the next step in the Haft, Weismuller, Sandow and Pfeffer move would be to match Ali Baba with Everett Marshall, and thus put Sandow back in the driver’s seat with the heavyweight title, Mondt began making overtures to all parties, at the same time Ray Fabiani, Tom Packs, and Rudy Dusek were trying to make connections with the new title czars.

Pfeffer finally became imbued with the idea that Haft, Sandow and Weismuller were going to double-cross him and work with his old enemies again.

“If enybuddy got to woik wit the trost hi vant hit should be Pfeffer,” the little Litvak told Charlie Johnston. “Ve vill see ‘Toots’ Mondt and mak a double-cross of Sandow, Haft and Weismuller.”

Pfeffer found a willing listener in Mondt.

In the early part of June, 1936, Mondt sneaked quietly into New York and after a forty-eight-hour conversation with Pfeffer at the Hotel Warwick, Dave Levin, an ex-butcher boy from Jamaica, New York, was selected as the instrument to be used in the defeat of Ali Baba, the Sandow, Haft and Weismuller champion.
Levin was originally supposed to steal the title from Ali Baba during a bout at the Dyckman Oval in upper Harlem, but when the show was rained out, the match was held in Newark the following night, June 12, 1936.

A well timed kick in the groin, with Levin on the receiving end, and the title returned to Mondt, when referee Frank Sinborn disqualified Ali Baba, and awarded Levin the title on a foul, and proclaimed him “World Champion.”

Like the “Star Spangled Banner,” the bombs began bursting in air, on June 13th, for the sports world soon learned that Mondt had become manager of Levin. According to reports, Mondt paid Pfeffer $17,000 for Levin’s contract.

The wily Mondt had laid his lines so well that prior to the Ali Baba-Levin match at the Meadowbrook Bowl in Newark, Pfeffer was convinced that Weismuller, Haft and Sandow were on the verge of declaring him out of the combination, and making Mondt their partner.

This little thought was put over on Pfeffer through the expediency of countless phone messages left at Mondt’s hotel, which read:


Mondt also arranged with friends in Rochester, Columbus and Detroit, the home cities of Haft, Sandow, and Weismuller, to have telegrams filed from these cities to him, and signed with the names of Haft, Sandow and Weismuller.

Shortly after the double cross in Newark, Ali Baba, when interviewed by Dan Parker of the Daily Mirror, said:

“I thought there were only 40 thieves. Now I find there were 42.”

When informed of Ali Baba’s sentiments, Mondt threw his hands up in pretended horror, and said: “I hope Harry wouldn’t dare call wrestling promoters like Pfeffer and myself thieves.”

Pfeffer merely shrugged his shoulders, caressed his proboscis with the index finger, and said: “From dis I am conwinced.”

Mondt’s coup, however, split the wrestling trust wide open. Because he had not been in on the Ali Baba defeat, Paul Bowser notified “Toots” that in his book O’Mahoney was still World’s Champion, despite the fact that he had been defeated by Shikat. Rudy Dusek sided with Bowser and took his entire organization out of the Curley office, moving his belongings to the Hotel Lincoln, where he immediately began booking the smaller wrestling clubs, with the pronunciamento that Mondt and Curley were no longer his partners.

With Mondt controlling most of the topnotch matmen, and Dusek and Bowser also booking heavyweight grapplers, the situation by the Spring of 1937 finds Everett Marshall proclaiming himself wrestling king because he had defeated Ali Baba on June 29, 1936, in Columbus, Ohio, and had recognition in Illinois and Colorado as champion. Levin, in turn, was defeated by Dean Detton of Salt Lake City, in Philadelphia, September, 1936.

Perhaps the greatest influence toward the cleanup of wrestling took place late in August of 1936, when Lee Wycoff and “Strangler” Lewis, one the policeman for Levin, and the other the copper for Marshall, met at the N.Y. Hippodrome Sports Arena in a grueling two-hour shooting match. The bout had been ordered by the New York State Athletic Commission, with the solons designating the winner as challenger for Levin in an elimination. Lewis entered the ring confident he would make short shift of his younger and more wary adversary. Wycoff, too, came through the ropes oozing self-belief. Lewis had told his associates it would be a short and merry bout, with “Strangler” the winner. Two hours later, both men fell out of the ring exhausted, and referee George Bothner called the affair a draw.

While Wycoff had not beaten Lewis, he demonstrated himself to be a capable and feared matman, with whom Nekoosa could not cope. Lewis’ failure to subdue Wycoff rankled more because Ed’s old manager, Sandow, had trained Wycoff for the bout, and supposedly shown Lee all of his former partner’s grappling tricks.

Discouraged after his failure to beat Wycoff, Lewis virtually retired from all wrestling competition and promotion. Before bowing out of the grappling game, how­ever, he went into serious training at “Toots” Mondt’s request, and in September of 1936, in the basement of Mondt’s home in Glendale, California, Lewis and six others of the toughest wrestlers the game knows, locked grips with Dean Detton of Salt Lake City, Utah, a heavyweight just two years out of the amateurs. Detton pinned all his opponents in short order.

It was after the Detton tryout that this writer sat in on a conference and Mondt told Lewis:

“Back in the old days, Ed, we slept nights because we had you on top, a champion who could wrestle. Even Gotch and Stecher were fellows who could hold their own by fair means or foul, when called upon to do so. Now Levin has cleaned up Lopez and I’m matching Dave with Detton in Philadelphia. Detton will win that one certain, and after that we’ll have a champion who we know we can exploit properly and we won’t have to take any guff from anyone.”

After Detton won the crown from Levin, Mondt endeavored to bring about a friendly feeling between the various wrestling factions, by welding Sandow, Haft, Weismuller, Curley, Bowser, the Johnstons, Lou Daro and Jack Corcoran of Toronto, into one big organization. He was blocked in this effort by the refusal of Sandow, Ed White, Haft and Weismuller to cooperate.
A growing confidence in wrestling, with Detton as champion, seems to be increasing throughout North America. Rugged, capable, skilled, well-bred and intelligent, Detton harks back to the halcyon days of the late William Muldoon, according to oracle Hype Igoe of the New York Evening Journal. Certain it is that like Muldoon, Detton need take a back step to no man in a wrestling sense.

Detton demonstrated his confidence in his own ability early last winter when the Illinois and Missouri Commissions attempted to force him into matches with Everett Marshall.

On December 27, 1936, Detton filed the following wire from the Western Union office at 710 Seventh Avenue, New York City to:

Joe Triner, Chairman

Illinois Athletic Commission

Chicago, Ill.

Garrett Smalley, Chairman

Missouri Athletic Commission

Kansas City, Mo.

Replying to various wires and letters regarding my granting title bout to Challenger Everett Marshall let it be understood I am willing to defend my title against challenger Marshall anywhere providing terms are satisfactory stop You understand a Detton-Marshall bout is a promotional plum and several cities are bidding for it stop Have under consideration bona fide offers from Twentieth Century Club New York Ray Fabiani Philadelphia Lou Daro Los Angeles to defend my title against challenger Everett Marshall stop The most satisfactory financial offer will be accepted stop So far no bids have been received from your promoters stop Realize you have no financial interest in any promoters only want to clear up mat situation so assume you have no objection my accepting best financial offer for title defense against challenger Marshall you merely want bout held stop Illinois New York Missouri California Pennsylvania all want bout I have met all challengers in defense of my championship and intend doing so with Challenger Marshall no exception stop I want to clean up all challengers and think in this case the promoter of a Detton-Marshall title bout should be a man of financial standing in whatever state held and both challenger and champion should be assured of impartial ring officials agreeable to both participants.

Dean Detton

Worlds Heavyweight Wrestling Champion

That Detton meant business and was in earnest he again demonstrated on January 3rd, 1937, when, not receiving a reply from the Illinois and Missouri Commissions, he dispatched the following letter to the Illinois Commission.

Detton’s letter follows and gives a comprehensive picture of the wrestling business.

January 3, 1937

Mr. Jos. Triner,

Chairman, State Athletic Commission,

Chicago, Ill.

Dear Mr. Triner:

The purpose of this letter is a definite and emphatic protest against the action of your commission in recognizing the winner of the forthcoming Marshall-McMillen match as world’s heavyweight wrestling champion.

Some time in June of the past year, the various athletic commissions of the states of California, Missouri, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania agreed, while attending the Louis-Schmeling boxing contest in New York City, to each designate a leading or No. 1 challenger for world titular honors in their respective states, and then by a process of elimination, establish a bona fide heavyweight champion and thereby put a stop to the claims of sundry champions who have no right to the honor.

It is my understanding that New York named Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Pennsylvania selected Dean Detton, Illinois chose Jim McMillen, Missouri took George Zaharias and California named Vincent Lopez.

Before any of these eliminations could take place, Dave Levin, of New York, placed the situation in a further muddle by defeating Ali Baba, who had the real claim to the title, by reason of his defeat of Dick Shikat, who had previously defeated Danno O’Mahoney when the latter had general and international credit as world’s champion. The Levin-Ali Baba match took place in Newark, N. J., June 12, 1936.

Immediately signing with Promoter Lou Daro, of Los Angeles, Levin agreed to meet Vincent Lopez in defense of his title claims, and eliminated Lopez, California’s entry, from further consideration, when he defeated the latter for the California title, which, as far as California was concerned, meant the world’s title.

Months before this situation arose, I was invited by Promoter Ray Fabiani, of Philadelphia, to enter a wrestling tournament, being held there and sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. I entered the tournament and was the ultimate victor, defeating Ed “Strangler” Lewis in the finals, which eliminated Lewis as a contender for the world title under the system proposed by the various states named above. I further want to bring out to you that despite the fact that Everett Marshall was contacted by registered mail by the Pennsylvania Commission, both he and his manager not only failed to enter the tournament, but disregarded entirely the communication they received from Commissioner Joe Rainey of Pennsylvania.

Now, regarding the situation in Chicago. Promoter Fellman, of Chicago, who was attempting to clarify the Illinois tangle, negotiated with me for a match with McMillen last summer. I readily accepted this match and on or about August 10, 1936, posted a forfeit with your commission. Now, may I again bring Marshall into the picture. A few days after my forfeit was posted to wrestle McMillen, Marshall met and defeated Ali Baba, and despite the fact that Baba had already been eliminated, by the Levin defeat, from all consideration, Marshall claimed the title when he won over Baba in Columbus.

