Bergen NJ Record – October 18, 1960
By Al Del Greco
Willie (the Beard) Gilzenberg retired a year or so ago to Miami Beach but he’s not lolling under palm trees.
“The action’s up here,” said Willie, “and I’ve got to hustle for the buck. How else can I keep my wife Lil in the style to which she is accustomed and my partner, Babe Culnan, with enough scratch to throw away on the gee-gees?”
The firm of Gilzenberg and Culnan, with Fort Lee’s Charlie Hoffman sharing in some of the shows, is mighty busy in the wrestling dodge. If it weren’t for them, the New Jersey State Athletic Commission would be out of business.
Week after week, various hamlets and cities in New Jersey get a view of such assorted characters as Bearcat Wright, Nature Boy, Killer Kowalski, Mike Mazurki, Antonino Rocca, Eddie Graham, Mr. America, the Kangaroos, etc.
“The fans really go for it,” said Gilzenberg. “For awhile it slumped, then business picked up. Unlike some of the other sports, TV helps our business. The fans see Kowalski maul some guy in Chicago and they batter down the doors when we book him.
“The newspapers help us out grudgingly. We can book the best attraction in the business and if we don’t put in paid ads to let the fans know about it, we’re sunk. These same papers, mind you, would go all the way with us if we were promoting a lousy fight.
“Something always pops up to help the gate,” continued Gilzenberg. “First, there was Mr. America and a run of peroxide-blonde boys. Then Antonino Rocca came in from the Argentine and did great business because he is really and truly a great athlete. He had his run and just when things were falling off a bit, Perez came from Puerto Rico and you never saw such wild fans. Now we’ve got a big boy by the name of Bearcat Wright from Kingston, Jamaica, a hot attraction for the Negro fans.
“When and if Wright and Rocca get together, they’ll break box office records all over the country. There has been talk that they’ll go outdoors in New York. And this isn’t just silly gossip, believe me.”
There’s no question about wrestling’s being a bigger draw than boxing. Every time the grunters and groaners get a Madison Square Garden date, the S.R.O. sign goes up early.
The sports draw from entirely different crowds. The shenanigans of a wrestler would dismay the boxing fan, who, more often than not, suspects a thrilling prize fight of being a fake.
Staging wrestling bouts is a soft snap for a promoter. You see one man: the syndicate head. You argue with him about what you rate a good drawing card. To stage boxing bouts, you must see a dozen managers who each know exactly the type of opponent their man should meet.
The mat thespians, meaning the wrestlers, have found a home in New Jersey. They’ve been going for years now. Here’s the immediate schedule for people with amnesia: Sparta, tomorrow night; Jersey City, Saturday; Union City, October 29; Paterson, November 5; Somerville, November 12, and Teaneck Armory, November 19.