The primary lure of CAC each year is in seeing old friends and brothers/sisters one may only have email contact with the rest of the year. Not the politics behind the scenes certainly. We’re all still trying to figure out what this year grossed. Say approx 400 people paying $125 each which is a pretty sizeable chunk of change and one fan coming all the way from New Zealand.
Great seeing repeat legend/pals back from Les Thatcher to Ross Hart, Paul Vachon and so many others like Cowboy Bob Kelly, Bill White, talented star Willie Mack from SOCal who’s now working in Mexico, and of course folks like Dave Meltzer, no Bryan A this year, Howard Brody who’s always a character as is Dave Marquez. Fellow original WFIA’er Dave Burzynski had family emergencies and had to cancel last minute sadly.
*One clarification is that many thought head honcho Karl Lauer, who’s been around CAC I think one year longer than I have; was “retiring” from CAC last year when he had a heart issue and was in a mobile scooter like Harley has been in. JJ Dillon even thought so on-stage, so I guess that was a darn good work. The 2012 program and videos paid tribute to Karl, again giving the worked impression (well, it is wrestling) that he was “leaving” or “retiring.” However, once last year’s 47th annual Vegas event was over, he told several of us 2 weeks later he of course was not retiring from running CAC at all as VP since our original bosses/founders in Mike Mazurky and Art Abrams passed away. In actuality, he’d just given his pick in Morgan Dollar, the grunt work of running Vegas which Karl had always run. You know, the headache of dealing with the hotel, getting honorees to come get honored but pay their way there (which remains a problem) plus the $125 CAC fee, trans, meals, etc. So the other 362-365 days of the year, Karl runs CAC as always. And actually, he was on stage this year in Vegas about as long as he usually has been of late. So nothing’s really changed, and many said he’ll run CAC until he passes to the next phase of life. He looked healthy and like his cantankerous old self last week. I’ve watched the fee go from $15 for a CAC lunch and awards event at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Los Angeles’ Little Italy district go to $35 for a full dinner awards banquet at the Sportsman’s Lodge to boom, $125 once we moved our annual CAC shindig from L.A. to Vegas in 2000, right after my immediate boss and CAC photog mentor, Art Abrams’ passing. Just the $125 cost (includes the Baloney Blowout fee and a year of $25 CAC dues) is sadly a big impediment to folks old and young attending (beyond trans, hotel, meals). I spent much of last year bugging legend Paul DeMarco to come to the point where I would’ve driven him the 12 hours there in lieu of my free one hour flight (he lives just North of me). He just couldn’t swing the $125 fee. One thing Jim Ross and I noted in discussing this year’s CAC was that the shift has gone from about 90% boys back in the 80′s to now nearly 95% fans. It’s also hard to have CAC a week after WWE’s Mania/”hall of fame” event where some of the same legends attending CAC get flown in and treated first class. Why would they then want to pay a week later, to see most of the same folks (Terry Funk and Máscaras were sadly not with us in Vegas/CAC last week). Terry has for the last few years, been our co-M.C. with JJ Dillon, and they make a GREAT duo on-stage with banter and comedy. And old stories. I got Doc/Steve Williams to come a few times, but as many have said, we really need to start getting the 80′s and 90′s stars of the biz to attend. The Barry Windhams, Steiners, LOD Animal, Konnan, etc.
The amount of WWE personnel was low this year with Jim Ross, Steamboat in, but a great roundup of recent female stars in Ivory (Lisa Moretti who began as Tina Ferrari in GLOW) back for her 2nd CAC and doing the on-stage honoring of her former Whiff stablemate in Molly Holly/Nora Greenwald who is about as honest and genuine a person as any of us have ever seen in the biz. She does so much great volunteer work and is newly-married as she said on my radio show recently. And Edge of course brought his sweetie in Beth Phoenix (recently retired from WWE) and they barely made it from N Carolina with all the plane problems and delays Wednesday. They were reunited with their incredible Toronto trainer in Ron Hutchison who gave a superb lecture that same afternoon. Also there were Scrapiron Adam Pierce (who co-accepted for Bill Moody on-stage and gave a great speech as Percy/Bill had come in regularly for Dave Marquez’ Hollywood tv promotion in California), former CAC future legend winner Frankie Kazarian and also new TNA X division champ Kenny King who arrived basically at the end of our awards banquet-but everyone was ecstatic seeing him. And how we could not have RVD and Bill Fonzie Alfphonso mentioned or up on stage is beyond me. Can you imagine how Fonzie would’ve perked up our Tuesday night function if someone had handed him the mike?! At least Teddy Hart (wearing his sparkly red daywear suit) also there for his first CAC which was a total surprise to his uncle Ross Hart, got the mike and ran with it telling some stories about Stu and Owen.
