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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, February 25, 2008

In this corner...From Parts Unkown

From Parts Unknown...

What a foreboding point of origin.

This line was belted out by the announcer, a balding man with a mustache in a sharp looking but tattered tuxedo. From a distance it looked sharp, but from this new perspective, a ring side table, one could plainly see the wear and tear. The announcer had one of those voices perfect for public speaking as he boomed out the information I was furiously documenting on a spiral binder. I don't remember how much they weighed but surprisingly it was more than I did.

The announcer, who looked like a young Dennis Franz, gazed expectantly to the hallway from the dressing room area, as to perfectly time his banter. With a roar of the crowd in the smoke filled arena, Rex and King, The Moondogs made their way to the squared-circle, as unlikely WWWF Tag-Team Champions Tony Garea and Rick Martel were about to defend their belts...

On Monday afternoon after this event took place, I passed my first published article around the Newsroom of the Cathedral Chronicle. I was a junior at Cathedral High School and News Editor of the paper. My student adviser and former Journalism instructor, Sister Anne Lynch was less than enthused that I was making the jump to the big leagues of professional journalism. For whatever reason she felt a need to steal my glory that afternoon. She was determined that every thing I had absorbed in her class would be unlearned rubbing elbows with the like of Springfield's finest sports writers, Carlo Imelio, Jerry Radding, Gene McCormick, Mike Bogen, Dick Osgood and of course my father, Garry Brown.

So that sort of explains how a 16 year old kid was sitting ringside at the Springfield Civic Center about to embark on an abbreviated but never stunted career in journalism by covering his very first professional wrestling event.

One thing that I didn't realize at the time, after all I was 16....even though I did get the job because of my father...he wouldn't have asked me to do it unless I really could write.

Professional Wrestling at the Springfield Civic Center. Some may say, and I have to agree, it was entertainment that had no business ending up in the Sports section. On those Saturday nights, it was the only game in town and they packed the place. Even the Springfield Indians hockey franchise didn't draw a crowd like the wrestling did.

One of my first jobs, other than hanging the AP and UPI tapes , was answering the phones. In 1981, Al Gore had yet to invent the internet, Cable television was still in it's infancy and certainly didn't include 24 hour programming with the likes of NESN, and ESPN. So, where was a guy who had bet $500 on football cards to get his information? Why, call the Sports department of the local newspaper, of course.

There I would sit on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, with my brother Peter, and Jane Osgood and we would run down the list of winners and loser in all of the college games, as the drunks on the other end of the line would get increasingly frustrated that we could not find the score of the Wake-Forest game, the one game which would determine whether or not they would get the big payout from one of the boys who was running football cards out of the South End. This job was the first to clue me into the notion that "customers suck."

We did get the occasional call for professional wrestling results from the action the night before. These calls were actually fun. These guys actually wanted to talk to you about Bobby Backlund or Bruno Sammartino. They were genuinely concerned That Superstar Billy Graham had paralyzed Sammartino with a bone crushing pile driver.

So, I was totally unprepared the Saturday afternoon my Father called me and asked,

"What are you doing tonight?"

"I was going to hang out with Fred then go to the wrestling match, then come down to the Newspaper."

"Geno called in sick, we need someone to cover Wrestling at the Civic Center."


"Well, you're going to be there right, just come back and write three paragraphs that's all we need. But come back early, we need the story in by 10:30 for the first edition. Go to Will Call, the ticket will be in your name and talk to --------------- when you get there, introduce yourself."

OH MY GOD! Could this be happening?

So I grabbed a spiral notebook and a couple of pens. I went down to the Civic Center to collect my ticket. I made a few inquiries and got in touch with the PR man on site. He kind of sized me up. After all I was still in high school. We chatted for a few minutes. He gave me the information sheet for the evening, who the wrestlers were on the roster, where they came from and the line up for the main events. The first main event was The Moondogs VS. Garea and Martel. The second main event featured the former NCAA II Champion for the North Dakota State University Bisons and WWWF champion, Bobby Backlund. His opponent The man you loved to hate George the Animal Steele.

Also on the bill that night were Ivan Putski, Chief Jay Strongbow, Baron Miguel Scicluna, and the Badboy from Dorchester, MA, Pete Doherhty as well as a number of others.

As I pursued the roster, there it was next to the names Rex and King, the Moondogs, those three precious words jumped out at me...From Parts Unknown. I smiled to myself. This was kind of fun.

I actually found out later in the year one of the Moondogs King had to bow out of the act to be replaced by Moodog Spot. It seems that Parts Unknown refused to issue a visa to Moodog King late in May 1981 barring him from working in the US.

My contact brought me into the bowels of the Civic Center, past the Zambonis and other equipment used to maintain the ice. We got to the ramp leading to the arena and said, "You can sit at that table next to the Bell man." He pointed ringside. The lights were still on in the arena. It was packed people were milling about with their refreshments, finding their seats. Pink Floyd's the Wall was pumping through the sound system.

My seat at the ring side table was right in front a guy my friends and I had dubbed over the course of the previous years, Mr. Green. Mr. Green was an older guy who always had the same seat in the arena - Row A seat 1. He was always wearing a green polyester leisure suit and took wrestling way too seriously. He could always be seen jumping out of his seat to point, curse, gesture at and otherwise harass the...Bad Guys. Tonight Mr. Green would be five feet behind me over my left shoulder.

I cautiously made my way to my assigned seat. Fortunately the lights went down as I was halfway there. I grabbed my seat and bell man looked at me.

"Who are you?"

"I'm from the Republican."

"Where's Geno?"

