Monday, June 21, 2010
As a boy I had a kink for Tarzan well before I knew there was even such a sport as wrestling. And, of course, Tarzan wrestled. He wrestled apes, alligators, hapless natives, lions, giant pythons, and, I think, a Roman gladiator or two--in the books and in the movies.
After school at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where I attended second to fifth grades, I'd rush home and watch the old black-and-white M-G-M Johnny Weismuller movies on our black-and-white TV. (Writing this just now I had a vivid recollection of asking an adult once, "Could Tarzan beat up an elephant?" I forget what the reply was; so thrilled was I with the question, it perhaps required no answer.)
Weissmuller has always been the one true Tarzan for me. Not a pretty man, not ripped, less articulate than the original Tarzan in the books (who spoke English, French, and ape), Weissmuller projected a virile innocence and a remorseless violence unhampered by self-doubt or macho arrogance.
Some of my other favorite Hollywood Tarzans were Lex Barker, Denny Miller, Mike Henry, Ron Ely, and Joe Lara. All for their looks alone. None of them conveyed Tarzan's animal soul as Weissmuller did.
Combine the two kinks--savage lads in loin cloths wrestling--and I'll be your chimp sidekick forever.
Hence the allure of BG East's Tyler Reese, formerly and delightfully "Tarzan" Tyler Reese, 5'8", 180#. His 2004 match with Kieran Dunne in Wrestleshack 10 buzzes in my head at this very moment --as Reese, in the skimpiest loin cloth to remain what can still be legally called a loin cloth, dominates Dunne, squatting apelike between attacks--all but yodeling and thumping his knuckles on his chest after each fall. What may just be pure camp to some of you is my high mark for homoeroticism.
But the marriage of Tarzan and pro wrestling did not start with Reese--or my pre-pubescent daydreams. In the 1930s, right when M-G-M and Weissmuller were churning out hit after hit, American wrestler Abe Coleman dubbed himself the "Jewish Tarzan." In the 1950s, there were Tarzan Tourville (aka Tarzan Tyler) and Tarzan Taborda (aka Tarzan Curtys)--though I'm not sure any of these guys wore loin cloths. It was Tarzan-ish enough just to go shirtless back in those days.
Tarzan Baxter took to the ring in the 1960s. Brit wrestler Tarzan Johnny Wilson was a huge success in the 1970s. The 1980s saw Tarzan Tally and, in Japanese puroresu, Tarzan Goto. Lucha libre had one of the hunkiest kayfabe Tarzans in the 1990s, Tarzan Boy (5'10", 210# Oziel Toscano Jasso), named after the Baltimora summer-of-'85 dance hit.
And the list goes on--Tarzan Hewitt, Tarzan Zimba, Tarzan White, Tarzan Govender ....
It was a wrestling gimmick frequently adopted in name only; as far as I know, nobody took it quite as far as Reese.
Then there were those Frank Frazetta paperback covers, mostly in the 1970s, as best I can remember, which tapped into not only Tarzan's noble savagery and virtuous struggle but also the darker aspects of the fantasy, its bestiality and Darwin-haunted jungle brutality. The name "Tarzan" still casts a spell on me. My earliest erotic dreams involved clinging to Tarzan's body as he swung through the trees. And if you're ever stuck with an idea of what to get me for my birthday, just remember I can never tire of muscle dudes in animal-print loin cloths, and the more they're prone to pounce on me, the happier I will be.