Exlusive Interview with Penny Banner
December 4, 2003 by Brad Dykens

1- Thank you for giving us some of your time Penny, first of all, tell us how you originally got involved with wrestling and who/what were your biggest influences?

Hello Brad....Thank you for the opportunity to be on your website with my happenings/events/thoughts and opinions. It is always a pleasure to be available for my Fans...the ones who like the 'good ole days of wrestling'..I also would like to take this oportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.. IF I seem short on some of these answers, its because they are answered in my up and coming book " BANNERDAYS", The Life and Times of the First AWA Womens Wrestling Champion.

2- Where did the name "Penny Banner" come from?

I felt very insignificant being only 19 and away from home, which is St. Louis, Missouri, out there in a world where I knew no one and nothing about women wrestling which I was now doing..therefore the name Penny. I chose the name Banner after the actor Charleston Heston, who played in the movie " Arrowhead" with that name. I thought he looked like the boyfriend I was trying to get even with after catching him with another girl, which broke my, I took his name.

3-What hurtles did you face when you entered the male-oriented sport of professional wrestling?

My book tells the story of how I came to be a woman wrestler before I ever knew there were any..or even saw any women wrestle! I did find out women wrestlers were thought of as " lewd" when they wore their one piece bathing suit which showed their legs. We were banned from many States and Cities because of this. In time and with a lot of gained respect for the woman athlete we opened up many cities for women tag matches and singles...cities like St. louis...Minneappolis..Indianappolis...New name a few.

4-As a female wrestler, who were/are the best and worst promoters to work for?

My favorite promoters were Paul Boesch, in Dallas, Tx...Dennis Stecher in Minneappolis...Sid Balkin in Houston, Tx....Stu Hart in Calgary, Alta., Canada and Gust Carras of St. Joe, Mo., along with Sam Muchnick from St. Louis.

5-Who were/are your best friends in the business?

My best girl friends were my Tag Partners...Bonnie Watson and Betty Jo Hawkins..I had several very good male wrestling friends...Red Bastien..Ray Stevens...Larry Hamilton to name a few..

6-Were you the first woman to wrestle intergender tag team matches? If so, what were you THINKING?!

No, I was not the first woman to wrestle in a mixed tag match. I was in several of them...It was so strange to see the men close up, after always seeing them from outside of my dressing room as I watched them wrestle..They were very powerful.

7-Is it true that you once dated Elvis Presley? Was he really a hound dog?

Yes...I dated Elvis 5 times in three years..our last date was one wk. prior to his leaving for the service..He gave me a teddy autographed photo..and a pass backstage to any of his shows...He always came to see me wrestle when I went to Memphis. Later I was invited to his mansion...Necking with him was great! ! !

8-What were the circumstances when you won the prestigous AWA Women's championship?

I had been hot on the NWA womens champion June Byers trail ever since she defeated the great Mildred Burke and she always defeated me..Byers had 10yrs experience on me then...However in 1959, I believe it was, I managed to go the time limit with her, and she did NOT defeat me..I knew I had gotten better and could beat her then. Several years later, in 1961, I was booked against her and she didn't show up. The promoter of the Indianappolis/Minneapolis territories where the AWA championship for Men was then decided to change the card I was wrestling on that night in Angola, Indiana and create A FIRST WOMENS " AWA" CHAMPIONSHIP title. Other than the Championship Title I was to go after, there was scheduled a womens BATTLE ROYAL...So, they entered me in that battle royal and announced to the crowd that the winner of it would become the FIRST AWA WOMENS CHAMPION...' I won' !!

9-What is your opinion of today's wrestling product and do you watch any of the shows, be it WWE, NWA and/or Independant? Why or why not?

At first I watched what was the original NWA promotions, prior to Jim Crockett selling it to Ted Turners promotion renamed WCW. I enjoyed it very much...I also watched the WWWF and thought they were good also...then they changed and I noticed how they started using the girls as eye candy...and a Boobs and Buns scripted, I never watch them or the WWE, which they became..It is very degrading to the women, as they are still used as eye candy instead of ' athletes'.

10-If Vince McMahon offered you $10,000 to appear at a Legends Ceremony at Wrestlemania, would you attend?

Of course.....I am a true Legend of women wrestling and I know I am respected as a professional...NOT as the product he offers today.

11-What sorts of activities have you done since your retirement from the wrestling business?

I began training horses and entered into Rodeo's doing the barrell racing and goat tying...Then into volunteering many youth groups, mainly 4H in the Horse Projects...Then went into training horses and my daughter for Horse Shows....Then I went into the SENIOR GAMES which I am still involved in, doing the Discus throw..Shotput...Hammer Throw..and Swimming events..I love singing karaoke with many of my friends...I attend the Wrestling re- unions that are held all over the country...Mainly the CAC, Cauliflower Alley Club in Las Vegas, Nv., where I get to meet and see many of the wrestlers from the past that I only knew from either wrestling them or seeing them in the ring. I am on their Board of Directors...also I'm the commissioner for the professional womens PGWA, which is a very classy 'wrestling as it use to be' organization, which I enjoy attending at times...

A little Word association (say the first thing that pops into your head)
-a-Vince McMahon....USER
-b-Elvis Presley.....Kisser
-c-Hulk Hogan....born on my B'day
-d-Ric Flair ...The greatest
-e-Harley Race...Very nice
-f-The Vachon Family...Like them all
-g-June Byers...Greatest Woman Champion
-h-The Fabulous Moolah... Sorriest womans champion
-i-Lorraine Johnson...My best tag partner
-j-The Greatest of All Time?...June Byers

12-I was thrilled to hear you have finished writing your book! What can fans look for in this publication and what sets it apart from other wrestling books?

I have not read any of the MENS wrestling books...Mens' wrestling and their to do's cannot compare to what WOMENS wrestling amounts to and what we went through to get us accepted by the commissioners..

MY book, tells many stories....stories from being fearful of a boyfriend who threatened my family's training with weights and Judo to keep this person from harming them and me..and how a girl who NEVER ever heard of women wrestling...never watched wrestling..became a champion from being a governess to three small children. It tells of the events and happenings in dressing rooms...traveling down the road and their stories...and how a person that just does the best they can with whatever cards are dealt to them in life CAN succeed..and mostly that Good things do happen even if you do not ask for them" Serendipity".

13-Is there anything else you would like to say to the wrestling fans who log onto this website to read this interview?

IF you are a fan of WRESTLING the way it will like my book..Someday, it will become a heartwarming true story movie.. You can order my book by loging on to cost $24.95 USA Plus Postage................Thank you and Hello to all of my fans

Once again, Ms Banner, thank you so much for taking the time to let us know a little more about you, your life, and your career. We at wish you the best of luck with everything you do.

Thank you again......

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