Monday, April 6, 2015

Wrestling in Lake Charles - Part 4

(Special thanks to Michael Norris for his valuable input in putting together this series, and to Chad McAlpin for his encouragement and support. This section includes images of Lake Charles wrestling programs that were sold on eBay and links used to assemble the narrative. To see the entire series, follow the tag "lake charles wrestling.")

APPENDIX


May 11, 1960. Pepper Gomez vs. Joe Christy.


August 8, 1962. John Paul Henning vs. Tarzan Tyler and Lorenzo Parente vs. Ivan the Terrible (Pampero Firpo), with the winner of each bout to square off for a shot at NWA World Heavyweight Champion "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers! Plus, Dory Dixon vs. Tiger Conway.

(And yes, Rogers *did* defend the belt in Lake Charles the next week! His opponent turned out to be Tarzan Tyler.)


August 8, 1962. Wrestling presented every Wednesday night. Phone GR 7-4073. Also please note the opening bout pits Alex Perez against Joe Pizza. You know poor Joe got ribbed all the time (I think the guy's real name was "Pizzatola").

BIBLIOGRAPHY 1: SITES
The following sites were used extensively in piecing together this series.

*Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling History
*Kayfabe Memories
*Kayfabe Memories Message Board
*Legacy of Wrestling
*Mat Memories
*Mat Memories Blog
*Newspapers.com
*Wrestling Classics Message Board
*Wrestlingdata.com

BIBLIOGRAPHY 2: LINKS
Individual pages used in piecing together this series.

*https://web.archive.org/web/20120731233541/http://www.aframnews.com/html/2005-04-06/lead3.htm

*http://www.bizapedia.com/la/MCDONALD-SPORTATORIUM-INC.html

*https://books.google.com/books?id=mUEDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA57&dq=cecil+mcdonald+lake+charles&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZeIaVb74K-bgsASPuoLQAw&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=cecil%20mcdonald%20lake%20charles&f=false

*http://www.jrsbarbq.com/2008/05/13/the-bell-is-tolling-for-two-more-email-from-cowboy-bill-watts

*http://www.jrsbarbq.com/blog/details-how-get-free-bottle-jrs-hot-bbq-saucerandom-thoughts

*http://www.themonitor.com/premium/lumber-store-splits-logs-for-new-location-in-palmview/article_de7b624a-c5ed-11e4-8eeb-fb19e31c6225.html

*http://madmax.lmtonline.com/textarchives/051808/s99.htm

*https://us-cinemas-map.googlecode.com/files/Yearbook%20of%20Motion%20Pictures%20-%201955.pdf (PDF)

Wrestling in Lake Charles - Part 3

(The following series is adapted from a Facebook discussion that took place last week. The information presented here is definitely incomplete, and I am certain there are mistakes. However, I wanted to put this out there for the public to inspire further research by people who are more interested in the mat game than yours truly and more resourceful in digging up its history. To see the entire series, follow the tag "lake charles wrestling.")

VI
I went into tracing the history of wrestling in Lake Charles with the notion that it was linked to wrestling in Lafayette. Maybe it was prior to 1960 and no records reflecting that have turned up yet. But by the middle of 1965, the two towns were clearly part of the same circuit. It should be pretty linear from there.

Or so you'd think. Because then comes January 1966, and Lake Charles is booking out of the Houston office again. Some ads make this even more explicit by trumpeting "Texas Wrestling" rather than just "Professional Wrestling" - perhaps a slight and subtle burial of the Gulf Coast office (also bolstering my theory about KPLC having aired the program of the same name.) Lineups from available cards for 1966 and 1967 are all clearly from the Texas circuit.

What happened? Well, some of the Gulf Coast workers were driving from as far as Tallahassee for shows, and considering Lake Charles is pretty close to the Texas state line, that just became too much of a burden. But was there more to it than that? Did the Gulf Coast cards not draw because they ran on Saturdays rather than Wednesdays or Thursdays? Did the workers and angles not get over in Lake Charles? Was there a falling out between the Lafayette office and/or Lee Fields and Cecil McDonald? Did Fields buy out McDonald and then sell it back or to some unknown third party? Was there some other reason?

