One of the lesser talked about sports promoters from the New Jersey territory was C.
Turc Duncan, who operated at the Wildwood Convention Hall, the Armory in Paterson,
and at Columbia Park in North Bergen. His Wildwood promotion lasted from at least
1942 to 1954, but in a 1954 letter to Sam Muchnick, he indicated that he'd been
promoting there for 25 years. Duncan's road to wrestling promoter is an interesting
story because he began as a vaudeville performer, known as the "Cyclone of Mirth,"
staging performances as early as 1925. For a long time, he was affiliated with the "A
Melange of Mirth and Melody" at theatres throughout the northeast from Massachusetts
to New Jersey.
Having grown up in Philadelphia and was a boyhood friend of light heavyweight boxing
sensation Tommy Loughran, Duncan became his fight trainer around 1934, and edged
his way into promotions after that. In 1943, during the war, Turc served in the Coast
Guard, and his wife Louise kept the promotion in operation at Hunt's Sports Arena in
Looking at the genealogical records, it is difficult to determine Duncan's proper heritage
became he never used his real first name. "C" may stand for Charles, and there was a
Charles Duncan in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census who was living in the 26th Ward of
Philadelphia, near the home of Thomas Loughran. This Charles Duncan was born
around 1898 and lived on Cantrell Street. What leads me to believe that he may, in
fact, be Turc Duncan is that he worked in a theater in 1920. It may just be a
coincidence. If anyone knows for sure, drop me a message. A Charles Duncan, born in
1898, died in Wildwood, NJ in September 1977.
Longtime wrestler Billy Darnell (William L. Darnell) was from Camden and was listed in
the 1930 U.S. Federal Census as living with his parents, Lester and Marion Darnell. He
had an older brother named Robert and his father worked as a fireman on the railroad.
Billy was four years old at the time.
A controversial Newark match on June 12, 1936 saw Ali Baba lose his claim to the World
Heavyweight championship at Meadowbrook Field. Baba was originally scheduled to
wrestle Hans Schnabel, but at the last minute, Schnabel was pulled and Dave Levin was
inserted in his place. Around the 21-minute mark of the seemingly ordinary match,
Baba landed a dropkick. Levin flopped to the mat and it was claimed that Baba had
kicked him in the groin. The referee Frank Sinborn and state commission doctor dr.
Wolf Emmer acknowledged the foul and disqualified the champion. Levin was the new
world heavyweight champion, while Baba was left telling the world how he'd been robbed.
The Newark Evening News (6/13/1936) included a quote from Baba: "You bet I'll kick
about the decision. And if I ever get that Levin in a ring again, I'll murder him and finish
him in a minute."
Willie Ratner discussed the entire situation in his column in the Newark Evening News a
few days later (6/16/1936), and wrote: "These quick changes in the leadership of the
wrestling game only prove to what depths the sport has sunk. Time was when a
wrestling champion was good for five or six years." He noted that wrestling had
"deteriorated," and that most grapplers' ability was "limited to kicking, performing various
rope tricks and the flying tackle."
Ratner mentioned that Baba was claiming to be robbed, saying that Baba "probably
doesn't know a Japanese arm lock from a lamb chop. All he has is a walrus mustache
and an egg-shapped head, yet he thinks he's a champion." He noted that Shikat was
washed up when Baba beat him.
Ratner wrote: "Ali Baba was champion in New York and Pennsylvania, but since New
Jersey doesn't sanction title matches it will be interesting to learn if the athletic
authorities in those two states take Levin's decision over Baba seriously. Incidentally,
O'Mahoney still rules king of the roost in the New England states. But Rudy Dusek, who
defeated O'Mahoney on a decision in Philadelphia, now claims the title. Out in
California, Vincent Lopez is considered the real champion, and he's wined and dined
like one. One would think that all these champions and claimants would confuse the
wrestling fan and drive him to drink. Instead the wrestling bugs seem to thrive on it."
Finally, Ratner reported that wrestler George Koverly had been suspended by the New
Jersey State Athletic Commission for failing to follow a referee's instructions. He wanted
Koverly banned forever because he was the "most repulsive character the sport game
in these parts ever has known." Koverly "knows nothing of wrestling," but was great at
his "vicious and unnecessarily rough tactics."
On December 29, 1936 in Belmar, NJ, sports promoter Frank Mihlon Sr. passed away at
the age of 60. He was part owner of the Newark Velodrome.
Myer Saul promoted Atlantic City between at least 1935 and 1941 at the Convention
Following the reign of Saul, Al Soifer assumed the promotion in Atlantic City at the
Convention Hall, and promoted wrestling and boxing from at least 1947 through 1969.
