Dick Lane was said to have met Klaus Landsberg in June 1942 and two months later, he
became the voice of W6XYZ (later KTLA-TV). A "few" months after that, Lane performed
television wrestling commentary for matches at a ring on a sound stage at Paramount.
This was said to have been the first wrestling telecast ever, and Lane was the initial person
to announce wrestling on TV. Lane was born in Price, Wisconsin, and served in World
War I. He appeared in 225 feature films, as of June 1966, reportedly.
Ring Talent, Inc. was a corporation "formed to supply wrestling shows to television
stations," according to Cal Eaton's explanation to the California State Assembly
subcommittee (Los Angeles Times, 10/20/55). It was established on March 1, 1950 by
Johnny Doyle and Cal Eaton and Mike Hirsch each both 1/3 of the company.
To the wrestling public enjoying seeing the sport on the television, things couldn't be
better. It was an optimal situation, and professional grappling seemed like it was specially
made for TV watching. However, to the wrestlers, things were far from being perfect. On
February 6, 1950, a boycott was issued by wrestlers to the act of performing before
television cameras, promoted by a decline in gate receipts. Instead of bartering for a slice
of the TV profits, the wrestlers wanted it banned altogether, and had wrestling booking
maestro Johnny Doyle on their side. The boycott, according to newspapers, affected
grappling at the Olympic Auditorium on KTLA, Hollywood Legion Stadium on KTSL, South
Gate Arena on KLAC, and Ocean Park Arena on KECA-TV. It was believed that a short
hiatus would remind the public how interesting and important going to the matches really
The boycott was leaving the promoters of the four said arenas in dire straights because
they had contracts with television stations to produce programs. Hugh Nichols reportedly
was considering bringing in a bunch of independent workers to continue with his
commitment with the Don Lee company after 10 wrestlers walked off his last Legion show,
on April 17, 1950. It was announced to about 500 wrestling fans in attendance at the
Legion Stadium that the show (to be broadcast on KTSL)was going to be cancelled, and
Leonard Jacobson, "chairman of the stadium committee," announced that "we've been
double-crossed," according to the Los Angeles Times (4/18/50).
Incidentally, the April 17th program was supposed to be the "return" of wrestling in
Hollywood on TV after the February boycott. Apparently things were not cleared up. The
week before, television was successfully restored in Ocean Park and in Long Beach, and
Hollywood (KTSL) was expected to resume in much the same manner. Gino Garibaldi was
said to be the spokesman for the wrestlers in the debate.
The Los Angeles Times (4/18/50) stated that wrestlers had "aligned themselves by
contract with the Music Corporation of America," which was their agent in all TV matters.
The MCA had arranged for the return of wrestling at Ocean Park and in Long Beach, but
hadn't completed a deal in Hollywood. The MCA deal guaranteed all wrestlers $50 an
appearance in Ocean Park and Long Beach "ina ddition to what he might draw as a
percentage of the gate."
Nichols, however, said all his workers - if the gate was under $1000 - divided only $48.50.
Then, in trying to keep the wrestlers (Baron Leone, Dave Levin, John Cretoria, Johnny
Swenski, Hal Keene, Maurice LaChappelle, Billy Varga, Chris Zaharias, and Danny Savich)
at the Legion Stadium for the April 17 show, management offered to pay them $50 each in
accordance with what they received under the MCA deal in the two other facilities. The
wrestlers still walked out.
According to a report, he'd already met his 40 week quota of producing live wrestling
television shows, and Nichols was thinking about remaining dark for the last six weeks of
A downfall of wrestling because of television was short-lived in Southern California. By the
summer, Ocean Park Arena had sold out 14-straight times, and each one of them had
television cameras running.
On Friday, February 24, 1950, television from the St. Nichols Arena in New York City was
beamed into Southern California on KTTV (channel 11). Buddy Rogers, Ken Ackles, and
Sandor Kovacs were scheduled for the show beginning at 9:00.
The Dallas Morning News, on June 9, 1950, reported that "national network wrestling" was
featured on WFAA-TV locally on Friday at 8:30 p.m. The program was called, simply,
"Wrestling from Hollywood." According to the article, the "Hollywood matches will come from
the Olympic Stadium there, with Paramount cameras taking in all the theatrical antics." Dick
Lane would be behind the microphone doing the announcing. There would be comedy
provided by Bob Stanford during intermission, also including the Marvin Williams Trio. If
you were wondering, this was the ABC Network.
In November 1950, Doyle claimed that 10 times more people watched wrestling than
baseball, and the audience was 750,000 per show for the Long Beach Auditorium
programs on TV and 700,000 for the Ocean Park telecast. The November 30, 1950
edition of the Los Angeles Times reported that both shows were "recorded and retelecast
over 26 stations in the United States to more than 10 million persons."
