The Johnston Family
Research by J Michael Kenyon, editor, the WAWLI Papers
One subject which does not seem to come up often in the midst of all the McMahon & Mondt hullabaloo is that of the Johnston family. James Joy Johnston, its leading light, went all the way back with Curley, Rickard, Jess McMahon, etc., and appears to have had a hand in wrestling almost as long as any of them -- while, of course, making his principal living (and notoriety) in the boxing business.
But boxing, alas, always was a gamble, and sometimes a high-priced one ... by contrast, wrestling, as some of the comments below by Johnston family henchmen make plain, was like minting money -- at least most of the time -- in New York City. And so, while promoting practically all the various small boxing clubs in the greater Gotham area, the Johnstons naturally fell into the wrestling business in a pretty large way.
After Jimmie Johnston died, in 1946, his brothers -- William, Charlie and Edward (Ned) -- picked up the pieces of the empire and went right on. And it was William (Bill) who had the promotional license that Mondt used when he re-opened the Garden in February 1949 (interestingly, years later, the Johnstons still seemed angry at Gorgeous George because that first show laid such an egg at the box office).
There is another personage involved, Walter Smallshaw (married to one of the Johnston brothers' sisters) and I've always assumed the papers referred to him as Walter "Johnston" -- unless someone knows differently. Especially after Bill died (in 1950), he seems to have been the name up front on most of the Garden promotions along with, in a lesser way, Charlie and Ned.
The point is that, especially from the 1937 death of Jack Curley on, the Johnstons seemed to play a pretty large role in NYC wrestling promotion. I don't know how deep they were into the booking agencies -- the meaty end of the racket -- but they certainly were holding down a lot of promotional licenses. Here is a small timeline concerning them and some of the other interested parties, e.g., like Gilzenberg and Fabiani, with a little preface describing how entwined with Garden boxing (and politics) Jimmie Johnston was from the outset (along with, it must be said, Roderick "Jess" McMahon):
January 14, 1959
"When the Garden was built in 1925, it promoted the sport (of boxing) itself, with Tex Rickard, Jess McMahon and James J. Johnston successively in the position of promoter." -- Joseph C. Nichols
WHAT LED TO THE FORMATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL BOXING CLUB
"Through his contractual ties with Jack Dempsey, (Tex) Rickard built the first great (boxing promotion) empire. As an individual, Tex could not fully exploit his advantage. He was obliged to join forces with the Garden, which provided an arena, an aura of respectability and solid financing. In combination with Rickard and on its own, under Jimmy Johnston and various other hired promoters after Rickard's death, the Garden held exclusive power for more than ten years. Its grip was broken in 1937. Mike Jacobs, an enterprising ticket broker who established powerful boxing and newspaper connections as a speculator of choice seats for important fights, turned the trick by maneuvering Joe Louis into the heavyweight championship. The need of a showcase forced Jacobs to associate with the Garden, too. Unlike Rickard, who was gradually eased into the background, Uncle Mike held a strong enough hand to consolidate his personal stature, with the arena as a vehicle. Soon after the death of Jacobs, his Twentieth Century Sporting Club -- and the Garden itself -- was absorbed by the Norris interests." -- Joseph M. Sheehan, August 9, 1959
Great Neck NY: July 12, 1937
Jack Curley, sports, amusement and wrestling promoter for nearly forty years, dies, age 61, following a heart attack at his home on Station Road ... Born Jacques Armand Schuel in San Francisco July 4, 1876, he was lured east by the Chicago World's Fair and began a relationship with welterweight boxer Tommy Ryan that progressed from publicist to sparring partner to trainer and, eventually manager ... He got into the big time by promoting a 1909-10 tour of the country by the undefeated retired heavyweight champion, James J. Jeffries, that also included wrestling champ Frank Gotch ... It was Curley who put together the Jack Johnson-Jess Willard heavyweight title fight in Havana on April 5, 1915 ... He soon turned to wrestling and his first drawing card was Mort Henderson, whom he promoted as the "Masked Marvel" ... He promoted wrestling the rest of his life, a pursuit interlaced with periodic dips into celebrity tours of people like Annette Kellerman, the high diver; Rudolph Valentino, the actor, and Enrico Caruso, the opera singer.
