Writing under the name Vandal Drummond, Kurt Brown discovered pro wrestling in 1972 at the age of 10 and published several fan bulletins as a teenager. From 1983-1984, he wrestled for California independents, then became active again from 1991 to present. He worked under the name Jimmy Cyclone, Vandal Drummond, and now Lucky Pierre. He also booked Southern California lucha libre talent for Michinoku Pro and AAA in 1993. His favorite groups to work with are Lucha Libre focused indies and Johnny Legend's Incredibly Strange Wrestling.
Welcome to my first column of ¡Lucharan! The literal translation of the Spanish word lucharan is "they will wrestle." Those of you who have caught much lucha libre on Galavision no doubt recognize that as the ring announcer's opening cue for each match he introduces, the most frequent intro being "Lucharaaaaan, dos de treis caidas, sin limite de tiempo!" (They will wrestle, two out of three falls, no time limit!)
So, with a column bearing a lucha libre oriented title on a wrestling nostalgia website, I figure the subject of most of my columns is already obvious.
I was lucky to have discovered pro wrestling when and where I did; Southern California in 1972. We got the best of both American and Mexican style wrestling in Mike LaBell's promotion back then. In addition to American stars like John Tolos, Freddie Blassie, and The Destroyer, we also enjoyed frequent appearances by South of the border stars like Raul Mata, Mil Mascaras, and the tag team of Black Gordman and Great Goliath.
In addition to enjoying the abovementioned folks as established regulars in Los Angeles wrestling, we also were treated to occasional appearances by other lucha legends like El Solitario, Ray Mendoza, and Raul Reyes. Add appearances by folks like Korea's Kim Sung Ho, Japan's Masa Saito, Argentina's Coloso Colosetti, England's David Morgan and Steve Wright, and Puerto Rican babyface Victor Rivera, I would bank that the territory had one of the most diverse international talent pool of wrestlers in the United States. It was a great time to be a fan!
In addition to being an incurable wrestling fan, I have also had the good fortune to be involved in various Southern California based independent wrestling organizations as an active wrestler, referee, and occasional booker. I began wrestling American style in 1983, but had a bitch of a time getting bookings because of my 5-foot, 7-inch, 160 pound frame. At that point, I had lost interest in pure lucha style, and was more taken with the wrestling scene in Japan and the U.S.
That changed in 1989 when I was working out with a fellow gringo at Gil Arellano's Gym in East Los Angeles. We arrived at the gym without realizing that longtime lucha local boy Chacal Rivera was teaching a class that morning. Rivera tried to talk us into giving the lucha style class a try. My friend had no interest in "that Mexican crap," and I was intimidated as the style looked complicated to me. But Chacal was cordial and encouraging enough that I figured, "Why not?" And ... after giving his class a shot, my love of lucha libre was rekindled.
I learned a whole new style of wrestling, and for the first time in my life, indie promoters didn't look at me and shrug, "You gotta gain about thirty pounds before I book you!" The experience of learning both American and Lucha style of pro wrestling also gave me newfound appreciation of folks like Terry Funk, who can create a good match with a wrestler who works a style that's foreign in his textbook.
Even though I continue to be a semi-active and competent indie wrestler, it has always been a part-time gig, and I have always considered myself to be more of a fan than a wrestler. I began using the name Vandal Drummond when I began wrestling on lucha indie shows in 1991, and have been working under a hood as "Lucky Pierre" for the past three years. Those of you who are already familiar with me know my name is Kurt Brown. The reason I'm writing this column under my wrestling moniker is simple: Vandal Drummond has a sweeter ring to it than Kurt Brown.
The basis of my columns on this site will focus on everything from lucha history to my personal recollections and anecdotes as a fan, and as a wrestler/hanger-on in the California lucha scene. I have written occasional stories for magazines, fanzines, and newsletters, and this will be my first go at a regular column. Hope you cats find it enjoyable! Feel free to send me an e-mail atLyger@aol.com and let me know what you think!
Memories of the Blue Demon
Make no mistake about it! This is the coolest time to be a wrestling fan. We have cable TV and VCRs to directly feed us our sweet megadoses of international wrestling action today. WWF RAW with their light shows aren't your trip? No problem! Lucha libre on Galavision is at your fingertips. Don't dig lucha libre style? Japanese videotapes are an easy find! There is lots of good pro wrestling action available, no matter what your style preference may be.
But remember a few decades back, when most of us hardcore fanatics viewed many wrestling heroes indirectly? That was when the U.S. was riddled with scores of regional wrestling empires, but no kingpin promotion that reached the entire country. With our TV antennas grasping only the most local wrestling shows, we experienced the foreign wrestling stars (and by foreign stars I mean any wrestler who worked outside of our state) through Victory Sports magazines and word of mouth. We saw gory photos of the fire-throwing Sheik butchering his opponent half a country away, or listened to the kid who just moved down the block from New Jersey, boasting about seeing Bruno Sammartino defend the WWWF title. Most of us had at least a few wrestlers who we saw only in tabloids or heard through tales, yet they juiced our imaginations to build a hep wrestling empire in our minds.
