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Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
The sounding of the bell indicates that the meeting is about to come
to order. To the casual observer, the scene might not look out of the
ordinary. Given that the average age is around 60, perhaps it’s a
meeting of the local Elks Club or maybe the Moose Lodge. But a closer
look reveals that there’s more to the story.
First, there’s the abundance of pinstriped suits, black homburg hats
— even a pair of spats or two. And will you look at those faces
— the squashed noses, scar tissue, eyes slightly off kilter, ears bent
and twisted out of shape. Everybody here looks like a character from a
Damon Runyon story. It’s clear that this is no ordinary bunch.
What’s going on is a meeting of The Cauliflower Alley Club — a group
of old-time boxers and wrestlers, who, since the late ’60s, have been
meeting weekly at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Hollywood, a time-honored
The Alley roster boasts many of pugilism’s greats (both boxers and
wrestlers) — people like Henry Armstrong, Jack Sharkey, Mushy Callahan,
Jack Dempsey, Archie Moore, Freddie Blassie, Kid Chocolate, Gene Fullmer
… to name just a few. As their careers faded into the sunset, most of
these guys found work as heavies and B-movie extras. They became the
killers, the thugs, the lunks and muscleheads with hearts of gold. These
are the faces lurking in the shadows in a million forgettable films.
But God, what faces! During their careers they’ve pounded, pulled and
punched each other to death, and in the process they’ve created some of
the cinema’s most unforgettable images. Images which are part of our
Some of these faces include people like Mike Mazurki, who’s appeared
in films like “Some Like It Hot,” “Donovan’s Reef,” “Dick Tracy” and
“Farewell My Lovely,” where The Big M got to rasp the classic line,
“Where’s my Velma?”
Then there’s Vince Barbi, a veteran baddie in umpteen cop ‘n’ robber
films. In fact, Barbi doesn’t really consider many of these roles to be
acting. Why? Well, you see — in “real” life Vinnie was a close personal
friend to one Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano.
“He was the boss of all bosses,” Barbi rasps, with more than a hint
of pride. Barbi claims to have bumped off 665 and a half people during
his film career. “The half was a midget. I been lookin’ for another one
to make it an even number. If you find one, lemme know, willya? I’ll
make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
And there are more. Old-time fighters like Gorilla Jones (who was Mae
West’s bodyguard and lover); Gentleman Jimmy McLarnin, the world’s first
“scientific boxer”; Lou Nova, who invented the famous “Yogi Nova” punch;
Count Billy Varga, one of wrestling’s most famous baddies, plus a host
of others who were all famous something or others.
Everybody at the Alley is famous, you see.
Kid Chissell ran dance marathons during the Depression. Jimmy was one
of “the famous” Gibbons boys. Doc Levin invented the first mouthpiece.
Johnny shot his best buddy in the head because he wouldn’t complete a
mission. Gertie ran a home for wayward boxers in the ’30s. Another guy
was the voice of the Three Little Pigs. His pal, Gus, glued the hair on
the original King Kong. There’s even a guy who (God knows why) quotes
the Bible backwards. Not to mention one hell of a lot of war heroes.
The best part is, they’ve all got stories to tell. Soon you stop
trying to figure out if they’re stretching the truth or not. Theirs is
the story of Hollywood before the magic vanished. It’s the collective
story of an era when a Friday night at the fights would find Gable,
Bacall, Chaplin, Bogart and Valentino sitting ringside at L.A.’s famed
Legion Stadium (today the place is a bowling alley).
The boys (all the guys at the Alley are referred to as “boys”) are a
proud bunch — aware, but not disdainful of the fact that by and large,
they’ve been forgotten by society. For them, the weekly meetings, the
recounting of old tales, the handing out of trophies — the ritual —
are of prime importance.
“You never know which one of us ain’t gonna make it back to the next
meeting,” one member says soberly. “We’ve carried more guys to the grave
than I care to remember.”
And then without further adieu they all rise, and in their parched,
off-key voices they chant — as they have each and every week since they
formed the club — “The Cauliflower Alley Club song”:
Bless Us All, bless us all
The heavy, the light, and the small
Bless our flat noses and cauliflower ears
For we are the ones whom they stood up and cheered
Now we’re saying so long to us all
The heavy, the light and the small
May God keep us busy
We’ll see you next Wednesday
Stay cheered guys and dolls
Bless us all.
Goldman Hooh Hah:
The Tongue Has Arrived: Yeah, yeah, yeah — we finally did it. After all
the months of ballyhoo, The Tongue is
finally up and running (well, sort of). The site is in a state of
disrepair; many of the links are busted or go nowhere, and a lot of the
cooler features — the deprogramming site (members only) aren’t ready
yet. But the deal is, I just plain got sick and tired of you guys
grousing and griping. So now you can get off my friggin’ back already,
OK? Get your fat little tuchuses on over to The
Tongue, check it out, and let us know what
you think. Also, be sure and check out this week’s big special discount
on the entire Super Snooper’s
And if you’ve already got those books, we’ve got plenty more on our storefront.