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Jack Curley - A Biography
by Steve Yohe

Jack CurleyJack Curley (Real Name: Jacques Armand Schuel) was born July 4, 1876 in San Francisco. His parents had fled to America to escape reprisals after the Franco-Prussian war. Soon after, his mother became homesick and the family soon returned to Europe. Curley spent the next 13 years living near Strassburg and later Paris. The family then returned to San Franciso. After elementary schooling at Lincoln School he enrolled in a business school with the intent of becoming a merchant. This became dull for Curley, so he took a job working as a copy boy for THE SAN FRANCISO CHRONICLE. This lasted only a short time before being fired, and Curley, down on his luck, took a second job working at a saloon owned by a fighter George La Blanche, who had once knocked out the famed Jack Dempsey the Nonpareil. It was working in the shooting gallery that Curley mingled with the fight crowd.

Then at age 16, Curley traveled to Chicago hoping to find employment at the World’s Fair. After "Riding the Rails" to Chicago, he found the city to be everything he had hoped for. The fair made work plentiful for young adventures; Curley made friends with the sporting fraternity & enjoyed himself. Then reality struck with the closing of the fair, and thousands lost their jobs. For a short period, Curley wrote for the newspaper called THE DISPATCH but that work fell off and Curley was force to live on the streets, sleeping in sheds and alleys suffering from hunger.

In Sept. of 1893, he started working for a Chicago promoter/manager named P.J. Carroll. Curley helped run his gym and seconded fighters. Carroll was lazy & with time Curley’s importance increased. In 1984 Curley became acquainted with Tommy Ryan, then welterweight champion of the world and helped his friend train for many of his fights. In 1896, Curley moved to St. Louis and began promoting fights. In 1899 he returned to Chicago, working with Ryan. In 1901 he became a Chicago correspondent for a national weekly paper called THE POLICE NEWS, which was a rival of the POLICE GAZETTE. This helped Curley to become firmly established in the sporting world. In the years that followed Curley managed & promoted many fighters including George Gardiner, Jimmy Gardiner, Jim Flynn, George Carpentier and Jess Willard.

It’s believed that Curley’s first major wrestling promotion was a Frank Gotch/Fred Beell match in Chicago on April 26, 1907 (or Feb. 7, 1908). Curley liked his first taste of Pro Wrestling and he wanted more.

By 1909 with the outlawing of boxing, Curley was promoting wrestling in Chicago with the Illinois Athletic Club. Curley would later claim he had promoted the 4-14-09 Frank Gotch/ Yussiff Mahmout bout that drew 10,000 people ($38,828) to Dexter Park Pavilion and a Gotch/Dr. B. F. Roller match in Kansas City (4-27-09). Later that year he accepted the post of athletic director of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Also managing Dr. Roller, Curley waged a promotional war with a gambler/promoter named Ole Marsh (Joe Carroll), who was a member of the notorious Maybury gang and the man who made Frank Kennedy (Frank Gotch) rich during a stay in Alaska in 1901. This confrontation ended with Marsh in jail and Curley on a train back to friendly Chicago. He then became a part of a group of investors who were attempting to talk Jim Jeffries out of retirement for a fight with Jack Johnson. After he accepted the match, Jeffries traveled the nation on a tour promoted by Curley. Curley and Dr. Roller did not see the Johnson/Jeffries fight (7-4-10) because they on ship headed for England.

While in London, he promoted a match (8-9-10) in which the Great Gama of India defeated Roller. He also set up a match in Vienna, Austria where Roller again lost to Curley’s good friend Stanislaus Zbyszko (9-30-09). The match was watched by wrestling enthusiast Franz Ferdinand the Crown Prince of Austria, whose death by an assassin started a world war. During his stay, Curley had meetings with another friend, George Hackenschmidt, about a rematch with Frank Gotch.

In late 1910 Curley brought Hackenschmidt back to America and toured as his manager. On 9-4-11 Curley’s promotion of The Match of the Century, Gotch vs Hackenschmidt drew the largest gate in history $87,053 and 35,000 fans, a record that would last 23 years. A lot can be said about the match, but Curley did do a great job hiding the fact that Hack was damaged goods. Gotch won two straight falls and wrestling was killed in Chicago for years.

On 7-4-12, Curley promoted a World Title match in Las Vegas between Jack Johnson and Jim Flynn. It may have been the first major fight in that town.

