Boesch book a classic
By GREG OLIVER
-- For SLAM! Wrestling
In many ways, famed Houston promoter Paul Boesch is responsible for two
great wrestling books. There's his autobiography, 'Hey Boy! Where'd you
get them ears? 55 Years in Pro Wrestling', which he wrote in 1988 and
was recently published by his widow Valerie Boesch. It's a book that
should be essential reading for anyone interested in how wrestling
developed over the years.
But Boesch is equally responsible for 1974's terrific 'Whatever Happened
to Gorgeous George?'. Author Joe Jares quotes Boesch throughout and
credits him for being so open and accommodating during his research.
Jares sees through Boesch, knowing at once that the man had seen it all
and that any promoter needs more than a little huckster in them to succeed.
In the chapter 'Carnival Impresarios', Boesch tells Jares that he was
responsible for the cage match. "I begin to suspect that this charming
man has a bit of Irish blarney in him, a compulsion to claim his adopted
state started or invented everything from the cotton gin to the flying
mare," Jares writes. "But, on second thought, Texas wrestling is just
wild and nutty enough that it is possible he's not kidding me."
And we're not kidding you when we say that 'Hey Boy! Where'd you get
them ears?' is a hefty tome, coming in at almost 400 pages. But when a
career in wrestling lasts 55 years, then there is lots to tell.
Boesch is initially more interested in documenting the origins of pro
wrestling and celebrating the early stars like Farmer Burns, Frank Gotch
and Ed 'Strangler' Lewis. It is a slow start to his story, but the
reward is there for the hearty reader who makes it through.
Once Boesch starts talking about his own in-ring career, which began in
1932 in New York, you'll be sucked right in. We're there as he starts
wrestling, as he travels the world, as he serves his country in World
War II, as his career in-ring is ended and he winds up being one of the
first TV announcers of pro wrestling. Later, he falls into promoting.
The New York City-born Boesch promoted first in the Pacific Northwest
while still a wrestler, then later took over Houston when Morris Sigel
died. He had been the publicity and announcer for the Houston promotion,
and moved into the lead role easily. Boesch operated as an independent
promoter for decades until aligning with Bill Watts' UWF and finally the
WWF. His take on the demise of the UWF and of the rise / invasion of the
WWF is a true insider's perspective.
Be warned, however. It is a product of the times and adheres to kayfabe.
Wrestlers really did fight in the spirit of competition and everything
was on the up-and-up in the quaint days before Vince McMahon exposed the
Houston was the scene for Jack Brisco's NWA World title win over Harley
Race in 1973, and Boesch took the time to crow. "The changing of a
world's heavyweight title is the ultimate goal for any promoter. To have
it happen under his jurisdiction is proof that his matchmaking skills
and his assessment of talent justifies his position as a promoter and an
authority on the state of the art in wrestling. ... I knew the pride of
having guessed right ... I had crowned a new champion. Now, all I had to
do was find someone who could beat Brisco and do it again."
I loved that Boesch took the time to tell what it was like to travel to
and from New Zealand or Hawaii, and what the exotic locations were like.
He tells of the fans, the climate, the opponents. The excitement and
thrill that he feels going to new places is obvious. His perspective
returning to the same locales after the War are even more enlightening
and one can hear his heart ache for the way things used to be.
In many ways, the book reads like a letter to friends, a cherished
family journal that is at once both serious and jovial, light-hearted
and sad. Boesch finished the book in 1988, a year after he stopped
promoting in Houston and a year before he died. He had been working on
it off and on for 20 years. Though finished in 1988, it was never
published. Instead, manuscripts made their way around to various friends
Valerie Boesch, his second wife, had the book self-published in Houston.
That's important to note because 'Hey Boy! Where'd you get them ears?'
is not a polished, slick publication the way that many of today's
wrestling books are. There are only a few photos, and more than a couple
typos slipped through. A good editor could have chopped and moulded the
autobiography into something more commercial, but then it would have
lost all of its charm.
Any self-respecting fan of pro wrestling should have 'Hey Boy! Where'd
you get them ears?' on their bookshelf. I know mine is starting to get
HOW TO ORDER
: Paul Boesch's book is available by calling Minuteman Press
in Houston at 713-541-2258. It sells for $29.95 U.S. Shipping is extra.
The fax number is 713-541-5869. The address is Minuteman Press, 9000
Southwest Freeway, Suite 100, Houston, Texas, 77074
March 27, 2001: Paul Boesch and Houston's wrestling legacy