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AUTOGRAPH ENCOUNTERS?

by Wayne St. Wayne

EDITOR'S NOTE: Wayne St. Wayne is a wrestler, manager, performance artist, poet, Troma film star, artist, single dad, and all around good guy. His artwork is featured in the book Theater in a Squared Circle. E.G.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I remember several. Late sixties and early seventies . . . Kiel Auditorium and Channel 11. . . .

Wrestlers' autographs on 3x5 index cards. Why on cards? That was how my Philadelphia correspondent Burton Cutler, Jr. collected them. Then as now, there were always interesting things on the way by mail. Envelopes from Burton were always fun . . . packed full of inspiring photos, programs, and match results. And autographs. In time, I had a nice variety of WWWF scrawls, ranging from squash jobbers to the towering legends.

So, I added index cards to my bag of match-going essentials that included my cheap instamatic camera and plenty of film cartridges, plus plenty of my black and white 5x7's of the various mat lads to sell to fellow fanoids.

Babyface autographs were easy to get, of course. I had them all, from the immortals to the unknowns, and everyone in between.

Some heels signed, at least away from the proximity to stay in character. Some autographs took time to acquire.

Blackjack Lanza and his volatile manager "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan had tremendous heat here at that time. When they emerged from Kiel after a villainous victory over a beloved hero, the waiting crowd would howl and harass as the duo headed straight for their cab, gear in hand. I'd manage to thrust my flattering photos of them in their path just as they boarded the vehicle--they'd snatch the pics and speed away into the St. Louis Friday night.

Finally, they relented. Actually, Heenan signed for both of them. Still, quite an accomplishment. Not too many months before, he'd responded to my autograph request by (gasp!) TEARING my index card in half and handing it back to me, "since you like to write so much."

Dick the Bruiser took a while. He'd allow us youngsters to walk him to his car after the show (even while still a heel in St. Louis) but "I don't sign autographs, boys." I was persistent. The photo tactic eventually worked, and he even signed an extra one for pen pal Burton, who was quite pleased.

Bulldog Brower snapped a sharp "No!" and turned to depart. I congratulated him on the recent birth of a daughter, which I'd read in a wrestling mag. He stopped and granted my request, even an extra for B.C., Jr.

And Baron Von Raschke--like Lanza and Heenan, a very hot heel who stayed in character outside the building. After months of failed efforts, my donated photos at last bore results--"You take good picture," he complimented me in his guttural Aryan accent. "Wow," I thought. "He really must be from Germany!"

Sometimes we adolescents would approach our idols with hilarious comic lines like, "I give you permission to sign an autograph." Reactions varied. "OK!" laughed Dory Funk, Jr. good-naturedly.

When I tried it out on Dory Funk, Sr., he gave me a strange look . . . I couldn't quite tell whether it was amusement or "Who's this geek?" But he didn't hesitate to sign.

Pat O'Connor looked annoyed and responded with, "I give you permission to go home," but scribbled his name.

Yes, boys and girls, I had an impressive pile of autographs . . . Lou Thesz, Waldo Von Erich, "Cowboy" Bill Watts, "Whipper" Billy Watson, Snyder and Race and Geigel and Brown, Ladd and Tangaro and Kiniski and Carpentier and many, many more. Jim Vallen, later known as Jimmy Valiant. Bob Windham, who evolved into Blackjack Mulligan. Former world champion "Wild" Bill Longson, who worked in the office for promoter Sam Muchnick.

Whatever happened to those massive amounts of photos and programs and mags and signatures of yesterdecade? Did I give it all away or sell it? Was it thrown out while I was away on the road? One favorite fantasy, among many--tomorrow or the next day, I'll discover a huge trunk full of that stuff buried under other stored items in that big closet over at my mom and dad's house.

If that happens, you'll be the first to know.

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