Monday, March 8, 2010

Fall Guys Chapter 6

Modus Operandi

Through the vast organization of Sandow came about a new lexicon in the world of wrestling. The word “shooting” meant a match that was on the level. In other words, a contest for blood with the best man to win.

“Working” was a term used to denote two wrestlers putting on a show for the crowd with the result determined beforehand.

A “program” was a series of bouts with the ultimate results destined to build up a suitable opponent for the champion to meet.

“Heat” meant getting the fans excited.

The organization left nothing to chance. In case a promoter not directly controlled by the trust decided later on to spill the beans, he would find himself without written evidence.

Code names and terms were used to designate wrestlers and the results of bouts. An agent sent into a town to handle a herd of wrestlers scheduled to appear in a club might receive a wire from a Sandow hooker reading:


Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Well, the man in charge of the wrestlers knew its meaning. Deciphered it read: “Ray Steele wrestles draw with Fred Grubmier. Rudy Dusek beats Dick Daviscourt, by knocking his head against Daviscourt’s, both falling out of the ring. Dusek returning before the referee can count ten. Jim Londos to beat Joe Stecher in forty minutes, Doctor Karl Sarpolis to beat Tom Alley in thirty minutes and Bill Nelson to be pinned by Toots Mondt as suits Mondt’s inclination.”

The reign of Sandow (the brain), Lewis (Nekoosa), and Mondt (Greeley, because he came from Greeley, Colorado), proved to be a harmonious combination for many years. The Brain was the manipulator while Nekoosa and Greeley “worked.”

Billy’s glib tongue induced many tough grapplers to come into the “Sandow Camp” as it was known, and work with Lewis and Mondt. By “shooting” or “work­ing” independently, wrestlers made peanuts. Under the Sandow aegis they garnered coconuts.

Sandow saw to it that popular sectional cards made more money under his banner than they could operating independently and shooting. The wrestlers listened to reason. It was easier and more profitable to be identi­fied with “The Gold Dust Trio.”

So skilled did the Gold Dust Trio become that it kept the fans completely fooled. Lewis and Mondt, partners in the combination, mind you, frequently wrestled each other. It is said they met some fifty times, and Lewis wrestled Dick Daviscourt twenty-one times in Wichita, Kansas, alone.
The number of times Champion Lewis met good workers ran into the hundreds. The fans ate it up and came back for more. It was all a show, full of action and there being no betting on the bouts, no one suffered financially.

Master of dramaturgy was Sandow. With the skill and cunning of a Belasco, he brought out the salient and colorful points of a pachyderm’s crowd appeal.

No wrestler was too unimportant for him to view in action. Money poured into the Sandow-Lewis-Mondt coffers.

Strangely enough, though Sandow, Mondt and Lewis believed in contracts, cash guarantees of faith, and bonuses as rewards for work well done, never in their long association did they have a contract between them.

Theirs was a faith and friendship that defied the efforts and whisperings of envious connivers waiting on the side lines like vultures to feed off the carnal remains when one made a slip.

When Joe Stecher went berserk it was the swashbuckling Lewis who met him in an Omaha “shooting” match and beat the Dodge City scissors king after a titanic struggle.

“The Brain” saw to it the fans were always satisfied with the bouts in which his wrestlers worked. His theatrical formula was tried and true.

In those early days, Sandow regarded wrestling as a big business, but a sacred trust. He never permitted wrestlers to bet with spectators on the outcome of their matches and refused to book matmen into any club if he suspected the promoters of permitting wagering.

He matched the rough and ready longshoremen type of grapplers with clean, skilled opponents. “Hot” matches never failed to satisfy the most critical spectator. He built matmen into local favorites, then paired the drawing card with Lewis, his champion. Sellout houses resulted.

Sandow, Lewis and Mondt perfected the formula and many of the “finishes” of wrestling matches still in use today by the Johnny Come Latelys.

There’s the time limit match in which both men wrestle through to the time limit without deciding the victor. Sometimes the match is a two out of three falls contest. Perhaps each man will secure a fall with no deciding third fall. Then again the contestants will wrestle the time out without a fall.

In another finish the men bump their heads together, fall to the mat, are unable to continue and are counted out by the referee with the bout called a draw.

