Thursday, November 5, 2015

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--The Wrestler, November 1970

It's the old adage of wrestling's past. You've heard it in many different forms, but it boils down to three simple words: "red equals green." For years, the wrestling business lived by those words that translated into the fact that when blood was involved, the fans followed--as did big box office receipts. In recent years, WWE has banned blood from their show. Aside from a few instances, blood does not make appearances on their programming. When it does, gloves are put on, doctors are called into the ring, and the bleeding is stopped. I understand health concerns, but violence is the name of the game in wrestling. I honestly do not see this trend lasting, as blood could be utilized relatively safely in a match if planned ahead. Anyone who tows the company line that the illusion is "outdated" isn't fooling anyone.

Forty-five years ago there many not have been a better bleeder than Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. The fans paid to see Heenan get his comeuppance after his proteges got theirs. Heenan was a fantastic "bumper," and when men like The Bruiser and The Crusher finally got their hands on "The Weasel," it was like Christmas morning for wrestling fans of the Midwest.

The November 1970 cover of The Wrestler displays all of the above. The headline of "My God, Bobby! What Happened To Your Face?" next to the photo of Heenan covered in a crimson mask is enough to grab anyone's attention. Popular on the newsstands of the day, this issue continues to command a higher value than others from the same era and remains relatively difficult to find.

Like many magazines from nearly fifty years ago, we're presented with some pages and articles that represent a completely different time. Even the cover with "Rapist Invades Girl's Dressing Room!" shows that. The ads in these magazines are also very much products of the era, advertising various ways to build muscle to...special companions for lonely wrestling fans. There is a lot of wrestling content, and it's easy to see why the magazines were so popular. The fans got to see wrestlers from around the world, many of which would never come to their own local territory.

After some headlines from around the wrestling world is a column dedicated to fan clubs. These fan-run clubs were all the rage in the '60s and '70s. Remember, there were no Facebook pages or Twitter feeds to keep up on the latest happenings with names like Penny Banner and Jack Brisco. The fans who were granted permission to run these clubs often took their responsibilities very seriously, but some clubs seem to have fizzled out as quick as they came. The fans from this era who were heavily involved in the fan club scene could probably write books about the time and the crazy characters within it.

Next up is the article featuring more of the famous bloodied Bobby Heenan photos as the cover promised. An unnamed photographer was lucky to get plenty of shots of the bleeding manager, including some of Baron Von Raschke and Al Costello coming to his rescue. The following article is an oddly written story about Dick the Bruiser picking a mop-topped man called "Ringo" (actually George Ringo "The Wrestling Beatle") to be his partner against "Bobby Herman." This "Herman" character is identified as the manager of Angelo Poffo and Chris Markoff, who is obviously Bobby Heenan. I'm not sure if the article was penned by someone who really didn't know that it was "Heenan" and not "Herman," or if the whole thing was written as some sort of joke.

Coverage of Bruno Sammartino, a ladies tag match, Victor Rivera, and Mighty Igor is followed by the sordid "rapist" tale advertised on the cover. Cora Combs is the wrestler in question and, in an article that I'm sure was complete fabrication, is indeed confronted by a dressing room intruder. After some corny rapist dialogue straight from the sleazy pulp magazines of the era, Combs does away with the attacker all by herself.

Following this is another article of questionable content, dealing with the very real suicide of wrestler Don Eagle. Former wrestler and photographer Tony Lanza is said to have taken a phone call from Eagle just before the Native American wrestler took his own life. There's no reason to doubt that the phone call actually happened, but was it in the best of taste to plop it into a magazine right next to some obviously fabricated tales? The description of how "the great Indian wrestler pressed a gun to his head and blew out his brains," wasn't that tasteful, either.

Next up is several pages of another staple of '70s wrestling magazines--The Wonderful World of Pen Pals! I've mentioned before on this blog about how one can often find a future wrestling name in these pen pal pages. Let's face it, many wrestlers grew up loving the sport just as much as those of us who are lifelong fans. I don't see any in these particular pages, but you never know who will show up. It's interesting to think that if you add forty-five years to the listed ages, many of these fans are now in their '50s and older. It's also something to think that young children's addresses are printed in a magazine that obviously catered to some lonely folks, as we'll get to in a bit.

After some continuations of articles from earlier in the magazine as well as an ad for Swiss pilots watches (doesn't Rick "Pawn Star" Harrison peddle those now?), we get to a staple of the '70s wrestling magazine--a life size inflatable doll. This is actually one of the tamer ads that I've come across for these, with no real "nudity" involved, but certainly enough skin for a kid to get an eyeful. These also aren't advertised as "Love Dolls" as they were later on in much more risque ads. Nevertheless, $9.95 could get you "Judy" or "Susan" (the "Negro Doll"--their words, not mine) to be your "play-mate." Yep. We'll leave that right there.

The world was a different place. Is it any better now? Certainly in some respects. But have some things really changed that much? Sure we may look down upon a story about a "rapist," ads for fly-by-night schemes and plastic "girls," and bloody pictures, but is it really any worse than the junk that is celebrated daily on Twitter with a simple "Retweet?" Nope. In fact, forty-five years ago these concepts were hidden in the cheaply-printed pages of a wrestling magazine. Today they're front page headlines.

I don't think that we've advanced much at all. But we could use a bloody match now and then...thanks Lesnar and Taker!

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