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[size=CULLED FROM KM Before it all exploded... Here are the first few posts for the purpose of history.]
(12/30/01 5:07:44 am)
Buddy Rogers 1963 ]
I would like to start a thread dealing with Buddy Rogers giving up the title and the circumstances and some of the events that led up to it. I will also get into some information I have on a move Vince made to bring Buddy back after Buddy dropped the belt.
I would like to do it over a series of monographs because I have a lot of information and more importantly,I want/need your input to test this information and its resulting theorems.
The information I will present is based on interviews,documents,and yes,hearsay.I believe hearsay can be a valuable resource if it's handled in the proper way. As you can tell,I am not a writer,so at times my prose can be awkward. But I am a researcher by trade-it's how I make my living and during my thirty year career I 've learned many fruitful investigative techniques-one of which is the proper and effective analyses of verbal recollections (hearsay).
I will attempt to identify all of my source information and if I forget to do so on an item just write in and I will respond with the source documention. Most of the people I've spoken to I will name-some are living-some are gone. One source I will simply refer to as "Danada" because he is a person that has had an intimate knowledge of the business over the years and he was/is a close friend to the McMahon family.He has always talked to me with the understanding that he would not be quoted.I have run all of this by him and he thinks it's interesting and has no objections to its publication in this form. I know he is a frequent visitor to this site-and until he chooses to indentify himself,I will not. Some of you will figure out who he is and I simply ask that you don't Post his name here.
So, lets go!
In 1958 at the age of eight I first saw wrestling on TV and I was hooked.My first live show was at the Island Garden(don't know the date) and that night Buddy teamed with Eddie Graham and I soon became a BR fan.He was just so cool-so impressive! Every kid on my block thought I was nuts because he was a "bad guy";but I didn't care. The Nature Boy was everything I wanted to be-proud,strong and most of all,a winner!
I was too young to attend shows at MSG in 1963 so I didn't know he lost until the next day at school. When I heard,I cried! I wrote a letter to him and mailed it to the arena in Washington,DC and I waited for Buddy to return.I waited and waited,but he never came back.
It took a while but I became a Bruno fan but I never forgot Buddy and often wondered why he just "fell off the earth" the way he did. While in Viet Nam I met an Army Captain that lived in the same town as Buddy and he knew him and he would tell me all about what Buddy was then doing.
After the war I got a job working for a research service and became the research assistant to a man who wrote boxing histories and through that job I met a lot of people that knew about wrestling. I always took the opportunity to ask questions about Buddy Rogers.
In 1976 I attempted to contact that Army Captain to see if he would introduce me to Buddy but to my dismay I was informed that the Captain was killed in 1971.
I moved on with my life but always kept 1963 in the back of my mind. By the 1980's I was no longer a wrestling fan but still had a keen interest in Buddy and the events of 1963.If I met someone that had some info I would record the information and cross index it with the other stuff I had on "63 and BR.
During the late 80's I worked part time for a baseball card show promoter. He asked me to attend a luncheon sponsored by Philly Wrestling Promoter Joel Goodhart because;"Goodhart's bringing in an old time wrestler and maybe we can sign him up for a show or two". I asked him who the wrestler was and he said;"Nature Boy Buddy Rogers".
After the Goodhart event I met with Buddy and asked him if he would be interested in doing a few show appearences for a fee and he responded;"sure,kid,sounds like fun".He asked me if I could drive up to New York with him the next day so we could discuss what my boss had in mind.
That next day began for me a wonderful relationship with my childhood hero that included many great conversations.
Buddy was a superb raconteur that delighted in talking about the past. I think that he liked that I knew a lot about boxing since boxing was more of a passion to him than wrestling.I had also done five years of research for the New York Library on the development of the Circus and Carnival in America so I could talk to him with a real understanding and knowledge of his early professional life.
We also spoke a lot of "Carn Lingo"(that special form of language used by Carnival people to communicate in secret).One time in a diner he said to me:"catch the I suppose on that hatted Rose";which meant "look at the big nose on that woman with the hat". I turned and sitting behind us was this woman with a huge nose and she was wearing a big,funny hat.
