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Wednesday October 14, 2009

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Often Imitated, Never Duplicated

The legendary Captain Lou Albano passed away at 3am this morning of natural causes. He was 76.

Born in Carmel, New York on July 29, 1933, Louis Vincent Albano will be remembered as one of the greatest managers of all time. He was the epitome of the antagonistic heel; with his trademark beard, rubber band facial piercings, and Hawaiian shirt, he incited the anger of wrestling fans in a career that spanned nearly fifty years.

The son of a Doctor, Albano was a promising athlete in his youth attending the University of Tennessee on a football scholarship, before dropping out for a stint in the United States Army.

His wrestling career began in Canada in the early 1950s where he rose to prominence as part of a tag team called The Sicilians with the late Tony Altimore. Together they drew a lot of heat.

“We caused a lot of controversy with our stereotypical Italian gangster gimmick,” Albano once said in an interview. “We were approached in Chicago by some legitimate wise guys and they told us to tone down our act, or else!”

On June 30, 1961, The Scicilians won the Midwest Tag Team title. This caught the attention of Vince McMahon Sr. who brought the team to New York to work for the WWWF. They went on to enjoy modest success capturing the United States Tag Team title from Bruno Sammartino and Spiros Arion in 1967. They dropped the belts back to Sammartino and Arion two week’s later and soon after the title was abandoned.

Albano broke out as a major star when he ended his partnership with Altimore and became a manager. He said he made the switch due to injuries suffered in the ring, which included breaking his back twice.
Managing though would become Albano’s true calling.

He went on to lead some of the biggest stars in the business; Pat Paterson, Greg Valentine, Don Muraco, Nikolai Volkoff, André the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Ivan Koloff — who ended Bruno Sammartino’s 7 year WWWF title reign in Madison Square Garden in 1971. Koloff would be the first and only World Champion Albano ever managed.

He also had a lot of success managing tag teams; The Wild Samoans, The British Bulldogs, The Moondogs and The Valiant Brothers just to name a few.

After 15 years of being the most hated manager in the country, Albano felt it was time to turn babyface, for the sake of his health.

He said: “People would throw rocks at me inside the arena, and then in winter people would be waiting outside for me with Snowballs. I told my wife, this has to stop. It was ridiculous. I thought [the fans] would end up killing me, so I became a good guy.”

In 1983, Albano collaborated with Cyndi Lauper in her music video Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which he claimed at the time was the catalyst for her success. Lauper would then go on MTV and WWE shows to defend Albano’s claims sparking an angle that would help wrestling crossover to a mainstream audience.

The angle created the Rock n Wrestling era which together with Hulkamania launched WWE to a whole new level in the mid-80s. Lauper and Abano eventually became friends following a lengthy rivalry which made him an instant babyface. This culminated during the MTV/WWE special The War to Settle the Score.

Albano had helped cement wrestling’s place within pop culture.

Capitalizing on his new found fame, Albano left WWE and took on various movie, television and music projects. He starred in the film Wiseguys with Danny DeVito and Body Slam with Roddy Piper as well as a recurring role in Miami Vice. He also managed and performed with rockers NRBQ, and was immortalized in their song Captain Lou.

His biggest mainstream success came in 1989 when he voiced the iconic video game character Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, a popular cartoon and live action show.

As the 1990s rolled in he occasionally went back to WWE for guest appearances and cameos.

In 1994 he returned for the last time as a manager together with Afa guiding Samu and Fatu, the Headshrinker to the WWE Tag Team title.

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 by New York media personality Joe Franklin.

During recent years Albano has been semi-active with appearances at reunion events and fan conventions. He switched to vegetarianism which he believes extended his life and helped him drop 150 pounds.

He also kept up to date with wrestling but wasn’t a fan of today’s product.

He said: “I don’t think it’s like the old days. I thought it was more entertaining years ago, but they’re still making money, millions and all, and God bless them. In the ’80s it was less money. Today it’s millions. In our day we made 25, 30 thousand dollars a year. That was great money back then.”

In 2005 he suffered a massive heart attack and his health deteriorated.

Last November he released a book with Burt Sugar titled, Often Imitated, Never Duplicated: The Lou Albano Story.

For those who really knew Lou Albano he was the antithesis of his wrestling persona; a kind, caring husband, friend and brother to all.

He is survived by his wife Gerry.

The family has requested privacy at this time while they make the necessary funeral arrangements.


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