I don't know. All I know for certain is that Gulf Coast dropped Lake Charles from their circuit, apparently at the end of September 1965. At least, there do not appear to be any wrestling ads at all in the papers for the next two weeks. Further research is needed to determine exactly when Gulf Coast departed and Houston returned to town, but October-December 1965 is the key moment in the switch back.

Though the building is referred to as "McDonald Sportatorium" again, Cecil McDoanld's name is still missing from available ads in 1966 and 1967. So I cannot even say if he's the promoter anymore or not by then. Gulf Coast was still running cities like Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria until Lee Fields abandoned the state in February 1968 due to political shenanigans and transferred the Lafayette booking office to Hattiesburg, MS. I don't have enough information on hand to sort out the resultant fallout, but how it relates to Lake Charles is debatable since they were long gone from the Gulf Coast circuit by then.

VII
What happens next in Lake Charles wrestling? Well, here things get murky. I have seen very little from 1967-1974. I did run across results for Leroy McGuirk's Championship Wrestling running the Lake Charles Civic Center in 1974. McGuirk was all over the state (New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Alexandria, even Loranger) by that year, and I've seen lineups for Lafayette dating to 1978 so they were running it, too.

Only when did this start? The Civic Center opened in 1972, but when did the McDonald Sportatorium close? When did Lake Charles start getting McGuirk TV? Was it only on KLFY, or did KPLC run it too at that stage? Those are blanks I can't fill in just yet.

One anomaly cropped up as I was looking around - a pair of September 1974 cards that seem to be an outlaw group. They are especially strange because women's wrestling is pushed as the top attraction, while the men's bouts are treated as undercard fodder. In the first, for September 7 at 8 PM at McNeese Arena, Mildred Burke (billed as World Women's Champion) takes on Millie Stafford. Meanwhile, the same group ran on September 28 at Legion Field at 8 PM with Nell Stewart taking on Barbara Baker (Ripper Collins' wife).

Burke's presence raised an eyebrow for me, considering her estrangement from the NWA over the whole Billy Wolfe debacle. Even more bizarre is Stewart, who was *another* ex-wife of Wolfe. I don't know what to make of these cards (if they took place as scheduled), especially as the contemporary write-ups present them as part of an ongoing thing. Was Mildred Burke really running opposition in Louisiana against the NWA office in 1974? If so, why is this the first time I'm hearing about it?

Nevertheless, Lake Charles was a McGuirk town until Bill Watts took it and the rest of the Louisiana/Mississippi end of the circuit when he formed Mid-South Wrestling in 1979. And finally, I come to the point of the story where I was actually around to see what was going on.

VIII
I have read many...COLORFUL stories about the city of Lake Charles from the men who worked the Mid-South territory. Jim Ross tells of being in a riot there and a policeman who carried a hollowed-out pool cue filled with lead to discourage rowdies. I wonder if those kind of antics dated back to the days of Cecil McDonald and his Sportatorium? Wouldn't surprise me one bit.

As I've said, I grew up with Mid-South Wrestling, which changed its name to the UWF (Universal Wrestling Federation) in 1986. It aired on KPLC, KLFY, and KALB (Alexandria) during those years. Lake Charles was a regular stop in those days. But change was coming to the wrestling business, and that arrived when the WWF made its debut at the Civic Center.

I want to say it was 1986 and "Macho Man" Randy Savage was in the main event, but the card isn't online as far as I've seen and I think I lost the clipping I had from back then. I do know WWF was airing on KVHP Channel 29, then a relatively new independent station in Lake Charles that became the Fox affiliate when that network was formed. Perhaps an even more dire portent of things to come is my memory that KLFY replaced UWF with WWF around the same time. Considering the long tradition of wrestling on that station, losing it would have been a bad sign for Watts - even if KATC scooped up the UWF for themselves like I recall.

It became moot when Jim Crockett Promotions bought the UWF from Bill Watts in early 1987, and gradually phased it out as a brand separate from the NWA. By the beginning of 1988, the UWF was gone. But it didn't matter as much because it was also gone from KPLC. Somewhere along the way (and I don't remember when), they just dropped it. Since KVHP was still carrying WWF, you could say Vince McMahon had already won the war for Lake Charles.

(KPLC aired the upstart Five Star Wrestling's TV when it launched in the early 90s, but this did not last long and I don't think Five Star made it into the city. Years later, KVHP was airing WCW Worldwide at the height of the Monday Night Wars. Funny how that works out.)