Once Buddy realized that I was "smart" about the wrestling business he dropped most of the Kayfabe.The only real draw back was that at times his memory was not that great and sometimes facts would change. He was terrible with names-could just not remember them,so he called everyone "champ","chief" or "slick".But most of the big stuff he did remember and he was always willing to give his unique perspective on past events.
I asked him so many questions that he would joke;"are ya writing a book or something".I would just respond that I wanted to know what it was like! Most of all I wanted to know what happened in '63 and why he just disappeared the way he did.
I filled notebooks with the stuff he gave me. I compared that with the other stuff that I put together over the years from other source material.
Next to Buddy my best source by far has been "Danada".His memory is superb and he is always willing to confirm for me the authenticity of information.He most times presents the Vince McMahon side of events,but he does it with pure honesty and candor.
The best source on the title change is a man named Jack Breen.Buddy was reticent at times to talk about certain aspects of what occurred between he and Vince,but Jack Breen,who was involved in those events was more than willing to tell me what he knew.
Buddy was the one who introduced me to Breen and over the years Jack and I have become friends. Jack is still alive and has recently moved from Boynton Beach,Fl to live with his daughther outside of Atlanta.
Other people that were helpful with information over the years were:Eddie Leonard,a businessman and invester with McMahon,Kimon Voyages,a Chiropractor and former Mr America contestant who was a close personal friend to Bruno Sammartino,Clifton "Cliff" Curley(who was a cousin to Jack Curley) and worked in the Garden and was in the dressing room with Buddy on the night in question.
That's it-let me tell you what I know and maybe together we can answer the questions I have been asking for almost forty years!
Next Post:"McMahon Lifts the Spike"]
Old School Mark
(12/30/01 7:49:56 am)
Re: Buddy Rogers 1963 ]
[size=You're not a writer? Pfffff.
Let's get this ON.
So long from the Sunshine State!]
Old School Mark
(12/30/01 8:21:14 am)
Buddy Rogers 1963 ]
[size=Yes! This is good stuff. This is a period of wrestling history that I am very interested in too. Bring it on!]
[size=themaskedwrestler ] [size=
(12/30/01 7:39:22 pm)
Re: Buddy Rogers 1963]
[size=Reads great to me! I'm looking forward to hearing this story?]
Old School Mark
(12/30/01 7:52:51 pm)
Re: Buddy Rogers 1963 ]
Definitely good stuff.]
Old School Mark
(12/30/01 10:27:30 pm)
[size=Ive heard so many conflicting stories (all presented as "the gospel") concerning the Rogers-Bruno situation...I'm looking forward to this.]
(12/30/01 11:57:16 pm)
Re: Buddy Rogers 1963 ]
[size=Wow. As I read Hempstead's post, it's as though I'm reading about chunks of my own life.
I was born in 1951 and grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC. My father and older brother were big boxing fans and had no tolerance for the "fixed" sport of pro wrestling. From the "monkey see, monkey do" syndrome, I also developed a life-long love of boxing. However, much to my father's chagrin, I became a fan of wrestling despite having been educated as to the "sports entertainment" nature of the business. Of course, the show I used to watch was "Capital Wrestling" with Ray Morgan on WTTG Channel 5. Like Hempstead, I had unusual tastes...sometimes rooting for the heroes but at other times rooting for the villians depending on who was fighting. I vaguely remember the Graham Brothers, and I definitely remember Johnny Valetine being my favorite when he first came on the scene. By far, Johnny Valentine was the most popular wrestler among my friends in elementary school. However, when Buddy Rogers arrived, my enjoyment of wrestling really shifted. Buddy had a charisma that just placed him on a whole different level from everyone else. To me, Buddy epitomized pro wrestling. It just seemed that all the really interesting action emanated from Rogers' performances. And these performances included the antics of Bobby Davis and his stable of wrestlers like Johnny Barend, Magnificent Maurice, Eddie Graham, and Johnny Valentine who were at times either partners or opponents of Rogers. If you weren't actually there, it's kinda hard to describe the profound impact it had on me (and others). I know that comedian Andy Kaufman was affected. He described Rogers as a combination of Elvis Presley and Muhammed Ali. Reknowned author Bob Greene (who wrote Michael Jordan's biography) simply calls Buddy "the coolest guy I ever knew".
