"Have I had encounters with wrestlers? As a matter of fact, I have had several. The late sixties and early seventies, Kiel Auditorium and Channel 11…" Renaissance man Wayne St. Wayne had numerous wrestling autograph encounters over the years, procuring scribbles from even some of the hottest heels during a protected bygone era of wrestling.
Wayne St. Wayne: wrestler, painter, occasional actor, free spirit
As a youngster, Wayne St. Wayne was a huge fan of St. Louis based KPLR’s long-running Wrestling at the Chase. Inspired to become a wrestler, he would eventually live and train in Edmonton, Alberta, with the famed Hart family. Over time, with Stampede Wrestling, he was known as Buddy Frankenstein, Mike/Michael Hammer, Mike Blood, and, later, Doctor Blood. Moving about the territories, he eventually returned to St. Louis, where he appeared on memorable indie shows, and he pursued another passion as a noted local painter.
I came to know Wayne when he contributed to my early sheet Wrestling- Then & Now as not only a columnist but often our cover artist with his wild wrestling-based art. To say that nobody had a style quite like Wayne would be an understatement. One piece had a giant fist rising out of a shattered ring, and wrestling legends he loved from the ’60s and ’70s took on a psychedelic other-worldly look. But rather than explain the virtually unexplainable, Pro Wrestling Stories editor JP Zarka is graciously showcasing some of his work along with this piece.
I first met Wayne at Dr. Mike Lano’s 1992 Sam Muchnick convention, where he was everything I imagined. Warm, intelligent, quirky, with an encyclopedic knowledge of both pro wrestling and psychotronic pop culture, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez would have just loved this guy. He joyfully painted the many legends in attendance and was like a kid in a candy store, hamming it up, posing for pictures with them. Wrestling. Painting. He was clearly in his element.
We met once again when he was on vacation in New York City a few years later. When I tried to connect with him at massive Bryant Park on 42nd Street, where thousands were attending a free Ohio Players concert, I couldn’t pin him down for a time or even spot to meet. You see, Wayne St. Wayne just didn’t live by a watch like most 9 to 5ers. "Don’t worry, Evan, you’ll find me," he stated nonchalantly. And I somehow did just that. There he was, merrily painting away in the midst of this funky mass merriment.
When my newsletter wrapped up after some twenty years, I, unfortunately, lost touch with him. Out of curiosity, I looked for him on Facebook in the hope of reconnecting this week; I was shocked and truly saddened to discover that he had passed away in 2019.
WWWF legend Davey O’Hannon had this to say about Wayne St. Wayne:
"I was with Wayne in the Amarillo territory. He was a great guy. He did a caricature of me jumping off the top onto Ricky Romero. I have it hanging in my loft. He was a character… the good kind."
I would like to present a piece that Wayne wrote for my sheet that captures not only his roots but his warmth and humor. Wayne St. Wayne was one of a kind; that his similarly unique art lives on is a testament to his passion, vision, and unique take on the world.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in an issue of Evan Ginzburg’s now-defunct ‘Wrestling- Then & Now’ newsletter. This is the first time this article is available in digital form.
Wrestling Autograph Encounters
"A wrestling autograph on 3×5 index cards. Why on cards? That was how my Philadelphia correspondent Burton Cutler, Jr. collected them. Then as now, there were always interesting things on the way by mail. Envelopes from Burton were always fun, packed full of inspiring photos, programs, and match results. And autographs. In time, I had a nice variety of WWWF scrawls, ranging from squash jobbers to the towering legends.
"So, I added index cards to my bag of match-going essentials that included my cheap Instamatic camera and plenty of film cartridges, plus plenty of my black and white 5×7’s of the various mat lads to sell to fellow fanoids.
"Babyface autographs were easy to get, of course. I had them all, from the immortals to the unknowns, and everyone in between.
"Some heels signed, at least away from the proximity to stay in character. Some autographs took time to acquire.
"Blackjack Lanza and his volatile manager ‘Pretty Boy’ Bobby Heenan had tremendous heat here at that time. When they emerged from Kiel after a villainous victory over a beloved hero, the waiting crowd would howl and harass as the duo headed straight for their cab, gear in hand. I’d manage to thrust my flattering photos of them in their path just as they boarded the vehicle–they’d snatch the pics and speed away into the St. Louis Friday night.
"Finally, they relented. Actually, Heenan signed for both of them. Still, quite an accomplishment. Not too many months before, he’d responded to my wrestling autograph request by (gasp!) TEARING my index card in half and handing it back to me, ‘since you like to write so much.’
"Dick the Bruiser took a while. He’d allow us youngsters to walk him to his car after the show (even while still a heel in St. Louis), but ‘I don’t sign autographs, boys.’ I was persistent. The photo tactic eventually worked, and he even signed an extra one for pen pal Burton, who was quite pleased.
"Bulldog Brower snapped a sharp ‘No!’ and turned to depart. I congratulated him on the recent birth of a daughter, which I’d read in a wrestling mag. He stopped and granted my request, even an extra for B.C., Jr.
"And Baron Von Raschke–like Lanza and Heenan, a very hot heel who stayed in character outside the building. After months of failed efforts, my donated photos at last bore results– ‘You take good picture,’ he complimented me in his guttural Aryan accent. ‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘He really must be from Germany!’
"Sometimes we adolescents would approach our idols with hilarious comic lines like, ‘I give you permission to sign an autograph.’ Reactions varied. ‘OK!’ laughed Dory Funk, Jr. good-naturedly.
"When I tried it out on Dory Funk, Sr., he gave me a strange look . . . I couldn’t quite tell whether it was amusement or ‘Who’s this geek?’ But he didn’t hesitate to sign.
"Pat O’Connor looked annoyed and responded with, ‘I give you permission to go home,’ but scribbled his name.
"Yes, boys and girls, I had an impressive wrestling autograph pile . . . Lou Thesz, Waldo Von Erich, ‘Cowboy’ Bill Watts, ‘Whipper’ Billy Watson, Snyder and Race, and Geigel and Brown, Ladd and Tangaro and Kiniski and Carpentier and many, many more. Jim Vallen, later known as Jimmy Valiant. Bob Windham, who evolved into Blackjack Mulligan. Former world champion ‘Wild’ Bill Longson, who worked in the office for promoter Sam Muchnick.
"Whatever happened to those massive amounts of photos and programs and mags and signatures of yesterdecade? Did I give it all away or sell it? Was it thrown out while I was away on the road? One favorite fantasy, among many–tomorrow or the next day, I’ll discover a huge trunk full of that stuff buried under other stored items in that big closet over at my mom and dad’s house.
If that happens, you’ll be the first to know."
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