Book excerpt: The Hard Way by Don Fargo
Don Fargo is one of the overlooked stars of the classic era of pro wrestling. He was a headliner in almost every territory in which he appeared — New York, Amarillo, Dallas, Tennessee, Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Louisiana, just to name a few. Today on SLAM! Wrestling, Crowbar Press is offering a little preview of his just-released book, The Hard Way.
As famous as he was for his ability to draw crowds to the arenas, Don Kalt (his real name) probably was more famous for his hijinks behind the scenes. Stories about the wild lifestyle of professional wrestlers abound. Many are true, but there also are many that are either downright false or exaggerated to epic proportions over the passage of time. Rest assured, the stories in this book about Don Fargo are all true, regardless of how outlandish or implausible they may sound. The stories about his pranks and wild lifestyle are talked about to this day by those who were witness to the events.
For the first time, Don tells, in detail, the story about what happened when he and his tag-team partner ran afoul of a group of motorcycle outlaws, and how he inadvertently wound up on the wrong side of the law on more than a few occasions. He also tells stories about pulling ribs on his fellow wrestlers, including well-known celebrities like boxing champ Joe Louis, and classic, hilarious stories about many of the well-known wrestlers of the golden era of pro wrestling. Don tells the story about how he met Jackie Fargo, how they formed the tag team that became known as the Fabulous Fargos, and the story behind how they became the first team to be billed as "world tag team champions" in Madison Square Garden.
He shares stories about winning the 1952 Mr. Pittsburgh bodybuilding contest, being punished by veteran wrestlers when he tried to get into professional wrestling, dangling from the roof of the King Edward Hotel in New York, riding naked on the roofs of cars traveling at high speeds, nailing a certain body part to a table, and getting his hand stuck in ... well, let's just say, somewhere you wouldn't normally put your whole hand.
Fargo talks about how he created the more than 13 different characters he portrayed in the ring, his discovery of the "hard way," for which he became famous in wrestling circles, his problems with drugs and alcohol, and the friendships he developed along the way.
All Text Copyright © Don Kalt and Scott Teal
Excerpt from Chapter 4
The second time I saw Buddy (Rogers), he impressed me again. While I was sitting in the office talking to Al Haft and Frankie Talaber, I heard someone shuffling up the steps. I knew it was Buddy because he shuffled, even when he was walking up stairs. When he walked through the door, he stopped and stood, as if he was a god looking over his domain. When he looked at the blackboard, his eyes narrowed. Haft and Talaber had a whole week's worth of bookings chalked on the board; who was working with who, who was off that week. Buddy was very careful about whom he worked with, and even though I can't remember whose name it was, I'm pretty sure he was booked to wrestle one of the shooters. He walked over to the board, erased the name opposite his, and wrote in "The Great Scott." Mr. Haft simply nodded his head and said, "Okay." That was a good example of the power Buddy had.
Excerpt from Chapter 6
The first time I laid eyes on Ray Stevens, I was in Al Haft's office. I had just broken into the wrestling business and Ray walked into the office with the Great Scott. They were both dressed in kilts. As soon as I got to know him a little, I made fun of him and kidded him about wearing women's clothes. He paid me back in spades for my teasing.
Ray wasn't wrestling when we first met. He was the valet for the Great Scott. His job was to walk to the ring with the Great Scott and bring his jacket and gear back to the dressing room. Like Buddy Rogers, the Great Scott was a main-event guy, so he was on the road every day. Likewise, Ray was on the road with him. Whenever Ray was in town, though, he would hang around the wrestling office and work out in the upstairs gym.
Ray's goal was to actually wrestle, so he worked out at the gym all the time. One day, he was working out in the ring with the boys. When I say he was "working out," I mean he was "shooting" [legitimately wrestling]. People don't realize it, but Ray was a pretty good amateur wrestler and shooter in his day. He had to be to hold his own against some of the talent they had in Columbus at the time.
The day we met, he asked me if I wanted to work out with him. I never turned down an opportunity to wrestle. I loved being in the ring, and to have an opportunity to work out with someone else who was just learning was the best thing that could have happened to me. We worked out together every day. In the ring, we would trade holds and shoot against each other. We loved to shoot with each other. When we got tired of shooting, we would begin playing around and trying new things. He'd say, "Let's try this," and later on, I'd say, "Let's try that." I'd throw him into the ropes and drop him with a clothesline when he rebounded off, and then we'd reverse roles.
Excerpt from Chapter 17
I have pictures of the first time we drove through the old tunnel into Mobile. We would have driven through the tunnel the week before, but we were broke when we got there and didn't have enough money to pay the toll. That's sad considering it was only 20 cents at the time. We had spent all our money on beer and cigars. We tried to get the attendant to take our watches as collateral, but he wouldn't accept them. We tried to tell him who we were, but he didn't care. Here we were, the Fabulous Fargos, tag team champions of the world, and we couldn't pay the 20-cent toll. We had to drive all the way around, and the route took us many miles out of our way.
Excerpt from Chapter 20
Stu Hart didn't cheat us, but it took forever to get our money. He had an interesting way of making payoffs. We would go to his house and he'd call us, one at a time, into the hallway. "Ecch, uhh ... I got your ... ecch ... pay right here. Kid ... ecch ... you did pretty good. Ecch. Here's some money right here. Keep up ... ecch ... the good work."
Stu took a page out of Bert Ruby's rulebook. He would pay everybody in a way that made us feel like we might be getting more than anyone else. "I'm gonna give you ... ecch ... a little extra ... ecch ... but don't say anything to anybody." As a rule, nobody was supposed to tell anybody else what they made. That kept everybody guessing, which caused a lot of friction between the boys. Everybody was looking out of the corner of their eyes. "Is he making more than me?" That was a smart move on Stu's part because it kept everybody on their toes. We always thought we had to perform harder than the week before if he wanted to continue to get that bonus. Not knowing what anybody else was paid, we'd all go out and bust our butts. The guys wanted my payoff, even though they didn't know what I got. The thing they didn't realize was, I wanted their payoff. I didn't know what they made, either, but I just knew it had to be more than what I was being paid.
Excerpt from Chapter 25
For the most part, when I was at home, I was Don Kalt, a kind, loving husband and father. As soon as I walked out the door, though, I would become another person. When I got home again, I would still be that person. My wife would have to remind me, "You're not in the ring, Fargo." It was like I had a split personality. When I was Don Fargo, I was Don Fargo ... until I became Jack Dillinger. Then I'd be Jack Dillinger until someone called me on it and helped me snap back to reality.
There were times I slipped up because, for the most part, I really enjoy being around people. I would catch myself helping someone, or I'd stop to pet and play with a dog and people would see me. In those cases, it left people with the impression that, "Hey, he isn't as bad as I thought."
Bruiser used to get onto me about that. "Fargo! Quit actin' nice in public. You're supposed to be a mean, son-of-a-bitch."
Order The Hard Way at Crowbarpress.com