Heady stuff! Yet to some of us who were there, it makes perfect sense.
When Buddy lost the title to Bruno, I thought it was a fluke - something to set up a series of lucrative main event battles at Madison Square Garden. Then before I knew it, Buddy had dissappeared without a trace! Like Hempstead, I eagerly awaited word of his comeback. I used to comb through magazines for any mention of Rogers. (Incidently, these magazines did more than hint at a Rogers' comeback.) I continued to watch TV wrestling in the hope of seeing his triumphant return. However, this was not to be. Bruno was THE man, and the WWWF had found a succesful formula of finding seemingly invincable villians for Bruno to conquer in mythic battles of good vs. evil. Although Dr. Jerry Graham and Fred Blassie kind of carried on the Rogers' tradition, the WWWF formula grew stale for me, and it became clear that Buddy wasn't returning. So I stopped watching wrestling. Yet whenever I got the chance, I'd scan through wrestling magazines to see if there was any mention of the "Nature Boy".
I was so pleased to finally read of Buddy's return in a "Battle of the Nature Boys" against Ric Flair! And then to see Buddy with Andy Kaufman on Saturday Night Live and Buddy managing Jimmy Snuka inthe WWF - what a treat!
With the advent of home video, I avidly bought any video I could find of Rogers' in-the-ring exploits. I was looking forward to another amazing comeback by Buddy in 1992. Then all too suddenly, Buddy had passed away.
I felt as though a member of my family had died. I started to collect whatever information I could find about Buddy's career and life. Although I haven't spoken with too many "insiders" like Hempstead, I've often felt like a detective unraveling a mystery. Along the way, I've gained a new perspective on Buddy's unique contribution to the development of pro wrestling and an understanding of why he affected me differently.
I'm still hungry to learn more about Buddy. And these discussions here on Kayfabe Memories have been ESPECIALLY enlightening. So like CM says: "Let's get it on!".
[size=The Masked Man
(12/31/01 12:05:09 am)
Re: Buddy Rogers 1963 ]
(12/31/01 12:15:14 am)
"McMahon Lifts The Spike" ]
[size=The Executive Motor Lodge opened on New York Avenue in Washington,DC in late 1959. It soon became the most used motel by the wrestlers working for Vince McMahon's Wrestling Company. It was the first motel you hit coming into town on New York Avenue;it was cheap and clean and it had a liquor/package store next door;and it was only eight minuets from the arena where the wrestling shows were taped.
In April of 1963 Jack Breen was at the motel to check on rooms for a bunch of the "boys" that would be coming in the next day for a taping. When he got to the office the manager told him that McMahon had been calling for him and that he should call McMahon at the arena.
Jack Breen went to work for the wrestling company in 1961. He grew up in Camden,New Jersey and he worked out in the same YMCA where Buddy had learned to wrestle. Although he was much younger than Buddy his two brothers knew Buddy and the Rhode and Breen families lived one block apart. In 1961 Breen asked "Dutch" (Buddy) if he could get him a job in wrestling-Buddy looked at him and said in german;"you're much to small to be a wrestler". Breen knew that;but he needed a job and loved wrestling and thought it would be good if he could learn the business.
Buddy sent him to Willy Gilzenberg with a hand written note asking Willy to "hire this kid I know from the old neighborhood". Buddy called Gilzenberg a few days later and was told by Willy that Vince was complaining about putting anyone on the payroll since business was so bad.The recession that hit america in 1959 was still impacting wrestling in most cities.
Buddy told Willy;"you guys pay him for the days he works for you:ring crew,distrubuting posters,and other general gopher work and "I'll pay him from the "tip-fee" when I work our cities because I need a road boy anyway". (The tip-fee is a carnival term which means a performer gives somebody in the crew some of his winnings in exchange for services.Very much like a waitress paying a busboy out of her tips).