*Here’s just a taste of what happens at CAC besides the boys, historian fans and fans of today getting together, breaking bread and balls, and talking/reunitiing. Now when I was on the board in the 90′s, I was at the time, the youngest ever on that board amidst all quality name wrestling people like Beyer, Blassie, Monsoon, Red, Thesz, Penny, Dan Gable who really never attended a board meeting, etc. Now like the shift in Vegas attendance from mostly all wrestlers to mostly all fans; our board is mostly non-wrestlers other than Bob Kelly. We lost the financial oversight/peer reviewers in attorneys Chris and Tom Drake when Chris died several years ago and wrestling great Tom recently retired from the board for health reasons. He was in Vegas with us and looked great however. Not sure how in the world they let total legend and brain for the biz in Les Thatcher go from the board. Or George Schire or Tom Burke (amongst our greatest historians along with J Michael Kenyon who also quit the board about 10 years ago). I think we need great minds who’ve simmered for decades in the industry back on that board to insure we/CAC has a future as we sadly lose legends right and left and so many get afflicted with Alzheimers, etc. Great possibles out there include APW’s capable booker Markus Mak, Billy Blade (ditto), Ivory/Lisa, Jeannie Basson, Brian Blair and I’d think if Nick ever retires, the obvious choice for Prez is JJ Dillon.
*A shame a fellow CAC photographer (who just started attending 3 years ago) not only thought he was above everyone else in pompously cutting in line where people had waited and stood painfully for over an hour to get into the banquet hall both Tuesday and Wednesday night right at 6 pm when he knew the doors were open (most wanted to kill him), but also that he could work the fans there during the day. He’d brought a printer which he plugged into a wall and sat on the floor (no vendor booth space purchased) and began ambulance-chasing fans taking pictures of them when they stood next to wrestlers in that vendor/convention area room or were taking their own pictures with said wrestler(s). He’d then run after them a minute later after they’d moved on, offering to charge them $15-20 to print out the photo he’d taken of them w/out asking their permission, so they could have said wrestler(s) sign it. Most told him to F off and how sleezy his ambulance-type-chasing act was. CAC also appears to condone not just this but also a clown who illegally sells poor copies of photos legit photographers have taken. Ala video bootleggers, he’s somehow acquired actual photos taken by Napolitano, Westbrook, Ehret, Ruth Oman (Florida photographer legend), Amato, myself and many others and has made poor photo negatives (also illegal and theft of intellectual property) and which we usually go through and confiscate any images we shot and own all legal rights to.
The first year this a-hole tried pulling this, I confiscated photos I’d shot and own all rights to as well as those belonging to Napolitano that this fat slob (he’s used the names “BIll and Bob Brown”) that he had the balls to reproduce, and that had our watermark on them! (example: photo: George Napolitano). That year he first claimed he had been a photographer from Florida who moved to Vegas.” Then I got him to admit some truth-that he had NEVER been a pro w photographer but then was claiming he bought the rights to those photos (total lie) and other times, Dan Westbrook in confronting him when he saw some of his 70′s images poorly reproduced and being sold in multiples, claimed he didn’t think what he was doing was “wrong.” He peddles them like 20 or more of each shot and displayed in notebooks in clear plastic sleeves. At least with many of the older legends gone or not attending, and no photos of current stars like Edge; his potential for selling theft is declining. Some of the photos over the years we’ve documented that he thinks he can sell include shit-quality photos obviously scanned right out of magazines and books with the various upper pages evident right in the photo, which is hilarious. Fraud like that takes real stupidity and balls. No wonder he surrounds himself with “muscle” at the booth he pays for. Hopefully alerting and warning anyone against doing any business with this thief. Have never seen him at any other conventions or mark fests, and also hoping no one does biz with him by mail either. He’ll eventually be shut down by either my attorney brothers or someone else’s legal muscle.
By allowing both of the above individuals to continue, CAC is setting itself for potential lawsuits as it appears by doing nothing about it, they’re condoning the above sleezy behavior. Again, the various board members I’ve contacted about these violations particularly as it revolves around “Brown,” have shrugged their shoulders saying they’re “not sure what to do about him.” There are other, more honest folks who would snap up the vendor booth space if they “shat Brown.”
