I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Last Dance In Redondo Beach is the funniest mystery ever written about professional wrestling. Given that Donald Westlake never tackled the subject and Carl Hiaasen hasn’t yet, I’d say that’s a good bet; twenty years later I’ve still got the sub-genre to myself.
I come by my pro wrestling bones honestly. I saw my first match sometime around 1970 in St. Joe, Missouri with my friend The Flash. The memories are a little foggy, but I do recall The Viking pulling a rubber chicken out of his sweatshirt, to exactly what effect I can’t recall. The referee, a pudgy, balding man named Mooney, disposed of the chicken, while suffering the taunts from one fan whose identity shall remain nameless, though I do recall this bit of repartee:
FAN: Hey, Mooney, how can you sleep in all this noise?
MOONEY: What do you care, idiot?
For a long time I believed there was only one wrestling referee, much in the way that Calvin Trillin has suggested there is only one fruitcake (it just gets passed around). He seemed to pop up everywhere: in Milwaukee, where I saw the Crusher and midget tag teams (the sight of a pair of midgets crabwalking across the ring left me forever afraid of scorpions); in Duluth, where we saw Baron Von Raschke and Vern Gagne and the great manager, Bobby the Brain Heenan; here in LA, at the old Olympic Auditorium, where I believe I saw Freddie Blassie, though I could just be reliving old Andy Kaufman sketches.
Later, when I was living in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, my apartment complex was a kind of home base for the American Wrestling Association, in the way that certain apartment buildings in hub cities are home to airline crews. I remember hanging around the Jacuzzi listening to Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissy (from Baghdad) and others tell stories like the one about Moose Cholak suffering from air fright and trying to bail out in mid-flight.
By the late eighties, pro wrestling had caught on in a way that nobody imagined back then, thanks to cable television and the shrewd proprietorship of Vince McMahon. It was attracting rock stars like Cyndi Lauper, SNL and Andy Kaufman. Sensing an opportunity to actually be in on a trend for the first time in my life, I sent my hero, sportscaster Andy Sussman, to Redondo Beach to cover the Celebrity Superteams competition, where a masked wrestler named Dr. Double X meets his demise.
Last Dance In Redondo Beach, the sequel to Murder Off The Glass, drops Andy and his buddy, detective Murray Glick, into the murky world of pro wrasslin’. It introduces some wonderful characters, including a Shakespearean actor named Lennie Weintraub who reinvents himself as The Renaissance Man and does the death scene from Hamlet in the ring.
The book came out to great reviews and I’m happy to have it available again as an E-book. If you act quickly, you can take advantage of the opening five-day free promotion After that, it reverts to almost-free at $2.99. Not only that, but the cool new covers designed by Matthew Keeshin will have people gazing over your shoulder as you turn on your Kindle at your favorite coffee shop, beach or intersection.
Chic. Tres Chic.