On 4-5-15 Curley promoted the famous Jack Johnson vs Jess Willard match in Havana, Cuba. ($62,000) Although Johnson and Curley were good friends, Curley became know as the man who brought the World Heavyweight Boxing Title back to the white race.

Following the match he helped manage Willard around country, following the vaudeville circuits & circus. During the tour he booked Willard with the Sells-Floto Circus and teamed him with Frank Gotch as an attraction. Many fans felt the Willard/Johnson bout was as big a work as any of Gotch’s matches. Willard turned out to be stubborn and disagreeable and their arrangement ended with a lawsuit that was settle when Jess gave Curley a check for $10,000.

Around this time Curly found himself squeezed out of the boxing business by former assistant Jack Kearns (manager of Jack Dempsey), promoter Tex Rickard, and the boxing laws of the era, so he moved full time to wrestling. Having strong ties with Stanislaus Zbyszko, Curley became the manager of the younger brother, Wladek Zbyszko, around the end of 1915. He also managed Yussif Hussane and Americus (Gus Schoenlein), two major main eventers of the period. On January 27, 1916, Curley brought new wrestling sensation and World Champion, Joe Stecher, to New York City and attempted to book him with Zbyszko, but Wladek was injured and humiliated by Graeco-Roman World Champ Aberg Aberg three days before the match, so Curley had to rush to replace him with The Masked Marvel (Mort Henderson), who had become a sensation during a International Tournament being held at the NY Opera House. The card was a success, drawing many of the social elite of NYC who had never seen a wrestling match before. Jack Curley had found a home and he would remain the dominant wrestling promoter in NYC until 1937.

During 1917 he staged cards in NYC and other sites on the East Coast, such as Boston, using Zbyszko vs Ed "Strangler" Lewis matches as his primary main event. On 7-4-17, the two attracted the largest crowd in Boston history. In Dec. 1917 Curley ran a successful tournament in NYC in which Wladek defeated Lewis (12-22-17) in the finial to claim the world title.

Up to this time, booking of Pro Wrestling matches seemed to be in the control of the wrestler’s managers. Wins and loses were decided by who had the more popular client or by how much money could be made from gamblers. It is very possible that a higher percentage of wrestler’s income came from betting that from the actual gates. By the late teens this reliance on the gambling side of the sport was coming to an end due to public pressure and efforts of law enforcement. The power of pro wrestling probably was in the hands of mid-west sportsman Gene Melady, manager of Earl Caddock, and the promoter of such famous cards as Cutler/Stecher (7-4-15), Stecher/Lewis (7-4-16) and Stecher/Caddock (4-9-17). By the end of 1917 & beginning of 1918, this system had led to a logjam of long tedious draws that were a treat to the popularity of the sport. In March, the night of the title unification match between Caddock and Wladek Zbyszko (2-8-18), a meeting was held between promoters (Gene Melady, Carl Marfigi, Oscar Thorson, Jack Curley, & Otto Floto) and newspapermen such as Ed Smith and Sandy Griswold. Curley proposed rule changes such as time limits, decisions, and one fall matches. It was Curley’s idea to make wrestling more like boxing with pins being like KO’s and decisions accepted as true victories. Curley walked away from the meeting with his rule changes; some of which lasted over time (NYC reliance on one-fall matches) while the less popular were hidden or thrown away. Never the less, Curley and NYC had shown newfound power over the sport.

Around March of 1918, Curley traveled to the mid-west and signed agreements with Joe Stecher and Ed Lewis. Before this time most of the major matches were held in the small cites of Iowa, Kentucky & Nebraska that drew large crowds from the countryside for holidays such as Fourth of July or The Kentucky Derby day. These agreements by Curley, Sandow, and Stecher formed a "Trust" that would take wrestling out of the small towns to the large cites of the East such as NYC, controlled by Curley. Curley also had a large stable of talent that he would book out to emerging promoter along the East Coast and into the South. This pact may have had something to do with the inability of Earl Caddock, guided by Melady, to drop the World Title back to Joe Stecher before being sent to Europe and WWI.

