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Friday, March 13, 2009

Verne Gagne... if you remember that name, you are old

Verne Gagne, (pronounced Ganya) is one of the early pro wrestlers who vaulted to fame in the black and white days of television. I watched him live when my dad took me to Main Street arena, a summer-time wrestling venue set up outdoors behind a car dealership in Peoria, Illinois. He wrestled the likes of Georgeous George, Yukon Eric and Killer Kowalski back when grunting and sweaty men were more in vogue... and women and midgets (as they were called then) too. I saw em all before I reached the age of puberty and summers were more about carefree, 'play outside til the streetlights came on' living than little league.

Verne was one of the 'good guys' with a Charles Atlas build and an innocent farmer-guy face. With his famous 'sleeper hold,' he would put down villian after villian, but only after he had taken a pretty good pounding himself. Happily, and to the roar of the crowd, the good guy won most often... and I'm sure as the moon is made of green cheese that it was all 'legit.'

Well, Verne is in the news again, sad to say. At age 83, with advanced dementia, he body-slammed a 97-year-old fellow dementia sufferer in a nursing home just recently, breaking the poor man's hip. Not surprisingly, when both men were questioned about the incident the next day, neither remembered it ever happened.

Sadly, the victim died three weeks later, of complications from the injury. Gagne, because of the current circumstances, will not be charged in the victim's death.

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