Saturday, October 24, 2009
Dory Funk, Jr., has an article on early British TV wrestler Ricky Starr called "The Gay Bit: Who Can You Beat?" He tells an illuminating anecdote of 1950s pro wrestling. Starr, a former ballet dancer, 5'10", 205#, and two rugged Texas wrestlers stood in a ring and issued a challenge to the crowd. Audience members could wrestle any one of the three they thought they could beat. Five guys chose to face off with Starr, and despite a Gorgeous George-inspired "sissy" routine, Starr made short work of all five in one night.
You can't judge books by their coups-de-pied.
Apparently the variant spellings of his name ("Ricki," "Star") were part of the schtick, too. According to one rumor, the name was the inspiration for Beatles drummer Ringo Starr's moniker.
Starr, the wrestler, was born Bernard Herman. He actually did dance with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and on Broadway in musicals like Annie Get Your Gun. His background included amateur wrestling and boxing, too. He debuted as a pro wrestler in 1953 (the year I was born).
Four years later, he appeared on the game show I've Got a Secret, attempting to stump the celebrity panel about his unusual career path.
What's all the more remarkable, considering his wrestling career spanned the 1950s and early 1960s, is that the "gay bit" did not make him a heel. Audiences might have had some reservations about him, but apparently they accepted him for the baby face he was ... even in Amarillo, Texas!
Starr also appeared twice on the talking-horse TV comedy Mister Ed, as well as a late sixties movie called The Touchables.
... here he is, versus Frank Fozo ... via spiritofsylvox