by Lee Kolozsy
I’ve had many fights over the years in
show business. I started early, constantly being the new kid in
school meant that I had to establish where I stood with bullies.
Things haven’t changed all that much over the last half century. I
don’t remember every clem,
but I do know that I left a lot of people wishing they had left
well enough alone. Lately I’ve had a remarkable run of fights
with millionaires. Maybe there are just more millionaires than
ever before. Now I have nothing against guys with money, after all
, it is a sign of success, and successful people are usually the
brightest, hardest working, etc. Kinda like me. But not always.
Not every millionaire is successful. Some are blowing it all, not
all are self made, some of them have never done anything for a
living but inherit. The millionaires I’ve been fighting seem to
fall predominantly into this category.
Except for one. This guy fits several
categories. He’s nuts, like me. He did inherit, but he also works.
certainly isn’t blowing it. Just most of the dates he inherited.
And he likes to fight, although not always on the side of truth,
justice, and the American way. And the family fortune was made by
fighting. Well, not fighting, exactly. More like another racket
that involved fighting as a respectable front.
The At shows
are all gone now. There’s Boxing, Collegiate wrestling, and of
course Professional Wrestling.
Sadly, the carnival athletic show is no more.
At one time the organized carnivals
had more shows than rides and games. That is why anyone with three
truckloads of pig iron
calls his outfit “something or other SHOWS” It’s tradition.
Regrettably enough, showmanship is a
lost art. With these articles I hope to teach the art to the next
generation, and revive that ballsy mix of greed, grift, and
razzle-dazzle that can still work if played well.
The Athletic Exhibition was a major
draw in the early days of the biz. Sex and violence are not the
invention of Hollywood moguls. Girl shows, Jig shows, thrill
shows, menageries, freak shows, water shows, and single-Os
of all kinds made a horseshoe
midway where you could spend hours watching bally after
and not spend a dime.
The At show was special, it was a
manly place. A place where guys went. A fun place that didn’t cost
a bundle. Cheap entertainment. Until they played you… And they
did… in a variety of ways… Consistently…A variety of money making
plays that sucked in the money week after week ‘till the track
came to an end. Now here’s the play…
Weeks before the big event, the show
press agent organizes a press party catered by the best hotel in
town. All the V.I.P.s from the local social set , the mayor, chief
of police, etc. are at the shindig, as well as
the gentlemen of the fourth estate. The theme of the elbow rubbing
extravaganza is “meet the Champ”. There were opportunities to have
your picture taken with the fighter, to see and be seen. Everyone
in town wanted to be there.
Now every At-show of any consequence
at that time carried a bona-fide contender. A fighter of some
note. A recognized “Champ”, perhaps a Navy Golden Gloves, or a
record holder of some sort that could be publicized with some
degree of credibility. They had colorful names, like “YOUNG
STRANGLER LEWIS” who was actually young James E. Strates.
As the party was winding down, the
show press agent would inform the boys from the press that the
Champ wanted to stand them all a round of drinks down at Clancy’s
bar. Well newsmen are genetically unable to refuse a free drink,
so off they go and things start to happen at Clancy’s that may be
predictable if you know the score.
Quietly getting drunk at Clancy’s is a
character familiar to us all. The local bully. When the
lighthearted mob of Clark Kents and Jimmy Olsons arrive with the
“Champ” and his entourage, they don’t quite expect what follows.
As the happy group is lushing it up
and discussing the current state of sports in the nation, the
surly drunken local heavy begins to display an ugly humor. “You
ain't no fighter, yer a bum, I could knock ya out with one hand
tied ahind me back!” Well the Champ takes this very graciously. He
says “Come to the show and step into the ring, I’ll post your
entry fee myself, and if you can go three rounds you win a hundred
dollars.” At this point things get really ugly, the local jerk
gets offended by the Champs offer to post his entry fee and says
he can put up his own fiver. The champ apologizes, says he meant
no disrespect, and offers to buy the belligerent guy a drink. The
upshot is that the local asshole takes a cheap shot, tries to
sucker punch the Champ, who easily sidesteps the clumsy swing and
dispatches the fool with a well placed Dempsey. Exit bully, enter
Well it spreads like wildfire, the
story is told and retold, all over town. The Champ is the hottest
thing going. The local bully is the butt of everyone’s jokes. His
attitude only gets worse. He swears revenge, and is universally
condemned, and mocked, although hardly ever to his face. The few
who dared are occupied recovering.
Comes the show and it’s the biggest
thing in public memory. A world of attractions and fun for all.
And the boys of course are torn between the girl shows and the At
show. They invariably end up at the At show. I mean the girl show
satisfies curiosity, but the At show relieves tension. Hoowee! Did
you see that farm boy get knocked on his duff!!! Cleaned his clock
by gum! Who’s gonna be next, the Champ is goddam
And not a day goes by without the
local bully heckling our boy from outside the ring. It becomes a
standing joke. The Champ invites him in the ring, even throwing a
fiver on the sign up table, (the entry fee) and every time the
jerk says “ not tonight, I’m in training, I’m climbing in
Saturday night and I’m gonna demolish you!”
he is mocked by one and all. But never to his face.
And it’s every day. With only slight
Then it’s Saturday night, the last
night, and no one has made three rounds with the Champ…. Yet!
Everybody was there every night to see
the feud progress. To be able to report with authority on the
Champ vs. bully situation. Which has yet to be resolved. And all
the challengers to date had been carried from the ring. Man, the
place was packed! Everyone wants to see the bully humiliated. “The
bums gonna chicken out” “Horseshit! He’s gonna get murdered, his
kind ain't got the sense to back down.”If’n I was him I’d leave
town permanent” (this from a recovering mocker to his face who was
expressing some wishful thinking)
Plus a new twist. Gambling ! That’s
right you could now place a bet, and they were paying off on some
of the matches. You could bet on how many rounds the boy would
last. Usually one.
Finally, the moment of truth….
The news raced around the lot, they were fighting to get in,
the bully was at the sign up table. The eleventh hour,
literally. The show was almost over. The place was packed. The
betting was fierce. There was Rockefeller money riding on this.
Everybody was backing the Champ…. Except the smart money, ….
Man weren’t they all surprised when the
Champ took a dive in the second and their money was GONE…
( Also called “Sports Entertainment”, which is a lot like
calling a prostitute a “hostess”) a cross between wrestling
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