The variation of this finish is for one wrestler to recover consciousness in sufficient time to struggle to his feet and be declared the victor. Another variation is for both contestants to knock themselves out by falling through the ropes and onto the floor outside the ring.

Still another form is both men through the ropes with one managing to stagger weakly back into the ring before the referee completes his count.

In another finish, the aggressor is about to rush in to pin his adversary, in his eagerness misses his opponent, falling through the ring ropes to the floor outside of the ring where, apparently unconscious, he is counted out by the referee.

The now famed Jim Londos airplane spin has its variations. Sometimes the man who seems about to win has the prostrate form of his adversary across his shoulders, whirling him around for the fall. The semi-conscious opponent unbalances the man holding him, causing the latter to fall, his shoulder blades hitting the mat. The referee then pats the man on top as a sign of victory.

Sandow, Lewis and Mondt worked out dozens of “finishes.” They were great believers in the unexpected. No prosaic ending of a bout was permitted if they had their way, and for many years their word was undisputed. The Sandow, Lewis and Mondt wrestling matches had to end with a flash like the oldtime vaudeville acts. The Gold Dust Trio believed in pleasing the crowds.

It was all theatrical stuff, conceived by the wily Sandow, Lewis and Mondt. As unbelievable as it may sound to a reader, the fans ate and still eat it up, coming back for more.

At times less gullible spectators would cry “fake.” Ninety-eight percent of the time the doubters were only too correct in their deductions, but they couldn’t prove their suspicions and once afflicted with “wrestleritis,” came back again to see their favorites in action.

Joe “Toots” Mondt figured in the Sandow-Lewis combination as a policeman. To his lot fell the task of “testing” the prowess of every new matman joining the organization. He also acted as a buffer for Lewis against the radicals who cropped up from time to time to dispute Lewis’ title pretensions.

Some wrestlers even went so far as to say Mondt could beat Lewis in a “shooting” match. This was a moot question as far as “Greeley,” “The Brain,” and “Nekoosa” were concerned.

In fact, it was generally known among the “bulls,” as the matmen were termed in the game, that Lewis and Mondt frequently shot for hours in the Sandow gym without either having an advantage. But this demonstration of equal ability failed to arouse in Mondt any envy of Lewis, the champion, who received so much glory and acclaim from the populace. Mondt was content to go his way as an undercover manipulator and schemer.

At any rate, the Sandow-Lewis-Mondt triumvirate reigned supreme for many years.

Sandow was boss and wrestlers had to do his bidding or they found themselves idle, while men they felt were less competent, made hundreds weekly.

Under the Sandow-Lewis-Mondt booking system, each matman was working a program in some club, and while he might be only a preliminary wrestler in one town, yet in another he was top man.

The programs were masterpieces for stirring up racial prejudices. “The Brain” paired Germans and Frenchmen, Greeks and Russians, Chinamen and Americans, Japs and Chinamen, Englishmen and Irish, Indians and Cowboys, westerners and easterners, and one town favorite against another.

Sandow’s cards resembled representatives of nations in free for all brawls. It was this method that kept the fans coming back for more. The wrestlers worked out of central offices, handled by hookers under Sandow’s direct supervision. The first of each week “workers” received their dates and instructions.

Fifty percent of the house proceeds were given by a club promoter to a Sandow representative who brought the money back to the hooker. He in turn paid each wrestler off on a Saturday for the work he had done the week currently ending.

Recompense varied according to the program a particular matman might be working at the moment, but payment was liberal. Sandow never let the “bulls” forget it paid to “work” for the great Sandow.

“The Brain” missed few opportunities to use a grappler’s other talents in such a fashion as to bring money into the box office. If a wrestler had ever studied dentistry, he became the wrestling dentist. Pictures were published showing the grappler pulling teeth in spare moments. Thus came about the birth of wrestling doctors, plumbers, milkmen, plasterers, painters, violinists, tuba players, bridge players, cowboys, steer ropers, sailors, millionaire ranchers, civil engineers, interior decorators, opera singers, farmers, bearded exiled Russian priests, Hindoos, ministers, negro witch doctors, chemists, etc. Few had little claim to the professions and trades they professed. Nevertheless, they were billed, circused, ballyhooed, dramatized, spotlighted and placarded to such an extent, many of the subjects began to believe their own publicity.

In this, they proved to be as human as their brethren over the rest of the world, in other walks and pursuits of life.

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