WWF and the current WWE have run shows in Lake Charles since then, but it's not a regular stop. I'm not sure if Crockett tried to run the Civic Center under the NWA banner after folding the tent on the UWF, but WCW showed up now and then until they went away in 2001. Like a lot of places, Lake Charles isn't the scene that it used to be when it ran every week. Probably, that was inevitable.

I do want to close with a very obscure recollection of mine. It seems someone made a stab at running indy shows in the area in the mid-80s. I distinctly recall a newspaper ad that touted a group calling itself "Super Pro Wrestling." It pictured someone who called himself the Human Ox, but none of the names jumped out as familiar to me - though one of them was Dusty Wolfe and I *would* see him in the future. This group was running a show at the Moss Bluff skating rink. I later saw a flier in a Kinder gas station for another show with a different name but many of the same workers, plus Sonny King just a couple of years removed from a Mid-South run. I wonder if he was behind this promoting endeavor, or at least a partner in it.

I didn't get to either of those shows. I actually never went to see pro wrestling in Lake Charles. Based on what I know now, I'm not sure how I would have reacted as a young kid in that environment. But I miss those days and wish I could buy a ticket to any one of these cards I've been seeing in the archives. Even Super Pro Wrestling and the Human Ox in a skating rink.

Wrestling in Lake Charles - Part 2

(The following series is adapted from a Facebook discussion that took place last week. The information presented here is definitely incomplete, and I am certain there are mistakes. However, I wanted to put this out there for the public to inspire further research by people who are more interested in the mat game than yours truly and more resourceful in digging up its history. To see the entire series, follow the tag "lake charles wrestling.")

IV
Cecil McDonald was the wrestling promoter in Lake Charles in the 1960s. He was born in 1915/1916 on a watermelon farm in Sugartown, LA. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marines at some point. A contemporary account refers to him as a "real estate dealer" in Lake Charles, but it has also been written that he owned lumber companies in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The latter can definitely be established.

The first instance online of McDonald's name turning up in a sporting context (at least that I've seen) is an unlikely one - JET magazine. The May 21, 1959 issue includes the following report:

Is this the impetus for pro wrestling in Lake Charles? It's not hard to make the connection that McDonald began to promote both wrestling and boxing due to the dissolution of his basketball team. Both sports by their very nature could neatly avoid the segregation issue. And no matter how McDonald felt about race relations, it is indisputable that he booked black wrestlers for his shows. In fact, Tiger Conway defeated Dory Dixon in a 1962 match at the McDonald Sportatorium to claim "The World’s Colored Championship." Conway is said to be the last claimant to that particular title.

(As an aside about the basketball/wrestling connection - it's not as unusual as you might think. P.L. "Pinkie" George was one of the founders of the National Wrestling Alliance, and even the guy who came up with the name. He was also the owner of the National Basketball League's Waterloo Hawks. George was one of the men who merged the NBL with the Basketball Association of America to form the current NBA.)

The McDonald Sportatorium filed as a business corporation on June 22, 1960. McDonald was listed as the registered agent and the address was 709 McNeese St Lake Charles, LA 70601. This is at odds with the 715 McNeese address seen in many ads, but it's the same location regardless. Given McDonald's stated connections in both real estate and lumber, it's not hard to imagine work began on the project shortly after the end of the McDonald Scots. And if there had been pro wrestling promoted in town prior to 1960, by McDonald or other parties, no evidence surfaced when I went looking for it.

My gut feeling is that dubbing his arena "the Sportatorium" was very deliberate on McDonald's part. I *suspect* the wrestling program airing on KPLC (either at McDonald's behest or as something he saw and decided to promote off) was the TEXAS WRESTLING syndicated show. Many if not all of those films (profits from which were split between Ed McLemore's Dallas office and Morris Siegel's Houston office by this time) were shot in Dallas - at the Sportatorium. So why not give Lake Charles its own Sportatorium?

Wrestling was presented at the McDonald Sportatorium until at least May 4, 1967. I have not seen anything after this date for the city until the mid 1970s. I don't know how long McDonald stuck around Lake Charles, but he had definitely relocated to Texas by September 1971. Possibly, this was to attend to a lumber yard he had started there in 1967. So his days of promoting wrestling in Lake Charles were probably over by the time the 1970s began.