New York City NY: March 30, 1938
Stanislaus Zbyszko is ballyhooed as promoter for a Madison Square Garden wrestling card headlined by National Wrestling Association world titleholder Steve (Crusher) Casey and former champion Danno O'Mahoney ... The card, which also included the promoter's brother, Wladek Zbyszo, drew about 6,000 ... No wrestling would take place in the Garden again until February 1949.
New York City NY: Juy 26, 1938
Wrestling promoter Ray Fabiani brought suit for $25,400 against Mike Jacobs' Twentieth Century Sporting Club, Inc., alleging breach of contract for failure to install a cooling system in the Hippodrome at Sixth Avenue and Forty-third Street ... Jacobs filed a counter suit for $4,200 in back rent and, in the same document, denied there had been any agreement in Fabiani's lease to install a cooling system.
New York City NY: August 20, 1938
Alexander Pompez (who would be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame at Cooperstown NY in 2006) calls himself a "sports promoter" when called to testify at the trial of James J. Hines ... Among other ventures, he conducted wrestling shows at the Dyckman Oval at 204th Street and Nagle Avenue ... He also readily admitted he had fled to Mexico when District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey cracked down on the numbers racket and raided Pompez' policy bank ... Arrested and held in a Mexican jail from March to October, 1937, Pompez waived extradition and promised to "testify truthfully about everything" he knew with relation to his partnership in the Dutch Schultz mob.
New York City NY: January 21, 1939
It is announced that the following wrestling shows would earmark 10 per cent of proceeds for the Sports Council of the National Committee for the Celebration of the President's Birthday: Feb. 1, Hempstead Arena; Feb. 2, White Plains County Center; Feb. 7, Coney Island Velodrome; Feb. 8, Ridgewood Grove S.C.; Feb. 10, Twenty-second Engineers Armory; Jamaica Arena; Feb. 11, Broadway Arena; Feb. 13, New York Coliseum; Feb. 14, St. Nicholas Palace.
New York City NY: January 10, 1940
Bill Johnston, representing the Ridgewood Grove Sporting Club and the St. Nicholas Arena, committed these clubs to a donation of 25 per cent of the net receipts from boxing and wrestling shows on dates yet to be selected to President Roosevelt's Infantile Paralysis Fund, and a similar arrangement was pledged for the Jamaica Arena ... Promoter Max Joss pledged 10 per cent of the gross from a wrestling show scheduled February 17 at his Broadway Arena.
MRS. ELIZABETH JOHNSTON
(NYT, April 7, 1941)
Mrs. Elizabeth Johnston, mother of James J. (Jimmy) Johnston, former matchmaker and promoter for Madison Square Garden, died yesterday of a heart attack at her home, 92-25 215th Place, Queens Village, Long Island. Born in Liverpool, England, eighty-five years ago, she had lived here since girlhood. She leaves two daughters, Mrs. Elizabeth Smallshaw and Mrs. Ria Powers, and four sons, James J., who is now managing Abe Simon, Bob Pastor and other boxers; William, promoter for the St. Nicholas Palace boxing bouts; Charles, manager of boxers, and Edward Johnston, a former boxer who is now a trainer.
New York City NY: May 2, 1941
It is announced that William Johnston, promoter, has taken a three-year lease on the Coliseum and will take over June 1.
COLISEUM BOXING STARTS SEPT. 2
(NYT, August 8, 1941)
The indoor boxing season at the New York Coliseum will start on Tuesday night, Sept. 2, it was announced yesterday by promoter Bill Johnston. With the arena enlarged to a seating capacity of 20,000, a number of attractive matches are being considered.