Due to Frank Gotch many retirements and comebacks, no true undisputed World Champion could be recognized during these years. Most considered Stecher and then Caddock as champion, but with Caddock in Europe on active duty during WWII, the situation became even more unclear (probably booked that way.). By 1919, Wladek, Stecher, Lewis and even John Pesek were stacking out claims to the title. In late 1919, Curly staged a tournament to determine the true undisputed Titleholder. Stecher defeated Lewis, Wladek, and Pesek and was scheduled to meet the returning Caddock in a Super match at sold out MSG on Jan. 30, 1920. In what many historians call wrestling’s greatest moment, Stecher defeated Caddock in a great match that, unlike most of wrestlings super matches, lived up to it’s potential.

In the late teens Curley brought the boxer George Carpentier to America and promoted a fight with Battling Levinsky (10-12-20) in Jersey City. This victory by Carpentier set up a match with Jack Dempsey in Jersey City that became the first million-dollar gate in history (7-2-21). Out bid by Tex Rickard (who was willing to build an arena, at a cost of half a million 1921 dollars, to house the bout), Curley aided Carpentier in the negotiations with Rickard and controlled much of the fight’s ballyhoo. The fight drew 80,000 fans for $1,789,238. (Similarities between the Gotch/Hack match and the Dempsey/Carpenter fight are interesting. In both events it was a classy European vs an unsophisticated but superior American. In both events Curley hid his athletes inabilities; Hack was injured while Carpentier was too small to have a chance against Dempsey, by not allowing the press to watch the fighters train. Both events had promises by the champions to carry the challengers; Dempsey carried Carpenter for 4 rounds to insure enough fight footage to show in movie theaters and Gotch was supposed to work a match with Hackenschmidt. Both gates were attendance records in their sports manipulated by none other than Jack Curley.)

The wrestling business remained hot for Curley and NYC during the rest of 1920 with Jack promoting matches with his champion Joe Stecher, Ed Lewis, Earl Caddock, Wladek Zbyszko and the introduction of wrestling newest sensation, the first sex symbol in professional sports, Jim Londos. Then in July, Curley found out that Stecher had injured himself playing baseball on his team in Dodge, Neb. His champion was taken to Excelsior Spring; Mo. for treatment and a decision was made to switch the title to Ed Lewis. Lewis and his manager, Billy Shadow, may have been promised the title early in the year anyway and from a booking stand point the move made sense, with Lewis being the only wrestler from the "Trust’s" big four talent pool that hadn’t been recognized as a undisputed world champ. It would seem that this giving of the World Title to Shadow and Lewis was a move Curley would regret. He had let wolfs into his kitchen. Anyway, on Dec. 13, 1920, Ed Lewis defeated Joe Stecher in NYC in a match that drew 8,000 and $75,000.

During the beginning of 1921, Lewis was given wins over Caddock and Pesek but this streak was broken on May 6 when "The Strangler" lost the title to Curley’s good friend who had returned from Europe, Stanislaus Zbyszko. It is not known how this affected Curley’s relationship with Sandow and Lewis, but from reading the newspapers leading up to the match it seemed strained, sense Curley had succeeded in banning Lewis’s famed headlock in NYC and the legislature had changed many of the state’s wrestling rules, including a major change that allowed "rowing" falls. This was followed by treats to leave NY state and even retirement by Lewis, who was playing the heal during this period. Regardless of what was worked and what wasn’t, one would think Billy Sandow wouldn’t have been happy losing the title after only 5 months on top.

On Nov. 28, 1921, Lewis lost a rematch with Zbyszko in MSG and the promoter was Tex Rickard. Lewis, Sandow and Stanislaus seem to leave Curley’s group and the "TRUST" around this time. Lewis makes two more NY appearances in Feb. 1922 and except for a Feb. 12, 1924 Title defense vs Pat Mc Gill, doesn’t appear in the big city until 1929. During 1922 there was talk of a Jack Dempsey mixed match with Zbyszko and Lewis. This idea seems to have been instigated by Dempsey. Once Stanislaus lost his world title claim back to Lewis on March 22, 1922, the talk reverts completely to a Dempsey/Lewis match up: two of the biggest names in sports during the 20’s, sport’s golden age. If you compare boxing’s largest gate (Dempsey/Carpentier: $1,789,238) to wrestling’s largest (Gotch/Hack: $87,053), you can see how the numbers would drive a wrestler to participate, regardless to loyalties. Doesn’t take much imagination to see Sandow/Lewis leaving Curley for boxing’s Rickard, who also was manager of MSG. (Curley may have also have had trouble getting licensed by the newly created N. Y. State Athletic Commission in 1922.) On Dec. 30, 1922 Lewis announces that the match had been made for Wichita and he began to train. (It is during this period that Sandow/Lewis picked up a young shooter named Toots Mondt to add in the wrestler’s training.) On Jan. 7, 1923, promoter Tom Law revealed rules for the mixed match. Dempsey denied that he’s signed anything but said that he was ready for the match. Perhaps, after a year of talk Sandow and Dempsey’s group breaks from Rickard and tried to promote without him. In fact, Dempsey’s manager, after two years of idleness, promotes, without Rickard, a Dempsey/Tom Gibbons fight in Shelby, Montana on July 4, 1923 that ends in scandal and bankrupts the city and two banks. Rickard then regains control of Dempsey and produced another million-dollar gate ($1,188,603) with Dempsey/Firpo on Sept. 14, 1923. Perhaps (yes this all is speculation), these events lead to the dropping of the Lewis/Dempsey mixed match idea, but the match continued to be talked about by Lewis and Dempsey into the 40’s and Dempsey always remain connected with pro wrestling. Wrestling may have lost its biggest payday.