At that time, your commission notified Marshall, or his manager by letter, a copy of which was forwarded to me by Ed White, of Chicago, that unless he agreed to meet either McMillen or myself, your commission would refuse to give any recognition whatsoever to his title claim. Following his procedure in Pennsylvania, Marshall completely ignored your communication, which, as it did in Philadelphia, eliminated him from further consideration in the title fight. He was given until September 15, 1936, to file an answer and when he failed to do so, there was only one course for Mr. Fellman and Mr. White to follow and that was a Detton-McMillen match, which was held and which resulted in a draw.

To progress further. On September 28, 1936, I met and defeated Dave Levin, in Philadelphia, which gave me recognition as champion in that state and further served to eliminate Levin from the title picture. This victory also gave me recognition in California. I followed this match with a defeat of George Zaharias in St. Louis, which not only eliminated Zaharias from titular honors but also gave me world championship recognition in Missouri. You will now note that every contender designated by the various states had been eliminated, with the exception of McMillen and myself.

Meanwhile, to digress, Marshall, invited to wrestle in New York by that commission, again followed in line with the policy he had taken in Pennsylvania and Illinois and refused to even answer the New York board’s communication, so that body suspended him, and it is a matter of record that at this writing that suspension still stands.

Now let’s return to the Chicago situation. After winning titular recognition in Pennsylvania and California and Missouri, Mr. Fellman and Mr. White asked me to wrestle in Chicago, and, in a match billed for the world’s heavyweight championship, I met and defeated Chief Little Wolf. On the same card, McMillen defeated Lewis. After both McMillen and myself won our matches, it was understood and told us, that we were to meet in Chicago for the undisputed heavyweight championship under the sanction of the Illinois Commission. Further, on the promise of such sanction, Mr. White drew from us an enormous amount of money for this purpose, claiming that he needed that money for Mr. Fellman or other large promoters who might be interested in bringing that match about.
I was absolutely dumbfounded when, recently, you wired me that I was suspended in your state for failure to go through with a McMillen match, this despite the fact that at no time were my representatives or myself notified about any such match being proposed. I so wired you in my reply and further asked you for details, which were not forthcoming from you. Instead, I received a very evasive letter, stating that I had made a verbal agreement with you to meet any contender you selected. In your same wire you notified me that I had run out of the McMillen match and took it for granted that I had, when in reality this was an absolute lie with no basis of truth, and then in the next statement you notified me that Marshall and McMillen were wrestling for the world’s heavyweight championship.

Now, Mr. Triner, you and your commission are not going to get away with anything as raw as this very bold attempt to try and cheat and job me out of my hard and rightfully earned championship. Because I’m not going to sit idly by and watch your commission recognize a discredited heavyweight named Marshall, who has been condemned not only by your own commission but by those of Pennsylvania, New York and California, for his pointblank refusal to enter any legitimate tournaments in an effort to straighten out the title situation.

It was you, Mr. Triner, and not I, that went back on your word, for despite your assurances that Marshall was definitely out of the running, you, in some manner, permitted him to slyly post a forfeit without letting me know of it and then come out and boldly announce his match for the world title.

In the near future, I’m going to ask your commission for a hearing and I’m prepared to battle this thing to a finish. In conclusion, the reason the whole matter appears wrong to me is because even with your threats to suspend me, I haven’t yet received an offer from any Chicago promoter to come there and wrestle any opponent - be it McMillen or anyone else.

Yours very truly,

Dean Detton,

World’s Heavyweight Wrestling Champion.

The fearless attitude of Detton has provoked favorable comment everywhere from press and public and he bids fair to remain champion a long time.

Detton summed it up to the writer one night last winter when he said: “So far I’ve never been asked to lose a match or do anything crooked, so anything I hear about wrestling is only hearsay. However, I don’t ask opponents to lie down to me and I’m in shape to wrestle at all times, so the Marshalls and others can come along whenever they wish.”

Reviewing the wrestling picture through the pages of this book these are strange words indeed.
But this is getting to be a strange land, my dear Gaston.

Fall Guys Chapter 22

Smoke Got in Their Eyes

Jack Pfeffer gloated in his new-found glory of parading Richard Shikat around the newspaper offices as the man who broke the nationwide wrestling trust.

He found the champ a willing sporting stooge in his campaign to blow the whistle on the machinations of the bonecrushing industry.

Though extremely ignorant as to the background and motivation in wrestling, sports scribe Dan Parker managed to maintain a certain note of authority in his columnistic revelations because of Pfeffer’s willingness to supply information with just a modicum of truth in every statement he gave the New York Mirror’s reporter.

Too, Dan Parker had another source of confidential information in “Chick” Wergeles, master of espionage, who, while working for the Curley office as a press agent, garnered gossipy tidbits concerning the inside of the wrestling business and relayed them to Parker, who printed the information in his column.

Failing in their efforts to do business with Richard Shikat, the mat trust dug up a managerial contract held by Joe Alvarez, Boston matchmaker for Bowser, and sued in the Federal district court of Columbus, Ohio, to restrain Shikat from wrestling for the Haft-Sandow-Weismuller combine.

Ray Fabiani, Joe Alvarez, Leon Balkin and Jack Curley journeyed to Columbus for the legal joust.

On Friday, April 23, 1936, the Columbus Citizen, in recounting the various moves in the Federal trial to curb Shikat, said:

Wrestling is on the level.

Jack Curley, for 40 years one of the leading sport promoters of the country, swore to that today on the witness stand in Judge Mell Underwood’s federal court, at the opening of the hearing of Joe Alvarez’ request for an injunction against World’s Champion Dick Shikat wrestling for anyone else but him.

Mr. Curley was the first witness offered by Attorney Fred C. Rector, acting for the plaintiff.

Mr. Curley had conveniently forgotten his revelations to Robert Edgren, New York World sports scribe, to whom he had revealed the various machinations of the wrestling business back in 1911, after the sorry Gotch-Hackenschmidt affair in Chicago.

Continuing, the Columbus Citizen said:

Just before noon recess, Attorneys Rector and John Connor for the defense engaged in a heated argument over admissibility of a photostatic copy of an agreement purported to be signed by Curley, Paul Bowser of Boston, Ray Fabiani of Philadel­phia, Ed White of Chicago, Tom Packs of St. Louis and “Toots” Mondt of New York.

According to Mr. Connor, this copy, if admitted in evidence, will show the existence of a signed agreement between these men, splitting up the eastern half of the United States in a wrestling combine or trust.

Mr. Curley admitted on the stand that such an agreement existed, and vouched for his signature on the agreement.

Mr. Curley was called to the stand after Judge Underwood had dissolved the temporary restraining order, forbidding Mr. Shikat to appear in any matches except for Mr. Alvarez.

The hearing then swung into a request for a permanent restraining order.

In response to a question from Mr. Rector, Mr. Curley said he had never participated in the fixing of a wrestling match, nor had he ever known of one being fixed.

Curley’s testimony at this juncture, it might be pointed out, was in direct contradiction to Jack Pfeffer’s various statements published in the New York Daily Mirror.

Quoting the Citizen again:

In the opening statements the two attorneys presented sharply contrasting pictures of the case.

To Mr. Rector it was merely a case of Mr. Shikat signing a contract with Joe Alvarez, and enjoying Mr. Alvarez’ help and cooperation in getting to the top, and then deciding he’d no longer cut Mr. Alvarez in on the earnings.

To Mr. Connor it was a dramatic story of a German coming to this country as a stranger, and finding he had to ditch Rudy Miller, his original manager, and sign up with a manager named by the “trust” before he could get any matches.

Then, according to Mr. Connor, came days when the trust demanded that he put up a deposit of $18,000 with the so-called trust, to guarantee he’d follow instructions, even to the extent of losing when instructed to lose.

After following instructions, Mr. Connor said Mr. Shikat asked for the return of his $18,000 deposit, and the return was refused.

Then came instructions to sign with another manager, also in the combine, and a period of two years of trying to get the deposit back.

After that, according to Mr. Connor’s opening statement, Mr. Shikat was signed to meet Danno O’Mahoney in New York City.

After the O’Mahoney match, according to Mr. Connor, representatives of the trust offered him his deposit back and $25,000 in addition, if he’d go in and meet Mr. O’Mahoney again and lose to him or to another wrestler named Robert.

Mr. Shikat, according to Mr. Connor, indignantly refused, and came west to join the stable of Al Haft, Columbus impresario of grunt and groan.

The Columbus State Journal said:

Charges that a wrestling “trust” exists in the eastern half of America, and that grapplers are forced to “win or lose or draw,” according to order, or lose huge forfeits, whirled through federal court yesterday.

Indications were that the testimony would be completed Saturday, only two of more than a score of witnesses reaching the stand yesterday.

The two were Jack Curley, New York promoter, and Garrett L. Smalley of Kansas City, chairman of the Missouri State Athletic Commission.

In addition to Shikat and Haft, who is co-defendant in the suit, and friends of Haft and Curley, Ray Fabiani, Philadelphia promoter, was an interested spectator, and probably will be a witness when the hearing is resumed at 10 o’clock this morning.

The preliminary restraining order which stopped Shikat from appearing in any matches was dissolved by Judge Underwood at the morning session, after a brief exchange between John Connor, attorney for Shikat and Haft, and Fred Rector, counsel for Alvarez. As a result, Shikat may appear in any match until the hearing is concluded, it is understood, and he is supposed to appear in Detroit tonight.

Smalley said he believed all contracts filed with the Missouri commission had borne Alvarez’ name as manager. He said he had no documentary support, since all contracts are destroyed soon after matches.

Connor asked him who was paying his expenses to Columbus, and Smalley replied no one had paid them yet, but he expected Tom Packs of St. Louis would do so. Packs is a member of the wrestling “ring.”

From Smalley’s testimony it is only too evident to the reader as to which corner the Missouri State Athletic Commission was working in. Contracts destroyed, and a trust paying a public servant’s expenses for favorable testimony. Truly a strange condition of affairs.

Quoting the Ohio State Journal again:

Jack Curley testified that he had known Alvarez for some years and that wrestling as it is conducted today in the United States, is strictly “on the level.” He denied vigorously that he had asked Shikat to “take a dive” in his match with O’Mahoney, and also declared false an implied assertion that he had tried the same thing again in trying to induce Shikat to agree to a return match with the Irishman.

The eastern impresario of exhibitions and athletic shows seemed to resent Attorney Connor’s revelation that his former name was Armand Jacob Schmul, which he changed 35 years ago in Chicago, to his present name.