Newark NJ: August 15, 1941
Willie Gilzenberg announces he has resigned from Laurel Sports Activities, Inc., promoters of boxing and wrestling at Laurel Garden and Meadowbrook Bowl, to devote full time to managing welterweight boxing champion Freddie (Red) Cochrane.
COLAN AND TUCKER MATCHED
(NYT, October 28, 1941)
Bill Johnston, promoter at St. Nicholas Palace, announced yesterday that he had signed Johnny Colan, West Side middleweight, and Tommy Tucker of the Navy for the opening boxing show at the midtown arena. The bout is scheduled a week from Monday.
NEW RIDGEWOOD GROVE PROMOTER
(NYT, December 30, 1942)
Promoter Bill Johnston, who has been operating small boxing clubs for several years, yesterday announced he had acquired a three-year lease on the Ridgewood Grove S.C., Brooklyn, where he plans to conduct shows every Saturday night, commencing Jan. 9. Lulu Costantino is to be a principal in his first feature. Johnston operated the Ridgewood Grove two years ago.
BENEFIT WRESTLING TONIGHT
(NYT, December 22, 1943)
The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis will benefit from a wrestling carnival to be held tonight by promoter Bill Johnston in the Jamaica Arena. The feature will be a finish bout between Maurice LaChappelle, French heavyweight, and Dr. John Bonica, Jamaica.
WRESTLERS TO AID FUND
(NYT, January 7, 1946)
The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis will receive part of the proceeds tonight from the wrestling carnival arranged by promoter Bill Johnston in the Bronx Winter Garden. The feature finish event will bring together Ali Baba, Turkish heavyweight, and Karol Krauser, Polish grappler.
J.J. JOHNSTON DIES; RING PROMOTER, 70
(NYT, May 8, 1946)
James Joy Johnston, one of boxing's most colorful personalities, died of a heart attack yesterday morning at his home, 200 Cabrini Boulevard. The 70-year-old manager, matchmaker and promoter collapsed in the arms of his wife, Mrs. Agnes Johnston, at 9:30 a.m. as he was dressing in prepration to go downtown.
Although Mr. Johnston had been afflicted for years with a heart ailment and had complained to friends of feeling ill on Monday night at the boxing matches at St. Nicholas Arena, the boxing world was stunned at the news of his death and hundreds of messages of sympathy were received at the Johnston home. A high requiem Mass will be sung on Friday at 10 a.m. in St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan. Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
There was no one in the boxing game better known and few more universally respected than Jimmy Johnston. For more than fifty years, this cocky little bantam with his tilted derby hat was a familiar figure on Broadway, its side streets that house the followers of fistiana and in the various fight arenas around town.
Besides a widow, he leaves ten childen ... two sisters, Mrs. William Smallshaw and Mrs. John J. Powers, and three brothers, Edward, William F. and Charles B. Johnston, all of New York, and ten grandchildren. [The ten children were: Mrs. Albert Wentworth, Denmark ME; Charles P. Johnston, Washington DC; William Johnston, Houston TX; Mrs. James Delaney, NYC; Miss Alice Johnston, NYC; Mrs. Edward Daly, NYC; James J. Johnston, Jr., NYC; Edward L. Johnston, NYC; Agnes Yvonne Johnston, NYC, and John James Johnston, NYC]
New York City NY: September 4, 1946
Bill Johnston promotes the final boxing show of the season at Ebbets Field ... Altogether, Johnston promoted some six outdoor shows at the Dodger ballpark during the summer ... They were the first fights staged at Ebbets Field since 1933.
New York City NY: December 27, 1946
The scheduled Madison Square Garden fight between Rocky Graziano and Ruben (Cowboy) Shank is mysteriously canceled ... It later develops that a suspected "fix" had been uncovered ... The bout was to have been a benefit for the family of the late James J. Johnston, veteran fight manager and promoter
New York City NY: January 15, 1947
Miss Agnes Yvonne Johnston, daughter of the late Jimmy Johnston, boxing promoter, was married to Jack O'Brian, Associated Press drama editor, in the Church of St. Elizabeth.