Despite loosing his world title and biggest draw, Curley battled Tex Rickard for control of wrestling in NYC and won. On Dec. 29, 1923, Tex Rickard was denied a wrestling permit to promote in MSG. The License Committee of the State Athletic Commission ruled in favor of Curley (he obtained a license to promote from the N.Y. Commission on Jan. 22, 1924), and Rickard involvement with wrestling ended. Some claim that Rickard kept Curley out of MSG until the new building was opened in 1928, but it would seems that, with the wrestling business in a slump, Jack was having trouble filling the smaller and less expensive Seventy-First Armory.

During 1923, Curley’s promotions we’re not limited to wrestling. It seems he staged a Rudolph Valentino tour after the famed film star quit Paramount pictures over a dispute that involved his wife, Rambova, being banned from the studio lot for being a nuisance. Curley may have also become involved with pro tennis, swimming events and even Opera in the following years.

Curley’s NYC promotion suffers in 1923 and 1924 without his world title and from competition from baseball, boxing and other sports that were going through their "Golden" period. Lewis then formed with manager Billy Sandow and friend Toots Mondt his "Gold Dust Trio" and drew some big crowds in the mid-west. As long as the title remained in the hands of a true wrestlers like Lewis or Zbyszko the idea of a doublecross didn’t seem reasonable. But by the end of 1924, Lewis had blown off his major contenders (Stan Zbyszko, Toots Mondt, Jim Londos, and John Pesek) and a new contender was needed. Sandow came up with the idea of football star Big Wayne Munn. On Jan. 8, 1925 a Kansas City crowd cheered as Munn bodyslamed Lewis and took his world title. Curley and partners Tony Stecher and Tom Pack probably cheered at the news too. Sandow’s plans to draw the largest crowd in history for the Munn/Lewis at Michigan City, Indiana on Decoration Day May 30, 1925 was side tracked when his footballer was shot on and double-crossed by Stanislaus Zbyszko on April 5, 1925 in Philadelphia. The Gold Dust Trio’s trust in Stan seems astonishing stupid today, considering the Zbyszko familys ties and friendship with Jack Curley over the years and the fact Zbyszko had been devalued by the promotion. He did more jobs in 1924 than he had in his whole career and probably wasn’t happy about it. Anyway, Curley had his championship back and on May 30, 1925, Zbyszko dropped the title to Joe Stecher in St. Louis.

During the rest of 1925, 1926, and 1927 wrestling developed the strong territories that would continue until the 1980. A trust was formed between Curley, Tony Stecher, Tom Pack, Lou Daro, and promoters in the South. The champ Joe Stecher toured around the country defending his title and returned to NYC.

But Ed Lewis (who won the rematch with Munn on the same day as the Stecher victory over Zbyszko), the biggest name in wrestling, didn’t go away. The Gold Dust promotion lost most of its major wrestlers and promotional pull, but the idea of a super match between Stecher and Lewis didn’t end. Between 1925 and 1928, the match was constantly publicized in newspapers and shopped around to such markets as L.A., Chicago, and KC. Stecher, wanting to retire to farm life, made a deal with Sandow in 1928 and Stecher dropped the title to Lewis on Feb. 20 in St. Louis. It doesn’t seem that Curley approves of this change, and NY State refuses to recognize Lewis as champion until he agreed to meet the 280 lb wrestler Hans Steinke, which Lewis wouldn’t do.