Blue Demon was one such distant wrestling hero of mine. I never actually saw him wrestle until 1980, well past his prime, but his aura shaped the wrestling fanatic in me since my first months as a proud mark, back when I drank up the L.A. TV action on KCOP-13 nearly every Saturday night in 1972. His death this past December brought back a trail of fond memories.
My first lessons in sorting out charisma and technical wrestling came from the local Chicano kids at my school. I was ten and had just bought my first wrestling magazines, several issue of Lucha Libre featuring Mexico's proudest flexing their physiques on the cover, backed by neon bright backdrops. My gringo buddies scoffed at the magazine as there were no pics of Freddie Blassie or John Tolos. But the kids who recently moved from Mexico missed their heroes back home, and fingered through the magazines with me. The supernatural masks of Tinieblas and El Santo floored me, and I would remark, "Now these guys are cool! These must be Mexico's top dogs!" The kids would shrug, and say "Yeah, those guys are good," not wanting to burst my bubble, yet emphasizing, "but Blue Demon, Ray Mendoza those guys are great wrestlers!"
And the father of the Villanos and this Blue Demon guy, they now grabbed my curiosity. I saw Ray Mendoza in the main event of my first live match and immediately understood his appeal, but who was Blue Demon?
I finally scored an issue of Lucha Libre that had a feature on Blue Demon. I had seen Míl Máscaras and El Sicodelico on TV. I had seen the photo features of Santo and other masked superstars.
And here was Blue Demon, a wrestler wearing mask and cape similar to his nemesis Santo, hep as all hell, yet there was something different about Blue Demon. The spectacular lucha libre ring gear was there, but his acorn brown complexion and tough physique hinted that the guy under the mask wasn't concerned with retaining an El Santo grace or a Mil Máscaras physique. It's not that there was no physique on Blue Demon. It just looked like this guy's muscles were built for gusto, not just for the ladies. His chiseled hands alone looked like they had their own workout routine, which immediately reminded me of the action figures plugged on TV with features like "kung-fu iron death grip."
But my favorite Blue Demon moment played out as one of the best pro wrestling memories I shared with my father. To tell this anecdote vividly, I must first scribble you a sketch of Dad. Dr. RJS Brown had an illustrious career as a nuclear physicist that spanned over thirty years. Fifteen years after retirement, he still practices his craft as a consultant to University of Bologna in Italy. He played classical piano, fancied folk music, studied Spanish, dabbled a bit with Russian, and began studying Italian in his seventies. He is the pop-culture's stereotypical scientist complete with beard, moustache, and spectacles.
If I were to compare him to a pro wrestler, Mick Foley immediately comes to mind. Dad shattered his hip in a fall last May. After major surgery and a slow and painful path to recovery, the bottle of pain pills in his medicine cabinet has been popped open on only a few occasions. Yep, my pop has a higher threshold of pain than I previously gave him credit for!
When I discovered the joys of watching pro wrestling in 1972, my Dad was not overly enthused. He preferred Beethoven over Blassie, folk dancing over the annual 22-Man Battle Royal, but he would occasionally indulge me by sitting in on some televised matches, especially when they were narrated in Spanish by Miguel Alonso on KMEX-34 and even suggested that we head down to the Olympic Auditorium one evening to take in the matches.
October of 1973. Dad took Mom and I to Mexico City as part of a working vacation. While we stayed at a Marriott, ate mostly in the restaurants that fellow tourists frequented, saw the same pyramids and festivities that most Americanos took in, Dad & Mom wanted to throw in a few days and nights of the Mexico City that tourists traditionally avoid. We strolled the open air markets with their plucked chickens strung up just above the platter of skinned pigs' heads ready for the basting, a jarring culture shock for this city boy used to seeing his red meat wrapped neatly in cellophane!
So we came across a small carnival one evening, not unlike those in the United States, with their sleepy ticket takers, wild-eyed vendors, wild- eyed yellow neon, fluorescent cotton candy, and grinding rides desperately in need of oil, a wrench, and a key replacement part or two.
But the thing I always loved most about carnivals were the game booths. Despite multiple warnings by well meaning family members, I held tight to the notion that sheer skill could win you the giant stuffed lion that hanged high in the carnival barker's booth.
So imagine my elation when I came across a dart throwing vendor, who flagged down the only gringo family on the grounds, shouting that all you needed to do was pop three balloons to win your choice of two prizes: the statue of Blue Demon or the statue of El Santo!
