by Bill McCormack
Mail order brides, used cars, and dream homes on a bayou in Louisiana are a wonderful trifecta of stupidity. Any street corner philosopher can tell you, without breaking concentration in the fleecing of "Chester the Chimney Cleaner" in a game of license tag Black Jack, that to invest in these risks by only looking at a snapshot is the core mental component of a life long loser. Plop down the going tariff blind, determined only by a gut sensation stirred by the lure of the printed word because "the true follower has to have one" and you are certain to be elected as the next United Nations Secretary General. Yea! And that Twinky filling sucker at least gets a "comp" limo, and can shred parking tickets. No dear friend, this writer is lower on the feeding chain than any Bingo Bango Bongo of Sandunia. My gray matter has reached the microscopic stage. The bloody book went for fifty-five dollars plus tax. Two Jackson's, a pair of Hamilton's, and a Lincoln, plus four George Washington's, to save the Everglades and goober pea farmers, for at best, a weak attempt at listing, in a sleep inducing style, the men and women of "Squared Circledom."
Harris M. Lentz III's monument to shortcuts, omissions, endless movie credits for Mexican performers, and a handful of mat workers from North of the border, should never be mistaken for a genuine biographical dictionary. Professional wrestling still lacks such a needed reference.
There is no bibliography and the "acknowledgments" given evidence a slanted and ethnocentric historic once over in which Tennessee is the Universe and Memphis its "Emerald City."
Contemporary wrestlers receive a disproportionate share of the three hundred and sixty-three pages following the navy blue bordered cover featuring a Lanza photo of Lou Thesz. After the likeness of the champion, the elevator starts its downward journey. It is at times a painful and exasperating descent.
Subscribing to the adage that an additional half-furlong can not be extracted from a cheap claimer after he has drawn his final breath, there will be a true attempt at gentle burial in the comments which follow concerning the Lentz hodgepodgery.
To evaluate the accomplishments of a given grappler in the territory of the turnbuckle is a purely subjective matter. It is a natural that a heel or hero seen more often, especially in one's youth, through memory and positive personal experience, may get a few more lines than another worthy warrior. To reduce, however, men and women who were national or regional cornerstones upon which a television following was anchored, or preserved the businesses of a combine of promoters, to a perfunctory few lines, is inexcusable. To omit them calls for a new level in Dante's Inferno for the guilty to simmer in until Buddy Landell shows up for three scheduled matches in a row.
A smattering of supportive line count data is allotted Edouard Carpentier, remembered for his agilities acquired as an expert trampolinist. Recognized for a time as World Champion, this combatant in numerous time limit draws with Walter "Killer" Kowalski that are still discussed with awe for their brutality and non-stop action by connoisseurs of great matches, garners sixteen lines.
Tony Galento, ex-heavyweight brawler who briefly toured in freak matches against muzzled bears as comedy relief, merits twenty-five lines. It gets worse.
Gorgeous George, post WW II's premier transitional showman, finds thirty-one and one-half lines evaluating his niche in the game, while Mike Rotunda, the name changing tag-teamer, is blessed with sixty-five and one-half lines of biographical boredom. Lawrence Taylor, inhaler of yard lines, with a one appearance career, and comic Andy Kaufman get thirty lines between them. Champions Mildred Burke and June Byers who both gave up the belt only through retirement are thrown a bland eleven and ten lines respectively. To Mr. Lentz then the former duo were far more important in the advancement of wrestling than two superb champions.
Indulge this now red faced reviewer with just a few more craw chokers before we put the baby to bed. More of the line game. Buddy Austin 23--Luke "Sheep Whacker" Williams 42, "Superstar" Billy Graham 33--Marty Janetty 53, Jim Londos 34 1/2--Jerry Sags 46, Antonino Rocca 23 1/2--Chip Firebreaker 39, "Whipper" Watson 34 1/2--Kerry Von Erich 63, Lou Thesz 69--Barry Windham 92, Bruno Sammartino 47 1/2--Bobby Eaton 66, Buddy Rogers 56--Bill Dundee 93, Ric Flair 107--Jerry Lawler 139.
If you were a "little person," the most attention you could hope for was the ten lines thrown to Little Beaver. A few others received between three and six. Fuzzy Cupid and Darling Dagmar were omitted despite their years of service to the cause.
Women, champions or not, fared little better. Judy Grable and Fabulous Moolah together enjoyed a twenty-three and one-half line once over but Medusa Miceli, who is given dedication praises, comes away with a "big 48."
Ted Lewin, a seasoned mat performer, and extremely gifted artist, who was featured in a recent "Learning Channel" documentary on the sport, and the subject of an in depth interview in this publication in Issue number 86 in March of 1997, escapes the Lentz research. Amazing, in that brothers Don and Mark made it, although not without a flaw. Mark and partner Don Curtis are given as U.S. Tag Team Champions in the WWWF in 1958. The belts are correct but they were NWA sanctioned in the McMahon Sr., Willie Gilzenberg and associates' territories. The WWWF did not come into being until April 1963. There are two other dates, 1960 and 1961, also showing the yet-to-be-formed promotion crowning titleists, so that at least a strand of consistency can be found.
This writer's response to Hans Schmidt also being excluded would call for a thesis on the "text" in question by itself, with most being deleted due to strings of expletives that would make Al Capone blush.
And so it comes to pass that my spleen is now cleaner, along with my wallet. Having penned this commentary, it is time to store this misfortune next to the magic all-aces card deck, the cast iron pelican bottle opener, and the necking knob with Jane Russell in her elastic off the shoulder top inset. Yet still the malady lingers. "The Big O," see "Johnny Valentine"! The final straw; quoth the Camel never more!!