National wrestling exposure for Los Angeles talent expanded when Doyle and his partners
brokered a deal with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) to feature wrestling
kinescopes from New York to Texas beginning on Monday, April 2, 1951. "Hollywood
Wrestling" would be hosted by Bill Welsh and Roy Maypole, and was very successful
throughout the country. The show was produced by Jerry Fairbanks, and ABC guaranteed
the booking agency $7,500 a week.
The Dallas Morning News, on May 24, 1951, announced that a "new series" was being
imported from Hollywood's Legion Stadium - to be seen each Thursday - and featuring a
three match wrestling program. The series was produced by Jerry Fairbanks and Dan
Tobie was the announcer. The article stated that Tiny Roebuck "referees the series which
will be titled At Ringside with the Rasslers."
With one positive move came one negative, which seemed to be the way things went in
Southern California when it came to wrestling. The huge ABC deal was followed by
Hollywood attorney Jules Covey's claim that there was a monopoly in professional
wrestling, specifically when it pertains to wrestling on TV. Covey appeared before the
California Athletic Commission on April 13, 1951 and stated that booking agent Doyle was
not providing wrestlers to Pasadena promoter Morrie Cohen. Covey explained that he had
evidence that California laws had been broken, and the commission planned for a hearing
on May 15.
Only in Southern California did wrestlers receive a percentage of the money to be made
from sponsors for wrestling on TV. This was going to be a major bone of contention for
another major national wrestling television situation in Texas in 1952. The wrestlers in the
"Lone Star State" wanted the same kind of pay.
Walter Ames, the TV reporter for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a column on May 12, 1952
that stated that NWA World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz was going to be crowned
"as His Royal Majesty" tonight on KTTV (channel 11). Thesz was said to have "won a hotly
contested voting contest from 11 other nominees." There was going to be a parade down
the Hollywood streets to the KTTV studios beginning at 8:30, and the "coronation takes
place at approximately 10 p.m."
On January 7, 1953, wrestling from the Olympic Auditorium began and continued every
Wednesday night on KECA (channel 7) and across a network including Denver, Salt Lake
City, San Diego, and San Francisco. Bill Symes was the announcer. The "entire show
from 8:30 to conclusion" was broadcast, according to the January 6, 1953 edition of the
Los Angeles Times.
Where Doyle had hyped the positive attributes of wrestling on TV previously, by early
1953, he was saying, "in some ways, it's a monster." He admitted that smaller arenas were
being seriously affected by television, and noted, "It's a tough problem to solve."
With that being said, Doyle's Ring Talent, Inc. signed a contract extension with KTTV,
channel 11, on March 27, 1953 for 52 weeks. KTTV featured the Monday night Hollywood
Legion program beginning on April 7. Walter Ames of the Los Angeles Times (3/28/53)
wrote that he believed that "George Johnson, the health tablet tycoon, is putting a healthy
$300,000 on the line for the shows." Ames also noted that Jules Strongbow was being
weighed daily on KTTV at 6:40 and Spring Mitchell was the one "who officiates at the tafon
scales (no-fat spelled backward).
The man with all of the connections and the golden touch when it came to television,
Johnny Doyle surprised all by walked out of the Southern California combine in January
1954, selling off his interest. Doyle was said to have brighter things in his future,
particularly in New York City as a partner of Joe "Toots" Mondt. Doyle, for the most part,
has been written out of professional wrestling history, and forgotten despite all of his major
But just how important was Doyle in the booking of the Southern California wrestling
syndicate? According to the numbers revealed before the California State Assembly and
printed in the October 20, 1955 edition of the Los Angeles Times, Ring Talent, Inc.
grossed $339,238 in 1953 when it was composed of Doyle, Eaton and Hirsch, and a net
profit of $182,990. A year later, in 1954, with Doyle no longer the managing partner, Ring
Talent grossed only $174,900, and the corporation ended up with a loss of $3,087. In
1954, however, the "syndicate" was only working with a single television show. But that too
was probably because their TV maestro Doyle was gone.
Around May 1954, the national CBS-TV deal to present professional wrestling from
Southern California every Saturday worth around $6 million was cancelled despite a
six-year contract. There was a clause in the contract that said if the show didn't have a
sponsor to pay the $70,000 a week bill for production costs and network time by the 13th
week, the program could be cancelled by CBS. And that is precisely what happened.
The August 12, 1970 edition of the Los Angeles Times reported that "tonight" was the
"25th anniversary of the Wednesday wrestling shows on television." It reportedly started in
1945 on KTLA with Dick Lane behind the microphone. For the anniversary show, Lane
was going to be the master of ceremonies and show film of legends Gorgeous George,
Baron Michele Leone, and many others.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Los Angeles Wrestling Television History