BAD FOOD, GREAT MEMORIES
Cauliflower Alley Banquet
Cherry Hill NJ, Hilton
By Dan Moreland
Two things you can always count on whenever a wrestling promoter holds one of their infamous banquets: that the food will suck but you'll always have something to talk about after you leave. This was the case at the Cauliflower Alley Banquet at the Cherry Hill Hilton this past weekend as part of the National Wrestling Alliance 50th Anniversary Show.
For those not in the know, the CAC is a club for wrestlers and others in the business with branches on the East and West coasts. It's a chance for friends to meet and share memories and honor each other, Despite popular belief, the CAC is NOT necessarily a collection of old timers akin to an Airstream club for octogenarian wrestlers, but actually has over 2000 members ranging from greenies to the elder statesmen of professionall wrestling..
The banquet started at 2:00 but we weren't served food until 2:30. While waiting for our food it was fun watching the wrestlers filter in and sit at their tables especially since we had five empty seats and of course we were wondering who we would be sitting with. Imagine the butterflies in our stomachs as Abdullah the Butcher looked at his ticket and headed towards our table! Abby is my favorite wrestler of all time, but even I sighed a breath of relief when he sat down one table away. I just didn't want to spend the whole night asking whether or not I should say "excuse me sir, but could you pass the fork?"
Actually watching Abdullah in action in this setting is a sight to behold. Dressed to the nines with a huge cigar hanging out of his mouth, Abby had an air that said "Stay away." Abdullah is notorious in the business for being very private and secretive. With a gimmick like that, Can you blame him? Butcher is one of the few workers in this business that can afford to blow off annoying fans looking for autographs and pictures and still carry himself with class. Besides if he turns you down what are you going to do, argue?
Watching the wrestlers mingle and pay each other respects was fun. Especially amusing was Tiger Ali-Singh in complete gimmick being followed by Babbu, also in complete gimmick, even when Ali went to the bathroom!
Then came to the food, if you can call it that. I'm sorry but for fifty bucks I expect more than a crummy salad and a portion of chicken breast and steamed vegggies so small I thought I was at a Jenny Craig convention. And for desert was a chocolate cake that had more air in it than Jim Hillweg's head. As for drinks, you could have any thing to drink that you wanted- as long as it was ice water.
Fortunately, the parade of greats that were honored made trying to digest this swill a little more pleasant. The presentations began with a moment of silence for over 30 wrestlers who passed away or were sick including Hacksaw Duggan and referee Brian Hildebrand. Then there was a speech by Lou Thesz who got a well deserved standing ovation. Thesz, who I believe is in his 80s, looked in great shape and was sharp as a knife.
CAC East Coordinator George Napolitano introduced Jim Cornette as the MC for the rest of the show, a last minute replacement as Jim Ross was stuck in traffic. Cornette was his usual funny self. What was real cool was that before each wrestler was introduced, with the exception of Danny Hodge and Karl Von Hess, video clips were played on a large screen. I've seen many of these clips before but it was fun watching and listening to the reaction of those in the room as they were played, especially the famous Cornette cake angle, Tully Blanchard's interviews, and Gordon Solies understatements on Georgia wrestling.
Those honored by both CAC and the NWA were Cornette, Harley Race, Dory Funk, Jr, Abdullah, Hodge, Blanchard, Dan Severn, and Von Hess. (Barry Windham was scheduled but wasn't there).But the most memorable moment was when Freddie Blassie was introduced. It was both sad and touching to see Blassie, imprisoned by the limitations of his 80 year old body, to be in great spirits and tell great jokes despite having to use a cane to get around. The best story was how Blassie, after getting stabbed, beaten, and his car vandalized by angry fans over the years, was asked by his mother why he just didn't turn babyface. "Id rather eat filet mignon then hamburger" was his reply. Blassie got the biggest reaction off the night, and deservedly so.
The other cool moment was Butcher who gave a rare public speech and showed off one of his favorite forks. Also Jim Ross showed up and introduced both Danny Hodge and Gordon Solie and did a great job of putting over both.
So was it worth the 55 bucks? Well the food wasn't worth 55 cents.
But the memories were priceless.
Dan Moreland is a columnist for Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Dan Moreland