Boston promoter Paul Bowser also challenged Curley dominance on the East Coast during this time. On Jan. 4, 1929, Bowser bought the World Title from Lewis/Sandow and had Lewis job his belt to another footballer, Gus Sonnenberg, in Boston. Sonnenberg was a trend setting worker and very popular; but no wrestler.

Curley countered by forming an alliance with Toots Mondt, who had left Billy Sandow’s group over a dispute with a brother, Max Baumann, to form a partnership with Pennsylvania promoter Ray Fabiani. Mondt wasn’t one to be trusted with the truth and he later claims to have been partners with Curley, etc, but literature of the time seems to show he was working for Curley along with others, such as Rudy Miller and Jack Pfefer. (Curley was the main promoter and figurehead of the promotion. Mondt was the main booker. Miller promoted and booked in Brooklyn at the Ridgewood Grove arena. Pfefer was a talent scout, mainly in Europe, and took care of the financial books. Mondt, Pfefer, and Miller all had wrestlers under personal contracts.) They began promoting two star wrestlers. One was Dick Shikat a fine wrestler from Germany managed by Toots and Jim Londos, who as sport’s first sex symbol had probably been wrestling most popular non-champion gate attraction sense 1918. The only reason Londos hadn’t been given the world title during the 20’s was because he weight only 190 lb and it wouldn’t have been creditable to have him defeat a great wrestler the size of Lewis or Stecher. But by 1929, with a small non-wrestler like Sonnenberg owning the belt, objections to Londos seemed to dissolve. In that year, the Curley group got Sonnenberg striped of the title in NY, Pennsylvania, and by the NBA, for failing to defend vs rated contender. They first put their title on Shikat (8-23-29), giving him a victory over Londos, but Londos’s popularity could not be denied and he won the return match in Philly on June 6, 1930.

Building the company around Londos paid off and led to one of the greatest periods in NYC’s wrestling history. On May 14, 1930 a MSG wrestling card with a main event of Joe Stecher vs Joe Malcewicz drew 2,000 fans. Londos’s first date on Nov. 17, 1930 in MSG drew over 20,000. With Londos crowds over 17,000 became commonplace. On Jan. 26, 1931 Londos/McMillen drew 22,200 and $59,496. Londos wrestled Ray Steele many times during this period and one of them (6-29-31) drew 21,000 and $63,000 to Yankee Stadium. Curley successfully used charities such as the Mrs. Hearst’s Milk Fund and The House of Calvary (a cancer hospital) to sell ticket and increase his standing in NYC society.

At some point in the early 1930’s, Curley became involved with pro tennis and persuaded tennis legend Bill Tilden to give up his amateur status and turn pro. He then created a pro tour, staring Tilden that traveled thru out America. In Aug. 1931, Curley traveled to Europe and attempted to sign French tennis star Henri Cochet to his U. S. pro tennis circuit but failed

Curley’s wrestling prosperity came to a end in Feb. 1932 when Toots Mondt found out that Londos and his manager Ed White was attempting to fill documents with the N. Y. State Athletic Commission that cut him out of Londos’s management. Londos, the greatest draw in wrestling history, no longer wanted to pay Toots’s cut. Then, after an unsuccessful attempt by Mondt to get Londos to drop the title back to Dick Shikat (who Mondt managed), Toots tricked Londos into signing a contract to defend his title vs the winner of a Shikat/Sammy Stein match. Having understood that winner was going to be Stein, Londos, fearing a double-cross, was chased out of NYC when Mondt switched the winner to Shikat.

Realizing he had lost the king of American wrestling, Toots turned to the old king and good friend Ed "Strangler" Lewis. Signing Lewis away from the Paul Bowser group, Curley and Mondt brought him to NYC in June 1932 and promoted a spectacular shoot match between the "Strangler" and Dick Shikat to be held at the MSG Bowl on Long Island. The match drew 25,000 and a gate of $65,000, as Lewis defeated Shikat (6-9-32). This lead to Londos being striped of his N. Y. World Title, when he refused to meet Lewis. Londos, was still recognized in such major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Toronto, and St. Louis, missed NYC less than the metropolis need him. Lewis, old, fat & out of shape, turned into a box office bomb. Once N. Y. fans got a chance to see the old champion, they rejected him and his ancient style of wrestling. On Oct. 10, 1932 Ed Lewis defeated Jack Sherry for the N. Y. World Title in front of only 5,000 fans in MSG. Mondt’s greed had done them in, Jack Curley’s wrestling empire would never be the same in his life time.

