Jack Brisco died Monday of complications from heart surgery, which (as a lot of things here lately do) brought some vivid memories to mind.
Now, you have to understand that I come from a moonshinin', gold-minin', rasslin', racin' family. There's not much my ancestors haven't been involved with--right or wrong. It has made me who I am, good or bad.
I was fifteen and working at Daddy's Amoco station. Week in, week out, a car pulled up, a guy got out, and gave me a poster for the window and tickets for that week's rasslin' match at the Sports Palace on US 341 between Barnesville and Griffin. I always went.
Rasslin' (the professional brand) in Georgia was on the wane then, having its heyday in the late 50's through the 60's. Every Saturday my family would watch "Live Atlanta Wrestling" with Ed Capral and Freddy Miller as the hosts and commentators. Yes, we were rasslin' fans. Back when it was real as it could be. Before Gordon Solie and his "gluteous maximus-solar plexus" days.
Does it scare you that I remember this so well? It scares me.
There was Gorgeous George, Freddie Blassie, and the Funk brothers (Dory, Jr. and Terry). You had Mr. Wrestling--I and II. There were the bad guys: The Assassins, El Mongol, Gorilla Monsoon, and Gene Anderson of the Anderson Brothers.
I miss those days.
When I was eleven, Daddy and I went to the Municipal Auditorium in Atlanta to see rasslin' "LIVE". I don't remember much about the card that night other than the Main Event: El Mongol vs. Mr. Wrestling. The match didn't last very long, because seated on the front row was a sweet-looking little old lady. With a big purse.
(My experience with "sweet-looking little old ladies" has not been good. I'll never forget one of them giving a salesman of mine fits in Florida over floormats in her car. She brought up the fact [one among many] that she was a widow. I asked her if she knew why her husband died first. She said no. I told her it was because he wanted to. That's when the fight started.)
A few minutes into the match Mr. Wrestling pinned El Mongol down, his pony-tailed head hanging precariously over the edge of the ringmat. At which point the little old lady windmilled her purse-holding arm and roundhoused him in the head with her pocketbook, which was full of rocks. She won the match.
Let me back up a little bit. As we were trying to find a place to park near the auditorium, Daddy noticed a lot of folks parking behind a fence upon which was posted a sign reading "NO PARKING". Since this obviously meant for others and not for him, we parked our '64 Galaxie 500 there, along with a dozen or so others. When we left the place, we walked to where we had parked our car. The fence and sign were still there. All the cars were gone.
We walked for what seemed like ten miles to the Atlanta Police Department, where the desk sergeant told Daddy where he could find our car. Daddy told him where he could put his badge. That's when the fight started. Not really--I just couldn't resist using that line again.
We walked the next ten miles to the impound lot, paid the fine, got in our car, and went home.
So, I was primed for action when the Sports Palace offered rasslin' on Friday nights. Centrally located on US 341 between Barnesville and Griffin (affectionately known as simply "the bypass" because it managed to miss both towns), the Sports Palace was the place to be if you wanted to see rasslin' at its finest. I did.
So each week when the man would drop off a sign for the front window of the station, along with four tickets to that week's matches, I was as eager as a coon dog during a full moon. I'd stomp and cheer for the good guys, hate the bad guys, and just enjoy the (free) ride.
I'd go back in a New York minute, but I'm afraid the rasslers (those still living) would have to be rolled to the ring in their wheelchairs. It just wouldn't be the same.
As that great philosopher Ric Flair once said, "To be the man you've got to beat the man." To which I say "WAIIOOOO".