Buddy did need help as they were running ragged since he won the NWA title.He not only had to fullfill all the dates of the NWA Champ but he also had to finish out his dates that he had committed to as the NWA US Champ. Buddy said that "somebody had screwed up and they failed to figure or coordinate my cities and for the first few months they ran me ragged". His other problem was that the "Eastern Cabal"(the guys that Buddy was secretly in partnership with) were making huge demands on his time in an effort to build up the northeastern cities.
Buddy did need a road agent or road boy and since he knew Jack's family and Jack spoke german Buddy felt he could "trust the kid". Jack only worked for Buddy when Buddy worked eastern cities because Buddy didn't want to have pay Jack's traveling expenses and also because Buddy wanted Jack to "work his way into" Capitol to sort of be Buddy's eyes and ears in the company.McMahon surmised this and therefore the "kid" was never given anything really important to do and "business" was never discussed around him. "Danada" told me that one day he,Vince and Ray Morgan were discussing business when Jack brought in coffee and sandwhiches and Vince gave them the eye-when Jack left the room Vince told them;"never tell that kid anything because he'll take it right back to "Dutch".
Jack also knew this and that's why he was surprized at what Vince said to him over the phone when he called back;"get back here ASAP I got something important for you to do".
Since I never spoke to Vince McMahon I have no idea what was going through his mind while he waited for Jack to return to the arena. But from speaking to people around him at the time I don't think he was thinking about what he wanted to order for lunch.
Vincent McMahon was at war with the world at that period of his life. He had gone to war with the entire establishment of organized wrestling by organizing his own promotion/federation. He was the majority partner of a group of investors who were complaining about "low return";and his love/hate-on again,off again relationship with Toots Mondt was "off-again".And because of that his plan to become the main wrestling man at MSG was on hold.And if all that wasn't enough-his main attraction,his Champion was too sick to work.
But what bothered him most of all according to "Danada" was the possibility that he "might not get total control of wrestling at the Garden".
From the time he was a little boy Vince revered the Garden and the great showman that produced magical events there that he held in such high esteem.He not only held the showman in high esteem-but he loved the building itself;its history and tradition.
When he was posthumously inducted into the MSG Hall Of Fame his son,Vince said;"my father used to say there may be bigger arenas and there may be newer arenas,but there will never be a better arena-the Garden will always be the Garden".
"Danada" was there that day and after the ceremony he walked up to Gorilla Monsoon and said;"you know,Gino,all the old man ever really wanted was to be the General Managing partner of the Garden-I mean everything,boxing,wrestling,circus,hell even the dog show!"And Monsoon said "I know","I know";and at that point Gino embracced "Danada" and these two "tough guys" shed a mutual tear for their "old pal".
In 1963 McMahon was a long way from being inducted into the MSG Hall of Fame. He was trying to save his fledgling wrestling company and he needed a new champion to do it.He had made up his mind who the new guy would be and now he was trying to work out the transition-and it was not going well. The key to the transition was Buddy and he was not cooperating.
Buddy had some real leverage that not many people knew about. Buddy controlled the "production aspects" of any transition-he had the contractual authority to not only veto a finish he didn't want;but he had up to 18 months to complete the "transition of title" in "a form that he and he alone found "acceptable" and "consistant" with his "professional reputation".
There had never been a contract like it in wrestling before and there hasn't been one like it since!
And to make matters worse,Buddy had a second contract! He had a "performance" contract with Capitol and more importantly,he had a "personal services" contract with MSG Production Services,Inc. The second contract was the key because it gave Buddy "complete authority to stage and implement all theatrical aspects to any exhibition of skill,stamina and ability that he was involved in at the Garden".
McMahon couldn't even file suit because the law suit would reveal that Buddy was also under contract to Capitol which was listed as Buddy's managers in New York,Maryland,New Jersey,Penna, and Washington.And since McMahon was a Principle in that company it made him one of Buddy's managers and that violated the law that prohibited the Matchmaker at the Garden from having an "interest" in a performer". McMahon would have been fired as the Matchmaker and the Promoter (Mondt) would have had up to 60 days to appoint a new matchmaker and Vince's dream of taking over MSG would be over!