Sports scribe Bob Beach of the Ohio State Journal, commented:

Lawyers must practice taking surprises without showing any shock. There is no doubt that the appearance in the court of a photostatic copy of the contract among Curley, Mondt, Bowser, Packs and Fabiani and White was like a bomb in the midst of the plaintiff’s staff of attorneys. But Rector didn’t show it. Neither did his colleague, Mr. Sterling, Curley’s Philadelphia lawyer. Curley himself, however, on the witness stand at the time, couldn’t conceal a trace of amazement.

While Shikat was purportedly in the employ of Alvarez, and allegedly under “contract” to him, all the vouchers with which he was paid, which were introduced by the plaintiff, bore the signature of Curley.

Back to the court trial as again recounted in the Columbus Ohio State Journal:

After the O’Mahoney match, Connor said Shikat was called into Curley’s office, where several members of the “ring” confronted him and asked him, “Why did you double cross us like you did last night?” But this also was denied by the wit­ness.

Then the offer to Shikat for a return match, with the stipulation to “take a dive” was made, Connor said, but the title holder merely smiled and refused.

Curley said he had been engaged in the promotional game for years, and in response to his attorney’s questions, said he included in his management, Annette Kellerman and the Vatican Choir “direct from Rome.” He also said he had managed the tour of William Jennings Bryan in 1901-02.

He professed ignorance of most of the details of his promotional enterprises, asserting the details were left to his assistant, Leon Balkin. He admitted signature of checks to Shikat.

At the afternoon session the contract between Mondt, White, Curley, Packs, Bowser and Fabiani, and others, in which they agreed to split 60 percent of the proceeds of all their matches was introduced.

As Bowser, whom Shikat’s attorney claims was the real manager and not Alvarez, was one of the signers, Curley admitted that he would participate in the earnings of the champion, not only as a partner, but also as a promoter.
The wrestling trial was becoming heated and partisan, when on Friday, April 24, Lew Byrer, Sports Editor for the Columbus Citizen commented:

Mr. Curley affirmed and reaffirmed that he had no interest in the case other than seeing the right prevail.

He kept reaffirming even after admitting on the stand that he had signed the so-called trust contract along with Messrs. Bowser, Fabiani, Packs, Mondt and White.

Never did John Barrymore quiver a more disdainful nostril than did Mr. Curley in voicing his emphatic denial. Never did John’s sister, Ethel, give a more vivid portrayal of righteous indignation.

One member of the mat trust spoke frankly, however, while the fireworks were going on in Columbus, Ohio. Tom Packs of St. Louis, in a statement given out to the National wire services, said:

“That a ‘promoters’ agreement’ had been formed, but that it was junked after a 30-day trial.

“Promoters throughout the country,” Packs said, “were trying to outbid each other for important matches. We found we were giving practically all of the profits to the wrestlers.

“We formed an association pooling profits and dividing equally. This agreement was not considered satisfactory by Curley, Bowser and Fabiani, so we decided to operate independently.”

At least Packs was using his head and keeping it above water.

Fall Guys Chapter 21

Dog Fight

Danno at least proved to be a wise young man, possessed of something else besides brawn and no brains.

As the news scribes flocked into his dressing room after the epochal Shikat double cross, the Irishman was ready for them.

“I didn’t quit,” he told the Fourth Estaters. “I’ve been in more punishing holds. I was tired, though, because of my long three-hour match last Friday night in Boston with Yvon Robert, so I couldn’t do my best. When Shikat clamped the arm lock on me I went to the floor.

“Shikat then told Referee Bothner he would break my arm unless he stopped the match. Bothner asked me if I wanted him to halt the contest, and I said: ‘Don’t halt the bout.’ Well I guess Bothner misunderstood my brogue, for he then slapped Shikat on the back, as a sign he was the winner and pulled the German off of me.

“Bothner told me in the ring after the bout was over, that he thought I said ‘Halt the bout.’ Shikat is a good man and I hope to meet him again with a referee in the ring who can understand an Irish accent.”

While Danno was declared shorn of his laurels by the New York State Commission, his brogue alibi served to save some vestige of his prestige.

The story behind Danno’s defeat in itself far outfigures the plots of master fictionists.

Months before the Danno double cross, Shikat, inspired by a disgruntled member of the trust, announced his intention of returning to Nazi land, but before doing so, contacted fellow countryman Rudy Miller, Florida wrestling agent for the nationwide combination.

Miller came to New York and the tough Teuton vowed vengeance on the entire mat industry, and declared that upon his return from the Fatherland, he (Shikat) intended to await an opportunity to beat Danno O’Mahoney right in Madison Square Garden.

Miller acted fast. Al Haft, Columbus, Ohio, promoter, Detroit promoter Adam Weismuller, and onetime Mat Czar Billy Sandow, were apprised of Shikat’s intentions. They signified their willingness to talk business with Shikat after he beat Champion O’Mahoney.

Late in the fall of 1935, Shikat returned from Germany, and was pointed for the title match with O’Mahoney which culminated in the epochal March 2, 1936, Madison Square Garden double cross. Shikat was now in a position to even old scores with Joe “Toots” Mondt, Jack Curley, “Strangler” Lewis, Jimmy Londos and Ed White. Too, he was in the driver’s seat, and could erase some grudges Rudy Dusek, his sponsor, harbored against various parties. The gears in the well-oiled double cross began to grind slowly but surely, while other unsuspecting mat trusters remained in the dark. After winning his claim to the mat championship, the trust tried to talk business with Shikat. That worthy listened, but, prompted by his sponsor, Miller, decided to cast his lot with Haft and Sandow.

Shikat tried to interest Jack Pfeffer in the deal, but the wily leaping Litvak trusted Teutons, wrestling promoters, and grapplers as much as Al Capone trusts a cop, and refused to pool money in the deal, agreeing, however, to book Shikat in New York and protect him to the best of his ability. Which was like guaranteeing a baby that a Jack Dempsey wallop would not hurt him.

Surprisingly enough, it comes to light at this late date, that Shikat merely beat Danno to the gun in taking his title away. For out in the Midwest the Sandow-Haft group had already made a deal with O’Mahoney, to have him leave New York right after the Shikat bout and accept a bout in Detroit with Everett Marshall, which the latter would win. The terms of the deal are said to have been arranged by a New York newspaperman on one of the Irish-American newspapers, and only Shikat’s getting in ahead of Marshall prevented the plan from materializing.

Immediately after hearing of Danno’s defeat, Mondt took a transcontinental plane to New York, and by tying up the loose ends he was able to figure out the key man in the double cross. It took him time, and while Mondt worked like one of Edgar Hoover’s G-Men, Shikat was parading the country as champion.

Mondt made Shikat an offer to meet Vincent Lopez in Los Angeles, and agreed to post fifty thousand dollars as a guarantee for two bouts.

Shikat was holding out for the highest bidder. With the money of Haft and Sandow in his safety deposit box, he had decided to carry the double cross a little further, and double cross everyone.

As Shikat told this writer:

“My title is on the auction block. I’m going to get as much for it as possible. After the Browning match in Madison Square Garden, when I protested against Lewis losing the title to Browning without taking me in on the deal, Lewis and Mondt invited me up to the Warwick to talk it over, and instead, they beat me up. I waited a long time for revenge. I could have beaten Londos in Madison Square Garden on December 11th, 1934, after the big trust deal had been made with him and he was holding the fifty thousand dollars, and I was going to do so until I began wrestling with Londos in the Garden ring and sensed that this was just what Londos wanted so he could file his claim to the fifty thousand dollars and leave the country. “I decided right then and there to lose to Londos as programmed, and wait until later for revenge. I hated Londos as much as I hated Curley, Lewis, Mondt, Fabiani and Bowser, but I didn’t want to make Londos richer by double crossing the heels who had been in on the beating I took at the Warwick.”

“Why?” this writer asked of Shikat, “didn’t you come back and work with Mondt when you won the title back from Danno?”

“I was all ready to go back to Mondt or Bowser, because I felt they were the squares of the bunch, but I heard they planned to give me twenty-five thousand dollars for a return bout in Boston with Danno, and all agreed to this, but Lewis said: ‘Sure, we’ll promise him the twenty-five thousand dollars until after he loses to Danno, and then we’ll take him up to a hotel room and give him another beating,” responded Shikat. “So,” concluded Shikat, “those fellows should watch my smoke now. I’m on my own.”

Fall Guys Chapter 20

Wearing Out The Green

Danno O’Mahoney, or “Danno Me Bye,” as Worcester’s Jack McGrath called him, came from Balleydhob, a whistle stop in the south of Ireland. Only the most fortuitous circumstances brought him into the American wrestling game.

Bowser had commissioned Jack McGrath to travel to Erin’s Isle, and there endeavor to persuade Doctor Patrick O’Callahan, Erin’s representative in the Olympics, to forsake medicine and to cast his lot with the American pachyderms.

“We have a big Irish population, not only in Boston and New England, but throughout the Americas,” Bowser told his partners. “The biggest drawing cards in American athletics have always had Irish names. If we can get O’Callahan and make him champion, we may have the Londos houses restored.”

So off to Dublin journeyed McGrath, only to have his overtures to O’Callahan met by rebuffs. The good doctor possessed enough money so that he needed not American shekels and made it plain to McGrath the best move he could make would be to return to the States on the next ship.

Considerably downcast, McGrath repaired to a tavern where he assuaged his thirst and wept copiously in the “arf and arf.”

He had become pleasantly immersed in his cups when his reverie was disturbed by a loud shouting outside the tavern door. Possessing all the curiosity of a Boston born Celt, McGrath rested his stein on the bar long enough to permit him to poke his head through the inn door and view the scene without.

He saw a raw boned Irish lad clothed in the uniform of the Free State Army, well over six feet, and weighing in the neighborhood of two hundred pounds, putting the shot, the while admiring Gaels cooed and aahed every effort.

McGrath turned to the bartender, who was also viewing the lad’s exhibition of prowess. “And who,” he asked, “is that lad?”

The barkeep smiled joyfully, raised his eyes piously to heaven and answered: “That is ‘Danno Me Bye.’ The best shot putter in the Irish Free State Army.”

“Is he married?” asked McGrath.

“That he is not,” replied the booze dispenser.

“Do you know him?” was McGrath’s next question.

