oh isn’t he gorgeous?

George Raymond Wagner (1915 – 1963) was an American professional wrestler best known by his ring name Gorgeous George.

Gorgeous George and Betty found here

At 5’9” and 215 pounds, Wagner was not physically imposing by professional wrestling standards, nor was he an exceptionally gifted athlete. Nevertheless, he soon developed a reputation as a solid worker. In the late 1930s, he met Elizabeth “Betty” Hanson, whom he would eventually marry in an in-ring ceremony. When the wedding proved a good draw card, the couple re-enacted it in arenas across the country. Around this same time, Vanity Magazine published a feature article about a pro wrestler named Lord Patrick Lansdowne, who entered the ring accompanied by two valets while wearing a velvet robe and doublet. Wagner was impressed with the bravado of such a character, but he believed that he could take it to a much greater extreme. 

image found here

Betty (George’s wife) told how he got the name Gorgeous George. In the early 1940s he had a wrestling match at the Portland Oregon Armory. As he walked down the aisle to the ring, there were two mature women on his right. One of the women loudly exclaimed: “Oh, isn’t he gorgeous?” That word struck a chord with him and he immediately decided he would be “Gorgeous George.” As Elsie Hanson, Betty’s mother, was a skilled seamstress, George asked her to make him some resplendent capes that would accentuate his new persona. From then on George wore those capes in all his matches.

photo by Stanley Kubrick found here

Gorgeous George was soon recruited to Los Angeles by promoter Johnny Doyle. Known as the “Human Orchid,” his persona was created in part by growing his hair long, dyeing it platinum blonde, and putting gold-plated bobby pins in it. Furthermore, he transformed his ring entrance into a bona-fide spectacle that would often take up more time than his actual matches. He was the first wrestler to really use entrance music, as he strolled nobly to the ring to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” followed by his valet and a purple spotlight.

George and Jeffries found here

Wearing an elegant robe sporting an array of sequins, Gorgeous George was escorted down a personal red carpet by his ring valet “Jeffries,” who would carry a silver mirror while spreading rose petals at his feet. While George removed his robe, Jeffries would spray the ring with disinfectant which George referred to as “Chanel #10” (“Why be half-safe?” he was famous for saying) before he would start wrestling.

image found here

Moreover, George required that his valets spray the referee’s hands before the official was allowed to check him for any illegal objects, which thus prompted his famous cry “Get your filthy hands off me!” Once the match finally began, he would cheat in every way he could. Gorgeous George was the industry’s first true cowardly villain, which infuriated the crowd. His credo was “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!”

image found here

His first television appearance took place on November 11, 1947 and he immediately became a national celebrity at the same level of Lucille Ball and Bob Hope (who personally donated hundreds of chic robes for George’s collection) while changing the course of the industry forever. No longer was pro wrestling simply about the in-ring action; George had created a new sense of theatrics and character performance that had not previously existed.

Bob and Lucille found here

By the 1950s, Gorgeous George’s starpower was so huge that he was able to command 50% of the door for his performances, which allowed him to earn over $100,000 a year, making him the highest paid athlete in the world. His most famous match was against longtime rival Whipper Billy Watson on March 12, 1959, in which a beaten George had his treasured golden locks shaved bald before 20,000 delighted fans at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens and millions more on national television.

image found here

Advanced age and extended alcohol abuse had taken their toll on his body and as his wrestling career wound down, Wagner invested $250,000 in a 195-acre turkey ranch built in Beaumont, California, where he used his showman skills to promote his prized poultry at wrestling matches. He raised turkeys and owned a cocktail lounge in Van Nuys, California, which he named “Gorgeous George’s Ringside Restaurant”.

Gelatin turkey found here

Published in: on March 18, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (55)  
Tags: , ,