Monday, March 14, 2011


I stumbled upon this  old episode of Mister Ed, the talking horse show from the sixties (and, yes, I am old enough to remember it in first run), in which Wilbur Post (Alan Young) and Roger Addison (Larry Keating) go halvesies on a pro wrestler named "Tiger" Davis (real-life pro wrestler Ricky Starr).

Apparently, part ownership in a wrestler's career means the wrestler has to live with you.  (I need to look into this.)  The wives, of course, object vehemently until they meet the wrestler, a charming young guy, perpetually hungry, so he's somebody they can ply with food (apparently every woman's dream).  The gag here is that the constant feminine attention causes the wrestler to get out of shape (at one point Wilbur has to brush up on his college wrestling experience to pry a bag of doughnuts out of Tiger's hands), and when the ladies propose ballet as a substitute for rigorous gym workouts, the Tiger starts turning into a pussycat.  You can watch the whole thing on Hulu--the second-season episode is called "The Wrestler."  

Ricky Starr returned to Mister Ed the following season, in "The Bashful Clipper," playing a new character, Chuck Miller, a naturally gifted hairdresser for whom Wilbur and Roger finance a salon.  The hitch in this episode is that Chuck is "shy" around women.  In the wrestling ring, Starr's gimmick was to play a tricky Gorgeous George-style flamer who sometimes hid behind refs to strike out at his opponents and whose step was light and wrist, limp.  Though his character was heavily encoded as homosexual (check out the links below), Starr achieved surprising popularity with the fans.

Perhaps the popularity of Starr's persona was another facet of the phenomenon by which American audiences in the terrifyingly homophobic cold war years (especially the 1950s and early 1960s) could embrace an entertainer like Liberace and largely ignore one hater's mean-spirited (but mostly factual) insinuations about him, as "deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love."  They could ignore it, at least, until the baleful words that dare not be spoken were spoken.  Some perhaps even believed Liberace when, as he was suing the writer of these words for libel, he said, "I am against the practice [of homosexuality] because it offends convention and offends society."

Here is Ricky Starr in a match against Karl Von Hess (recorded on Kinescope).  Given the era, the explicitness of Starr's "gay" posturing may surprise you.

Here he is again, somewhat more subdued, in a match against Duke Keomuka:


  1. Was it time for a change already? I like your blog's new look.

  2. Thanks, Bruno. I liked the banner on the old design better, but ultimately I decided this new design made reading the posts easier and brought a stronger and more attractive emphasis on the photos.

  3. God! Why did I never watch Mister Ed. Ricky was really hot back in the day, and straight as they come.




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