Much More Than Just a “Convention” By Seth D. Witz, a.k.a Fish n Chips Wilson
I was sitting in the T.G.I.Friday’s at The Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, meandering over a breakfast of eggs and hash browns, and a bottomless cup of black coffee, when who should walk in but none other than this years’ Cauliflower Alley Club “Iron” Mike Mazurki Award recipient, Larry “The Axe” Hennig.
Just as he had done throughout his professional wrestling career, Mr. Hennig had completely won the crowd with a mostly hilarious and often touching acceptance speech at the awards banquet the prior evening, the banquet which, in effect, serves as the main event for the Cauliflower Alley Club’s annual reunion. This year being made all the more significant as this was the CAC’s 50th Anniversary Reunion, celebrating the club’s inception in 1965 by professional wrestler and actor, Mike Mazurki. How fitting to complete the nearly week-long festivities by having breakfast next to our club’s namesake honoree.
The first time I’d heard of Mike Mazurki was back when I was studying film and literature at The University of Washington. During a course on film noir, one of the movies on the syllabus was director Jules Dassins’ “Night and the City,” released in 1950. I was familiar with some of Dassins’ other works, “Rafifi” (1955) and “The Naked City” (1948), but hadn’t yet seen “Night and the City.” My anticipation in viewing this film grew as I discovered it centered around the world of professional wrestling, and starred none other than Stanislaus Zbyszko as the famed shooter “Gregorious,” as well as another real professional wrestler in the role of “The Strangler,” Mike Mazurki. It was only a short time later that I discovered The Cauliflower Alley Club through my friend and CAC board member, Dean Silverstone, and I was reintroduced to the name Mike Mazurki. I quickly realized that this matinee marauder was not merely a celluloid heavy or film noir foil for Richard Widmark. Rather, Mazurki was quite active among the sports and entertainment communities, and with a heart and personality as recognizable as his cauliflower ear, created a club that to this day is of great assistance and importance to many of those involved in the professional wrestling, boxing, and stunt fields.
After attending the reunion this April, I discovered the significance of the club extends far beyond the great assistance it lends to so many in need, but that Mazurki instituted a true feeling of union and family in a business that can so often be regarded as an industry of individuals. While the reunion serves as a time to honor the achievements of standouts in our field, not only is it an occasion for celebration, but also one of education, as evidenced by the seminars offered throughout the event. I attended several of these seminars and found them to be an invaluable source of information. I learned so much, and gained new perspective on subjects I figured to be, tapped-out. The seminars were also a prime opportunity to interact with the guest speakers, and have questions answered by experts of the craft. They all added such depth of knowledge to the reunion, and my infinite gratitude goes out to all of those who lent their time and expertise to the seminars.
The Cauliflower Alley Club reunion is not all school books and dirty looks, mind you. There are plenty of activities, organized and otherwise, to keep a fellow Worker from laying on any rest-holds. At one point I even found myself in the middle of the WrestleBowl 2015 Bowling Tournament, of which I came in dead last. But let me say this, and I ain’t talkin’ here just for the sound of my own sweet voice or nothin’, I fully intend on defending my title, and I’d like to see who’s going to try and take that dubious honor away from ol’ Fish n Chips Wilson. As a proud heel, I’d rather be the worst than be first!
Eventually, all great matches come to a finish, and as I sat there at T.G.I.Friday’s sipping down the last bit of my coffee, I checked my cell phone for the time (the wristwatch now seemingly gone the way of Baby Jane and all the other ‘Whatever happened to’s’). It was time to go. Time to head off to the airport, and back to the rainy confines and caffeinated comforts of Seattle, Washington. Before leaving, I took a moment to shake hands with Larry Hennig, and congratulate and thank him for all his years committed to the mat wars. While I signed for my check, the very blonde, big green eyed and more than just a little pretty waitress asked me if I was leaving already, and couldn’t I stay and keep her company for the rest of the day. “Believe me,” I told her, “I wish that I could. But, I really have to head home.” She then asked me if she would, at least, see me next year for the, “wrestlin’ convention.” After all that had gone on the past several days, how could I respond with anything else but, “Doll, you can lay odds, you bet I will!” I most certainly will.