“And that I do,” answered the Celt, “fir isn’t he my own sister’s child by her marriage?” It was enough for McGrath. He sought an introduction to the athletic hero and before the day was over, Danno O’Mahoney had agreed to obtain a furlough from the Free State Army and try his hand in America as a bonecrusher.
“Though I’ve had no experience wrestling, I think the remuneration is sufficient to be interesting,” Danno told his intimate friends. “I’m now receiving fifteen dollars monthly in the Free State Army. This man McGrath says I’ll make a fortune in America, and if I do as I’m told, I’ll be able to win the championship.”

With only a rudimentary knowledge of wrestling, such as he had obtained in the Free State Army, Danno was taken to London, and there in a ring at Albert Hall, in December of 1934, met “Strangler” Lewis. “Big Ed” had agreed to the match without first viewing his opponent. In fact, he stepped right off the gangplank and into Albert Hall, without waiting for his sea legs to wear off. He was treated to the most amazing sight of his career.

“I expected to see a Hercules,” Lewis said later. “But when this fellow slouched into the ring and onto the mat, I was afraid to clamp a hold onto him for fear every bone in his body would crack. He swayed like a reed bent before a tornado. I had intended to wrestle a draw with him, but instead I threw him after twenty minutes of tugging. I just couldn’t carry him through to a draw, he was so terrible looking.”

McGrath was satisfied with the aptitude Danno had shown in his bout with Lewis, and early in 1935 the Irishman was launched upon his American bonecrushing career. He caught on at once in Boston.

Bowser and his partners fed him the best “workers,” and the Irish-American public, with another hero to worship from afar, such as John L. Sullivan, Jimmy McLarnin and Roy Neal, flocked to the wrestling clubs where he appeared.

Almost at once, after Danno’s Boston debut, the wrestling gates soared back to the oldtime highs that had been Bowser’s pleasure when Sonnenberg was cham­pion.

Rudy Dusek, his brothers, Ernie, Joe, Emil, Scotty MacDougall, Ray Steele, Jim Browning, “Strangler” Lewis, Sonnenberg, McMillen, Little Wolf, Joe Beaver, George Zaharias, they and many more worked with and lost to “Danno Me Bye” before huge houses.

There seemed to be no stopping “The Wild Irish Rose.” Crowds followed him through New England and Canadian towns. Against Londos in Boston, on June 27th of 1935, he drew a record house of nearly seventy-five thousand dollars, and won Londos’ claim to the championship, a feat which cost Bowser seventy-five thousand dollars, for he had to guarantee Londos not only the fifty thousand dollars which he and his partners had posted as a guarantee of faith, but the Greek pretender demanded another twenty thousand before he would let his claim to the title change hands. Ed Don George then fell before the Irishman on July 27th, 1935, with heavyweight champion Jim Braddock acting as referee, and proving sufficiently adept at the art of being arbiter to enable Bowser to rematch George and Danno several times in various cities.

With Danno the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, the mat moguls looked for bigga and betta wrestling gates, but their hopes were dashed with cold water.

Danno had no sooner won the title than new trust busters appeared upon the horizon. Jack McGrath, who traveled with the Irishman and fronted as his manager, spent worrisome nights foiling efforts to double cross the Celt and grab his crown.

It had been years - not since “Strangler” Lewis had been in his heyday - since there had been a single undisputed title holder, and Billy Sandow, back in the picture with Everett Marshall, was challenging the Celt crown-wearer in every major city of America.

With the seventy thousand dollars invested in a title holder, Bowser needed protection aplenty and the job of covering up for Danno became a costly one.

There were rumors that Serge Kalmikoff, bewhiskered Russian importee, was going to double cross the trust and throw Danno during a Philadelphia bout. Only the prompt work of “Toots” Mondt foiled this scheme.

Out in Chicago, on the windy shores of Lake Michigan, Ed White eyed Danno’s crown with covetous eyes, realizing that if one of his men defeated the Irishman, White would be back in the driver’s seat.

On the Pacific Coast, where “Toots” Mondt was drawing record grappling gates with Man Mountain Dean, Vincent Lopez, Dean Detton, and Little Wolf, Mondt foresaw the possibilities of Danno being “hooked” and had Vincent Lopez, Utah-Mexican-American, declared champion by the California Commission. When his partners protested this move, Mondt answered: “You can never tell when the Irishman is going to get clipped. Londos and Ed White are working to double cross him. The Greek got the seventy thousand dollars, and would now like to get the title back again, but he’s not going to pay for it. He’ll wait until he can trap Danno with some stooge.”

The partners learned later how correct “Toots” was to be in his deductions.

Sandow allied himself with Al Haft of Columbus, and Everett Marshall continued baiting Danno. Ed “Strangler” Lewis was shoved into the breach wherever a policeman was necessary, but even the redoubtable Lewis couldn’t be with Danno every night to protect him.

When, in the early part of 1936, Danno toured through the South, he narrowly averted two defeats, one by “Toots” Bashara in New Orleans in February, and the other by Ed Civil, known as “Daniel Boone Savage,” the “Wild Man” in Houston.

The works were in again for “Danno Me Bye” in Galveston, with Juan Hemberto as his opponent, but the prompt work of Charlie Rentropt, Memphis promoter, who was traveling with Danno and McGrath, as referee, prevented the Irishman from being hooked.

Rentropt adopted the expedient of having O’Mahoney show up in Galveston on the night of the contest and report that he was too ill to wrestle.

The fight over such a synthetic bauble as a mat crown may seem small potatoes to the reader, but to wrestling promoters the possession of the heavyweight title puts the manipulator in the driving seat. No sooner had Danno won the crown, than every small time promoter began figuring ways and means to outsmart Bowser and grab the title without paying for the privilege of owning a championship.

“Doctor” Karl Sarpolis, veteran grappler, made desperate and vain attempts to have the Texas Commission reverse the Houston decision of Referee Paul Jones (a Bowser-controlled wrestler who grappled with Danno many times) given in favor of the Irishman and have Ed Civil, so-called Wild Man, declared champion.

Sarpolis is said to have offered various officials and politicians twenty-five thousand dollars to change the decision and have Civil declared champion, but to the credit of the Lone Star State satraps it must be said that his offers met with refusal.

It has been said since, that these attempts to “hook” Danno during his southern tour were the direct results of Jim Londos’ undercover plotting, but later developments led many to suspect Rudy Dusek.

Before hooking up with the eastern wrestling picture, Dusek had been the big time mat master mind through the South. His chief lieutenant was Leon Balkin, brother-in-law to Shreveport, La., promoter, Julius Siegel, and Houston promoter, Morris Siegel.

On the night when Referee Paul Jones had protected Danno against the Ed Civil double cross, Sarpolis, who had not as yet shown his hand, Jack McGrath, Rentrop, Danno and Jones, held a conference in a room at the Auditorium Hotel in Houston. McGrath suggested that Siegel phone New York and relay news of the various happenings to Leon Balkin. According to later reports, the following conversation took place in substance:

Siegel: “Hello, Leon, is there anyone with you in your room?” Evidently Siegel received a negative reply, for Siegel said: “I have a room full of people here, so I’ll tell you the news in Yiddish.”

Thereupon, Siegel conducted a twenty-minute phone conversation with his brother-in-law in Jewish.

Said McGrath later in reporting to Paul Bowser.

“We were all Christians in the room except Siegel. None of us but Siegel knew Jewish. We all knew, however, about the attempted double cross, and none of us suspected any of those present at the time. Now what need was there for Siegel to talk to Balkin over the long distance phone in Yiddish, unless Balkin was in on the plot?”
While Bowser did not have an immediate answer to this riddle, it came much later.

Danno returned from his southern tour considerably sullied, but still champion. The bombshell burst in the wrestling business on the night of March 2, 1936, in Madison Square Garden.

Richard Shikat, taciturn Teuton, sauntered into the Garden Ring, and in a bout sanctioned by the New York State Athletic Commission as a title match, he made O’Mahoney quit with a simple arm and double wristlock, easiest of holds for an experienced wrestler to break.

When Referee George Bothner patted Shikat on the back in token of victory, his gesture precipitated the opening of a wrestling war which may not end for years to come.

Beating O’Mahoney in the Madison Square Garden ring was a master stroke on Shikat’s part. With every big wire service covering Madison Square Garden events, Shikat knew he was in a position to secure world wide publicity. He knew, too, that although Ed Lewis, Jack Curley, McGrath, and other partners were on hand, George Bothner was a referee who would call the bout the way he saw it.

Within a few weeks there were to be more crosses in the wrestling business than one could find in the soldiers’ graveyards of France.

Fall Guys Chapter 19

It Takes A Thief To Catch A Thief

It’s an old maxim in law enforcement that “It takes a thief to catch a thief,” and Pfeffer soon demonstrated that he was an apt proof of the time-worn motto.

His wrestling exposes in various New York papers were wired into every major town in the United States, and he himself mailed thousands of copies to every sports editor in the United States and Canada.

Even friendly sport scribes were constrained to proceed cautiously in their support of wrestling attractions promoted in their towns when they read of the previous hoodwinkings they and their readers had received.

Pfeffer and the Johnston brothers allied themselves with Al Haft of Columbus, Ohio, who was featuring middleweight, lightweight and welterweight grapplers.

The midget matmen had always been shunned by the trust, so were available for bouts in metropolitan clubs, and only too happy for the opportunity to work. They flocked to the Johnston-Pfeffer banners and soon proved almost as popular as the mastodons.

Three heavyweights, however, continued to hold sway as champions. Though the members had signed a trust agreement, Bowser held onto Browning and George as titleholders, while Londos continued to claim a crown even though Savoldi had defeated him the year before in Chicago.

On June 24, 1934, Londos reestablished himself as champion in New York by throwing Jim Browning in the Madison Square Garden Bowl, in a contest for the benefit of the Hearst Milk Fund. The bout drew a gate of nearly forty thousand dollars.

The day before the Londos-Browning “contest,” the New York Enquirer printed a story in which it revealed that Londos was holding $50,000 as a guarantee he would throw Browning. The Enquirer also exposed the conditions surrounding the “contest,” together with the time scheduled for the “contest” to end, and who the victor would be. Nevertheless, the “unsuspecting” members of the New York State Athletic Commission sanctioned the contest as a “shooting” match.

This, despite the fact all involved, according to Pfeffer’s testimony, Packs, Londos, Bowser, White, Curley, Fabiani, Dusek, Lewis, Mondt and Miller were partners in the business.

The trust partners also assuaged Londos’ feelings somewhat, in the Fall of 1934, by permitting the little Greek Hercules to defeat Ed “Strangler” Lewis, his ancient enemy (and then business partner), in another of those advertised “SHOOTING” matches at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The bout took place on Sept. 20, 1934, with a gross gate of $96,000.

