Suddenly, the front door crashed open and hit the wall with a bang and in walked Sputnik Monroe, doing the Beale Street Strut, followed by our young, DJ manager, Johnny Dark. The entire room erupted and stopped the dance cold, while Monroe greeted a stream of teenagers before bounding onstage. When the cheering subsided, Sputnik took the microphone and said, "I'll tell you people what I said at the Tennessee State Prison last week. I couldn't say, 'ladies and gentlemen,' because there were no ladies, and if they were in there, they sure weren't gentlemen, so I'll just say, 'Damn, it's good to be here." Then like Babe Ruth at bat, he pointed directly at the concession stand saying, "And I want to tell everybody," he paused for dramatic effect and jerked a thumb back over his shoulder in the band's direction, "These boys are Sputnik's boys, and if you mess with them, you're messing with Sputnik." Thanks to Johnny Dark, Sputnik took a rare Saturday night off to attend a teenage party and put the fear of God into some bullies. The following morning, the club owner called and apologised for the entire mess, telling me that he had fired his two associates and we were always welcome to play at Clearpool. I have been one of "Sputnik's Boys," ever since.
Like others of the Mouseketeer Generation who grew up in Memphis, I was addicted to live, Saturday morning, television wrestling, and especially fascinated by the blood feud between good-guy Billy Wicks and the evil Sputnik. After one particularly violent encounter, Sputnik swore revenge at the Monday night matches at the downtown Ellis Auditorium. I had never been to the live matches before and I begged my father to take me. He said, "Call your grandfather. He loves wrestling," and my eyes widened. I couldn't believe my immigrant grandfather, with his continental manners and ever-present jacket and tie could be a closet wrestling fan. We drove downtown in a taxi and got ringside seats to view the mayhem. I watched fascinated as toothless men screamed epithets at Tojo Yamamoto and howled at the shoulder length hair of Mario Galento, but the main attraction was Wicks and Monroe. When Sputnik entered, the arena burst into open hostility with boos and calls of "Commie," and "Skunky," referring to the white streak in Sputnik's hair. Wicks arrived like the Golden Boy. It was a two-out-of-three fall marathon match which Sputnik won by cheating. He hit Wicks with a foreign object and held his trunks while applying the pin, but the referee raised his arm in victory anyway. I was aghast that he could get away with it, and it was left to my grandfather to explain to me that sometimes the good guys have to lose for the sake of the gate.