New York City NY: November 23, 1948
"Bill Johnston, brother of the late but illustrious Jimmy (Hard Hat) Johnston, gave reporters the blueprint for what he hopes will be the rasslin' renaissance ... He announced the formation of the Wrestling Promoters' Association of America and allied countries, with Ed (Strangler) Lewis of Los Angeles as chairman. The idea is to reorganize a circuit for the top-notch 'name' wrestlers of all 'allied' countries. Johnston will promote in New York. Other towns in the eastern circuit, he said, would be Chicago, St. Louis, Boston and Montreal. South and west such cities as Atlanta, Phoenix and Los Angeles would be included." -- Associated Press
New York City NY: January 19, 1949
Bill Johnston, who for years has been operating in the local area as head of an eighteen-club circuit, announced at a meeting in the Hotel Astor that he has leased Madison Square Garden for a wrestling show February 22 ... It would be the first time since 1938 that the Garden has been used for wrestling ... Johnston said he was willing to take every available open date at the Garden, confident he can sell out the arena for wrestling with a top ticket price of $7.50 ... Johnson said he thinks television helps attendances at wrestling ... "Associated with Johnston in the venture will be Toots Mondt, for years one of the controlling influences in the mat game, and Ed (Strangler) Lewis, world heavyweight champion of a generation before wrestling became a hippodrome. Mondt now is in South America scouting talent. Lewis has been appointed chairman of the Wrestling Promoters' Association of America and Allied Countries, an organization whose purposes include the development of a single recognized heavyweight champion." -- James P. Dawson, Jan. 20, 1949 ... Johnston listed the following wrestlers as being those he hopes to show in the Garden: Hans Schwarz, Germany; Nord Helmquist, Dutch champion; Gorgeous George, Frank Sexton, recognized as "Atlantic seaboard champion," except in New York; Primo Carnera, former world heavyweight champion boxer; Stu Hart, Canadian heavyweight; Butch Levy, Bill Longson, Whipper Billy Watson, Yvon Robert, Golden Superman (aka Walter Podolak), Wilbur Nead, Ernie Dusek, Ruffy Silverstein, Karl Davis, George Becker, Ali Baba, Lou Thesz, Felix Miquet and Herman (Dutch) Rohde
New York City NY: February 22, 1949
A disappointing crowd of 4,197 pays to watch Gorgeous George pin Ernie Dusek in 26 minutes, 57 seconds of their main event finish bout ... The paid receipts are $13,957 ... The New York Times said Johnston was reported "to weigh $1,500 less financially after the show"
(NYT, February 26, 1949)
Ralph Mondt, an automobile salesman, who was formerly a professional wrestler and later a wrestling promoter, died yesterday in Glendale, Calif., after a brief illness, according to word received here. Born in Greeley, Col.,
Mondt was at one time a promoter in Weehawken, N.J.
He leaves his mother, Mrs. Lulu Mondt; three brothers, Joe (Toots) Mondt, wrestling promoter and ex-wrestler; Frank Mondt, and Lowell R. Mondt, of Bridger, Mont.; a son, Bruce Mondt, and two sisters.
RALPH MONDT, RETIRED MAT PROMOTER, PASSES
(LAT, February 26, 1949)
Ralph Mondt, 58, retired New Jersey wrestling promoter, died yesterday.
He was stricken with pneumonia which brought on a stroke and for nearly two months had been in a paralytic coma at Behrens Memorial Hospital in Glendale.
BROOKLYN FIGHT ARENA CLOSES BECAUSE OF BERLE
(AP, April 6, 1949)
NEW YORK CITY -- Max Joss, who has promoted boxing shows at Brooklyn's Broadway Arena for over ten years, has closed down operations until next fall. Milton Berle's television shows and a scarcity of boxing talent are the reasons, the 55-year-old promoter said today. The once flourishing small indoor arena has been operating in the red for the past two years. "Milton Berle was too much Tuesday night competition," said Joss. "Even though I lowered my prices, I kept losing money ..."