In 1967, he was staging wrestling shows with WWWF talent in a partnership with veteran
Philadelphia promoter Ray Fabiani. Soifer's nickname was "Boomie."
Herschel "Heck" Schwartz was a press agent for Willie Gilzenberg in Newark, Jersey City
In 1949, Abe J. Greene of the New Jersey Athletic Commission was quoted as saying
that: "Television has quickened the public interest in wrestling, and has stimulated the
interest of more lady fans."
Wrestler Jack Vansky was originally from Kearney, New Jersey and was billed as a
Lithuanian from Columbus, Ohio. Vansky was known as the "Neck" because he had a
20" neck. He weighed 230 pounds. He started wrestling at 16 years of age at the
American-Lithuanian Athletic Club and was a notable amateur grappler.
Jersey City saw the promotion of a widely talked about boxer versus wrestler match-up
on Thursday, September 11, 1952 at Roosevelt Stadium. The show, under the
auspices of the Bernarr MacFadden Foundation, featured World Junior Heavyweight
wrestling champion "Atomic" Marvin Mercer against Cuban Champion boxer Omelio
The gate for a Gagne-Schmidt wrestling show at the Newark Armory in late 1953 was
$7,700, reportedly seven times as much as any boxing program in Newark in about a
year. Hy Goldberg of the Newark Evening News on January 17, 1954 stated that
popularity in wrestling comes in cycles, and that it was big 20 years before. "But there
was no TV in those days," Goldberg stated. He also mentioned that James Barnett was
responsible for wrestling's rise.
There were several references in the Department of Justice files to a situation in
Paterson around 1953 regarding the NWA helping "Toots" Mondt against the Olympia
Booking Office. The Olympia Booking Office reportedly signed Mildred Burke to a
match in an opposition show to Mondt, and Mondt complained to Sam Muchnick.
Muchnick then called Leroy McGuirk, who was helping Burke with bookings at that point.
The pressure got Burke to back out of the Paterson appearance. Later on, in a July 3,
1955 letter to Stanley Disney, Muchnick claimed that he only told Mondt to get in touch
with McGuirk, and had nothing more to do with it.
The Paterson promoter was Jesse "Doc" Gehman, who was a veteran New Jersey
referee. According to DOJ documents, June Byers wrote a letter to all NWA members,
dated August 31, 1953, and lambasted Burke for taking on a booking from Gehman,
who she'd denied working for in the past because he was "an outlaw to the Wrestling
On Friday, January 1, 1954 at Laurel Garden in Newark, promoter Willie Gilzenberg
received an accidental dropkick from Antonino Rocca. Gilzenberg explained: "This
morning, my daughter Holly wanted to play horse with me. I told her I couldn't because
I'd been dropkicked. Now even she knows wrestling is on the level."
Following the lead of the New York Athletic Commission, the New Jersey Athletic
Commission invoked tighter control over professional wrestling. On June 4, 1954, New
Jersey State Athletic Commissioner Joseph F. Walker announced that wrestling had
"deteriorated to the point of absurdity" and wanted a stop to the "outright burlesque
long associated with wrestling exhibitions." Women's wrestling was banned altogether in
the state and "dirty" wrestlers were also outlawed. Steep punishment would be dished
out for those who broke the new regulations.
Duncan in Wildwood wrote a letter to Muchnick on July 26, 1954 and his words were
eerily similar to other promoters around the country. He wrote: "I always through that
the Alliance was to protect every one in the wrestling business but after reading the
note from Pinky George, I am convinced that it is only for the bookers." Duncan
admitted that he wasn't the type to complain, but he wanted to know why the level of
wrestlers was so bad in his territory. He asked why "Toots" Mondt, his booking agent,
"can't get me any of the men [Jim] Barnett has, because he won't give them to me."
Duncan wanted to know why he should stay with Mondt. This was the first time in 25
years he'd seen the state of wrestling this bad. If Barnett and Mondt won't give him top
names, Duncan wanted to shift to the booking agency of Al Haft. He also indicated that
he'd come to St. Louis for the 1954 annual convention there to discuss matters, but
wanted to not lose money this season, and needed assistance quickly.
Muchnick responded by saying there was nothing he could do "in the way of telling one
office, or another office, to supply you talent." He recommended that Duncan write to
the NWA Grievance Committee, and that if Haft wanted "to supply you talent, it is strictly
up to him. No one is telling him not to do so."
In his 1955 interview with the Department of Justice, Benny Ginsberg said that Eddie
Quinn and Buddy Rogers "bought Camden from some persons unknown." The "NWA
assigned the town to Quinn and Rogers." Reportedly, Mondt tried to cut in on the town,
but "Ginsberg believes that he was forced either to stay out or to buy out Quinn,"
according to the DOJ interview summary.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|New Jersey Wrestling Territory