Courier-Post from Camden, New Jersey on April 19, 1976 · Page 17
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Courier-Post from Camden, New Jersey · Page 17

Camden, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Monday, April 19, 1976
Page 17
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eonffio "I COURIER-POST MONDAY, APRIL 19, 197S i 17 Nature Boy: still in , -T faape jCY Fix. FT rI f ! TT iTi iffm-nTmliiil Tin " ' 1 1 mm apprentice in the New York shipyard and as a Camden policeman, before going into wrestling full time in 1943. "Then I lived out of a suitcase for 20 years," Rogers recalled. The Nature Boy invested his winnings wisely, and when he retired he came home to Camden County and became involved in various businesses a night club in Lindenwold, restaurants, mobile home sales. In 1968, he married Debbie Hayes, an entertainer who had performed at his club. Now Rogers, his wife, and his son David live on Coles Mill Road in Haddonfield, in a 128-foot by 40-foot house built on the foundation of the first home of the town's original settler, Elizabeth Haddon. Not that Elizabeth Haddon would recognize the place. Rogers always is remodeling, and he especially likes to show off the landscaping of the three acres which surround flower. "Hey, you like rhododendrons? Look at these biggies." "I PLANTED all this myself. I love working with the soil," Rogers said, gesturing across the lawn and gardens. He crouched by a bush and -wrapped his huge hands about a. flower. "Hey, you Rogers add four . like rhododendrons? Look at these biggies." Buddy Rogers doesn't go to wrestling matches anymore and only occasionally watches them on television. Although he prefers not to talk about it, the Nature Boy, like a lot of -wrestlingfans.isdisdainfulof today's 1 version of the sport he made his, career. He said he feels the "showmanship" now dominates the ring ByROGERCOHN . Courier-Post Stall BUDDY ROGERS, wearing only blue bikini trunks on his tanned 55-year-old body, strutted into the gym. As he lifted two 50-pound dumbbells and flexed his 18-inch biceps, a photographer started clicking a camera. ' ' Hey, are you somebody famous? " asked a woman sitting at a nearby exercise machine. "Yeah, I'm a jockey," Rogers replied, winking at a friend. "I ride elephants." ' IN HIS 25 YEARS in the circus-like world of pro wrestling, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers never did ride any elephants. But before retiring in 1963, he twice won the world's heavyweight championship and grossed $4.5 million in earnings. Now Rogers, who grew up on the Camden waterfront as a kid named Herman Rohde, lives in a $200,000 home in Haddonfield and spends a lot of time gardening and talking with his stockbrokers. Old-time fans remember Buddy Rogers as an Adonis with a head of striking blond hair and a fantastic physique that would be streaked with sweat whenever he trapped an adversary in his most terrifying hold the figure-four grapevine. In the world of pro wrestling, where fighters are dubbed as good guys and bad guys, the Nature Boy was a bad guy. He infuriated fans with his cocky strut - and with the way he'd mock opponents after outsmarting them. "Muhammad Ali would not be where he is today if he hadn't stolen a page out of wrestling," said Rogers, who was telling announcers he was the greatest long before Ali ever put on boxing gloves. "Any fighter that's great has to ha ve some showmanship. If not, he's dead." HIS BLOND HAIR is now streaked with gray and he's lost some bulk since his wrestling days, but Buddy Rogers is still in superb condition. "My body's the only thing I really own," he says. "Everything else is " just loaned to me." Not that his body escaped unscathed from a quarter-century of wrestling. Rogers figures his ring career cost him about eight broken bones and wounds requiring hundreds Courier-Post Photos by Rick Selvin DON'T LET his 55 years pound dumbbells and flex his 18-inch biceps. Here he imwinds in a Cherry Hill health spa. m inMr fftrwtnV nrfff i i i ? ihu.'iyi i mfmiiininl m iiiwiCiMBHWBBWMwwwwiMwMM YOU'LL HAVE to look closely for telltale strands of gray in Nature Boy's hair . of stitches. That doesn't include the damage inflicted by irate fans, like the guy in Buffalo, N.Y.. in 1962 who jumped out of the stands and stabbed Rogers in the forearm. The judge let the fan off with a $25 fine, saying Rogers was partly to blame for inciting a riot with his antics in the ring. But Rogers feels those antics are basic to the popularity of wrestling, even back in what he calls the heyday of wrestling the late 1940s and 1950s. If the Nature Boy hadn't strutted about the ring and baited opponents and fans with his bravura, would 41 ,000 people have turned out at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1960 to see him battle Pat O'Connor for the championship? "The showmanship didn't detract from the wrestling ii V 1 -f 'V - I ;;i fool you: he can still lift 