Skip to comments.Former pro wrestler from York “Gorgeous George” Grant dies at 85
Posted on 04/23/2010 12:56:19 PM PDT by Borges
YORK -- Almost 40 years after "Gorgeous George" Grant the wrestling showman hung up his robes and blond hair for good and heard the last calls for his head to be smashed with a folding chair because he was the worst pansy villain there was, Gorgeous George has stepped through the ropes and out of the squared circle for the last time.
He will throw no more roses at fans demanding he be beaten into a bloody pulp.
Grant, a pioneer of televised wrestling in the 1950s and early 1960s, who himself said he "dressed like Liberace" before there was a Liberace in show business, he of the feathered capes, sequins and leg drops that caved in ribcages, died in Columbia on Wednesday at the Dorn Veterans hospital, according to his daughter Melody. This particular Gorgeous George -- there were others -- was 85 years old.
But this Gorgeous George wasn't always old, or flashy, or "gorgeous." The year was 1952, in a smoky hot arena in Marietta, Ga. The event was 'rasslin'. The crowd, beehive hairdos, overalls, chewing tobacco and Lucky Strikes, screamed for blood.
Professional wrestling in the South was huge in those days, and wrestlers rode a circuit and played before barbarous sell-out crowds of red-clay farmers, textile mill workers and their women. All wanted carnage.
George Grant had just taken a thrashing from the masked "Green Hornet." The defeat meant Grant's beard would be shaved right there in the ring. Grant, a big burly guy, well over 6 feet and 200 pounds, was left with a face as soft as a baby's bottom.
"Sissy!" the crowd screamed.
"You sweet thing!" came more catcalls -- this time from other wrestlers in the dressing room.
But Grant was on to something. A promoter gave him a woman's robe, size XXL, and his long hair at a time when no man wore long hair without a look of arched eyebrows from others -- unless he was in show business.
At the next match, the crowd howled "like a pack of wild dogs," recalled Grant in a 1989 interview. George Grant, a wrestler who got his start in his hometown of Honey Grove, Texas, in 1939, was destroyed by a traveling wrestler for the princely sum of $1.25 for losing all three falls. Grant played second-fiddle to Daniel Boone Savage and other wrestling stars right after World War II. The U.S. Navy veteran of World War II was alive but hidden. "Gorgeous George" Grant, a star at age 27, was born.
In Venice, Calif., somebody noticed that Jean Harlow, the movie star, made a fortune with dyed hair so Grant dyed his hair blond. He was hated now, everywhere, for his feathered capes and "Pomp and Circumstance" music as he strutted to the ring. The blond hair just plain made good people crazy.
"Blond hair, instant money," Grant told The Herald in 1989 of how fans stampeded to get in to taunt him.
And then Gorgeous George blazed through the country, wrestling any and all to the delight of fans everywhere as Grant was kicked and slammed. He was booed in Boston and berated in Baltimore and beaten in Biloxi.
Grant was not the original Gorgeous George. That was Gorgeous George Wagner, who was a bigger sensation around the country in wrestling's even earlier days and has been dead for more than 40 years. But this Gorgeous George Grant was an original anyway. He threw thousands of gold-plated bobby-pins to the jeering crowds who screamed even louder for justice to be done as the blond locks twirled and the white boots stomped and the skin-tight tights Gorgeous George wore were stretched. All wanted Gorgeous George to be crushed.
Grant said in interviews years before his death that he was one of the stars of the early days of televised wrestling, made good money and lived the life of a showman. But he gave it all up in 1963 -- he moved to York and started evangelizing in 1965 and never stopped. He spoke and preached at conferences and revivals, and in 2002, at the York Rotary Club, he was introduced as "The Liberace of Live Wrestling."
Up until the last few years, Gorgeous George would go to wrestling reunions and lock up old stories about being the worst villain outside of the Iron Sheik and the dastardly Hart brothers among wrestling old-timers who had so many broken noses, mashed knees and separated shoulders the reunions should have been held in an intensive care unit instead of a hotel ballroom.
"He was a great guy, and I was fortunate to know him and his family these past few years," said Jimmy Ramsey, who runs the York County prison and knew Grant from his evangelism work. "We had Gorgeous George Grant living right here in York."
Grant was an active member at Blessed Hope Baptist Church in York. A memorial service will be next week, said his daughter, Melody Grant of York.
"I had the great honor to meet Mr. Grant, and his life was certainly interesting and he added to this community," said York Mayor Eddie Lee.
A few months ago, retired York city police officer Mac "Chief Yellowbird" George, another wrestler from that era, passed on. Now, Gorgeous George Grant has left the arena.
Boxer Muhammad Ali got part of his shtick from the men who wrestled named Gorgeous George. Professional wrestler Ric Flair did, too, and certainly others such as Adrian Adonis and others who taunted the crowds with their phony lady-like bleached hair.
Dressing up like a big sissy with long hair colored blond or white, then crushing the opponents' skull -- in the world of make-believe professional wrestling -- is always in style.
Before he saved souls, Gorgeous George Grant preened and pummeled to put on a show.
Gorgeous George Grant had style.
Sounds like Chris Matthews describing a Tea Party rally. :)
This story makes me wonder how Ravishing Ronald is doing these days.
and to his everlasting credit, he never ran for Governor nor did he host a conspiracy theory TV show
Sad news. I remember him from my youth.
Grant was NOT the original Gorgeous George.