We’ve alerted and warned CAC for years and asked them to either demand “Brown” NOT sell property that obviously does NOT belong to him and that he unlawfully attempts to sell the 3 days of CAC in the vendor room, or not rent him the dealer space at all (believe it costs $150 for the 3 days which is a bargain if one is an honest vendor).
That said, the majority there are honest vendors selling their books and talking to wrestling friends and family like Jimmy Valiant, Paul Vachon, the GLOW ladies, JJ Dillon, RVD and Fonzi at Eric Caiden’s Hollywood Book and Poster booth, Ivan Koloff and others. Tuesday and Wednesday of CAC there’s lectures every hour like Ron Hutchison’s excellent course on how to select an ethical wrestling school, a PWI fellow worker in Dan Murphy discussing with a super Power Point presentation how to market oneself in today’s modern wrestling world, Synn Bodi Kezarney on professionalism, finishes and much more. Jesse Hernandez got an award from some of his indie promoting peers for excellence in both that endeavor as well as his EWF wrestling school in San Bernardino, CA. And our major nighttime functions in Tuesday’s Baloney Blowout and Wednesday’s traditional awards banquet (our main event of the 3 full days). Oh, and the huge wrestling show Monday night chock full of indie workers from all over and ably promoted for the second year in a row by West Coast stand out wrestler, promoter and trainer Billy Blade of Vendetta Pro Wrestling. Rock Riddle came in 3rd in the battle royal he won last year, plus Gangrel and Brian Blair put over much younger talent (in Blair’s case, honoree Matt Riviera who was seen a few months back on an episode of cable’s Millionaire Matchmaker show. Match of the night was Melissa Anderson vs Shelly Martinez with both working very hard. Shelly did the crotch move when she later valeted and turned on Gangrel, causing his pinfall defeat.
Wednesday night’s Award Banquet function went well however, with awards again to Paul Bearer/Bill, Matt Riviera (given by Chris Cruise who was finally acknowledged after attending many years and no one stating properly that he was there), Molly Holly/Nora by Lisa Ferrari, Sandy Parlow (by her daughter – not sure why Sandy was sadly left out of the night’s opening video package as she was a non-Moolah trendsetter and major talent ably trained by Bob Geigel and paid props/respect to him), Jake saluting his family and kids and intro’d by an amazing DDP tribute at the podium, Jim Ross giving a superb speech and then giving a surprise last minute award (I’ve told them for years to have an unmarked, “non-planned” award sitting around to give to someone worthy who shows up last minute like in this case) to Edge (awesome in talking about his life and everyone who helped him along with his childhood idols in Steamer and Jake sitting just feet from his podium and then the main, Iron Mike award of excellence to Ivan Koloff who I’ll laud in another article. If there is a sweeter, more down to earth and good man in the biz; I don’t know of he or she. Jimmy Valiant really rose to the occasion in giving an incredible speech to induct totally deserving Ivan. It’s a crime he’s not been inducted already into Vince’s “hall of fame” but I think that will be rectified next year. I didn’t know until he told me that The Whiff had flown he and his lovely wife in for HOF this year after I’m not sure but many years of a rift. If that “hall of fame” was for a second legit, they would’ve had Thesz, GG, Rogers, Bruno in the first year and guys like Koloff, Morales, Grahams, Valiants and Backlund soon after. Most everyone feels the same about Vince’s “hall of fame” anyway and has been smartened to it. They do it first-class, make the boys involved, particularly the legends feel great about themselves. Then it’s off to the races since there’s no physical WWE “hot” to sell DVDs of it as a profit generator. Up until this year despite our groans, one could not simply purchase the “hot” full event DVD by itself. No, one had to buy the 2-3 disc DVD box Mania set. Even if one had already paid to watch the ppv or attended Mania live and just wanted to see the full, unedited “hof.” Maybe our nagging paid off, because until yesterday, one could at least pay a nominal sum to watch said “hof” online which was a great step in the right direction. Before I forget, it was GREAT seeing Ata Johnson there. She remains totally proud of her only child and said he has at least 4 movies coming out this year which is pretty incredible. But that with all the mainstream fame beyond wrestling fame, he can’t go shopping most of the time as he could before. Now he has to have people do his grocery, etc shopping because he’s mobbed everywhere he goes. That has to be tough.
– Article & photos by Dr. Mike Lano