The Chicago Tribune was used as the prop to pry the money from the gullible fans and The Tribune sponsored the Londos-Lewis “Contest.” All the trust partners joyfully attended the bout in festive spirits and happily cut up the melon afterwards.

Any doubts concerning the competitive angle in wrestling are dispelled by reading an excerpt from an article in Nat Fleischer’s Ring Magazine, dated October, 1934. It says:

Regardless of any pre-arrangement - and the boxing commission must be aware that such agreements are made in all championship and other exhibitions - there can be no kick by the fans because they know what to expect and get what they come to see - good entertainment. That’s all wrestling is, nowadays. Legitimate competition is gone. The days of real, honest-to-goodness wrestling matches are things of the past, and we all might just as well get accustomed to the other type, because it is the only kind we can see in these days of commercialized sport.

The Londos-Lewis match in Chicago was the last big house the trust partners were to share in for some months to come, however. Wily Jack Pfeffer was doing his work well. Profits from the midget matmen he sponsored were of secondary consideration. Revenge was sweet and he literally “drank” Londos and his partners’ blood on many a festive occasion.

Through the years, Pfeffer had kept a complete account of every wrestler’s record, and as fast as the combination’s master minds revealed plans for a new bout in one of the metropolitan centers, Jack would reveal to the sports editors that it had been done before.

Perhaps the most notable case was the evening of November 19, 1934, when Jim Londos was paired to defend his title against Everett Marshall.

Billy Sandow was sponsoring Marshall, but he conveniently forgot that his man had met and been defeated by Londos on several previous occasions. Pfeffer went to the New York Daily News with alleged records of the number of times Londos and Marshall had met.

The day of the bout dawned bright and clear, with the various trust partners on hand early to count the line at the box office. They were due for a rude awakening, for the Daily News, with the largest daily newspaper circulation in America, carried a graphic feature sports story headed:


The fans read, and Curley, Mondt and the rest of the partners wept. That evening the principals wrestled before a virtual gallery of ghosts.

Pfeffer was doing his work well, and the fans were beginning to catch on to the way mat contests were arranged.

The clouds gathered and became blacker on the mat horizon.

What had been a honeymoon in January for the mat moguls, threatened to become a divorce in December of the same year.

Then factional disputes developed, and Mondt walked out of the Curley office in New York and began booking and promoting in partnership with Lou Daro of Los Angeles, leaving the eastern section of the United States to Rudy Dusek.

Jack Curley was doing his best to drive Dusek from the office, and Dusek, in turn, was feuding and trying to even old scores with Ray Fabiani.

The mat houses had fallen away to virtually nothing, when the savior came in the person of “DANNO ME BYE.”

Fall Guys Chapter 18

Happee New Year

The year of 1934 dawned throughout the United States as a happy one, indeed, for the new main combination. While Jack Pfeffer and the Johnston brothers fumed and ranted in their tents, and their club became empty, and the principal matmen withdrew to other territories or went over to the Jack Curley offices in the Fitzgerald Building for bookings, Jack Curley, Ray Fabiani, Tom Packs, Ed White, Paul Bowser and “Toots” Mondt got together and signed articles which extended the scope of activities from coast to coast and gave to the combination a bigger field of activity.

During a Federal Court trial in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, April 1st, 1936 (which we shall touch upon in more detail later), it was shown that the aforementioned partners signed a partnership agreement at the time of the new merger-which virtually gave the group a strangle hold upon the wrestling game in the United States and Canada.

Inasmuch as Mondt and his partners at once set about an interchange of talent with Henri De Glane in Paris, Atholl Oakley in England, and Earl McCready in Australia, it can be deduced that the new mat trust had a headlock on the sport throughout the world. For without wrestlers, a promoter cannot run, and Mondt and partners had the talent.

However, Londos was not one to rest upon mere contracts. While his name was not affixed to the partnership contract, yet he was very much in the wrestling picture when the merger came about. Chicago’s Ed White acted as Jimmy’s inner operative, Londos sensing that his future wrestling reputation might be jeopardized, should he make the mistake of signing an agreement which might later fall into unfriendly hands.

He, however, did obtain a cash deposit of fifty thousand dollars, contributed jointly by Mondt, Fabiani, Packs, Bowser, Dusek, and Lewis, that he would not lose any matches while he wrestled under the new combine’s aegis, or if he should lose, the fifty thousand dollars would be declared forfeit.

The object of this cash bond was threefold. It gave Londos a chunk of money to hold as a guarantee of faith. It guaranteed Londos protection in case of a double cross on the part of any or all of the partners, and it kept the partners from becoming unmanageable.

Mr. Pfeffer waxed indignant when the new group formed and left him out in the cold, and he repaired at once to Dan Parker, New York Daily Mirror sports editor, into whose ear he poured out his story of the mat trust machinations, at the same time calling attention to the fact that he, too, was no lily white and had participated in the money grab during the Londos era of big gates.

“Them thiefs is stealin’ and onless dey make me ha partner, den I won’t play. I vant to steal vatches too if dem guys are goin’ to rob the jewelry shop,” Pfeffer shouted.

Quoting the loquacious M. Pfeffer again:

“Londos trusts no one and has $50,000 in his pocket as a forfeit from his recent enemies, in case they cross him up and let one of their group throw him.

“Londos will not wrestle anyone in a shooting match. Under the new agreement he will retain his title until they give him enough money to make it worthwhile losing.”

The new trust partners not only snickered but guffawed aloud while Pfeffer shrieked his charges of double dealing and cold decking on the part of the mat trust. Pfeffer exposed the Londos era of fakery, but the trust shrugged its shoulders.

“We’re so strong now nothing can stop us from making money,” Ed White said.

It’s always fair weather when good fellows get together, and the new wrestling trust, greater in numbers, finances and talent than the trust once controlled by the mighty Sandow, began making programs as rapidly as possible.

With every important heavyweight wrestler under the new trust’s thumb, Pfeffer realized that not only were his clubs expensive burdens, but he was also in the position of standing on the outside looking in while juicy profits poured into the coffers of his enemies.

In the parlance of gangdom, Pfeffer became a copper and blew his whistle. In written letters and statements to newspapers he revealed the inside workings of the wrestling business.

The august New York State Athletic Commission, seemingly unaware until then of the vast manipulations in the wrestling industry, ordered a probe of Pfeffer’s allegations.

Packs, White, Miller, Londos, Fabiani, Shikat, Pfeffer, Lewis, Curley, Bowser, Browning and Mondt were ordered to appear at a Commission meeting to answer several questions. Pfeffer arrived with his lawyer, Jeremiah O’Leary. Commissioners Brown and Phelan conducted the probe for the State Athletic Commission.

The investigation had hardly gotten under way before it was apparent to Counselor O’Leary that the new trust’s tacticians had again outsmarted Pfeffer. Rudy Miller was introduced as a surprise witness for the trust. Also an affidavit from Miller was placed in evidence in which the trust received a whitewashing.

Miller had double crossed Pfeffer by jumping back to his former partners’ side of the fence. Attorney O’Leary began questioning Miller. It soon became apparent the latter’s testimony was at variance with the whitewashing in his affidavit.

At this point in the proceedings, Commissioners Brown and Phelan ordered a recess to consider evidence. And that was the last ever heard about the great wrestling probe.

Fall Guys Chapter 17

Love's Old Sweet Song

The ways of the “heathen Chinee” may be dark and devious but the schemes of wrestling manipulators are indeed beyond reckoning.

“Jeemy” Londos and his henchmen began rearranging their forces to smash Mondt and his partners. They couldn’t do it by straight wrestling and mat promotion so they aimed at the eastern combination’s pocketbook. Politics may make strange bedfellows everywhere except in wrestling.

Londos might never have reached second base in his efforts to buck Mondt if an unfortunate automobile accident hadn’t taken most of “Toots’” time. It occurred in Toronto, Canada, where “Toots,” while driving to his hotel, in his own car, hit a machine, the collision killing the occupants in the other auto. Mondt was tried in the Canadian courts on a manslaughter charge and had to take time out in addition to fight several damage suits. By the time he was adjudged blameless, he had spent about $300,000.

Knowing that Jack Pfeffer was the financial emir behind Mondt, Bowser, Lewis and Curley, the “Golden Greek’s” backers began wooing the little Litvak.

Londos, master con man and two-faced charlatan, conducted secret conferences with the messy Hebrew who was furnishing the bankroll for his partners to combat Londos at every turn.

Beneath Pfeffer’s dirty shirt burned the fires of ambition. He wanted to be the number one man in the New York picture. He wanted to promote in Madison Square Garden and have the glory of those four-column half-tone cuts which New York newspapers so generously contributed to Jack Curley whenever he ran a mat carnival either at Madison Square Garden or the 71st Regiment Armory.

Pfeffer refused to listen to Londos until he proved his good faith by dumping Rudy Dusek, the Greek eastern manipulator.

Londos, through Tom Packs and the Johnston brothers, found no difficulty in doing this. Londos merely waited until Dusek went to Omaha for a brief vacation and installed Bill Nelson, assistant hooker to Dusek in Rudy’s place. When Dusek returned, he found the Londos wrestling headquarters moved to different rooms in the Hotel Lincoln and his personal effects in the hotel storeroom.

When Pfeffer was apprised of the changes Londos had made in the eastern booking offices in order to testify as to his good faith, the “Halitosis Kid” lent more attentive ear. Londos knew just how to play up Pfeffer’s many-sided characteristics.

He pointed out that Pfeffer could come into his organization, be the big eastern manipulator, crack whip, and when Mondt and his cohorts were brought to their knees, Jack Curley would be thrown by the wayside and Pfeffer installed in his place as the Greek wrestler’s official New York sponsor and promoter.

“We have had a long talk with Jimmy Johnston and President John Reed Kilpatrick of Madison Square Garden,” Londos told Pfeffer. “Mr. Kilpatrick has assured me we will have the Garden in the fall for our wrestling promotions. I’ll turn the Garden over to you and you can be the big man in New York City. Go along with the Johnston brothers for a time and after you are established as the big promoter here we’ll throw out the Johnstons and you’ll be top man.”

Londos was plotting a double cross all around. Pfeffer was to play a traitor to Mondt, Curley and Lewis, and in turn Londos played heel with Dusek and the Johnston brothers.

Londos and his pals were playing the old wrestling game of ring around the rosy.