Kingston NY: September 13, 1949
(Municipal Auditorium, att. 800) ... Walter Podolak (as Golden Superman) beat Babe Sharkey (18:32) ... Baron Michele Leone beat Steve Karas (17:22) ... George Flynn beat Herbie Freeman (22:12) ... Abe Coleman beat Joe Kameroff (27:10) ... Referee: Johnny Palermo ... Promoter: Bill Johnston, Jr. … NOTE: At least through the 1950-51 season, and including a couple of Rocca appearances and one by Carnera, Bill Johnston, Jr. runs spots once or twice a month in Kingston.
November 20, 1949
"Toots Mondt ... is now the principal booker of the Eastern states, having left the ring and gone back into what he calls 'civilian life.' Toots looks like a mountainous cherub. His face is serene and angelic and his voice is soft, and he gives the appearance of always being seated on some fleecy cloud somewhere. The fact that he is an enormous man dominating a business peopled by enormous men never seems quite possible, but it is nevertheless true ..." -- Sam Boal
January 6, 1950
"Wrestling matches from St. Nicholas Arena will be added to the Tuesday evening schedule, 10:30 to 11 o'clock, of WCBS-TV, beginning next week. The program, however, will be telecast by the network from 10 to 11 o'clock. Bill Johnston will act as commentator.
NEW MAT WIZARD HEADS INITIAL SATURDAY CARD
(Kingston NY Daily Freeman, February 3, 1950)
Antonino "Argentine" Rocca, the spectacular "drop-kick" specialist from Buenos Aires, will headline the next professional wrestling show in Kingston on Saturday, Feb. 11, promoter Bill Johnston, Jr., of New York announced today ... The Argentine's opponent will be the former professional football tackle star of the Los Angeles Rams, the massive, 285-pound Rube Wright. The latter played college football at North Arizona State College before entering the professional grid ranks.
New York City NY: March 5, 1950
(NYT photo caption) ... Bill Johnston describes the wrestling matches on C.B.S. television from St. Nicholas Arena at 10 p.m. Tuesdays.
W..F. JOHNSTON FALLS DEAD
(NYT, Monday, May 15, 1950)
William F. Johnston, fight promoter, collapsed and died at 6:35 p.m. yesterday in a drug store at 1632 Broadway, after walking in from the street. The body was identified at the West Forty-seventh Street police station by Harry Curley, a friend.
Mr. Johnston, who was 61 years old and lived at 92-25 215th Place, Queens Village, Queens, was a brother of James Boy Johnston, fight promoter and one of boxing's most colorful personalities, who died in May, 1946, leaving his business to his brothers, William and Charles.
New York City NY: May 15, 1950
Antonino Rocca pins Lord Leslie Carlton in 24:23 to cap the wrestling exhibitions which lure 14,246 customers, paying $42,311, to Madison Square Garden ... A minute of silence was observed in memory of the promoter of the show, William F. Johnston, who died Sunday night.
CARNERA TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE
(Kingston NY Daily Freeman, Friday, May 26, 1950)
Several good ringside seat locations are still available for the Primo Carnera-Slim Zimbleman wrestling feature Saturday night at the Municipal Auditorium, promoter Bill Johnston announced this morning. Rebel Russell, the Boston Terror, will share honors with the former world's heavyweight kingin. Ticket reservations can be made by calling the Tommy Maines Sports Shop, 6039-J.
New York City NY: February 12, 1951
As he has for a number of years, Vic Scutari continues as national sports director for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis ... Today, he is reminding people that Jack Dempsey and Barney Ross are scheduled to appear, for a crowd of about 5,000 at Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, on the occasion of the March of Dimes Sports Show conducted by Dave Soden ... All proceeds from the snow are earmarked for the Foundation.