"He's sick. I'm Garry's kid."

"Ohhhhhh!" "He then gave my first first piece of advice.

"Don't get too comfortable in your seat. This table usually sees some action."

Having been to wrestling many times in the past, I was keenly aware that I was sitting in the hot seat.

The show got on the road. I was fascinated as I had an up close glimpse of what was really happening on stage...I mean in the ring.

It was time for the main events. The Moondogs lumbered into the ring. Immediately jumping onto the lower of the three ropes in the corner leaning against the turn buckle and letting the jeering crowd know that they, the crowd, were number one. They were waving their oversized cattle femur bones ferociously as the crowd booed and hissed. After introducing Tony Garea and Rick Martel. The Detective Cipowicz look-alike belted out in a most worrisome and foreboding tone..."From Parts Unknown...the crowed got louder booing and jeering as the Moondogs met this noise by becoming more agitated and running around the ring facing the angry masses with more hand gesturing and posturing. The match began abruptly with the Moondogs attacking their opponents with their well chewed animal bones. Each grabbed an opponent and the battle began.

The referee finally got the match under control getting the Moondogs to relinquish their bones and allowing only one wrestler each in the ring. Rex and King did all of the dirty tricks they knew, switching partners without properly tagging. Moondog Rex was choking Tony Garea, from behind, holding him in the corner with a bone pressed firmly against Garea's neck while King unleashed his fury. Finally another foreign object was produced, and blood was spilled. This caused a riot. As the Moondogs mercilessly ravaged their opponents, Chief Jay Strongbow entered the ring, followed by Ivan Putski, and Bobby Backlund. The crowd erupted, Putski and Backlund grabbed one of the Moondogs and overpowered him. Chief Jay Strongbow cornered the other and started to do his little war dance. Moondog Rex was cornered and acted as if he did not know what an earth he could do to get out of this dire situation. Bob Backlund hit Rex over the head with his championship Belt. Strongbow unleashed on King. Spooked by the onslaught of goodness, the Moondogs grabbed their bones and hastily retreated to the dressing room. The good guys prevailed over the bad guys, helping a deftly defeated Garea and Martel back to their feet. The match ended in a draw.

The next match was where I got involved in the action. Bobby Backlund was getting his ass kicked by George the Animal Steele. He had Backlund in a sleeper hold and the WWWF Champion was foaming at the mouth, close to losing consciousness. Steele let Backlund drop to the mat. Instead of pinning his opponent. He took the opportunity to taunt the audience. More specifically, Mr. Green. They were pointing at each other. Mr. Green was giving Steel the "up yours" sign as his left fist was repeatedly shoved into the crook of his right elbow. Backlund got up to his feet, and attacked Steele from behind. Steele hit the mat and started rolling my way, The bellman darted away. I wasn't so quick. As Steele rolled off the mat and onto the press table he brushed against me. He sort of pushed me as I got out of the way, and he grabbed my chair. He attacked Backlund outside the ring with the chair, as the referee began counting for them to return to the squared circle. They both did. Backlund got the chair and hit Steele with it. The Animal started to bleed from his forehead. Not from the chair but from whatever sharp object he pulled out of his tights to slice his own skin with as he held his head in purported pain after Backlund deftly bludgeoned him with the padded seat of the folding chair. Backlund quickly pinned Steele and the match was over.

I looked at the clock, I had to get out of there. It was 9:45 and I had a five minute walk back to the Newspaper Building. As I left the arena, the quickest way to Main St. was through the dressing area. Since I had an all access pass, that was where I was going. I headed toward that back exit and past the curtain obscuring the back area from the auditorium. George Steele was standing there dabbing his forehead with a towel. As I walked by he looked at me and said, "Sorry about bumping into you, Kid" I mean like What? George the Animal Steele just apologized for bumping into me? And he sounded, normal? Not the blue tongued hirsute beast he portrayed on TV. WOW! Okay, that's really freaking weird, and deserves a little more of my attention, but I've got to go.

I hoofed it back to the Newspaper building. Logged onto the computer and began to write, remembering and applying all of the rules Sr. Ann Lynch had pounded into my skull. The 5 Ws and H. Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. I did my three paragraphs and saved the story. My dad edited what I wrote and made surprisingly few changes, But, when he did explained why. He sent the story to the composing room and went back there to finish up the first edition.

I sat in the Sports department. Watching all of the seasoned pros and the other stringers who covered individual events that day. I sat there listening to them telling jokes, and comparing scores. They looked at me a little differently that night. As I sat there that night, I was one of them. I had popped my cherry. Nobody made a big deal out of it, but I had never felt that way before, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of wonder. It was my first foray into the unknown world of sports journalism. Little did I know this was the very first of many action packed situations I would encounter over the course of the next couple of years.

About 45 minutes later, my father walked back into the Sports Department with a stack of freshly printed papers. He handed them out to everyone and it got real quiet. Everyone was reading what they had written that night. I heard my brother groan as he attacked his terminal fixing one of the box scores that had not printed correctly. For the first time ever, I participated in the same ritual as they had done every night they worked. I read my three paragraphs...Twice. And the best part of all was what made be giggle earlier in the evening. Seeing the line in print "From Parts Unknown, The Moondogs." And of course, below the article itself...

By Paul Brown
Republican Correspondent

Just for Today, and any other day you can always find me...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

1 comment:

F. Alex Johnson said...

Nice Muskie. Another great one. "From parts unknown" would be apropos as a description of the giant bones in that creepy picture. I was never a huge wrestling fan, but George was definitely one of the freaks that I followed.