Handsome Harley

harley race

I only met Handsome Harley Race once, about a dozen years ago. He was in his 60s and running a wrestling school, and had just authored a book about his life.  I read about an event at a bookstor, so after work, I went to a small book signing where I was able to have a short conversation and get a photo.

The Kansas City Star reported the passing of Harley Race.  I remembered this photo from our meeting. The man still looked like he could drop an opponent. I’m glad it wasn’t me.

Harley Race was a showman and a classy guy.  Wrestling was his life, but he enjoyed being around people. Handsome Harley was a star before the big time cable television professional wrestling game. If you grew up in the Kansas City area in the late 1960s or 1970s, you knew who Harley Race was. He was part of a group of wrestlers, with colorful names and personalities, that appeared at Municipal Auditorium and around the country to put on their show.  These guys even performed in televised matches at the local television studio with a few loyal wresting fans present.  This was not big time wrestling.

Harley Race, Bulldog Bob Brown, Bobo Brazil, The Shiek, Bob Geigel, Rufus R.Jones, Haystack Calhoun, The Stomper, Ernie Ladd and many others either lived in, or passed through, the area and you might see them at the filling station or grocery store. The ring announcer was Bill Kersten, who always seemed to be on the verge of being picked by a wrestler. Kersten went on to be mayor of Liberty, MO. They were normal folks, although bigger than most, but when they got into the ring, a different personality was took over.

kerstenbill
Bill Kersten

It has been 40 years since I followed wrestling.  The new showbiz wrestling on cable TV never interested me.  I hated the hype.

Handsome Harley Race will be missed by many fans.  For me, it was part of my youth.  Thanks to Harley, Bulldog, Bobo, Shiek, Bob, Rufus, Haystack, Stomper, Ernie and of course, Andre the Giant.  It was make-believe but it was fun.


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