Chicago IL: April 18, 1951
Aurelio R. Fabiani, 53, pled guilt to a charge of concealment of assets in bankruptcy ... The indictment says that on Jan. 12, 1949, he filed for voluntary bankruptcy in Los Angeles and made a false statement that he had no cash or bank accounts ... The government argued that he had $15,000 in cash and two bank accounts in Los Angeles.
TONY GALENTO SEIZED IN ATTACK ON PROMOTER
(UP, December 8, 1951)
GREENSBURG, Pa. -- Tony Galento, one-time challenger for the heavyweight boxing crown, was held in the Westmoreland County jail nine hours today after attacking a wrestling promoter in a brawl at a Pennsylvania Turnpike gasoline station near Irwin PA ... State police said Galento had "a short fight" with Bill Johnston over division of proceeds from a show held the previous nightat Speney's Palisades in McKeesport PA ... "Galento ended it when he hit Johnson in the mouth and knocked out his four front teeth," added the police report ... Johnston dropped assault and battery charges after Galento indicted he would pay $250 for Johnston's hospital bill and some false teeth ... Galento was released at noon.
MAT SHOWS SET FOR GARDEN
(NYT, October 13, 1952)
Promoter Charley Jonston last night arranged to stage five wrestling programs at Madison Square Garden on a monthly bais. The first show, Nov. 18, will be headed by Antonino Rocca of Argentina and Lu Kim of San Francisco. The mat cards will not be televised.
GAGNE WRESTLES TONIGHT
(NYT, October 27, 1953)
Verne Gagne of Chicago will tackle the Mighty Atlas of San Diego, Calif., and Gene Stanlee of New York will oppose Wladek (Killer) Koalski of Windsor, Ont., in the featured exhibitions on the wrestling program at Madison Square Garden tonight.
Ned Johnston, the promoter, said yesterday that he expected the card to draw between 15,000 and 18,000 fans, but that there are seats at all prices still available. The program will not be televised ... [att. 15,581, $51,265.50]
New York City NY: December 14, 1953
"A crowd of 15,000 is expected to attend (Antonino Rocca vs Verne Gagne), according to promoter Charley Johnston." -- NYT [att. 11,651, $35,469.70]
New York City NY: February 14, 1954
"Promoter Charley Johnston is confident that a crowd of 15,000 will witness the spectacle (Verne Gagne vs Antonino Rocca, Feb. 15, 1954) ..." -- NYT [att. 15,071, $46,124]
Wilkes-Barre PA: November 21, 1954
Longtime sports, wrestling and boxing promoter Roderick (Jess) McMahon, 72, died of a heart ailment in General Hospital, where he had been confined since suffering a stroke two days previous ... He is survived by his widow, a daughter and two sons ... McMahon was born in the Bronx, became a boxing devotee in his youth and, with his late brother, Edward, began promoting at the old Commonwealth Sporting Club on West 135th Street ... When Tex Rickard began promoting boxing in the new Madison Square Garden in 1925, he made McMahon his matchmaker ... During the summer of 1929, McMahon was associated with Humert Fugazy in fight promotions at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn ... In recent years, McMahon promoted wrestling throughout New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania
New York City NY: January 1, 1955
Vic Scutari, director of sports for the 1955 March of Dimes, says the polio fund will benefit from fight cards at Norfolk VA, Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway Arena and St. Nicholas Arena this month ... Also, proceeds from sports dinners at Buffalo Jan. 10 and Rochester Jan. 26 will help the fund.
New York City NY: March 10, 1957
The day before another Garden wrestling show, promoter Walter Johnston is quoted by writer Gay Talese in the New York Times: "(Antonino) Rocca's appeal with New York's Latin peoples is tremendous. Many Puerto Ricans are great wrestling fans nowadays, and they really help the gate. We've set more attendance records this year than at any time since World War II. It's true that Rocca has been a big name for five or six years, but until this year we've not had any talent to throw against him. But now we have. This Ricki Starr is getting very popular. Ricki and Rocca will clash soon, and it'll be something." Adds Talese, quoting a longtime Johnston employe: "Vic Scutari, a wrestling agent for thirty years, says that the box-office prosperity at the Garden, St. Nicholas Arena, et al, is caused by 'the exit of the nonwrestling showmen, like Gorgeous George. Gorgeous George was bad stuff at the box office because he was merely a showman -- not a wrestler. Wrestlers must be showmen and wrestlers. Today in pro wrestling we have real athletes who can do both. That's what the customers like."