I scrambled for my pesos and centavos to hand over to the gentleman, all the while stammering "bitchin', Blue Demon, So cool!" I began tossing round after round of darts, some missing, some hitting, but none popping. My lack of poise, power and aim kept me off the pitcher's mound in Little League, but could Lucha Libre inspire me to thrust a dart swifter than a baseball? Not likely. Dart after dart flew toward the balloons, but after eight straight rounds and all the balloons still standing in bloom on the wall, it looked like all the Blue Demon statues would stay home at the carnival.
"Mas fuerza!" cried the booth operator, meaning "More force!" He had a childlike grin on his face, and lo and behold, he was actually cheering me on to nab my trophy!
Down to my final round of coins, I shrugged and thought "no Blue Demon," but I figured one more round couldn't ...
And then Dad laid a few pesos of his own on the table. It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to figure that carnival balloons are under inflated, but it helps to have a nuclear physicist to figure the physics of demolishing the pop-resistant balloon. Sad sacks like myself, innocent to the ways of the snickering carny, would shell out buck after buck to try in vain to capture a Blue Demon statue, never figuring that a semi-flaccid balloon just won't pop for any fool.
Cool and calculated, Poppa popped one balloon, the next, and the third. No build up, no tension, you would swear it was a feat he performed every day. When the third sluggish balloon gave way with a dull pop, the two cats grinning the widest were the carnival man and I. He handed me my newly acquired treasure, which I embraced as if I was holding my first born for the first time!
I would lay odds that nearly all of the Santo and Blue Demon statues that stood in the carnival booth that night in 1973 are now just Ozymandius hunks of rubble laying low in a landfill somewhere not far from the city they resided in.
But at least one of the Blue Demon figures remains intact, and it stands proudly in my home to this day. A chipped chunk of nose is its only imperfection, just like the Great Sphinx of Egypt, and it retains the bright nuclear colors that it wore the day my father won it. It definitely stands out in my stock of family treasures like the old Victrola, my great grandfather's watch, and a restored portrait of my grandmother with her sisters in their childhood. Many would think it simply a campy collectible, but my Blue Demon statue stands for much more than just a funky conversation piece.
Blue Demon, descanse en paz. I never met you face to face, yet you were a key player in my fondest memory of strolling through Mexico City with my folks.
Titanes En El Ring, part 1
January, 1973 —
Dad finally surrendered the ancient black and white and bought our household its first color TV. To see my wrestling heroes in gleaming color, to see the ring was actually sky blue, to drink in every glazing bright hue – pure revelation!
So go figure ... the larger revelation that would hit me square in the third eye that Saturday evening would be made out of black and white.
A full color John Tolos had just thrashed an evildoer of a jobber, and KCOP-13 had cut to the Adee-Do Plumbing and Heating ad. I remembered that the TV guide listed another wrestling show called Titanes en el Ring on one of the three local Spanish stations, so I figured I would take a peek and see if its' Kung-Fu was better than ours.
Fat chance! I turned to Channel 22 to see that this wrestling show was so archaic they still filmed it in black and white. The stout mustachioed ring announcer (good set of pipes, but no Jimmy Lennon) stood alone in the ring and hollered the name of the first wrestler, who dashed from behind the dressing room curtain and marched proudly to the ring. His entrance was accompanied by the theme to Spartacus, and I had to admit; this is kind of cool, the wrestlers having a grand orchestral entrance.
And then the announcer pointed to the other dressing room curtain, shouting the name "Pepinoooo!"
Boy, was I unprepared for what I was about to see.
Out danced a fully costumed clown. I'm talking the full white-face, the Raggedy-Ann hair, and the oversize frilly suit! He held a bouquet of balloons as he skipped and twirled toward ringside, accompanied by his own flowery theme song, which lauded Pepino as a great clown who loved children and never, ever wrestled dirty!
Upon entering the ring, Pepino stumbled over his own two feet, brushed himself off, and then distributed his balloons to the children in the audience. Once the bell rang, Pepino was all nonsense; his foe would give him a forearm smash, and Pepino would collapse like a rag doll. He would clumsily scramble to his feet, occasionally getting a good lick or two in, but eventually, getting trashed right before these poor childrens' eyes!
And then I heard a chant from the peanut gallery, all the hopeful voices chanting "Super Pibe! Super Pibe! Super Pibe!" Their cries paid off, for finally some high energy superhero music played, and out ran Super Pibe! Pibe (pronounced Pea-Bay), a boyish teen dressed as a schoolboy (a "before they were stars" Angus Young?) hit the ring and nailed the nasty clown basher with dropkicks until Pepino could recover and pounce on his foe for the three count.
I tried to tell myself that I was appalled! This theater of the absurd is not pro wrestling! Immediately, I switched back to channel 13 in time to catch the end of the familiar commercial for the clothing store for big, tall and portly men. I had returned to home base, ready for Victor Rivera to beat the holy crap out of The Vigilante!
