Sunday, December 4, 2016

Tom Miller and His Ton of Fun (1983)

Tom Miller as host of "Wide World Wrestling" in 1978
We remember "Truckin'" Tom Miller fondly for his work as a color commentator on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Bob Caudle in the summer of 1976 and co-host of Wide World Wrestling in 1978. Miller co-hosted Wide World (with George Scott) in between the 3-year stint of Ed Capral that preceded him and the 4-year stint of Rich Landrum that followed him (when the show's name was changed to World Wide Wrestling.)

He was also the well known ring announcer in Greensboro in the 1980s, as well as occasionally on the TV shows of that era, and for many of the pay-per-view events as well.

This newspaper article from 1983 was one of several columnist Jerry Bledsoe wrote about Miller in those years.

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TOM MILLER HAS A GAME PLAN FOR “A HUNDRED TONS OF FUN”
Wednesday, February 2, 1983
By Jerry Bledsoe


Tom Miller called the other day laughing. This is usually a bad sign. It means something is up, and with Tom you never know what it might be

Tom is a well-known radio personality in these parts. He has worked in Burlington and Charlotte, but for many years he was in Greensboro at WGBG (now WKEW). For the past few years, he’s been in Danville, now as manager of WAKG, a powerful FM country music station that can be heard throughout central North Carolina and Virginia (103.3 on the dial).

Tom has done a lot of crazy things over the years and, being a good friend, he has managed to get me involved in many of them, sometimes to my regret. So I was understandably a little leery when he told me that he had come up with a great idea. This would be the biggest thing to happen in this area, he said, since……well, who knows when.

“OK,” I said. “What are you up to?

“Two-seventy,” he said.

Pounds, he meant.

And that was precisely why he was calling.

“All my life I’ve been fat,” he said.  “My mama’s fat, my daddy was fat, my sisters are fat. My whole life’s been fat, growing up in a world of fat, riding in cars going one way – leaning sideways.”

Tom has come to the point of not only accepting his size, but celebrating it.

“What I want to do,” he said, “is get a thousand people who weigh 200 pounds or more to assemble in a gigantic parking lot for a group picture. I’m going to call it ‘A Hundred Tons of Fun.’”

Tom has already checked and found out that this would be the world’s largest group picture of heavy people and the people at the Guinness Book of World Records have already indicated that they will record the event for posterity.

But this is only one reason for doing it, Tom said. The main reason is fun.

“We’re going to give away somebody’s weight in hot dogs and soft drinks and ice cream and steaks and anything else we can sell sponsors on. Those are not small prizes. You take a man who weighs 368 pounds and wins his weight in hot dogs. That’s a lot of money.”

There will be other prizes too.

“I’m going to have all kinds of trophies made up,” Tom said. “We’ll give a trophy for the heaviest person, the oldest heavy person and the youngest, the heavy person who came the longest distance, all kinds of things.  You could get in professions, the heaviest doctor and the heaviest nurse. We’ll have a superior-size beauty contest for men and women. There are just infinite possibilities.”

This is not going to be a celebration of fat so much as of bulk. Fat isn’t even necessary.

“The only requirement is that they have to weigh 200 pounds,” Tom says. “In other words, a woman could be six foot eight and weigh 202 and not have an ounce of fat on her and that would be ok.”

People who weigh less than 200 pounds will be allowed to come to the event, to enjoy the entertainment (to be provided by heavy entertainers) and other festivities, but they won’t be allowed to enter the contests, win any trophies or get into the picture.

“We’re not against skinny people,” Tom said. “It’s just that heavy people have always been discriminated against. This is one time being a big-size person is going to pay off for somebody.”

“Nobody will ever be able to accuse you of not thinking big,” I said.

“One thing we’re not going to do,” he said, ignoring me “is make fun of people. And we’re not going to moralize whether fat is right or wrong or anything. We’re just going to have fun. We’re going to say, ‘Hey, we’re big and it feels good.’”

No date has been set for this event. Tom is shooting for May or June. This is where I come into the picture, so to speak. Tom needs help finding people who weigh more than 200 pounds who would be willing to attend and pose for his picture. Write him at WAKG, P.O. Box 1629, Danville, VA 24543.

“Can you really envision it?” he asked. “Can you imagine the grandeur of 1,000 fat people in a gigantic parking lot?”

“I’m not sure I can.”


