Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wrestling, March 1951 / Yukon Eric / Ed "Strangler" Lewis


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Wrestling v01n03 (1951-03.Weider)(D vs M).cbr
Get the cover to cover scan of the issue here! Big thanks to Madman McCoy for the great edit on this issue.

Happy New Years, scanfans! Sadly, a nasty respiratory infection followed by an extended Christmas vacation has kept me from my blog, but I'll struggle off the mat here and get another wrestling publication up for you fans of the golden age and promise to have a few more magazines on the subject before I move on to any other topics. I'm completely unsure how many issues of this jam-packed Wrestling magazine Joe Weider was able to publish, but I think probably just about six. A very unique and interesting format, Wrestling was published on slick pages with the addition of orange colored inks, has artists' illustrations and photos, and contained some ambitious graphic design in many of the layouts. One might venture a guess that this magazine was too sophisticated for wrestling fans (small type, 3 columns?!) or perhaps lacking focus (all articles are continued at the back, a jumbled layout), but nevertheless it is well worth tracking down, as this title packed issues with mucho information on wrestlers of the day and on the wrestlers and matches of earlier eras as well.

I'm not clear whether this was Weider's only venture into the area of wrestling publications, but his magazines in other areas (and indeed his health and fitness empire in general) were incredibly successful over the decades. During this c.1950 surge in the interest in wrestling (and the concurrent move of wrestling towards entertainment and away from some felt were the purer sporting aspects), wrestling's defenders felt compelled to point out the proud history of the sport and the merits of its athletes, and I think Weider probably fell into this camp. Indeed, bodybuilding and physical culture had long been tied to the sport (Bernarr MacFadden even had a room in his publishing offices where he could go and wrestle during the work day, grappling being excellent exercise, after all), and in his introduction and the first article we see Weider taking aim at any stereotypes of the wrestler as dunderhead. Here's his lead article (which I'll go ahead and include with the contents, since they are on the same page) which concludes with Eugene Sandow's addage with which MacFadden would certainly agree (and appropriate, heh heh), "a healthy mind in a healthy body:"


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I love his sign-off, Strongly, brilliant.

But if that one article isn't enough, Weider strongarms the point with a follow-up in the lead editorial, again combating dunderhead conceptions of the wrestler. Weider mentions Mike Mazurki from our last post, the yearly salary of Gorgeous George, and various other tidbits in his entreaty not to judge these men too quickly:


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But on to the star of the issue, from the great white north, a mountain of a man, Yukon Eric! Eric promoted himself as a clean-living outdoorsman and went with a "giant" persona. Other wrestlers might be quicker or more acrobatic or smarter, but he'd simply absorb the punishment and keep on stalking his prey. Some pictures of the gentle giant, always sporting pants in the ring tied Jethro-style and at times with a lumberjack's shirt. In his prime, he had a massive chest and used the bear hug to subdue opponents.


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This one comes from Billco's Old School Wrestling, a fun photo blog with tons of great pictures.


This one comes from Eric's son, Erik Holmback, at the Slam! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame which has an excellent page on Eric with a good bio and some great personal recollections on the man that reveal his tender character through his love for children and dogs.

More cool pics of Eric can be seen here at the Online World of Wrestling.

Yukon garners the lead article in today's issue, and I'll post it in its entirety (lots of neat pics as well as lots of info on Yuke). You can tell through the article what legend Eric was going for. The line between fact and myth is blurred a few times within, but such is the nature of kayfabe. In particular, I enjoy the story of Eric licking a whole bar of roughnecks after they ridicule his choice of beverage, milk. This bit was used in the A-Team movie recently regarding B.A. Baracus (the Mr. T character, and the milk is later drugged after the fight to put him to sleep so that he might be put on an airplane). I wonder if anybody out there knows the first use of this gag. I recall Shane ordering a soda pop and Bob Hope ordering milk "in a dirty glass" in Paleface, but a google search didn't turn up what I was looking for, the first use of a bar fight started over milk (in a Western, I'd guess). The (err, questionable) splash art is from Peter Poulton who worked for Weider for at least a couple more years and has art on display in the bizarre men's adventure/muscle mag hybrid American Manhood as well as another Weider title, Mr. America (you can some of Poulton's work and sampleage from these magazines over at the always excellent and always manly Men's Adventure Magazine's Blog here.


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The end of the article alludes to an imminent showdown between Eric and Wladek Kowalski. Their meeting would become wrestling legend, earning Kowalski the label of "Killer" and costing Yukon Eric an ear. During the match, Kowalski missed a leap from the top rope and came down wrong, severing Eric's ear. If the world needed assurance that wrestling was "real," here it was, and Kowalski's attempt at a hospital apology would forever cast him as a heartless villian. An account of the story made the Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Issue, and it's online here, "Kowalski Tears Ear Off...Laughs". I can't help but chuckle at the article either. Kowalski would use the incident to further his career as one of wrestling's greatest heels. Just look at his NY State Athletic Commision License from 1959, what a creepy mug!



A nice obituary on Kowalski, who died recently in 2008, can be found here.

The rematch between Eric and Kowalski was the first televised match in Canada, and I believe I've found it on Youtube. I'm guessing this disappointing match was just a build-up for a more-epic match, but that's just my gut feeling, I haven't seen anything to back it up. But for what it's worth, here's the 'tis (you can see Eric's hairdo to cover the missing ear, yikes!):



The other article in here I'll post in it's entirety is on Ed Lewis who with Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey formed the trinity of sports stardom and excess in the American 20s. The article is pretty neat because it's made of an interview by Joe Weider of Toots Mondt who together with Lewis and Billy Sandow made up the Gold Dust Trio who were responsible for bringing wrestling into the 20th century by combining showmanship, long-running feuds, and the modern wrestling card with many fights of interest leading up to the main event. You can feel Toots' sincere admiration for Lewis in the article, and I like his pride in the story he can't help but tell where he talks of fighting Lewis to a standstill in a quickly organized barn-room bout.


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And, what the hell, I've got all the room in the world here. I'll include a third full article on the first meeting of George Hackenschmidt and Frank Gotch. Gotch's brutal (and apparently downright dirty) tactics were too much for an injured Hackenschmidt, marking the decline of the famed English wrestler and bodybuilder - cursed yanks!


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And some other images from the issue of wrestlers I like, starting with two of Antonio Rocca, the most popular wrestler of the day who was known for his wild-flying kicks and footholds.





Buddy Rogers, a female favorite, in spite of his slave girl.



Gorgeous George with his golden locks disheveled. The fans loved to see George get his, though he most often managed to escape the victor.



And lastly, Hatpin Mary, one of those grannies that loved to heckle.



Next time! Two issues of Wrestling Life, the successor to Wrestling As You Like It.

P.S. It seems like my imagehost, Tinypic, is compressing images even more than usual recently. The smaller images on this post are showing a lot of artifacts, but the scrollable images are much more readable. When I upload to the host, they alter the image, so remember the images in the scan itself will always be sharper than what is displayed here...

1 comment:

mrsneutronsgarage said...

Great work! I have always been a fan of "old style" wrestling, before it became a creature of big-time media. It was a truly American artform and I loved going to matches back in the 70's in the Midwest. I also was in attendence at Madison Square Garden for "Wrestlemania" (the first one).
Here is my favorite wrestler of all time.
http://baronvonraschke.com/shop/shopping/product_details.php?id=3

Keep up the good work.
Mrs. N