George Wagner was:
LOL I remeber Gorgeous George from Saturday afternoon wresting when I was a little kid. RIP
I'd bet George Grant never claimed to have "saved souls" and would have been horrified to read that.
My grandmother loved to watch wrestling and I believe it was around the 1950’s. She probably enjoyed watching this particular character, “George”!
In his time, I am sure he was considered the picture of health, today his body would be the butt of fat and lazy jokes on TV.
That was mentioned in the article...........
Ah, yes. Gorgeous George. RIP. He was a hard-charging promoter who was fun to watch. Would not have surprised me to learn the 85 meant miles per hour, as determined as he was.
There have been several Gorgeous Georges.
Neither have I. Gorgeous George (Wagner) 1915-1963. I remember when he died.
Don’t bother looking for pictures of other Gorgeous Georges unless you’re the type not to easily blush.
So do I on B&W TV in the ring with Lou Fez(?) who was always the good guy and World Champion(?). Sadly, we date ourselves because I witnessed Tet68 firsthand, too.
...I remember him...he was quite a showman....to make it to 85 means he was a lot luckier than some of the modern day wrestlers....check out these deaths:
I still remember my grandmother watching TV wrestling in the early 60s and late 50s. You could NOT tell her it was phony. Damn, she got mad at the “dirty” wrestlers. What a riot. She was a MUCH better show than the wrestling.
Used to go to a mexican resturant out on buford highway
named Maria’s after the owner who was the wife or girlfriend of “El Mongol” and would occasionally see him
greeting folks. Long ago in a land far away, called America.
Shows you how much you know and how much you BS you have absorbed about the recent past. Believe it or not, wrestlers were all considered fat, not lazy however.
A good many of them were boxers who had gone to seed and took up wrestling to keep earning money, and in my memory, which is excellent, none of them were ever considered to be the epitome of health and good conditioning by anyone.
Boxers looked like athletes, wrestlers didn't. It wasn't until about the middle 70s(not sure on the exact date as I never have followed wrestling)that wrestlers started lifting weights and looking like athletes.
So, you are wrong in your assumption, no one looked to wrestlers of the 30s,40s and 50s as great looking men of good health.
He performed at the Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland CA several times in the 50s. It was always SRO when he performed. I never got close enough to have a shot at a Georgie Pin. Wonder what one would go for on ebay today.
The man we loved to hate. He was a brilliant showman.
Yeah - I was in the middle of Tet68 as well.
And just to add to my last post, in the 50s people in general were in better condition and looked better than the average person does today, with a fat ratio for school kids a lot lower than what we see today, and no one had to work out in their spare time to get there,either. We worked back then because we had no other choice.
“Boxers looked like athletes, wrestlers didn’t. “
Antoine Charpentier was an exception to the rule. He had the body of a Greek God. Escape skills that were amazing. Can’t find anything but whiffs here and there on the net. From France back in the 50s.
Your photo is of the original Gorgeous George. Georgeous George Grant was a pale imitation of the original, but he did draw well in the South as an effeminate, heel type wrestler which could get you killed down here if you let the crowd get ahold of you and I am not kidding.
Ravishing Ronald and Gorgeous Gorillawiszc.
I remember watching wrestling on our little black and white TV in the ‘50’s.
Don’t know which one it was, but I do remember “Gorgeous George”.
I’m trying to remember the ring announcer’s name. His best line was “Whoooa, Nellie!”
Dick Lane was the announcer.
I was 10 at the time and went to see Gorgeous George in Memphis with my Mother and Aunt Hazel (mid 50’s). The warm-up act was some guy wrestling a bear.
When Gorgeous came on, the women went crazy for him. My Mother and Aunt pushed through the crowd to get close to the ring in hopes of getting a gold hair pin. George threw handfuls to the crowd. My Aunt got one and prized it for years. I do not doubt that most may have screamed for his defeat, but I only saw all those women smiling and waving for his attention. It was so strange, different and fun for a kid.
Thanks for posting this. My father saw Gorgeous George at the second Madison Square Garden (NOT the one that currently stands at Penn Station), although his fave was Superstar Billy Graham. Until he turned 12 and realized that looking a underdressed women was better than looking at men in speedos grappling each other...
Antonina Rocca was my grandfathers favorite wrestler, my memory is fading these days but I think he wrestled barefoot and his favorite move was roundhouse kick to the side of his opponents head. I saw many of these old timers performing at the Paterson Armory as a youngster.
I definitely remember Haystacks Calhoun, Haystacks was a 600+ pound wrestler, I could never forget him.
You sweet thing!
Thanks!! I’d forgotten the Jalopy Races, too!
Seems that early on the stations did not come on ‘til 5 pm and went off at midnight.
Drop kick, I think. I remember Haystack too.
You might want to look at these pictures of John L Sullivan the 1st heavy weight boxing champion.
He also has a similar build, and would be considered out of shape and over weight today.
The ideal of what a healthy man should look like has changed dramatically in recent years.
Grown men today are expected to look like lanky teenagers, it's ridiculous.
As I said before, in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and part of the 60s, muscular, trim men were considered the standard of fit, healthy men(no steroids then, men had muscles but didn't look freakish), people on the average were thinner than they are today and they were also in fairly good condition. One more thing, the average person back in Corbett's and John L's day didn't look like John L. Most of them couldn't get enough to eat and they worked their butts off.
Get a frickin' clue, read more, try not to look at pictures so much unless you are willing to look at pictures of the average person.
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