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html

Friday, November 4, 2016

Jackie Crockett Steps in Front of the Camera



Fans who attended TV tapings in the arenas for Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW in the 1980s and 1990s became familiar with Jackie Crockett as one of the important men behind the camera.

Not many people realize that for a short period of time in 1985, Jackie stepped in front of the camera, too, hosting selected local promos that were inserted into the syndicated programs such as "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" and "World Wide Wrestling." These segments were taped at the makeshift studio at the Crockett offices on Briarbend Drive. 

The above image is from a local promotional segment for the Columbus, Georgia TV market. Jim Crockett's affiliate for the "World Wide Wrestling" show at that time was WRBL-3 in Columbus, with Fred Ward acting as the local promoter on the ground, just as he had been for decades for Georgia Championship Wrestling.

As we build our roster of on-air talent for Jim Crockett Promotions from the 1950s-1980s, we are happy to finally locate this image and add Jackie Crockett to that list. The complete list of on-air talent for all of the various shows and studio locations during the Crockett years can be found on the right-hand side of this website. Click on any name to bring up posts related to that person.


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Jackie played many important roles in the family business, which also included photographer. He took photos at shows primarily in Charlotte over many years, from the mid-1970s through around 1983. Some of those wonderful photos are found in a new book of his photos sold by the Crockett Foundation, the family's charitable organization run by Frances Crockett's daughter Debbie Ringley Mrozinski. (Click the graphic link below for more information.)

https://crockettfoundation.com/store/?model_number=1554959

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Southeastern Championship Wrestling (Dothan)

Charlie Platt and Les Thatcher

A shot from early 1981, Charlie Platt and Les Thatcher hosting the show in the southern end of the Southeastern Championship Wrestling territory, taped at the studios of WTVY-4 in Dothan, Alabama. Thatcher also hosted the show in the northern end of the territory at that time out of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Later that same year, Ron Fuller sold the Knoxville territory to Blackjack Mulligan and Ric Flair, and concentrated his efforts out of the territory formerly known as Gulf Coast Wrestling which consisted of major towns such as Pensacola in the panhandle of Florida and cities in Alabama such as Mobile, Montgomery, and Birmingham.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Southeastern Championship Wrestling (Knoxville)

Les Thatcher and Phil Rainey on the set of "Southeastern Championship Wrestling"

"Southeastern Championship Wrestling" emanated from the television studios of WBIR-10 in Knoxville, TN. It was the NWA promotion in the mid-to-late 1970s that covered East Tennessee and later parts of Northern Alabama.

The host of the show was veteran wrestler and broadcaster Les Thatcher. His frequent co-host and promo announcer was Phil Rainey, who was one of the lead sports personalities at WBIR.

Rainey's voice is heard over the opening theme song to "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" uttering these famiar words:

"Welcome to Southeastern Championship Wrestling, featuring slow motion, instant replay, and other technical firsts. The program voted number one by the Wrestling Writers Federation. Join us now for the fast paced competition of professional wrestling, featuring the top stars from the world's largest governing body, the National Wrestling Alliance."
Thatcher was one of wrestling's busiest men (still is!) as he not only hosted the program out of Knoxville, but produced it as well. He also published the area's arena program and magazine, was a photographer, organized the local promotional spots, sold advertising, and occasionally still wrestled - - a renaissance man if there ever was one!

We are proud to spotlight this great photo from the Southeastern Championship Wrestling studio.

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dusty Rhodes Promo on Ric Flair for Atlanta TV (WPCQ)



THIS VIDEO:
One month and one day after losing the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Ric Flair in Kansas City on 9/17/81, Dusty Rhodes gets his rematch on 10/18/81 in the Omni in Atlanta. This taped interview with Rhodes promoted that rematch and aired on "Georgia Championship Wrestling" on Saturday, 10/03/81.

The interview was likely taped in the studios of WPCQ-36 in Charlotte, the home of television tapings for Jim Crockett Promotions since August of that same year. Crockett had just recently moved his base of TV operations from Raleigh to Charlotte. (There is also the slight possibility this was shot at the Briarbend studio where the local promos were taped, although those typically had a different background.)

The introduction by Gordon Solie was taped at the WTBS-17 studios in Atlanta, GA.  The interviewer in the clip is Ken Conrad. (Click here for more info on Ken Conrad being added to the roster of Jim Crockett Promotions on-Air Talent.)


