by Dale Pierce
I had sold my house in Arizona at long last and left that desert hellhole. We had made it to Wisconsin and were staying with in-laws, as I prepared for final relocation into Ohio. During the delay at this halfway point, I started to work on projects planned for the winter and fall. Letters were going out concerning booking buildings for indy wrestling cards, setting up sports memorabilia shows, and an old-timer reunion in Akron in November. It was then I wrote to Lew Eskin about attending my planned reunion and about buying old pictures for sale at shows. I'd known him since the late 70s.
I was working on mail two weeks later when my wife came in and said, "Your letter to Lew Eskin came back."
Now I love Wisconsin, but the mail service is notoriously half-assed. "Jesus Christ, what is it with these fucking half-assed bastards?" I started to say, when Denise cut me off.
"He's dead. . . ."
The letter had been marked deceased. Hell of a way to find out.
Later, I learned Eskin had died from a heart attack at age 72.
Eskin had been a pioneer editor in the boxing and wrestling fields from the 1960s through the early 1980s, when he finally got fed up with the unwelcome changes creeping in, and quit. His publications included Wrestling Review, Wrestling Monthly and Official Wrestling. He had also been a boxing and wrestling referee.
Eskin started many journalists out on their writing careers, within the wrestling business. It was through him that I sold my first wrestling related story, The Garden is Dead, about the history of Phoenix's Madison Square Garden. Then soon after, I was propelled to a contributing editor. Bill Apter, likewise, sold some of his first stories, while Brian Hildebrand (Mark Curtis now) and Ken Jugan also had many of their early photos run here. Don Liable (now indy manager The Bug) also had some of his early articles run, as did several other upcoming writers and photographers.
During the days of Official Wrestling, many wrestlers and promoters did columns, sometimes using their real names and sometimes using aliases. It seemed like a contest at times, to see who could put themselves over the most via an alias. "Brian Kukatis" was always writing about Dick the Bruiser. "Kim Thomas" was always putting over Joey Rossi and southern indys. "Red Sutton" was pressing Oliver Humperdink and the Hollywood Blondes, Dale Pierce was always pushing "Mad Dog" Marcial Bovee and the Arizona crew, "George McCarthy" was always plugging George Cannon, and so on--others, such as J.C. Dykes, "Gentleman" Saul Weigneroff, and the like used their own names.
It was also through Lew Eskin that a noisy regional star, Jerry Lawler, first rose to fame as a cartoonist, in a monthly strip called The Patriot in the 1970s. The story involved the perfect babyface, seeking Dr. Devil, a masked man who killed his father in the ring 20 years ago. The Patriot did battle with The Sheik, John Tolos, Bobby Shane, The Assassins, Baron Von Raschke, Luke Graham, Tarzan Tyler, Waldo Von Erich, and others, always beating them. Finally, he faced Dr. Devil, beat him, but could not bring himself to kill him--which subsequently started a new feud between Dr. Devil and The Patriot.
I met Eskin face to face only once, when he came to Phoenix to referee a boxing match the O'Grady family was running. He had lots of stories to tell, about both the wrestling and boxing, some of them probably better off not printed.
I still kept in touch with him after he skipped out of the magazine world, usually to buy orders of photos.
In truth, Eskin outlived most of his friends in the wrestling business. Gene Gordon, Rip Tyler, Steve Clements, Brute Bernard, Bruiser, Skull Murphy, Tarzan Tyler, Bull Curry, Vince McMahon, Sr., Saul Weigneroff, Bulldog Brower, Eddie Graham, Jerry Graham, and J.C. Dykes. Maybe fate figured it was time for him to join them.
Maybe they needed a damn good magazine editor up there!