Lewis’s failure led to Ed dropping the title to Jim Browning on Feb. 21, 1933 with another 5,000 MSG fans watching. Browning was a hard worker and crowds picked up, but not near the levels of the Londos years. It was at this time that Curley began working with Boston Promoter Paul Boswer, the other major promoter on the East Coast and manager of both Browning and AWA World Champion Ed Don George. Londos, who continued to draw thru out the country, returned to NYC under the promotion of the Johnson brothers: Charlie and Willie. This move was backed by St. Louis promoter Tom Pack and Philadelphia’s Ray Fabiani. The war for NYC had started. Curley’s group seemed to be winning but it was costing everyone money. By Nov. 1933, a deal was made between the Curley group and the Londos/Packs group, that formed a new "Wrestling Trust" that extend the scope of their powers from coast to coast. Jack Curley, Tom Packs, Ed White, Paul Bowser, Ray Fabiani and Toots Mondt signed a partnership agreement that would control wrestling thru out North America and all would share in the profits evenly. Jim Londos did not sign the agreement but was promised his old position back as champion and he was given a cash bond for $50,000 that would be his if he ever lost a match under the new combine.

The only people left out were Jack Pfeffer and the Johnson Brothers. Earlier in 1933, Pfeffer had been tricked by the Londos group into double-crossing Curley and change sides. Once peace was made, Pfeffer found himself without friends and power. Pfeffer vowed to the Trust to "drink their blood". Pfeffer’s reprisals came in many forms. He made many efforts to get the Trust in trouble with the Athletic Commissions, but breaking the wrestling code by revealing many of the sports secrets and inner workings to the press did the main damage. The fact that wrestling was a work was nothing new to reporters or the fans, but Pfeffer introduced a feeling of cynicism that made people feel they were being chumps or marks because they followed the "sport". The sporting press would soon refuse to be used as promotional tools for promoters such as Curley. Pfeffer didn’t stay down for long. He just went the way of Al Haft and began promoting light-heavyweights.

On June 25, 1934, Londos pined NY State World Champion Jim Browning after eight bodyslams at the MSG Bowl. The Curley card drew around 20,000 fans with a $40,000 gate. Londos drew for a short period in NYC but then crowds once again fell off. All the publicity, put out by the Mondt office and later Pfeffer, had damaged the Greek champion to the extent he couldn’t be fixed.

In 1934, Curley’s health seemed to take a turn for the worst. In July he had a major operation. While in the hospital, he was visited by old friend Jack Dempsey.

By the end of 1934, business was so poor that Toots Mondt left the office and moved to Los Angeles, which, under Lou Daro, was the best wrestling city in the world. 1934 was a great year thru out the U. S. and Canada…. everywhere but NYC.

Changes had to be made. At first Curley and the Trust made plans for Londos to drop the title to AWA champ Ed Don George, but then Paul Bowser came up with a better plan. Since being Irish was fashionable in 1934, he created a new wrestling star out of a big shot putter from Dublin, Ireland named Danno O’Mahoney. It was agreed by the Trust that O’ Mahoney would be the new undisputed World Champ and victories over Londos (6-27-35) and George (7-31-35) soon followed. O’ Mahoney wasn’t another Jim Londos but he was an improvement. Then disaster fell on the Trust, for on March 2, 1936 Dick Shikat double-crossed O’ Mahoney in MSG and stole the Title. Shikat’s crime was backed by Pfeffer and Al Haft.

An injunction was filed against Shikat and he was taken to court. The trial started in April 1936 in Columbus, Ohio, and the first witness called was Jack Curley, who was called "the leading sports promoter in the country". The trial that was going to "blow the lid off pro-wrestling" never really got started as Shikat was "upset" and lost the World Title to Ali Baba in Detroit on April 24, 1936. On May 5, Pfeffer, Haft, the Johnson Brothers, and Detroit promoter Weismuller booked the Baba/Shikat rematch into Curley’s MSG and drew 4,000. MSG had become an "open house" that could be used by any promoter who could produce $3,500 rent.