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Gulf Coast Wrestling

Charlie Platt with Bob Armstrong on the set of "Gulf Coast Wrestling"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As I've done several times in the past on this blog, I have strayed outside the confines of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling to explore the look and feel of other studio locations for pro-wrestling from the territory days, as well as the sound and style of the broadcasters that brought us that wrestling.

When I moved to work and live in Alabama in early 1982, the local wrestling program I discovered on TV out of Montgomery and Birmingham, AL was "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" hosted by Charlie Platt and Ric Stewart. The funny thing about this program was that it had the same name and opening theme music and video sequence as the "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" show I grew up watching out of Knoxville, TN. That show was promoted by Ron Fuller and hosted by Les Thatcher, someone very familiar to me from the Mid-Atlantic area.

What I didn't know then was that in the late 1970s, Fuller had bought the territory based out of Mobile, AL promoted by Lee Fields known as "Gulf Coast Wrestling" and for several years the Knoxville show aired in the Alabama territory, too. Around 1980, Ron Fuller sold his interests in the Knoxville territory and moved his television tapings out of Knoxville down to WTVY-TV channel 4 in Dothan, AL which had been the home of Gulf Coast TV for many years.

The TV show was taped each Saturday morning and then sent out to TV markets throughout the territory which spanned from the panhandle of Florida up through roughly 2/3 the state of Alabama, just past Birmingham.

The studio setup in Dothan was much like the studio setup in Knoxville with a couple of bleachers on two sides of the ring, and a desk where the hosts sat and introduced the show and also did interviews with the wrestlers. The back-drop behind the desk of the Southeast show was the same as it had been in the 1970s in the Knoxville studio. But I had never known what the back-drop looked like for the Gulf Coast show.

But recently I came across a video on YouTube of wrestling from Georgia in 1980 where a taped interview with Bob Armstrong had been sent in as he prepared to return for a special match or two in the the territory. It was a great surprise to see the friendly face and hear the familiar voice of Charlie Platt introducing "Bullet" Bob against a back-drop I had never seen before. A closer look and I could make out the bottom half of the words "Gulf Coast" above the word "Wrestling" behind Armstrong and Platt.

I thought it was a very cool looking studio back-drop and it made me wish that during my time in Alabama that the show had still been called "Gulf Coast Wrestling." 

So this is our small glimpse across Charlie Platt's broadcast desk back in the Gulf Coast days of the Alabama/Pensacola territory. 

For a closer look at that territory in the Gulf Coast days, see Mike Norris's excellent series of articles on Kayfabe Memories or check out some of the relevant podcasts produced by Karl Stern on the premium side of the Wrestling Observer website.

http://midatlanticwrestling.net/nwabelt.htm

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rare Studio Shot in WRAL (1975)

Ric Flair, Les Thatcher, and Johnny Valentine on the set of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling", 1975
Photo by Ric Carter

What a rare and special image from the studios of WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC, in 1975. Ric Flair (wearing the Mid-Atlantic TV championship belt), host Les Thatcher, and U.S. Champion Johnny "The Champ" Valentine are apparently waiting to come back from a commercial break, as you can see the floor director or camera operator leaning against the ringpost.

LATER EDIT: Since originally posting this, we have learned that the photographer that took this shot is Ric Carter. We hope to provide more information on him and his work in a future post.

At that point in time, two separate versions of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" were taped on Wednesday nights, one hosted by long time Raleigh announcer Bob Caudle, the other hosted briefly by Sam Menacker and then regularly by Les Thatcher. After the consolidation of Charlotte and High Point TV tapings into Raleigh, the Thatcher-hosted "B" show replaced those shows in markets where more than one hour of Crockett programing aired.

This second hour of the show featured all different interviews and matches than the first hour.

This second hour of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" was later replaced by the new "Wide World Wrestling" show in October of 1975, which would be hosted by longtime Georgia wrestling host Ed Capral.

Thanks to Doc Hopper on Facebook for sharing this image with us, which he found on the Net.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Caudle, Schiavone, and Ross Together in Charlotte

Check out the article on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway about three top wrestling broadcasters from the 1970s-1990s all at the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Fanfest together in Charlotte in early August.

Mid-Atlantic Gateway:
Caudle, Schiavone, and Ross a Highlight of Fanfest
http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/2016/06/caudle-schiavone-ross.html