New York City NY: March 29, 1957
"Wrestling will have its third straight sellout at Madison Square Garden Saturday night (March 30), promoter Walter Johnston said today. Johnston's spokesman, Vic Scutari, said, "We're a cinch to pull around 20,000. Veteran box office men at the Garden said it's the first time they can recall where wrestlers sold out three days before the matches, this takes in the days of Strangler Lewis and Jim Londos." [att. 20,125, $60,000]
New York City NY: August 27, 1957
Walter Johnson, "a promoter," announces that nine wrestling shows are carded for Madison Square Garden during the fall and winter season ... More than 80,000 fans witnessed five Garden mat shows during the past season.
New York City NY: November 21, 1957
Walter Johnston, described as "the leading promoter" of wrestling at Madison Square Garden, is called onto the carpet by New York State Athletic Commission chairman Julius Helfand in the wake of the Rocca-Carpentier-Graham-Afflis riot in Madison Square Garden.
New York City NY: November 22, 1957
State Athletic Commission chairman Julius Helfand, in addition to handing out stiff fines to the wrestlers involved in Tuesday night's riot, candceled a wrestling show booked Saturday night at the Garden by promoter Walter Smallshaw ... However, Helfand gave Smallshaw permission to hold a program in White Plains next Friday, where Antonino Rocca and Jerry Graham will work in separate bouts ... Willie Gilzenberg, New Jersey promoter, announced he would have Rocca, Graham and Edouard Carpentier on his Saturday night show in Jersey City
New York City NY: January 24, 1958
The State Athletic Commission orders Walter Smallshaw to indefinitely suspend producing wrestling cards at the St. Nicholas Arena in the wake of recent "rioting" ... Promoter Smallshaw conducts the business in the name of the Glendale Sporting Club.
PROMOTING WRESTLING IS NO JOKE TO JOHNSTONS
(By Jimmy Breslin, NEA Staff Correspondent, February 19, 1958)
NEW YORK CITY -- The Johnstons have had an office for 30 years on the eighth floor of a building on 42nd Street and Broadway. The building is faded now and the office is dusty and the chairs creak and some of the desks still have roll tops.
It was an office that always was a part of the boxing beat. But when you go there now they tell you about wrestling. "We never had it so good," Vic Scutari was saying.
Jimmy Johnston took the office first and he kept it even though he had another one in the Paramount Building. When Jimmy wasn't handling the business for Harry Greb or putting a match together for the St. Nicholas Arena or Madison Square Garden, which he ran, he would sit in the office and if the papers said anything bad about him he would say, "They've got the name spelled right. Johnston with a 't' like it's supposed to be."
Later, Charley Johnston always sat in a swivel chair by the window and he would book a Lulu Constantino or a Sandy Saddler for featherweight championship fights or try and keep track of Archie Moore. Charley still works with Moore and some other fighters, but his brother, Walter, is doing the big business in the office these days.
"I been with the Johnstons since 1929 doing publicity," Scutari rasped. "But nothing is like this wrestling. This is the best touch ever.
"We ran nine shows at Madison Square Garden last year. They did $450,000 and 150,000 in people. There was five sellouts. In September we ran a show on the 16th and we had 22,000 people in the joint. Did over $60,000, and there was a riot because the cops had to help us chase away 5,000 who couldn't get in.
"Go over to the Garden box office and ask Benny Bennett about it. He handled tickets for Tex Rickard. He don't remember anything like the way we sell out a wrestling show four days ahead."
Walter Johnston nodded. "It's the times, we're just doing good with the times."
