posted on Jun, 5 2003 @ 04:02 PM
OBIT/Freddie Blassie Obituary from World Wrestling Entertainment
Wednesday June 4, 8:25 pm ET
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 4, 2003--When "Classy" Freddie Blassie was a teenager, wrestling in Midwestern carnivals in the 1930s, a friend
invited him into a neighboring tent to look at the "geek."
Blassie took the man up on his offer, and soon was standing in front of a bony performer who was biting the heads off chickens and snakes, and
sticking pins in himself.
Blassie was confused by the exhibition, but riveted by the entertainer's appearance. "He's got a neck like a stack of dimes," Blassie grumbled to his
friend. "He's what you'd call a real pencil neck geek."
Every wrestler needs a gimmick, and now Blassie had a catchphrase. For the rest of his career - working largely as one of professional wrestling's
most charismatic villains - Blassie antagonized audiences by calling his more popular rivals "pencil neck geeks."
But on Monday night - exactly three weeks after he was involved in a storyline on the World Wrestling Entertainment "WWE Raw" program on TNN - Freddie
Blassie's time in the spotlight came to an end, when the 85-year-old ruffian died at Westchester County Hospital in suburban New York of kidney and
With the exception of two sabbaticals - while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and convalescing after kidney surgery - Blassie was
continuously employed in the wrestling business since 1935, establishing himself as the most enduring character in sports-entertainment.
His death severs one of professional wrestling's final links between its carnival roots and the glitzy world of pay-per-view.
Known as the "Hollywood Fashion Plate," Blassie was arguably wrestling's most hated villain ever. With his bleached blond hair, gravelly voice and
ability to butcher adversaries with stinging, on-air harangues, the self-proclaimed "King of Men" often drove the fans to violence.
He lost the vision in his right eye when he was hit with a hard-boiled egg, fans soaked him with acid, and he suffered 21 stabbings. Once, after a
judge fined an attacker $115, the defendant replied, "If I'd known it was gonna be that cheap, I would have cut him again."
During Blassie's matches, one of his favorite gimmicks was biting his opponent, sucking in the man's blood, and spitting it into the air. On
interviews, he'd arouse audiences by filing his teeth.
He always claimed that, when Japanese fans watched him carve up their beloved hero, Rikidozan, during a series of matches in the early 1960s, a number
of elderly television viewers died from heart attacks.
"Over my entire career, 92 people died because of 'Classy' Freddie Blassie," he boasted. "But that was a disappointment. My goal was to get 100."
Blassie was born February 8, 1918, to German-speaking immigrants from Austro-Hungary in rough and tumble south St. Louis. Despite family pressure to
join a cousin in the meat-cutting business, Blassie made his wrestling debut at age 17 at a community center, believing that the matches were pure
athletic contests, and losing against more talented grapplers, until older performers informed him about the show business aspect of the profession.
After his release from the Navy, he wrestled as "Sailor" Fred Blassie and Fred McDaniels - as part of a "brother" tag team with Billy McDaniels --
before winning the Southern heavyweight championship in 1954. Basing himself in Atlanta, Blassie held the title 14 times, and turned himself villain,
bleaching his hair, and calling his southern detractors "pencil neck grit eaters."
By the early 1960s, Blassie's biting had earned him the nickname, "Vampire." Renting an apartment in Santa Monica, Blassie became a mythic figure in
Los Angeles, defending the now-defunct World Wrestling Association (WWA) championship against Dick the Bruiser, the masked Destroyer, Antonino Rocca
and Gorgeous George, among others.
Although he was supposed to be a villain, fans who worked in the entertainment industry were amused by Blassie's antics, and he began to develop a
cult following. He became one of Regis Philbin's favorite guests, appeared on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and recorded a novelty record, "Pencil Neck
Geek," and album, "I Bite The Songs." In 1982, he and Andy Kaufman filmed "My Breakfast With Blassie" - a parody of the art house movie, "My Dinner
Eventually, the largely Mexican audience in Los Angeles grew to adore Freddie Blassie, calling him "El Rubio de Oro," or "The Golden Blond." In 1971,
he drew a record-breaking crowd to the Los Angeles Coliseum for a grudge match with "The Golden Greek" John Tolos.
In the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) - the northeastern promotion that preceded World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) - he wrestled against
such stars as Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow, Bobo Brazil and Pedro Morales.
After retiring in 1973, he continued working for the company as a sequin-clad, cane-wielding manager, interfering in matches on behalf of proteges
like Hulk Hogan, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, George "The Animal" Steele and the Iron Sheik.
In 1976, he was Muhammad Ali's "special advisor" in a controversial boxer vs. wrestler match against future Japanese Senator Antonio Inoki in Tokyo.
After traveling became too difficult for his bruised and aging body, Blassie remained a lifelong WWE employee, working in the front office and making
personal appearances. Company head Vince McMahon regularly expressed his affection for Blassie, pointing out that the retired gladiator had worked for
father Vince McMahon, Sr., and grandfather, Jess McMahon.
In May, Blassie's autobiography, "Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks," written with Keith Elliot Greenberg, was published by Simon and Schuster. To promote
the book, Blassie appeared on an edition of "WWE Raw," where he was menaced by bad guys Eric Bischoff and 3-Minute Warning, before being rescued by
heroes Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Bubba and Devon Dudley.
When fans last saw him, he was shouting, "Devon, get the tables!" as the Dudleyz slammed their foes through a slab of wood.
Blassie is survived by his wife, Miyako, and children, Ron, Gary and Cheryl. Funeral services will be held Friday at 12 p.m. at Hitchcock Presbyterian
Church in Scarsdale, NY.