(Will be right back)]
Old School Mark
(12/31/01 12:50:44 am)
Re: "McMahon Lifts The Spike" ]
[size=Okay, let's time-line-orient here: we are in April '63. Buddy dropped the NWA title to Thesz in January. Vince had split the NWA and reestablished Capitol as WWWF, renamed, whatever. And there was some VERY interesting business in the past couple-three months between Buddy and Killer Kowalski in matches for an unspecified 'world title'. NOW:
Are you saying Vince already had Bruno selected as the successor? I always thought so. BUT was he not intending at the time to ride Buddy's string as long as he kept drawing like he was?]
(12/31/01 1:50:23 am)
McMahon Lifts The Spike ]
McMahon told "Danada" that he never even knew about the second contract and that Mondt did that on his own because he (Mondt) wanted to placate Buddy and guarantee that when the time did come to change the title Buddy would want it done at MSG because that is where Buddy would be most comfortable doing it.
McMahon was incredulous and he said to "Danada";"is Joe nuts?" "How could he think I would want to do it anywhere other than the Garden-what did he think I would do,hire a beer hall in Queens to stage a Championship Bout"!
"Danada" said the truth was that Mondt was getting paranoid. And also Toots was always "bending over backwards for the wrestlers"-"he couldn't do enough for us".
The on/off war between Mondt and McMahon lasted for well over a decade and would take up an entire book in itself. But this one incident illustrates how it spilled over at times and effected business.
Buddy got the Personal Services Contract from Mondt simply by asking for it. At lunch with Mondt right after he won the NWA belt "Toots" was complaining to Buddy about McMahon and Fred Kohler making money out of the event in Chicago and he feared more such events would be moved to ballparks in the future. Mondt was also complaining about Vince's propensity to stage outlandish spectacles that at times hurt the credibility of the business.(Thank God Toots didn't live to see what Vinnie has done)
Buddy knew that they couldn't write a contract mandating a title change at the Garden since the NWA was already committed to making the change(when it came) in Canada. But Buddy did suggest that Mondt could give him control over any match he was in at the Garden to protect against any shenanigans in the interim.Since Mondt had complete confidence in Buddy as a professional he did it and never told McMahon,and neither did Buddy. When Buddy became WWWF Champion the contract was simply amened and once again they didn't tell Vince.It gave Buddy a huge hammer!
As McMahon waited in his office for Jack Breen to arrive he had apparently decided his only option was to buy Buddy out. In the weeks before he discussed his options with both "Danada" and Eddie Leonard on seperate occasions. He told "Danada" that the 18 month option in the Capitol contract was a nightmare if Buddy invoked it because;"then we'll have a year and half of these damm one minute matches he's been doin' and that will kill business".Eddie Leonard suggested to McMahon;"why not just send some big lug into the ring to crush Buddy and just take the belt?"McMahon rejected that out of hand because;"Dutch just might die in the ring and anyway the guy I have for the belt is too decent to do that and so am I".Ray Morgan suggested that they simply tell the truth-release Buddy's medical records which would prevent him from working in most states and after 60 days declare the title vacant and have a tournament. McMahon rejected that because he felt the Federation was too new for that and "we need our new champ to be put over with credibility";"and not only that but what if when he gets well Dutch goes out and gets some backers and runs opposite us in our cities and runs as the real champ".
McMahon came to the conclusion that;"Dutch had to go happy"!
As he walked into Vince McMahon's office Jack Breen was scared. "I was nothing more than the ring boy,really and here the boss was calling me in-I was just scared!
McMahon got right to the point. "I know you heard the rumors about the change we have to make and I know you're a friend of Dutch and I was hoping you could help us out".McMahon went on to explain that he had been negotiating with Buddy and that the negotiations had broken down."Dutch was in Ohio last night (Buddy was attending the funeral of a friend) and we spoke on the phone for an hour and it ended up in a shouting match and Dutch hung up on me";McMahon said."I just can't talk to him anymore"!