"First," Scutari said, "you had the Russians, Germans and Polish. They were wrestling bugs. That was a long time ago. Then come the Greeks. They all come out when Jim Londos was around. Now comes the Spanish-speaking people. We stick Rocca in there and you can't buy a ticket."
Bertie Briscoe, who used to train the Johnston fighters, but now helps handle the wrestling tickets, looked over the top of the newspaper he was reading.
"There's a nice lady comes here for every show, Rodriguez her name is. Well, if I don't have the same seats for her, do you know what? She wouldn't talk to me any more. She's a nice lady and I always remember to save her seats. We got a lot of people like that. Steady customers. They come up here, stand at the door there and say hello and I give them the tickets. They don't even have to tell me what they want."
"The next show we're running is on the 24th of February," Walter said. "I'll say right now it is going to go out. You know, sell out."
"Rocca is some attraction," Scutari said. "You ought to come and see him. He is a crowd pleaser."
Once they used to tell you in this office how hard Sandy Saddler could hit somebody in the belly with a left hook. Now, it's about wrestling sellouts and a Rocca. It seems distasteful. But as Scutari kept saying, 'It was never good as this."
New York City NY: August 8, 1958
Walter Johnston, described as "a New York promoter," is in Room 1920 of the Hotel Edison off Times Square as Gay Talese of the New York Times interviews the latest Madison Square Garden wrestling headliner, Olympic weightlifter Paul Anderson
WRESTLING GROUP SUED
(WP, February 27, 1960)
A $300,000 suit was filed in District Court yesterday against Capitol Wrestling Corp., Joe (Toots) Mondt and Vince McMahon of 1332 I St. NW, charging antitrust violations.
Edward A. Contos and Alta Contos of Parkton, Md., partner who have promoted wrestling bouts in Balitmore, want an injunction to stop the Washington group "from refusing to supply wrestling talent."
The Contoses also are asking that the Capitol group be restrained from supplying wrestlers to Harry Smythe, former Maryland referee who has obtained a license to promote wrestling and has his first show scheduled next Wednesday in the Baltimore Coliseum where the Contos partners also operated.
McMahon, who promotes wrestling bouts in Washington, said last night that his firm supplied wrestlers to the Contoses until last July when they switched to a Buffalo group. McMahon said Edward Contos asked to reaffiliate with him in January but he prefers to do business with Smythe.
New York City NY: January 16, 1968
Lew Burston, 72, of 23 West 73rd Street, a boxing promoter; Charles B. Johnston, 75, of 888 Grand Concourse, the Bronx, and Walter Smallshaw, 61, of 1476 Broadway, the latter two wrestling promoters, are charged with giving a tax agent a $1,750 bribe in connection with the audit of Mr. Smallshaw's 1964 tax return ... All three were arrested in connection with the same case as far back as January 20, 1966 ... They were alleged to be "trying to cover up kickbacks to sports writers," according to the New York Times
CHARLIE JOHNSTON, BOXING MANAGER, 74
(NYT, September 17, 1969)
Charlie Johnston, a boxing manager and promoter for more than 50 years, died yesterday, apparently of a heart attack, at Union Hill Hospital in the Bronx. He was 74 years old and lived at 888 Grand Concourse, The Bronx.
Mr. Johnston managed Archie Moore, the former light-heavyweight; Sandy Saddler, former featherweight champion, and more than 100 other fighters. For the last 15 years he promoted wrestling at Madison Square Garden.
Mr. Johnston was the sole survivor of four brothers from Liverpool, England, who went into the fight game. The most famous was James Joy Johnston, the Boy Bandit, also a promoter and one of New York's most colorful personalities.
In 1957, Mr. Johnston, then president of the International Boxing Guild, an organization of fight managers; William Daly, and Albert W. Delmonte were acquitted of antitrust law violations. The government had charged that the I.B.G. sought to monopolize boxing int he country.
Mr. Johnston leaves his wife, the former Mae Ross, and a sister, Mrs. Ria Powers.