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:
“CALL ADAM WEISMULLER AT THE ALAMAC HOTEL.”
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
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.
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,
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,
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.