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Provided by J Michael Kenyon through WRESTLING AS WE LIKED IT.


ESCONDIDO, Calif., Aug. 20, 1975 (AP) -- Jim Londos, once known as the "Golden Greek" when he ruled professional wrestling's major circuit in the United States, died last night of a heart attack at Palomar Memorial Hospital. The popular matman, a top figure in the sport for about 16 years, did not know his precise age, but it was believed to be about 80.

by Michael Strauss

NYT, August 21, 1975

The wrestler, born in Argos, Greece, was the 13th child and was name Chris Theophelus -- which Londos would explain meant "Friend of God." In his heyday, he was considered small for a wrestler -- 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds -- but his muscular thighs were the "levelers."

Londos was a world heavyweight champion for almost 16 years -- mostly in the post-Depression era, when world wrestling champions, it seemed, sprouted up in plentiful numbers.

The Greek athlete, whose mother wanted him to be a priest and whose father wanted him to be a soldier, ran away from home at the age of 13. He headed for America and served as a grocer-store errant boy, an electrician and the catcher in an acrobatic act before turning to wrestling.

Although he engaged in more than 2,500 matches, Londos lost only a handful between 1930 and 1946. In many cases, his foes outweighed him by 40 pounds.

"I wrestled everywhere," he once said. "In Paris, Rhodesia and Greece." Once in Athens, a crowd estimated at 100,000, attracted by the wide publicity he was receiving in the United States, watched him defeat a Russian champion.

Ed (Strangler) Lewis, one of America's best known professionals in the post-World War I years, beat Londos seven times. However, the Greek then conquered his much older rival in a famous match in Chicago and claimed the world heavyweight title. Londos, 35 pounds lighter than his opponent, subsequently defeated Lewis the next six times they grappled.

In keeping with the theme adopted by wrestling promoters of trying to give their performers distinct identities, Londos, during World War I, toured the Pacific Coast as "Chris Theophelus, the Wrestling Plasterer." He would crawl through the ropes in working clothes, his shoes daubed with property plaster. Then he would strip down to his tights.

Londos received that name from Roscoe Fawcett, once sports editor of The Oregonian, after a match in dense "London" fog in Portland.

After a dozen years of campaigning in cities along the Pacific, Londos came East. He was known for his gameness and eagerness. He owuld engage in as many as four or five matches a week. It was at this stage of his career, that he was referred to as the wrestler who would take on "anybody, any place, for a purse." He retired from wrestling in 1946 (sic).

Although wrestling had become suspect as a true sporting competition even when Londos was in his prime (New York State eventually ruled that the contests be referred to as "exhibitions" rather than "matches"), the Greek champion was extolled as the "last of the greats" at a testimonial dinner in 1970 near his home in San Diego.

Londos donated large sums of money to Greek war orphans in World War II. In 1970, President Nixon cited him for his benefit work, and King Paul bestowed on him the Golden Cross Order of Greece.

He is survived by his widow Arva, and three daughters.

by Red Smith

NYT, August 24, 1975

Jimmy Londos was the professional wrestling champion of this wide, bewildered world in the days of the Great Depression, Prohibition, Repeal and the New Deal. News of his death in California the other day brought back a vivid image of his thickly muscled figure and olive oil face with gently sorrowing brown eyes. Face and figure were as familiar to Americans 40 years ago as the Blue Eagle of the National Recovery Act.

Chances are the golden Greek was neither the strongest nor the most skillful wrestler of his time, but he was the richest, esteemed by his peers as the best "worker" in the craft. In their business, one did not wrestle an opponent or even rassle him. You worked with him, and an accomplished worker like Londos could subject a man to tortures so fiendish that ringsiders' blood turned cold, without a trace of discomfort for the victim.

It was probably while working with Londos that the late Herman Hickman, the Tennessee Cannonball who later coached football at Yale, suffered his most embarrassing moment in the ring. Herman was on his ample stomach, screaming and pounding the mat with a fist, while behind him his adversary applied inhuman pressure with a toehold. For reasons of his own, the referee broke the hold and conducted the opponent across the ring but Herman still lay shrieking in mortal anguish until the hysterial laughter of the crowd told him his ordeal had ended.

"There was nobody like Chris," Herman used to say. "He could rip your arm from its socket and you'd never know he had laid a hand on you."

Jimmy was baptized Christopher Theophelus and was known as Chris in the lodge or bund or syndicate that employed most of the top performers. They all had code names for purposes of communication within the brotherhood. Hickman, for example, was Cannonball.

On the morning of a Londos-Hickman championship in say, Memphis, a telegram would arrive from syndicate headquarters in New York: "Cannonball Moon Chris." Instructions always arrived by Western Union, to be confirmed by Postal Telegraph. But the message would go: "Ok Cannonball Moon Chris."

It was not true, as some insisted, that these matches followed a prepared script in which every move had been rehearsed. These men were artists who improvised as they went along, tuning the tempo of the match to the temper of the crowd but making sure the climax would find Cannonball on his back looking at the moon as instructed, with Chris triumphant.

They were a gifted fraternity, bound by a mutual affection for show business but differing widely in temperament and ethnic roots. There were a few All-American Boys like Hickman, Gus Sonnenberg of Dartmouth and Jim McMillen, the Illinois guard who had led interference for Red Grange. Most of the rest were Russian counts, English lords, terrible Turks and Swedish, French or Italian Angels, with here and there an Indian chief whose squaw would crouch at ringside thumping a war drum to rouse her buck to competitive frenzy. Cowboys were big in Tennessee and hillbillies in Omaha.

The promotional pattern seldom varied. If Londos was defending his championship on one of the biweekly shows presented by Tom Packs in St. Louis, a newcomer would appear in a preliminary match. The new boy might be Pat O'Shocker, a fair-skinned redhead who was an accomplished bleeder. Pat would get a nosebleed in the opening scuffle but would struggle on undaunted to wind up in triumph bathed from head to foot in his own gore.

After that sensational debut, Pat would be back to bleed on every card, moving up to oppose George Zaharias, one of the Dusek brothers, John Pesek, and finally Dick Shikat, which would qualify him for a title shot with Londos.

As he always did, Londos would teeter on the brink of defeat for 30 minutes or so, harried and punished by his gory pursuer, then suddenly, swiftly, turn the tables and pluck victory from the jaws of slapstick. "Londos is on the mat!" a St. Louis sportscaster screamed one night. "He is writing in pain, but quick as a cucumber he breaks the hold -- ."

In the very early 1930s, Jack Curley built up a match between Londos and Ray Steele to ballpark proportions. The principals even set up training camps in the mountains which the New York newspapers covered dutifully. One dispatch began: "'Perhaps it is some atavistic instinct in me,' Jimmy Londos said today. 'I am not a cruel man, yet, I love to hear an opponent's bones crack.'"

The match drew at least 40,000 to Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds -- memory slips here -- and it ended with Londos's discovery of the dreaded Unconscious Hold. After about 40 minutes on the edge of disaster he stooped over the fallen Steele, lifted Ray's left foot and clutched it to his bosom like a child cuddling her dolly. Medical science has never explained why, but on that occasion and many times later, this unduced temporary paralysis.

"They can say what they like about how Jimmy couldn't beat one side of Strangler Lewis," said Ray Fabiani, the Philadelphia promoter, "but he's a pretty good wrestler. I watch him working in the gym, that's how I can tell."

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