Pfeffer became a partner in the Londos organization and began booking his clubs, The Ridgewood Grove and Bronx Coliseum from the offices of Charley Johnston, Londos’ eastern manager. Pfeffer says he and his partner, Rudy Miller (who also became afflicted with financial cold feet and had aligned himself with Pfeffer), each posted two thousand five hundred dollars with Londos as a guarantee of good faith on their part. Londos and his associates, of course, weren’t required to show their faith by posting coin of the realm with Pfeffer.

Pfeffer’s quick overnight jump from Mondt, Curley and Lewis to Londos and his supporters, stunned Mondt only temporarily. “Toots” sought out Rudy Dusek and sold him a partnership in his organization for twenty thousand dollars. What went with the partnership has always remained a somewhat hazy idea. A partnership seemed to include Dusek’s privilege to call himself a partner and supply twenty thousand dollars to continue to fight Londos until such time as a better deal came along.

Dusek’s contribution to the partnership, however, was Dusek, his brothers, Leon Baklin, a hooker, whom he won over from the Tom Packs group, and Sam Segal, southern promoter and booker.

As future events shaped themselves it developed that while Dusek paid twenty thousand dollars for a partnership, it was only an interest in Mondt’s share of the business and did not include any financial claims Curley, Lewis and Bowser might have. It was probably one of the most stupid business arrangements any person, whether a wrestler or businessman, could make.

Though schooled in the ways of the wrestling double-cross Dusek smiled serenely and walked into the trap.

The blame for future events that occurred in the wrestling factions’ double crossing of Pfeffer rests squarely on Pfeffer’s own shoulders. He was by no means a novice in the grappling business and was well aware of the larceny, deception, fraud, trickery and double crossers common to the so-called sport.

With Pfeffer and Miller’s joint five thousand dollars bond resting in his pocket, Londos sailed for Greece to see his ailing father. White and Packs quietly began negotiating with Lewis, Mondt, Paul Bowser, Curley and Rudy Dusek. Here’s how Pfeffer first got wind of the fact he was about to be forced out of wrestling. He says: “While Londos was in Greece I booked my clubs with the Londos group’s wrestlers.

“I received no word from White or Packs and I began to grow suspicious. There had been reports in the New York Enquirer that there was to be a new deal in wrestling with the Londos and Curley factions deciding to make up.

“Right there, I knew that I was being double crossed. If I had any lingering doubts, they were dispelled when I heard Curley, Mondt, Bowser, Dusek, White, Packs and Londos had a peace meeting at the Pennsylvania Hotel. All members of both wrestling factions left me and Charley Johnston out in the cold and merged into one big happy family.”

It was Londos himself who supplied the key to his reason for pushing Pfeffer out of the heavyweight mat picture.

Pfeffer sought several conferences with Londos and finally cornered him one morning at the Hotel St. Moritz.

“Listen to me you dirty little bum,” Londos said to Pfeffer. “I’m even with you now and you’re out in the cold. I said to myself I was going to get even with you that night in the Hotel Paramount, when we were discussing a match with Shikat and you called me yellow. You got away with it then, but now you’re out of the wrestling business. You supplied the money for the Joe Savoldi double cross in Chicago, now go out and see how far you can get. I’ll see you broke yet, and in the breadline.”

“Ya, ya, you big bummer,” shouted Jack. “Yat hall drink your blood, you lousy Grik bum.”

“Start drinking,” replied Londos, “but get out of my room. The new combination is going to make money.”

Fall Guys Chapter 16

Police! Police! Police!

Washing the dirty wrestling linen in public via State Athletic Commissions and through friendly newspapers became the sport of both wrestling factions, the eastern combination headed by Mondt, and the Londos group, with Tom Packs of St. Louis and Ray Fabiani of Philadelphia supporting Londos.

The Londos group entered the New York field to buck Jack Curley, Mondt’s promoter, and allied itself with Charlie and Willie Johnston.

Tom Packs later told this writer that this effort to break “Toots” in his own back yard cost Londos, Packs and Fabiani nearly fifty thousand dollars in round numbers, and still the little Greek wasn’t making any real headway.

Rudy Dusek, well known to wrestlers as a matman and promoter through the south, was brought into the east to guide the Johnston brothers in their efforts to help Londos and to book the Johnston controlled clubs and arrange programs.

Meanwhile Mondt and his partners weren’t asleep. They were staying up nights fighting Londos and his new cohorts.

Though the new combination was in control of wrestling in the eastern metropolitan area, Londos continued to hold sway in the hinterlands. Shorn of any championship claims in New York state, the states of Pennsylvania and Illinois, strangely enough, refused to heed the challenges of either Lewis or Browning and the Golden Greek reigned supreme with his crown barely tarnished.

Londos continued meeting the same matmen night after night and while the takings weren’t as large as before, still the gates were satisfactory.

Lewis, Mondt, Pfeffer, Curley, Miller, and Bowser decided to do something about the Greek’s popularity.

The old idea of double crossing Londos through one of his trusted lieutenants occurred to Mondt and his partners. New Haven was selected as the site and a third-rate wrestler named Pat O’Shocker was picked as the man to do the job. O’Shocker goes down in wrestling history as a man who refused to win a heavyweight wrestling championship.

In a signed and sworn story published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat of April 11, 1933, Pat O’Shocker revealed that on the day of his arrival in New Haven (September 12th, 1932) he was taken to an apartment for a conference with “Toots” Mondt. O’Shocker said in the Globe-Democrat that Mondt offered him $15,000 and a contract which would make him rich if he crossed up Londos and won the bout. Pat turned it down. Then Mondt offered him $25,000. Again O’Shocker turned it down. Mondt said he was foolish, as the referee “was all right.”

O’Shocker left the conference and went at once to Londos to tip him off that there was skulduggery at the junction.
Hearing of the plot, Londos announced he wouldn’t go through with the bout. He didn’t trust even the faithful O’Shocker, who had tipped him off. Connecticut Athletic Commissioner Tom Donohue told him if he didn’t go through with the match his title would be declared forfeit. Londos then demanded that the referee be changed. Donohue refused and Londos had to go through with the so-called contest.

He threw O’Shocker in eighteen minutes and then he and Pat took it on the lam to avoid the angry fans, who wanted to lynch both of them.

“Toots” had evidently read the classics, for he believed in the old adage, “If once you don’t succeed, try, try again.” He awaited his opportunity to try again. It was important that Londos be discredited.

Pfeffer says:

Mondt saw another chance to get Londos. Joe Savoldi, who had been tossed numerous times by the Greek, was booked to meet him in Chicago on April 7, 1933, and “Toots” sent an emissary to sound out Joe on the proposition of giving Jimmie the works.

This time “Toots” had a wrestler who knew the meaning of the word cooperation. Everything was all set. “Toots” stole into Chicago (I hate to use the word steal in connection with the wrestling game) and registered under a nom de plume at the Palmer House. He kept under cover until the night of the bout. Then he had the extreme satisfaction of seeing Savoldi win the match from Londos.

The next day Mondt, Savoldi and Judge Bernard Barasa, of Chicago, were on their way to New York, Savoldi, with a contract from Mondt, signed before the Londos match, tucked away in his pocket. Savoldi boomed business for us. He and Lewis had a match that wound up with Joe jumping out of the ring and losing the decision.

To those in the know, this move in having Savoldi lose to Lewis was a necessary one. Londos had marshaled his political forces in Pennsylvania and Illinois and the Commissions in these states ordered a return match between Londos and Savoldi.

After his victory over Savoldi, Lewis promptly wired the commissions in Pennsylvania and Illinois that in view of the fact he had defeated Savoldi, who had won over Londos, he was willing to meet Londos “anywhere, any time, any place.” This quieted Londos, who seemed strangely apathetic whenever Lewis was mentioned as an opponent.

Lewis and Mondt’s next move was for Lewis to journey to Boston, where the “Strangler” lost to Ed Don George. The latter had just lately won back his claim to the heavyweight title by defeating Henri De Glane, he of the famous Montreal double-cross.

Inasmuch as Bowser and Lewis had repaired the political fences this maneuver of Lewis’ in losing to George was considered a smart one. Even if Londos did decide to meet Lewis, the bird had flown, and any shreds to Londos’ title claims now rested on the brow of Ed Don George.

To forestall Londos challenging George for a match anywhere but in Boston, where Bowser could protect him, George signed a contract with Bowser to defend his title in Boston against Londos. As Massachusetts had no commission governing wrestling, Bowser selects his own referees for all matches, and Londos could readily perceive the danger in signing to meet George in the Bean City. Lewis and Mondt had the Golden Greek blocked again, but he continued wrestling.

Ray Fabiani, of Philadelphia, managed to keep the Pennsylvania Commission in line and that august body refused to recognize either Browning, George, or Savoldi as title claimants. Londos was still kingpin of the mat world - in Pennsylvania at least. Packs’ political friends kept the Missouri State Commission faithful to Londos also, so the Greek maintained shreds of his popularity.

Now to get back to Savoldi. Mondt, Pfeffer, Miller, Lewis, and Curley wanted to build up Joe Savoldi as an opponent for Jim Browning in order to stage a big open air match for the benefit of the Hearst Milk Fund. After losing to George, Lewis came back into Madison Square Garden and was pinned by Savoldi.

Ring around the rosy.

Mondt’s eastern combination planned to stage a Savoldi and Browning Championship match in the open air for the redoubtable Hearst Milk Fund. Rudy Dusek decided to do a little double crossing on his own hook. Like Mondt, he found a matman within the new eastern combination’s own ranks who was willing to talk business.

He was Sol Slagel of Nebraska, a half-starved grappler whom Jack Pfeffer had been brow beating. Slagel also harbored an obscure grudge against Savoldi for some slighting remark the latter had once made concerning his (Slagel’s) ability. He made an easy subject for Dusek to work on.

Therefore, in June of 1933 at the Coast Guard Station in Staten Island, New York, Sol Slagel climbed into the ring to throw Savoldi and thus spoil any possible gate which might be in the offing when Browning and Savoldi met for the title. While Slagel succeeded in his part of the bargain, the wily “Toots” had protected his wrestler sufficiently enough by having one Captain Barry Peschmaylen, front man for Mondt, in the ring as referee.

Slagel threw Savoldi not once but ten times with Peschmaylen finally disqualifying Slagel on a supposed foul and awarding the victory to Savoldi.

When the partisan referee took this step riots broke out throughout the club and only the prompt work on the part of coast guardsmen prevented serious injuries to scrappy spectators and wrestlers alike.

