The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker:
Gorgeous George lived hard, both in and out of the ring. He was an alcoholic and a womanizer, purportedly a connoisseur of strippers and prostitutes and the father of illegitimate children the country over. By the time of the Watson match, George was already in his forties. When he was forced to retire a few years later—his liver pummeled by his drinking—he was a haggard shell of his old self, and even his blond curls couldn’t hide that fact.
Less than two years after he retired back to his California farm, he died of a heart attack. He was forty-eight years old. It’s probably true that Americans didn’t mourn his loss like they would mourn Lucille Ball. The fad of wrestling on national television had passed for the time being, and George himself had been removed from the wrestling spotlight by a younger generation of stars largely built in his image. He built the stage; he wrote the role; he made the character a star. And America changed the channel, and Gorgeous George was gone.