In addition to all of this, Cecil McDonald is credited as the developer/founder of Rio Bravo, Texas, and El Cenizo, Texas. He passed away Thursday, May 15, 2008, in a hospital in Laredo, Texas. He was 92.

V
The Lake Charles cards I've found booked out of Houston are actually not bad. They aren't stacked, but there's no reason to expect they would be for essentially a tank town. Early shows featured Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon prominently. Established stars like Bull Curry and Danny McShain showed up often. Both Pat O'Connor and "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers defended the NWA World Heavyweight title there. Heck, even Paul Boesch (THE name synonymous with Houston wrestling) made the trek pretty regularly. So the Houston office did all right by Cecil from 1960-1965.

Lake Charles ran Wednesday nights. There were occasionally shows that ran on Thursday. During 1964, they switched to Saturday night. For whatever reason, it went back to Wednesdays in January 1965. This will be important to remember.

The last Houston-booked show on record for 1965 is April 21. The next show I have seen a clipping for is May 1 (a Saturday). It features wrestlers from the Gulf Coast office in Lafayette. Most of the rest of Lake Charles 1965 I've seen (May-Sept.) is run on Saturday night at 8:15, with the boys having to drive directly from Lafayette after doing live TV starting at 4:30.

To backtrack, Lee Fields bought out Harry Romero's Rome Promotions in April 1964, and got a good portion of Louisiana by doing so. But he was an active wrestler too, so he needed local promoters. Cecil McDonald's obituary is suitably vague in that it states "...he was also the promoter of boxing and wrestling in the early ’60s in Lake Charles..." So, did Cecil sell to Lee Fields in 1965? Or to someone else who booked though Lafayette instead of Houston? I don't have an answer, but it took over a year after Fields bought out Harry Romero for Gulf Coast to makes its way into Lake Charles. McDonald's name as promoter is noticeably absent from the 1965 Gulf Coast show clippings, and even the building is referred to simply as "Sportatorium." However, some of those same clippings remind people to "See live wrestling - Channel 10 KLFY every Saturday - 4:30 P.M." The connection had been made.

And don't forget - even if Cecil McDonald wasn't still the promoter, he did own the building they were running.

Wrestling in Lake Charles - Part 1

(The following series is adapted from a Facebook discussion that took place last week. The information presented here is definitely incomplete, and I am certain there are mistakes. However, I wanted to put this out there for the public to inspire further research by people who are more interested in the mat game than yours truly and more resourceful in digging up its history. To see the entire series, follow the tag "lake charles wrestling.")

I
One of my passing interests is the history of pro wrestling in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I actually thought this would be pretty straightforward - from Gulf Coast Wrestling to Leroy McGuirk's Championship Wrestling outfit to Mid-South Wrestling/Universal Wrestling Federation when Bill Watts split away the LA/MS end of McGuirk's territory. There have been the occasional WWF/WCW/WWE cards since then, but I was mostly thinking about the so-called "kayfabe era."

It's anything but straightforward. I realize now there were multiple separate offices running towns in this state at one time in the 1960s, and not one of them was an outlaw group. There is also the madness of two towns less than 100 miles apart - and each able to see the other's TV from the outset - running two completely different promotions. The history of Lake Charles wrestling is stranger than I could have imagined.

II
Growing up with Mid-South Wrestling, I am accustomed to thinking of Louisiana as one territory. TV was taped in Shreveport, first at the KTBS studios and later at the Irish McNeil Boys Club. However, the wrestlers and the angles were the same in Monroe, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Alexandria (in addition to the rest of the territory). That was the way it was when I got into wrestling in 1981, and the way it was in the years prior - even when it was Leroy McGuirk's Championship Wrestling.

But it wasn't always this way. I am not qualified to speak about the overall history of pro wrestling in this state, but it's pretty clear now it did not fall under one office (McGuirk's) until at least the late 60s/early 70s. I'm not even going to try to sort out the big picture prior to that era, as it is still too confusing for me. Suffice to say, it includes such things as Jim Barnett getting Indianapolis' BIG TIME WRESTLING on New Orleans' WDSU and Jack Pfefer booking New Orleans for awhile.

