Biography of Famous Wrestler Gorgeous George Part 1

About the famous American wrestler Gorgeous George, history and biography of the entertainer.


"Gorgeous" George Raymond Wagner (1915-1963)

Often called "the Human Orchid," Gorgeous George was born George Raymond Wagner, in Seward, Neb. More a showman than a wrestler, he brought color to the ring and life to a dying sport. He is credited with boosting TV sales in Los Angeles in the late forties and early fifties. In 1949, when wrestling became a popular melodrama on TV, he was acclaimed "Mr. Television." That year the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles was sold out for 27 out of his 32 appearances.

At an early age, George moved with his father, a house painter, and his invalid mother to Houston. He was expelled from junior high school several times and never completed high school. Instead, he packed strawberries, ground oil-well drill bits, chopped cotton, wrecked cars, and repaired typewriters. He left home at 19 and wrestled for small sums wherever he could.

He was one of the Harrisburg Rats, as the tough kids in his Houston neighborhood were called. They would wrestle at picnics in the Houston area, and many of them went on to become pro wrestlers. George was once knocked out in a match and a lady from the audience poured smelling salts in his nose to revive him. As a result, the inside of his nose was damaged, which kept him out of the military. During W. W. II, he worked in a shipyard and wrestled at night.

George was small for a wrestler, 5 ft. 9 in. tall, and weighed only 210 lb. at the height of his career. He began in the early forties as an ordinary wrestler earning $75 to $100 a match, but within a few years he was bringing in more than $100,000 a year. He probably made close to $2 million in the course of his career. He kept a safe-deposit box stuffed with cash, never a savings account.

After winning the Oregon light-heavyweight crown at 175 lb., he settled in Portland. To attract attention, George wore loud-colored clothing. He had at least a hundred specially designed robes, including one with an ermine cape that cost $1,200; one made with thousands of lavender turkey feathers; a purple one with 100 hammered silver buttons and 250 yd. of horsehair lace; and an apple blossom one. When he wore the apple blossom robe, promoters flushed apple blossom perfume through the arena air vents. Kay Cantonwine, the daughter of his manager, Howard Cantonwine, made many of the robes.

One evening in Eugene, a lady in the audience was overheard saying, "My! Isn't he gorgeous!" The name stuck, and George legally changed his name to Gorgeous George in 1950.

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