Around this time Toots Mondt returned and made a deal with Pfeffer to double-cross Haft and his champ Baba. On April 24, 1936, Mondt arranged for a Newark referee to DQ Ali Baba in a match with Pfeffer’s wrestler David Levin. Toots then paid Pfeffer $17,000 for the contract of the new World Champion. The old team, Toots, Pfeffer and Curley, was back together.

This blew the invincible "Trust" apart. Boswer left Curley’s NYC office and took his world champ, Danno O’ Mahoney back to Boston. Al Half and Tom Pack had Ali Baba drop what was left of his title to Everett Marshall in Ohio and St. Louis. And Toots Mondt took Levin to L. A. for matches with his Calif. World Champ Vincent Lopez. The days of unity and one world champion were over.

With attendance down due to the Columbus trial, Curley in 1936 moved his promotion out of MSG and the Seventy-first Regiment Armory to a NYC building called the Hippodrome, which had been famous in it’s time for staging musical event. It was converted into a sports arena and had a novel ring that could be raised or lowered by the push of an electric button and had a better seating arrangement for 9,000 fans. The Armory was too far downtown (East Thirty-fourth Street) and MSG was too big and expensive. The Hippodrome could be seen from Curley’s office in the Fitzgerald Building at Broadway and Forty-third Street. Jack had plans to run 30 shows in the building during 1937, but his plans were foiled by ill health.

Jack Curley died on July 12, 1937. He left behind a wife named Bessie and two children named Jack and Jean. He was buried at Nassau Knowles Cemetery, Port Washington, Long Island.

Before his death, Curley had left plans to divide up his New York Empire between all the major promoters. The biggest arena, The Hippodrome, was to be in the hands of his son, Jack Curley, Jack Pfeffer and Paul Bowser; but a few days after his death it was revealed that a group composed of Ray Fabiani, Rudy Dusek and Curley’s old friend Toots Mondt had usurped Curley’s wishes. The Grim Reaper’s visit to Curley had led to another wrestling war in New York.

Jack Curley seemed born to be a wrestling promoter. A true cosmopolite, he was educated in the finest business schools in San Francisco and Europe. He was at home in the high society of NYC, the Newspaper offices of San Francisco, or the streets & carnivals of Chicago. From everything Ive read, he seemed good hearted and friendly to all. He was always willing to support charities and, unlike many big time powers in the wrestling world, never went out of his way to get back at competitors. By the 1920’s, he was large, plumpish, with a moon shaped face and gray hair. This and his "mixed grill" accent created the perfect showman. His good nature was probably the secret of his success. Curley was the master of publicity and never outgrew his newspaper background. He was a major contributor to the pages of "RING MAGAZINE" when wrestling’s popularity forced them to cover the sport starting in 1930. Curley was so famous by that time, that the magazine published his memoirs over 24 issues. RING MAGAZINE was a smart publication and it never seemed to bother Curley. His attitude was to treat wrestling as the entertainment it was, but the only time he was under oath he refused to break Kay Fabe. In March 1935, an expose was written by COLLIER’S MAGAZINE. The author told his plan to Curley and Jack’s quote to him was "Don’t worry. I won’t sue, no matter what you say." In his RING MAGAZINE obituary the writer claimed his weakness was allowing such business partners as Jack Kearns, Tex Richard, Jess Willard, Billy Sandow, Jim Londos, Jack Pfeffer and Toots Mondt to run his enterprise. This is probably true, he did have his high and low periods and the antics of Mondt and Pfeffer sure didn’t help him in the 30’s.

My purpose of writing this article was to show Jack Curley importance in the development of pro-wrestling. He managed boxers, opera stars (Caruso), tennis players (Tilden), swimmers, actors, circuses, and even the Vatican Choir during a legendary career that spanned some four decades, but it’s pro-wrestling’s history that can’t be written without his name. He promoted major matches in the careers of Gotch, Roller, Gama, Hackenschmidt and Stanislaus Zbyszko and molted Stecher, Lewis, Londos, Shikat, and Wladek Zbyszko into the superstars of the 20’s and 30’s. He took pro wrestling out of the farmlands of America and brought it to the big cities of the East. He rebuild the NY territory and then controlled it for over 20 years, and it remains the home site of the dominant company today. As I see it, the only two wrestling promoters who can stand beside Jack Curley are named McMahon.

