Monday, March 8, 2010

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.

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