Monday, August 15, 2005

RIP - Chris Tolos

Remember Golden Greek Chris Tolos, #1 Brother
By photojournalist Mike Lano, 70's Tolos Brothers Fan Club President

At last year's Cauliflower Alley Club Vegas reunion after his friend of more than 40 years, Red Bastien honored him on stage with a golden potato award; Golden Greek John Tolos nearly put the large crowd in tears by mentioning how much it affected him that so many of his longtime brothers in the business kept dying each year. "Each year I really do see less and less and it really gets to me," he said.

We can only imagine the hurt John is feeling now at losing his beloved brother Chris--a humanitarian on the level of Chris "Superman" Reeves widow Dana, a famous cook and author, a great tag team wrestler and more. The business mourns the passing of Chris Tolos too; who for decades took great care of his sister(who reportedly had Multiple Sclerosis) and their mother who lived to a great old age. John would always come back home from wherever he was at--Pacific Northwest, Texas, Kansas City, Japan to help Chris out as best he could. When Chris left all the Sheik, Toronto/Tunney, Wildman shows to stay at home in Hamilton; he also began writing books with his famous Greek recipes that so many of the boys loved. "Everyone loved Chris' cooking, he was always like a big gourmet chef" Pepper Gomez said in 1996. And as with Dana Reeves getting cancer, Chris' death reportedly from cancer just doesn't seem fair at all.

Certainly the golden days of the Tolos Brothers were the late 50's and 60's. John would become a legend later by branching off to Los Angeles and setting all sorts of records with his 1971 outdoor L.A. Coliseum spectacular with Fred Blassie(Sheik-Brazil was on the undercard along with Mil Mascaras, Shibuya-Saito vs Gordman and Goliath and tons more). But when Chris came to join John at the latter's peak of face popularity in the spring of Los Angeles '72 territory(John soon after the Blassie blowoff match, turned face thanks to the even heeler antics of Gordman and Kenji Shibuya on L.A. KCOP channel 13 tv) ; the magic was recreated. My boss, Jeff Walton, Olympic Aud/L.A. Wrestling Club publicist and many of us will never forget the call and recall promos the Tolos' cut.

"We're gonna destroy Shibuya and (Killer) Kowalski. You two are bums. Right Brother Chris?" John would yell.

"You're absolutely right brother John," Chris intoned. And so it would go back and forth to a fiery conclusion. Never did they do anything less than 5 stars on the mike. And the match they had with Kenji Shibuya and Killer Kowalski(then America's tag champs) was a one hour broadway 5 star affair too. Chris lost his book during the match at the Olympic Aud, but kept working without it. No angle, no gimmick, he just lost his shoe; but didn't miss a beat of the match.

For those of us who hadn't been able to catch Tolos tag team mayhem decades earlier, 1972 would see the pair take on(at smaller SoCal venues) teams like Sheik and Ernie Roth(in his Weasily Abdullah Farouk persona), Ernie Ladd and Kowalski and more. Chris had singles feuds with Billy Graham who was just developing his amazing color scheme sense before finessing it further in AWA-land; prior to the big WWWF move. The yelling promos Graham and Chris Tolos had were fun and the blowoff was John reffing Chris against Graham underneath a match fans were told was "beamed back live to Japan and the rest of the world"--The Funk Brothers dropping the "intl' tag titles" to Shohei Baba and Seiji Sakaguchi. The Tolos and Funk boys all together in one locker room. Does it get better than that?! The opening matches? Nick Bockwinkel on his way to Japan facing Killer Kowalski, and Ernie Ladd vs Don "Arson" Carson. And Dory Dixon was on the card too.

Chris was only around about 4 months. And yes, when he'd try to speak Spanish, he'd mangle a few words and everyone in the back would howl as he tried calling Gordman and Goliath "frogs" in some artificial Spanish Raul Mata had told him to say. Or intentionally mispronouncing Shibuya and Earl Maynard's names. Thankfully we taped all the audio onto casettes from this period-Wednesday was Olympic Aud tv in English and Spanish and Saturdays was KCOP in English with another legend--Dick Lane. 1972 was just a magic time for the Southern California territory, and we have Chris in large part to thank for it. When he first arrived, he was far too pale since he spent most of his time in colder, nether regions. John soon dragged him to Venice and Santa Monica beaches so they'd "color-match" a little better. Chris also was a gentle ribber, along the likes of beloved Vic Christy too I'm told. John himself in L.A., would take care of and watch over Vic during the latter's last years. These guys are a credit not just to the biz, but to all people.

The wrestling community sends John it's love and prayers during this tough time. If you watch current wrestling on tv and lament the loss of great tag teams; remember just how great the Greek Wrecking Crew--Chris and John were amidst many tremendous duos at the time. They set and absolutely demolished the bar, as Chris might say.