What of Lake Charles during the 1960s? I had always assumed Lake Charles was part of the same circuit as Lafayette, Baton Rogue and Alexandria, and for a time at least, it appears that it was. But both before and after its affiliation with the Gulf Coast Wrestling office, Lake Charles booked wrestlers out of the HOUSTON office. This went on until April 1965, and resumed no later than January 1966. In fact, no less an authority than "Cowboy" Bill Watts once wrote "I wrestled one time in Lake Charles for the Houston office... "

(Of course, the Cowboy had less than flattering things to say about the promoter and the venue, but that's not relevant to the issue at hand.)

So it seems Lake Charles was doing its own thing, separate from the rest of the state, for quite some time. It would be interesting to see when it finally became part of the statewide circuit. But information has proven scarce post-1967 and pre-1974.

III
The first wrestling card for Lake Charles I have found is from March 16, 1960 (Wednesday). It was staged (incredibly) at the Rebex Theater - a movie house on Sixth Avenue that would catch fire and shut down the next year (I suspect a Family Dollar store is in this location now). But after that, the matches took place in a building called the McDonald Sportatorium at 715 East McNeese Street/709 East McNeese Street (address varies according to the source, but it was the same general location). Well, there is a period in 1963 when they set up shop in a venue called the Downtown Arena that I cannot even locate an address for, but this appears to be a temporary measure. The McDonald Sportatorium was the home for pro wrestling in Lake Charles for the majority of the 1960s. It is long gone today, and I have no memory of it existing in my lifetime. Its approximate location is currently occupied by a dentist's office.

I always assumed Lake Charles wrestling ran parallel with wrestling in Lafayette, and a big reason for that was television. Each city has always received TV from the other, and KPLC (Lake Charles) is considered the Lafayette NBC affiliate while both Lafayette's KLFY (CBS) and KATC (ABC) fill those affiliate roles for Lake Charles. Since Lake Charles viewers could see the live wrestling show on KLFY Saturday afternoons during the 1950s and 60s, it only made sense that the same office would be booking both towns.

This was wrong. What I failed to consider was the availability of wrestling on the other channels. To wit, KPLC was showing *a* wrestling show in 1962 opposite the one on KLFY - but it started at 5:15 instead of 5:00. Alexandria's Channel 5 KALB and Port Arthur (TX)'s Channel 4 KPAC were also showing wrestling at 5:00 pm Satuday. Channel 5 may have also been airing the Lafayette show live, and Channel 4 was likely showing something out of Houston or at least somewhere in Texas.

In listings for both 1965 and 1967, only Channel 10 and Channel 4 (now KJAC) are still showing wrestling on Saturdays. Whether the other stations dropped it or carried it on different days, I do not know. What I can say for certain is this - wrestling from both Texas and Louisiana was available on TV to the Lake Charles market as late as 1967.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

King Kong vs. Frankenstein - Concept Art 2


Back with more "King Kong vs. Frankenstein" concept art. Here we have Willis O'Brien's idea of a scene from the battle of the two monsters.

Friday, March 20, 2015

King Kong vs. Frankenstein - Concept Art



I get a fair amount of views to this day for people searching for KING KONG VS. FRANKENSTEIN. Since I recently posted these on Facebook, I thought I'd share them here as well. These are concept pieces by Willis O'Brien for King Kong and the Frankenstein monster (aka "the Ginko") created for that ill-fated project.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Since I've Been Gone

Funny things happened since we last met here at OWARI. Water line broke (again). Car went in the shop (again). Then, my laptop's hard disk failed on February 27 (not long after I learned of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, in fact). I was without my own internet access as a result. I was able to borrow my sister's connection, but I had to stop by her house and obviously couldn't stick around for extended periods of time. That meant that until I got my fixed computer back on March 12, my presence on the web was significantly reduced.

It's been a rolling series of disasters I've been dreading, and I somehow made it out OK. But of course, I'm still kind of at a standstill as far as the changes I've been trying to affect in my life. Not for lack of trying, but...well, hopefully something will work out soon.

One thing that was interesting about the enforced lack of Internet was how much I didn't mind the limited access. It made me re-examine some of my priorities and how I was spending my time. Of course, since getting the computer back, I've been in much the same pickle as before. However, I like to think I'm getting better at managing my time. Certainly, I am more aware of it.

One day, hopefully in the next few weeks, I will be back to discuss the mystery of Larry Yakata. I'd also like to review some of the movies I watched during my absence, including the amazing DEATH MACHINES. Stay tuned and keep watching the skies!