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Gorgeous George

And the Pink Mansion 

of La Ballona Creek

By Dr. Don Noyes-More Ph.D.

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Illustration by CAROL COOPER, New Mexico


W hen I was eight years old my family lived in a rather undeveloped area in Los Angeles County near what is now Marina del Rey and Culver City. The area was mostly swampy lowland with truck farms and the start of new suburban homes. Running through the trees, dry lowlands, bogs, and farms was my La Ballona Creek.



FORWARD BY ANNIE FULLER

Director, DTLAL

 

“Saturday's With George”

 

        Growing up we didn't do many family activities. I had a weekend father with a list of 'honey do's' that were never finished when he was home for 48 hours. But ... one thing we always did every Saturday after lunch was to gather round our black & white television set in the living room to watch wrestling. There was no cable in those days and I don't remember an outside antenna ... but by the magic of airwaves we received two channels from a town about 100 miles to our east.

     My dad loved wresting and talked to the participants during each match like he would later yell at the Dallas Cowboys when he discovered he liked NFL football. I soon learned all the terms and holds and played color girl as we watched. Today I don't remember all those men and a few women who slammed each other onto the mat to win their match, however, one wrestler was always easy to remember and I still do to this day. He was a big guy and was know for his bleached golden hair, fur trimmed boxing rob and the signature gold Bobbie pin plucked from a blond curl and tossed to the crowd ... or given to some young lady who caught his eye ... before each match. This wrestler went by the name Gorgeous George ... a name, a character, a wrestler I would never forget ... but ... wasn’t lucky enough to meet up close and personal like our editor Don during his childhood ... enjoy his account of his friend George!

 ____ 


        Often I would go down to La Ballona Creek with its large gray clay flats and tall grass and trees. The cool clear creek water was about 20 feet across and moved ever so slowly. La Ballona Creek was a place where my daydreams of Indian scouts or Spanish explorers could come true. My friends and I would build forts next to the creek and have sling shot fights using red berries. La Ballona Creek was a focal point for great play. It was also the place for the starting point of a very interesting friendship. 

One Sunday after church I decided to walk as far as possible up La Ballona Creek to explore my as of yet uncharted lands to the east. I packed a sandwich and a candy bar in a small green pack along with a long length of rope to climb any mountain that might get in the way! My dog Skipper came along. Skipper was black as night, running around and around my legs. 

We walked down into the mud flats. There were darting bright green frogs in the high grass and butterflies hanging in the trees. Ladybugs were flying all about us. The water in the creek slowly passed us making small ponds here and there. Tadpoles were busy eating. Dragonflies darted here and there above the water. After what seemed a long time walking, I looked up at the embankment. Through the trees there was something pink glowing in the sun. What was it? Skipper and I ran across the mud flats, up the embankment, and through the trees. Finally at the top we stood across from a large, bright pink Spanish Colonial style mansion. It was a mansion to me. Larger than any house I’d ever seen. Right smack in the middle of nowhere was this huge pink house. Around the house was a low adobe wall with many cracks in it and clumps of grass growing out of holes. Skipper and I walked to a wrought iron gate that was open. Carefully we walked in. Inside the yard was a large egg-shaped pool. The pool was painted inside like the night sky, dark blue with white stars. The rest of the yard had old trees, unkempt shrubs, and the remains of a garden. I decided to find out who lived there. Skipper and I walked to the back door. There was a screen door with the interior door open. Knapsack in hand, Skipper and I crept slowly into the house and down a long hallway. I heard a noise. There are footsteps. My heart raced but I froze. Skipper was barking. There, coming towards us, was a big blonde man. “Hello there,” he said with a big smile. “What can I do for you?” I fumbled for words and tried to apologize while at the same time walking backwards towards the door. Once outside this blonde giant said, “My name’s George. Do you know who I am?” 

“No,” I said meekly almost not getting the word out. 

“You never saw me at the Olympic downtown? Too young I guess,” he said with distinct disappointment in his voice. I continued to slowly walk towards the garden gate. “Well, you come by and visit anytime you want and bring your dog,” he said as I walked out the gate and ran down the road with Skipper at my side. 

That next weekend I had to know more about my new friend and his mysterious house. Skipper and I ran up the county road until we reached the pink mansion. The house almost looked alive in the heat of the afternoon, pulsating pink. It had red roof tiles that were cracked in places. It looked like a jar of chemicals ready to explode. We jumped the wall and went up to the front door. I knocked but no one answered. I went around the side of the house to the back garden. There in bright gold lame shorts was George doing push ups on the broken pink cement by the pool. 

George, Skipper, and I sat under a wide willow tree after he got me a coke and Skipper a big bowl of water. George, who had been a professional wrestler, started talking about the wrestling business and about his crooked managers and his gambling debts. “Now, don’t you ever shoot craps son!” I had no idea what “craps” was but it didn’t sound decent. He talked nonstop about his great days of wrestling and all the money he made. “I made enough money to buy this big house,” he said with pride in his voice. He told me he had the house painted pink, because pink was his lucky color. “I used to have some of the best parties in town – people from MGM, producers and the like.” He asked if I knew who Myrna Loy was. 

I said again another “No sir.” 

He shrugged his shoulders and began to tell me about every movie she ever made. Oh, how he was in love with her! She even came to a party of his once, years ago. “Did you know that there is a nude statue of her outside of Venice High School?” he said. 

“Rotten!” he shouted. (The statue is there to this day. The statue used to be frequently painted over by rival school football fans.) 

We went into the sparsely furnished front room. George pulled out large scrapbooks filled with his lost life. “Someday I’m going to make it big again,” he said moving his fingers through his long hair. Through the rest of the summer I visited George almost every Sunday. He would have a coke for me and a bowl of water for Skipper. He would tell me about movie stars, the wrestling business, and his parties. All gone. All George was doing that summer was handing out store coupons at supermarket openings and some non-professional wrestling bouts. George spoke of a big comeback or making a lot of money on a horse at Hollywood Park. Even I, a boy of eight, knew it was all just talk. And I never knew just what to believe of George and his stories. 

Fall came and I visited George once or twice. Then a long wet winter hit Los Angeles. Around Christmas time I went to George’s, but he wasn’t home. I left three Hershey bars wrapped in Christmas paper and a red ribbon on his front porch. I wrote “Merry X-MAS” on a piece of paper and taped it to the top of my present. 

Midway into March I got Skipper from the backyard, and we started for George’s home. The day was hot and windy; a dusty Santa Ana wind was blowing off the desert. We came up to the adobe wall and jumped it as always and ran to the front door. The front door was partly open so we walked in. “George, you home, George?” No answer. Skipper and I went into the living room. I saw a bottle of coke sitting in the middle of the floor. Under the bottle of coke was a wrestling magazine. On top of the magazine there was an attached note: 

“This is for you, Donnie, good luck in life... your friend,
 George.” 

I never knew George's family or read about his relationships. He had a daughter, and a son named: "DON" Who is younger than me.

I never forgot George through the years. Later in my life there was a small mention in the Los Angeles Times about “Gorgeous George” and his flashy life and times. George had died in poverty at the St. Monica Hotel in Santa Monica, California just feet from Muscle Beach, Poverty: with a view of the ocean. I’ll always remember Gorgeous George the wrestler as a champ, my champ!

 

Gorgeous George

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WILDLY ENTERTAINING IN THE DAY

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MYRNA LOY STATUE AT VENICE HIGH SCHOOL

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I PLAYED MANY TIMES WITH SKIPPER ALONG LA BALLONA CREEK

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