The newspapers carried the stories of Savoldi’s ignominious rout and the Browning-Savoldi gate receipts were definitely lessened.

The voluble Mr. Pfeffer states:

“When Savoldi and Browning met in an open air match it was raining so hard the crowd was almost invisible, so the boys wrestled two hours without a fall, Browning getting the decision, and they didn’t get a cent for their services.”

While Londos wasn’t making his former big money, he was keeping Mondt and his supporters from getting any profits.

The fight entered another stage - that of intrigue.

Fall Guys Chapter 15

The Greeks Had A Word For Him

During the years of ‘30, ‘31, and ‘32, the Londos star continued to shine brightly in the wrestling heavens. Londos drew immense houses throughout the United States. His popularity had hemmed in Paul Bowser and his Champion Henri De Glane to the New England territory, where Bowser’s politically powerful friends made it impossible for Londos to receive title recognition.

“Strangler” Lewis was in semi-retirement after his defeat by De Glane and the Mondt-Londos faction was almost unhampered in its Barnum promotions.

As the Londos wrestling gates swelled, the Little Greek’s head followed suit. He began believing the favorable publicity yarns which Mondt inspired.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1932 that Londos’ popularity began to wane. Mondt foresaw the public was tiring of the little Greek’s continual victories, night after night, with no risk of defeat, not even a draw decision marring his record.

Too, nearly every worthwhile wrestler in America, outside the Bowser group, had met and been defeated by the Greek pretender. “Toots” suggested Richard Shikat should have the title restored to him.

“It belongs to Dick by rights anyway,” Mondt argued. “He only lent it to you and if you give it back, Jim, we’ll keep up these big gates,” he urged.

Londos refused to meet Shikat.

Mondt suspected Londos of planning to break away from the combine and form bis own troupe. His suspicions were confirmed when Jack Pfeffer discovered, at the New York State Athletic Commission’s Offices, while going through the contract files there, that Londos and White had filed an “EXCLUSIVE” managerial contract which designated solely White as being the manager of Champion Londos.

“Toots” realized there must be quick action to curb Londos’ ambitions so he tried another scheme.

Being summer it was necessary for Jack Curley to stage his regular summer wrestling show for the Hearst Milk Fund. “Toots” plotted with Shikat and then suggested to Londos and his manager Ed White that Shikat meet Sammy Stein and after Stein beat Shikat, Londos would wrestle Stein for the Milk Fund.

“If we work this program we might be able to draw another big house at the Yankee Stadium as we did when you met Steele,” “Toots” told Londos and White.

Both agreed to this program.

Then through the manipulation of the New York Commission and at the insistence of the Milk Fund, “just to steam up the Shikat and Stein bout,” (as Mondt again told White and Londos) the New York State Athletic Commission ordered Londos to sign a contract with Jack Curley guaranteeing that he would meet the winner of the Shikat and Stein contest. Curley had no idea the Stein-Londos match would not take place; and went through with announcements.

Londos and White fell into the trap. Londos signed!

And Mondt chuckled, for he knew he had “Jim the jumper” bound hand and foot. Mondt, White and Londos journeyed to Chicago two days before the Shikat and Stein contest was held. White and Londos received a shock when Shikat apparently double-crossed Mondt and threw Stein.

Londos and White tried to wriggle out of their signed contracts filed with the New York State Commission but the Empire State solons refused to budge. Londos had signed to meet the winner of a Shikat and Stein bout and inasmuch as Shikat had won, the Commission ruled Londos would have to go through with the bout.

Londos and White tried to change the plans through pleadings, cajolings, threats and flattery but “Toots” remained adamant.

“It’s time the title changed hands anyway and Shikat will get it,” Mondt told White and Londos.

“Well,” decided Londos, “if that’s the way you feel about it I’m going to leave the combination, Toots. I’m the champion in several states and I’m the big drawing card, too. I have plenty of money and I’ll fight you until I put you out of business.”

Londos and White took a walk and their exit launched one of the greatest “dog fights” ever witnessed in wrestling history.

‘Toots” arose to the occasion, however.

In a wire from Chicago Londos had said to “Toots,” “I’m through and what are you going to do about it?”

Mondt did plenty.

He flew by plane to Nekoosa, Wisconsin, where Ed “Strangler” Lewis, paunchy and half blind, was living in semi-retirement with his father. Mondt persuaded Lewis to forget old differences that had arisen when he had parted with Sandow and to come out of retirement and challenge Londos, whom Lewis had thrown more than fifteen times during the heyday of the Sandow-Mondt and Lewis gold rush era.

All was forgiven. Lewis was considered the ideal opponent to crusade in New York and Pennsylvania by virtue of his well-known wrestling ability and many victories over Londos. “After all,” reasoned Mondt, “Shikat had been beaten by Londos while Lewis held fifteen straight victories over the Greek claimant to the heavyweight wrestling title.”

Quoting Jack Pfeffer again:

In May, 1932, a new partnership was formed in New York with Jack Curley, “Toots” Mondt, Rudy Miller, “Strangler” Lewis, Dick Shikat and myself as partners. Londos had refused to meet Lewis for the title in a shooting match and as “Toots” Mondt had a 25 per cent interest in Londos’ title, which was valued at $200,000 at the time, we thought we ought to recompense him for breaking away from the Londos-White-Packs combination and staying with us.

So Miller put in $3,000. I posted the same amount, and Shikat and Lewis each put up $5,000, making a total of $16,000, which we gave Mondt as a bonus for giving up his interest in Londos and casting his lot with us.

Previous to that, when Londos and Shikat wrestled in Philadelphia, Mondt had an interest in each wrestler, being Shikat’s manager, besides owning 25 per cent of Londos. They called this a shooting match.

When the new combination staged its first match, June 10th, 1932, between Shikat and Lewis, this was supposed to be a shooting match too, but the money was split six equal ways with Shikat and Lewis, the supposed rivals, really business partners.

Shikat’s manager, “Toots” Mondt, received $20,000 as a guarantee that, after Shikat had allowed Lewis to throw him, he would get a return match in which he was to toss Lewis. Lewis didn’t have any ready cash so he signed over his $50,000 annuity policy to Mondt, who put up the money for him.

Lewis balked at coming back and flopping for Shikat. As Mondt had signed a five-year managerial contract with Lewis, “Toots” wasn’t anxious for the match either. Lewis wanted his money back, though, so a meeting was arranged with Shikat, Lewis and Mondt present. At this meeting, Shikat was told if he gave up the $20,000 and put up $12,000 more, he would be permitted to win the title from Lewis in a return bout and he put up the money readily, Mondt taking it from the pocket he used as Shikat’s manager and putting it into the pocket he reserved for Lewis’ finances.

Shikat never got the promised return bout for the title. He did meet Lewis in a one-hour time-limit match which went the limit and was called a draw. They tricked him into signing a dummy contract.

Shikat began to yelp for his money and a real chance at the title. Lewis and Mondt soothed the Teuton’s ruffled feelings by promising a return match for the title. The German quieted down and Lewis was matched with Jim Browning, the airplane legs scissors spinning heavyweight wrestling contender from Boston.

The match was staged in Madison Square Garden on February 21st, 1933, and Browning won. Lewis charged Browning with double crossing him. Shikat was all for breaking Browning’s neck. Mondt, too, was indignant.

Were they on the level? More again, quoting Mr. Pfeffer, who was a partner in the proceedings. This is what happened: “For losing the title, Lewis and Mondt received $42,000 in cash and bonds from Browning, and his manager, Paul Bowser, and Mondt went into partnership.”

Shikat suddenly saw the light of day and protested the double dealing. Mondt, Curley, Pfeffer and Lewis invited him to come to Mondt’s apartment in the Hotel Warwick for a conference. Shikat accepted the invitation.

During the discussion Shikat lost his head and called spades shovels and reflected unkindly upon both Lewis and Mondt and the way he had been handled.

Lewis punched Shikat, and the German punched back. Then Mondt jumped into the fray and proceeded to give the German the trouncing of his wrestling life.

Shikat walked out, or rather, we should say, Dick staggered out, had his injuries, administered by Mondt, treated at the Polyclinic Hospital and allied with the Londos faction.

The wheel began going round.

Fall Guys Chapter 14

Shylock Was A Spendthrift

When judgment day arrives for wrestlers, and the pearly gates are opened wide for the mat promoters, then will Jack Curley of New York and Ed White of Chicago, have their day in the celestial sun. White and Curley there, my friends, are two names that have figured prominently through the years in wrestling manipulations. White, slippery as the greased Gotch poor Hackenschmidt tried to grab, and Curley, combining all the histrionic talents of a Barrymore. At times belligerent, then plaintive or suave or even tearful. At the door of White is laid the unproven charge of being instrumental in the discharge of a prominent Chicago Sports Writer from one of the Windy City’s leading papers.

Though now dead, here’s the way the story was unfolded to the writer one night while the sportscribe in question and your historian (sic) were hoisting one last lager before the last train to Connecticut pulled out of the Grand Central Station.

When Billy Sandow, after the notorious Zbyszko double cross of Wayne Munn, decided to go ahead with the Lewis-Munn return match in Benton Harbor, Mich., it was White, working to accomplish his own ends, who engineered the discharge of the well-liked Chicago sporting writer, who at one time had borrowed one hundred dollars from him and failed to pay it back.

White had the canceled check, and when he could not persuade the sportswriter to attack Sandow, Mondt and Lewis through the sports pages of his paper, White’s next move was to reveal the scribe’s debt to the reporter’s editor.

The discharge then followed, and it wasn’t until the luckless journalist was broke, desperate, hungry and virtually shoeless, that he secured another job as press agent for Paul Bowser, one whom the discredited reporter had never befriended.

“What the hell was the difference?” asked Bowser once, when questioned as to his reasons for putting the scribe to work.

“He needed a job and I needed a fellow like him in my business. If he hit me below the belt it was because he was trying to befriend old man Levine (White’s real name). I don’t hold things like that against any newspaperman. Just because I may buy them a few drinks once in a while doesn’t mean I own them body and soul.”

Instances of White’s dealing from the bottom of the deck with his own partners and wrestlers who were fighting for his promotorial life would add long pages to the annals of wrestling history.

He held his sway over the business through the years of gangster and political rule in Chicago when Morris Eller, “Big Bill” Thompson and other machine politicians were ready to do his bidding for small campaign contributions.