THE DETROIT FREE PRESS, April 27, 1936 by Jack Miley:
……."I am merely a purveyor of entertainment." The bland inscrutable Curley replies when someone asks him if his dodge is on the square. In all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never heard him say his pitch was a phoney, nor have I heard him claim it was the Mc Coy. And I’ve never bothered to inquire, since I know what the response would be. It is like asking someone, "Do you still beat your mother-in-law? Answer "yes" or "no".

Probably half the folk who attend the Curley carnivals are hep to the hooligans who entertain them. The other 50 per cent of the spectators - the foreign born, the confirmed rassling addicts and such - are equally certain they are witnessing the genuine article. That has been the secret of Curley’s success. He satisfies the scoffers and the believers too. He has made rassling a state of mind. It is everyone to his own opinion and nobody gets hurt - including the athletes.

Some Jack Curley promotions:

  • 4-26-07 Chicago Frank Gotch vs Fred Beell
  • 4-19-09 Chicago Frank Gotch vs Yussiff Mahmout 10,000 $38,828
  • 8-9-10 London Great Gama vs Dr. Ben Roller
  • 9-30-09 Vienna Stanislaus Zbyszko vs Dr. Ben Roller
  • 9-11-11 Chicago Frank Gotch vs George Hackenschmidt 35,000 $87,053
  • 7-4-12 Las Vegas Jack Johnson vs Jim Flynn
  • 4-5-15 Havana Jack Johnson vs Jess Willard $62,000
  • 1-27-16 NYC Joe Stecher vs The Masked Marvel
  • 7-4-17 Boston Ed Lewis vs Wladek Zbyszko Largest crowd in Boston histoty
  • 12-22-17 NYC Wladek Zbyszko vs Ed Lewis
  • 3-1-18 NYC Joe Stecher vs Wladek Zbyszko MSG sellout
  • 3-19-18 NYC Wladek Zbyszko vs Ed Lewis MSG sellout
  • 4-26-18 NYC Joe Stecher vs Ed Lewis
  • 3-21-19 NYC Wladek Zbyszko vs Ed Lewis MSG Sold out with 5,000 turned away
  • 10-3-19 NYC Joe Stecher vs Ed Lewis MSG sellout
  • 1-30-20 NYC Earl Caddock vs Joe Stecher MSG sellout 10,000
  • 2-20-20 NYC Joe Stecher vs Jim Londos sellout with 1000’s turn away
  • 3-2-20 NYC Ed Lewis vs Jim Londos MSG Sellout
  • 3-15-20 NYC Ed Lewis vs Earl Caddock 11,000 MSG Sellout
  • 4-16-20 NYC Joe Stecher vs Ed Lewis 71st Armory Sellout
  • 11-23-20 NYC Ed Lewis vs Wladek Zbyszko 10,000
  • 12-13-20 NYC Joe Stecher vs Ed Lewis 9,000 $75,000
  • 1-24-21 NYC Ed Lewis vs Earl Caddock 8,000
  • 4-4-21 NYC Ed Lewis vs John Pesek 4,000
  • 5-6-21 NYC Ed Lewis vs Stanisiaus Zbyszko 10,000
  • 2-21-22 NYC Wladek Zbyszko vs Joe Stecher 6,000
  • 10-17-30 NYC Jim Londos vs Gino Garibaldi >20,000
  • 12-29-30 NYC Jim Londos vs Ferenc Holuban 19,715 $44,878
  • 1-26-31 NYC Jim Londos vs Jim Mc Millen 22,200 $59,496.50
  • 3-23-31 NYC Jim Londos vs Sandor Szabo 17,000
  • 5-1-31 NYC Jim Londos vs Ray Steele 17,000
  • 6-29-31 NYC Jim Londos vs Ray Steele 21,000 $63,000
  • 10-16-31 NYC Jim Londos vs George Calza 17,000
  • 12-21-31 NYC Jim Londos vs Ray Steele 15,000 $35,000
  • 1-25-32 NYC Jim Londos vs Sammy Stein 15,000
  • 6-9-32 NYC Dick Shikat vs Ed Lewis 25,901 $65,000
  • 6-25-34 NYC Jim Browning vs Jim Londos 25,000 $40,000
  • 7-8-35 NYC Danno O’Mahoney vs Chief Little Wolf 12,000
  • 3-2-36 NYC Danno O’Mahoney vs Dick Shikat 7,000

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