Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A little about the 2007 Reunion M.C., Pepper Martin

We’re honored to have wrestling and Hollywood legend Pepper Martin as our M.C. this year in Vegas.

Canadian Pepper began his career in Buffalo working with Al Lovelock as the Masked Bolos. After conquering the northeast, he sought the warmer clime of the West Coast and never looked back.

Pat Patterson said years ago that if it wasn’t for Pepper, he wouldn’t have been hooked up with his booking mentor, promoter Roy Shire in the San Francisco territory. Pepper suggested Roy bring in Pat from Don Owen’s Portland territory where Pepper had been a top star before Pat arrived from Texas.. He thought, as Shire would concur; that Pat’s bleached blond hair would make him a great tag partner and foe for San Francisco’s biggest wrestling star. Pepper also had a keen eye for talent everywhere he worked, and particularly in the Los Angeles territory. That’s where he first began doing the ringside television commentary with legendary Dick Lane for the Eaton/Lebell promotion besides wrestling there as well.

While in L.A., Pepper teamed and grappled with the likes of friends Fred Blassie, John Tolos, HB Haggarty, Pepper Gomez, Pedro Morales, Mil Mascaras, George “Crybaby” Cannon, Mark Lewin, and more greats. It was Dick “The Sensational, Intelligent Destroyer” Beyer who “first suggested I go with Don Owen’s circuit where a babyface was needed. I’d return to L.A. later and wrestle up and down the West Coast actually.”

“And it was Fred Blassie who got me my first announce, sit-down job for wrestling. He suggested it very strongly to the promoter and booker, and Charlie Moto and Jules Strongbow had me do it with Dick Lane after Fred put in the good word for me. I was nervous since Dick was such a professional, and one of the greatest at the mike. But he put me at ease. You’ll remember Dick had his own movie and tv career appearing in all sorts of classic gangster films on up to Leave It To Beaver. He did everything, and was so incredibly nice to me. I owe a lot of what I learned in announcing to him.”

Pepper took those honed color-commentating skills back to San Francisco where Shire paired him with Walt Harris and later Hank Renner on “Big Time Wrestling” commentary. He slowly retired from the ring, doing the announcing and flying down to Hollywood to work on his growing tv and movie career. But he learned valuable skills doing commentary for various promotions.

He credits CAC legendary actor/wrestler Woody Strode with helping get his showbiz career going and introducing him to great director John Ford, actor Lee Marvin and others. “It really was the start of a new and longer career for me, with obvious longevity. You can’t wrestle forever, as much fun as we all had in the ring. Roy let me go back to L.A. once I was done with my Northern California bookings; to focus primarily on Hollywood” Pepper told me in 1993.“I really had no dreams of ever becoming an actor. I was happy slowly easing into the commentary end of things after various back injuries. In a nutshell, I broke my back in a match in Long Beach and could barely move. Thank goodness for my wife(Jordy), my two daughters and Woody. They helped me avoid major back surgery. And once I later got the acting bug, which is a long story I ran with it.”

Around 1968, Ray Stevens suggested to Roy Shire that Pepper also do the color commentary(now with primary announcer Hank Renner) for the San Francisco wrestling TV show, once legendary Walt Harris quit. “The TV show had to move to Sacramento after Roy lost channel 2 in Oakland over a disagreement. Walt was so busy with Roller Derby, he just didn’t want to make the much longer drive to Sacramento. I flew to Vegas to meet with Shire, and surprisingly he agreed that my acting career had to remain my main priority. Roy flew me up to Sacramento every week for his tv.”

“Perhaps my favorite territory was Don Owen’s in Portland. I asked him for a silly amount of money, 10%, and he gave me that. His word was his bond, and we all had a lot of fun there. Thank you Dick(Beyer) for the suggestion I try working Portland.” Pepper won Don’s single and tag belts many times over and had a tremendous feud with the late Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne. “I asked Don that my retirement match there be with Lonnie, and we had a great one. I was very sad when we lost him in 1977. And I did commentary in all the towns there too.”

There Pepper teamed with Billy White Wolf fresh out of Honolulu(aka Sheik Adnon el Kaisey), Shag Thomas, Luther Lindsay, Paul Jones and besides the wars with Lonnie Mayne; fought Dutch Savage, Tony Borne and of course Pat Patterson. “Pat and I had a really long feud, nearly two years! Every match was different, we prided ourselves on that. I also had some wars with Stan “the man” Stasiak. I’d even suggested to Don(Owen) that he bring him into the territory as I would suggest Pat start with Shire later on.”

In Hollywood, I worked on over 200 tv shows, often as a bad guy or ‘heavy.’ We didn’t call them ‘heels’ there! The more I worked, the better and bigger the parts became. One of my biggest breaks was a film with Dean Martin and some other heavyweights called “Wrecking Crew.”Then things also ballooned after I worked with Henry Fonda and other top names in the play The Time Of Your Life. I’m very proud of the work I did in Superman 2, Walking Tall which The Rock recently remade, Cahill U.S. Marshall and of course with Burt Reynolds in the original “Longest Yard.” I know Adam Sandler remade it with some pro wrestlers like Goldberg, but I like the original because we had so much fun!”

A few years back, Charlie and Lou Thesz asked Pepper for help. They had him look over and help with editing suggestions for Lou Thesz’ magnificent book “Hooker,” which remains a classic. And Pepper reportedly is penning his own autobiography which should be a great read for anyone in both sports and entertainment worlds. He’s attended reunions beyond Cauliflower Alley Club like the Gulf Coast Reunion in Mobile as well as my 1993 Sam Muchnick Tribute weekend I promoted in St Louis. Pepper and his entire family are looking after his health after eye and lung cancer several years back, which caused him to ease off on his acting and script editing. He’s always got family around his Glendale home, still golfs and maintains all his Hollywood friendships. And of course his many relationships in the wrestling business.

This April in Las Vegas, we’re honored to have this great athlete and entertainer as our M.C. He definitely fits in with Mike Mazurki’s original CAC concept of combining fighters and entertainers to break bread and pay tribute to one another. “I’m very honored Mike to be M.C., and Cauliflower Alley is great,” Pepper says. “We all love getting together with one another and this will be a great year.”

A special thank you for all the contributions Dr. Mike Lano has made with this, and this years Bios of the 2007 Honorees.