And yet Pepino's theme song kept ringing in my ears, and I chanted to myself, "Titanes en el Ring is not wrestling, Titanes en el Ring is not ..." like a mantra.
I switched back to channel 22 as soon as Rivera got the three count on Vigilante. I saw La Momia, a mummy wrapped from head to toe, hollow sinister eyes, making a slow and shaky entrance, backed by a methodical and creepy tune. I told myself he wasn't nearly as cool as Lon Chaney Jr. or Christopher Lee in the role.
Yet I had trouble falling asleep that night. Twenty eight years later, this is the first time I've admitted this to more than just my closest compadres – I was scared of La Momia!
Next column: Martín Karadagián's Titanes en el Ring thoroughly wins me over!
Titanes En El Ring, part 2
I finally confessed to myself that this Argentina wrestling was indeed cool and captivating television. It was initially a disturbing confession. This parade of purely fictional wrestling characters catered for children seemed to parody the pro wrestling I had recently discovered and loved. Add that I was eleven years old, right at that age where no boy wants to be caught by his peers enjoying something infantile.
So what won me over as sheer aficionado who embraced Titanes en el Ring with full uncut enthusiasm? It took one sweet angle between Martin (pronounced Mar-teen) Karadagian and his nemesis La Momia (The Mummy) to hook me for good.
These were the days when all TV wrestling action took place either in the ring or during interviews. Those pre-RAW and Nitro days, years before the angles took place with candid cameras roaming the dressing rooms, bars, or the wrestlers' own living rooms, years before the storylines peeked in on the wrestlers private conversations as they were conspiring to squash their enemies.
Throughout this particular edition of Titanes en el Ring, the camera would occasionally cut from the wrestling matches to a room somewhere deep in another set of the TV studio; it was a disco, packed with happy flower children, partying and dancing to away to peppy rock tunes. These young rock and rollers were no doubt compatriots of wrestlers Hippie Jimmie and Hippie Hair.
The main event that evening was champion Martin Karadagian versus Joe el Mercenario (Mercenary Joe). Karadagian (who ran the promotion) had that old school strongman physique, shoulder length white curls that shined liked taffy, black beard and moustache, twinkling Santa eyes, and a trademark grin that kicked ass like the Cheshire Cat. Joe Golera, who looked like your traditional cane brandishing circus emcee with the top hat, tails, and pencil thin moustache, accompanied Martin.
So Martin and Joe battled it out. The match was good slick pro wrestling, but it wasn't the ringwork that jumpstarted my creative opiate zone ...
Martin was doing Joe el Mercenario in ... and then I heard the methodic icy tune begin to play, the music that told us that La Momia was dangerously close. Sure enough, La Momia's sleek gaunt figure was creeping its way toward ringside, looking for Martin!
Martin and Joe Golera dashed out of the ring, wide eyed with fear as they stood face to face with La Momia! What made this scene so sweet was that the cameraman was following smack behind La Momia, filming over his shoulder, so we saw this caper from the Mummy's point of view. "Now this is groovy!" I cried. "Momiavision !"
Martin and Joe backed away toward the dressing room. As they stepped behind the curtain, Martin snatched Joe's cane, busted it over La Momia's head, but … Hell, nothing more dangerous than a wounded mummy.
La Momia then pursued his foes through the thin dark corridors of the TV studio. Martin and Joe tried opening every door they came across, horrified to find that each portal was locked! It looked like this ancient wonder would crush our duo with his death grip ...
But at last they found an unlocked door! Martin and Joe bolted into the room and shut the door behind them. Our viewpoint now shifted through the eyes of a camera in the room Martin and Joe entered, and we saw the escapees lock the door behind them, breathing a sigh of relief. They escaped into a monster free zone, a warm room with bright lights and … the blare of rock and roll music!
Martin and Joe turned to find that they had locked themselves into the room packed full of partying hippies who zipped up their pace and love code, and began swinging frenzied fists at their unwelcome guests.
Could a mere multitude of hippies kick ass on Martin Karadagian and Joe Golera? No, Baby, no! The weary duo fought off hippie after hippie with little effort. Naw, mere hippies couldn't kick ass on our boys ...
But wrestling hippies, that was another story!
Enter Hippie Jimmie and Hippie Hair! Jimmie, shoulder length blonded and thoroughly bellbottomed, dropkicked Martin. Hippie Hair, bushy brunette in raggy duds that would have made Abbie Hoffman proud, began tearing apart Joe Golera's tuxedo. The rudos escaped the supernatural terror, but were now getting trounced by Argentina's greatest representatives of harmony and understanding!
The credits rolled as The Hippies trounced the war weary champs, and the Spartacus theme played. I sat mesmerized, wishing the show didn't have to end.
To be continued ...
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