Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the last book I ever read (David Shoemaker's The Squared Circle, excerpt three)

from The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker:

The transition from the old school to the modern model was not a steady evolution in style, as one might suspect. It was an overnight paradigm shift ushered in by an overnight sensation by the name of Gorgeous George. That he was born George Wagner in Butte, Nebraska, hardly matters, and neither does his upbringing in Arizona and Iowa and Texas, and frankly, neither do the first few semisuccessful years of his career. Before Wagner became “Gorgeous,” he was someone else entirely: He was just another clean-cut nobody. The one thing that stands out at all is his training. He learned not at the knee of Farmer Burns or some other reputable trainer but at Houston’s Sylvan Beach Park. At the time when Gotch was taking the sport to new heights of cultural significance and athletic legitimacy, distancing the enterprise from its sideshow roots, George Wagner was being broken into the field by carnies.

Stories of the genesis of Gorgeous George vary, but it’s the fact of the genesis that matters. When Wagner grew out his hair into Pollyanna-ish curls, bleached blond and held up with bobby pins; when he started coming to the ring in sequined robes with a purple spotlight trailing him, “Pomp and Circumstance” blaring on the loudspeakers; when his valet (Jefferies and Woodrow were two) sprayed perfume in the ring to accompany his arrival; when he posed in the ring, addressing the booing crowd with his arrogance, infuriating them by the simple (if rather excessive) fact of his existence—that is precisely when wrestling entered its adolescence.

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