White’s penny pinching proclivities with wrestlers and employees is best illustrated by an often repeated story of the office boy who went to him with a request for an increase in salary.

“Look here,” said White to the lad, affectionately draping his arm around the boy’s shoulders, “I want you to consider something. If I give you a raise, it means three dollars more a week added to your pay. For each month it means twelve dollars extra you’ll be getting. In a year you will be having $156 more in pay.” Here, White’s voice grew louder, according to the listener-in. “In ten years,” he continued, “you will have $1,560 out of my pocket, and in fifty, in fifty years, in fifty years”

At this point White beat his temples furiously and gazed wildly at the by now chastened and frightened lad.

“Think of it!” he yelled at the boy. “In fifty years with that money, plus compound interest, you’d have me bankrupt.”

Ed White it was, however, who brought Jack Curley into the wrestling business. He picked him up as a waiter in a south side Chicago cabaret, changed Curley’s name from Jacob Schmul to that of Jack Curley, because of the latter’s curly hair, and started him off in the wrestling racket.

Curley had had some experience in the fight game as a rubber of Tommy Ryan, oldtime middleweight champion. White schooled Curley in the inner workings of the mat manipulations, but within a short space of time the pupil was showing the professor tricks he had never before dreamed of.

Their first joint efforts to pool their talents came in 1911, when in company with Jack Herman, Joe Coffey and Isador Herk, New York burlesque producer, they staged the return match between Gotch and Hackenschmidt at the White Sox Ball Park.

Three weeks before the bout it seemed a certain sellout, with approximately eighty thousand dollars in the box office at that time. The sponsors were making good use of these funds for promotional expenses. Then came the rude awakening. Hackenschmidt broke his knee and informed the promoters the bout would have to be called off.

Pandemonium reigned in the wrestling promoters’ headquarters when “Hack” broke the news of his own particular “break.” The sponsors realized that the ticket money, already spent, would have to be returned unless the bout came off as scheduled. They went to the luckless “lion” and by glib talking persuaded Hack to announce to the press and public that he was perfecting a new hold to cope with Gotch, and thereafter would do his training privately and his road work at night in order to avoid the intense lake front late summer heat.

Hackenschmidt agreed to this, provided that Gotch would permit him to win a fall during the bout, and that Gotch would carry him along and give him a show. Gotch gave his word. Thereupon, a substitute approximately Hackenschmidt’s dimensions and general description did his night road work late every evening along the Lake Michigan beach while the promoters kept the curious from getting too close a view of the man going through the routine training paces.

The subterfuge was successfully passed off onto the public, and the day of the bout, September 4th, 1911, over one hundred thousand dollars had been paid by the eager fans who gathered to view the epic struggle between the great Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt.

The contest developed into the greatest fiasco ever perpetrated upon the American public. Hackenschmidt limped into the ring with his knees encased in splints. Gotch threw him two straight falls, and the enraged fans almost killed both participants and wrecked the ball park.

It would take pages to recount the infamy perpetrated upon Hackenschmidt by both Gotch and the promoters of the bout. The unsuspecting Russian proved to be no match for his American opponent. In the English Manchester News “Hack” recently said:

I knew Curley was loyal and generous. Whenever he spoke, sympathy and sincerity just streamed from him. When I reached Chicago I went into training at once with Jacobus Koch and Doctor Roller (Editor note—This is the same Roller who acted as Gotch’s policeman and toured Europe with Gotch. Read carefully and see what you make of the turn of events). Gradually I got into perfect condition. One day I was wrestling Roller in training. I jumped up to free myself from a position and this time he did not try to hold me. He went up with me. As we got on our legs his right foot struck my right kneecap. I dropped to the floor and laid there like a log for six hours. My friends could do nothing for me. To keep the injury a secret I laid on the gym floor until dark, when they carried me back to my quarters. They put me to bed. In the morning I was treated, the leg was bandaged by a doctor and I was taken home again. The doctor came twice a day and treated me, but my leg was terribly swollen.

I owed so much to the promoters I couldn’t give up without a struggle, so I was photographed by newspapermen and though my knee was tightly bound, it was impossible for me to bend it. A few days before the match I went into the gym again to try wrestling. The moment I put any strain on the knee I experienced terrible pain. It was hopeless. I went back to my quarters.

The day of the match, four strips of plaster were stretched on my leg from the hip to the ankle. The knee was then bound in over twenty feet of rubber bandage four inches wide. I put on a pair of long green drawers so as to hide my real condition from the public. Doctor Roller lent me the wrestling drawers.

Koch wanted me to call the bout off. I refused. I entered the ring and told the referee to call all bets off. He refused to do so and I told him I’d walk out of the ring unless he did so. Then he did as I wished. I stood on one foot and we wrestled. Though I was crippled, Gotch couldn’t get me down. I was in such poor shape I ended the whole dreary business myself. I went down twice but Gotch didn’t do it. I lost two falls and went back to my dressing room.

In a Ring Magazine story concerning the late Gotch, the late Ed Smith who refereed the notorious Gotch and Hackenschmidt affair said:

Frank Gotch’s mighty toe hold was dinned into foreign invaders. It was the first thing a foreign wrestler heard when he landed in America. In various languages and gestures this yellow flag was waved before the terrified foreign invader. It got to be part of the managerial ritual, this American juggernaut.

Most of the yarns were sheer figments of imagination. Frank Gotch never won an important match in his entire career with the toehold…the toehold made of Frank Gotch a brute, a type of relentless killer who delighted in mayhem…breaking ankles…twisting knees…while he chuckled high in glee as he gloated in their misery.

Smith goes on to say Gotch did not originate the toehold, it being as old as wrestling, and that the Humboldt Horror merely used it for feinting purposes to get an opponent into position. He further says:

Gotch received twenty thousand dollars for the bout and one thousand for training expenses…Hack got thirteen thousand five hundred dollars…That shell of a man who appeared in the afternoon for the bout wasn’t even a tough man…The first fall was fourteen minutes, the second five minutes, the bout ending in boos and catcalls.

After the leg injury came commands from the frantic Curley and his co-promoters, who were fingering a tremendous advance sale, a portion of it already spent in the advance promotion of the show. In his training quarters Hack fumed, raved like a crazy man, then went away by himself for hours. He would get out of bed at two in the morning to drag around the streets, in a fog…When he entered the ring on the day of the bout he limped…There was a gasp of astonishment from the crowd which, before the men started to wrestle, knew it was a fiasco…It was just a basket picnic for Gotch, with guava jelly and breast of partridge as luncheon bits. Immediately Gotch went to work on the injured leg. It’s too farcical to recount in detail. After the match the disgruntled crowd sifted out of the ball park.

In these pages we have spoken of Gotch many times and the part he played in present day wrestling. Smith knew Gotch intimately and in his Ring Magazine statement said:

There were several times during the many I observed Frank Gotch that the thought flashed through my mind he wasn’t one hundred per cent game. I saw absolute acts of cruelty on his part I didn’t like. Always, I think the really courageous man, no matter how ferocious, and filled with the killing instinct and eager to win he may be, is willing to let up on a beaten foe and not punish needlessly or wantonly.

Suffice to say the Gotch-Hack fiasco lead to a shakeup all around in Chicago. The police department was turned over because nothing had been done about the gamblers and pickpockets who frequented the park during the bout, and wrestling remained dead for many a day in that city.

After the Chicago debacle Curley sought other fields of endeavor and New York was decided upon as his oyster. So the merry game went on.

Surprisingly enough, though he has, by various ruses, managed to grab considerable chunks of money from his many combination partners through the years, Curley has been tolerated because of his alleged political influence.

He was shrewd enough when he began his New York promotions to cut prominent charities in on nearly every show. Inasmuch as the monies given to the funds did not come out of his pocket but were paid by the wrestlers working on the card, who believed these expenditures were necessary to keep wrestling alive, Curley in reality lost nothing by his generosity and received all the credit and the glory.

In the years that followed the Gotch-Hackenschmidt debacle, Curley joined the best New York clubs where he could make necessary promotional contacts and allied himself with Mrs. William Randolph Hearst’s Free Milk Fund for Babies, donating ten per cent of two huge promotions yearly to that charity.

This alliance helped him to hold his partners into line with the groundless threat that the Hearst newspaper chain would ruin wrestling all over the country unless he remained a partner in the combination.

Several times when his future appeared rocky and his partners were sharpening the ax for his head, Curley called upon the New York Hearst newspapers to jump to his defense and, though their efforts were only half-hearted, they were sufficient to quiet down any opposition to Curley within the camp.

During the varied years wrestling has boomed throughout the United States, Curley’s promotions have lost huge sums of monies according to the statements he submitted to his partners after each match. No matter how large the houses, Curley could usually find expenditures to take up the profits.

These defalcations of funds were tolerated by the mat master minds because of the publicity value of favorable wrestling stories emanating from New York, mecca of all America.

Of course, Mr. Editor and Mr. Publisher in many cases have social climbing wives who are affiliated with some pet charity which furthers their own cause in social progress. Curley never hesitates to call upon these same wives for aid if some truthful scribe gets out of line.

Sizable contributions toward political clubs, charity shows to support some politically powerful leader’s fresh air fund or off the street fund for children, with the wrestlers paying the freight and Curley getting the glory and credit, all add to Curley’s power and ability to hold the wrestlers into line.

Minor favors he can secure and whenever title difficulties develop he exhibits a surprising talent for protecting any combination which is willing to kick in with an extra sum as a bonus.

During the depression wrestling hit the depths all over the country. At that it was still a profitable promotion for Mondt, Rudy Dusek, Ray Fabiani, Ed White, Paul Bowser, Tom Packs, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, and Lou Daro - except in the New York territory.

In the summer of 1936, “Strangler” Lewis, Rudy Dusek, Fabiani, Mondt and Curley, partners in the New York territory, were to meet at the Hotel Warwick in New York City to balance their books. When Curley called the meeting to order Dusek was missing, but the ever adroit Jack went on with the proceedings.

“Gentlemen,” he is supposed to have sadly said, “business has been terrible this year past. We lost fifty thousand dollars by my way of figuring.”

Just at this moment the tardy Rudy Dusek entered the room.

“Where were you?” asked Mondt.

“Shooting craps,” replied Rudy.

“Did you win?” asked Lewis.

“Three bucks,” answered Dusek.

Curley beamed.

“Thank goodness, gentlemen,” he cut in, “as our partner Rudy has just made three dollars, I can now report that our deficit this year will only total forty-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven dollars.”