McMahon explained that Buddy would be appearing in Commack that night and that he wanted Jack to drive up to meet him there and to deliver to Buddy a "new offer" he had for him. McMahon said;"and see if you can talk some sense into him"!
McMahon then took a typed one sheet of paper and put it into an envelope and sealed it and wrote Dutch on the front of it.
McMahon then asked Jack about Jack's wife(who was expecting a baby in June) and asked Jack about what aspect of the business he was most interested in.It was clear to Jack that the boss was sending him a clear message.
That same day McMahon spoke with "Danada" and he told him that he was attempting a different approach with "Dutch". He asked "Danada"(who was also working the show in Commack that night) if he could also talk to Dutch and see if you can find out what he is thinking!
When Jack left McMahon's office he sat in the empty arena for a few minutes to think about what had just happened. He kept looking down at the envelope in his hands and wondered what numbers were typed on that piece of paper.
He went over to the pay phone to call Buddy and since Buddy's flight was late he was still sleeping and groggy.He told Buddy what had transpired and told him that McMahon wanted them to meet up in Commack because he gave me an envelope to give you.Jack was hoping that Buddy would tell him to open it and read it over the phone to him-but Buddy didn't! Instead,Buddy said to Jack in German;"did McMahon seem agitated"?Jack replied that he did.Buddy said ok and that he would see Jack up on Long Island.
In later years I asked Buddy about that phone conversation and he didn't remember it but he was quick to say;" but Breen's got a memory like a bear trap";and all I remember about that whole time was that I wanted to protect myself to make sure I got my fair share out of the split"."you know,kid,when the showboss decides to 'lift the spike' there's not much you can do".(In Carnival lingo "to lift the spike" means you're taking down the tent and closing the show).
When Jack got off the phone he walked back into the arena and saw that three "boys" had come into the ring and they were working out."Danada" was mimicking Buddy's style to a tee-from his sequencing (pattern) moves to even playing to the crowd(which wasn't there) and while he was doing that Gorilla Monsoon was on the apron calling out instructions to the third "boy" in the ring-that "boy" was Bruno Sammartino!
Next Post:Jack Drives Up To Meet The Nature Boy.]
Old School Mark
(12/31/01 1:55:38 am)
Re: McMahon Lifts The Spike ]
[size=Timeline: when did Buddy have his heart trouble? He was ALREADY doing 1-minute matches? BEFORE the switch? Since WHEN? Please answer this because somethin' ain't ringin' right here.]
1. Just because somebody creates an account named "Smoeater" (or whatever) on another message board doesn't mean it was the same person, come on guys..
2. Hempstead had some pretty big holes in the story from jump street:
- He names Commack, NJ as the place Jack Breen went to meet Buddy after the meeting with McMahon, but Capitol didn't run Commack between September '62 and May 26th, 1963. The last time Buddy Rogers wrestled in Commack was on May 9th, 1962 (less than a year after he won the title, and long before any of the activities described).
- Gorilla Monsoon. Hempstead's story describes Gorilla cheering on a "boy" Bruno. Gorilla didn't come to Capitol until July '63, after Bruno had won the title. During the events described in the story, Gorilla was in Japan from March-June. The only time Gino had met Bruno previously was in Toronto (where they had teamed), not Washington D.C. Not to mention that Bruno had been a 'name' and headlined MSG two years before Gorilla made his debut.
3. Given the info that had been provided, Tony Altimore would have made more sense as "Danada" than Angelo Savoldi, as Savoldi was working all over the country during that period and didn't spend much time in CWC in '63. Altimore worked Capitol every year of his career, and was still there in later years working in the office. In theory, it would make sense, and fit almost all of the particulars. His death came after the Smoeater story came out, but he also died before it went off the rails and became debunkable, as if being written by a completely different person (or persons).
Having had to google 'smoe' because of CM, and finding the story fascinating, I'm trying to find someone who still has a copy of the full story, including the deleted threads. The only other person who I found to have (somewhat) covered the story is Bixenspan. This story would make an excellent article or podcast.