Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George?
by Joe Jares
193 pages (148 pages of text; 45 pages of appendices)
Summary: Author Joe Jares recounts some tales from the world of pro wrestling in this uneven, but entertaining book.
Review: Back in the 1950s, Joe Jares accompanied his father on the pro wrestling circuit in Alabama and Tennessee. Years later, Jares began writing about pro wrestling for Sports Illustrated. The book’s first two chapters – on Jares’ experiences with his father and on Gorgeous George – are taken from his SI articles. These two chapters are by far the best parts of the book.
Chapter 1 – My Father Was The Thing
While Jares was a college student at the University of Southern California, he took a summer 1956 off and went on the road with his father. Jares gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to be a pro wrestler. While the matches where scripted, the wrestlers’ injuries and the fans’ passions were real. The first chapter makes the book worth reading.
Chapter 2 – Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George?
In the second chapter, Jares abruptly shifts to an account of the life of Gorgeous George, a born showman who became one of wrestling’s biggest stars. Jares traces George’s life, which is one of wine, women, & song. George’s story is a larger-than-life tale of rise & fall; the reader enjoys his story.
The remainder of the book isn’t terrible, but it feels as though Jares “tacked on” material so that he would have enough for a book. The chapters discuss women wrestlers, villains, the promoters, the fans, and other sundry topics. Jares has a way with words and he inserts a few wry lines. For instance,
– at one point, during a discussion of the number of wrestlers using the titles “Sir” and “Lord,” Jares notes that the British consulate has stated that “No member of the British peerage is participating in any wrestling or similar exhibitions in the Los Angeles area…” (p. 27).
– Jares also writes “If anyone doubts that human beings are beasts masquerading under a thin, fragile membrane of civilization, he should study wrestling fans” (pp. 131-132).
Jares pads the books with nine appendices that cover more than forty pages. The topics are varied –
– biographies of wrestlers,
– ring aliases,
– heavyweight title holders,
In fairness, when the book first appeared this material probably was fairly interesting; in the age of the Internet, it contributes little.
While Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George? is uneven, it is also a fun, quick read. Those looking for a lighthearted look at pro wrestling “back in the day” will enjoy it.