50- itself," said Rogers. "It just added to the color of the business." AND FOR BUDDY Rogers, wrestling was always just that a business. Except for a few plaques and photos on the walls of his home, he's kept little memorabilia from his wrestling days. "I never saved any scrapbooks or anything like that," he said, laughing. "The only thing I saved was money." The money was something young , Herman Rohde never even dreamed of when he first started wrestling at the Camden YMCA in the early 1930s. He was raised by German immigrant parents in a wooden two-story house on Arlington Street, in a neighborhood he now remembers as the "the ghetto's ghetto." He worked as an i years in wrestling made him a 4 YWihlW4i V I : ST- &&&& action ana wrestling itselt has . become almost extinct. "From what I see on TV, wrestling is a lost art. Today it's a low form of mayhem," Rogers said. "I can't knock a business that was once great to me and that I was great to. But I have to relate to a wrestler as a performer. If his performance leaves -any doubt in the public's mind as to what he's doing, then he's a lousy performer." . YET BACK IN THE 1950s, many observers wondered if the matches were nggea or it tne penormers were battling each other or just faking it. Rogers conceded that, even in the heyday of wrestling, not all the matches "were strictly kosher, if you know what I mean." He admitted that he himself dropped a few matches early in his career because he needed the payoffs offered by promoters. But once he became a headliner, Rogers insisted, he fought every match to win, although it didn't always seem as though his opponents were giving their best. Rogers lost his jeweled world cnampionsnip oen wnen ne was beaten by Bruno Sammartino in New . York's Madison Square Garden in 1963. Today other jewels an 11.5-carat diamond ring and a 4.5-. ounce gold ring adorn his chunky fingers. On most other men, these rings would look like bracelets. The Nature Boy is proud of how he's nrpsprvpH hk rnrlv anH liL-oc tr, toll friends how the fans still recognize nun. bui uniiKe me loua-moutn image he created as a wrestler, he's a soft-spoken man content now to live quietly with his family, out of the public eye. "REMEMBER that cockiness in the ring was part of the fanfare," he points out. "That wasn't me. What you see now, that was me. That was always me." A - i i i . -.PPT? Jd. Y 71 J, r cheers f or ENVIOUS, OVERWEIGHT MALES may have a difficult time looking at this photograph. It tells why Buddy Rogers still deserves the title of "Nature Boy." HIS SUMPTUOUS HOME in Haddonfield is proof enough that his 25 wealthy man. He and his wife are relaxing in their master bedroom. Three the hair apparent to the shaggy lo ok By PETE FEMLEY Courier-Post Staff SHORT NEWS ITEMS are getting into the papers about this expert and that expert claiming that short hair for men is coming back. Coming back? It never left. Not as far as I'm con-cerned. The experts are saying that the crew haircut and the brush and the butch are slowly appearing on the best heads in the finest places. All I can say it that it's about time those experts got with what a lot of us small time experts have been claiming all along, that the hirsute look is a bad and that the sanest, sexiest and coolest look is the clipped hair look. Long hair for men is just not natural. Not unless you have a lot of hair to begin with and then if you let it grow longer, you're just showing off. And nobody likes a showoff. Of course there is the age factor. If a guy is, let's say, in his 20s or younger, then it's all right to have long hair. Not too long, just a little, But if the guy is over 30 and certainly if he is 50 or older, then it is just plain obscene to have long hair. Nature never meant guys to have a good hairline after their waistline wasted. ; Yul Brynner is a man ahead of his time. He is a great man. He is a magnificient man. He is a skinhead who is not afraid to be a skinhead. All the other skinheads like Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby and Howard Cosell are cowards. So are all the skinheads who appear on televi-son for those hairpiece ads. Skinheads are brainy people. It's been said that the more one uses the brain, the bigger the brain grows and when that happens, the hair gets pushed out at the roots. I never did believe that until it started happening to me. Some of my best friends are barbers and it's great to hear that men will again be patronizing this almost-lost profession. A lot of our brothers defected to the hair stylists where they got shampooed and manicured and curled and perfumed. But soon, indications show, plain old-fashioned barber ing will be back in vogue. Parts will re-appear as well as ears and necks and the great faceless society that began in the 60s will phase out and individuality will be in again. For those of us who have fought the brave fight, tried to hold the forehead line, faced the hairy onslought, let us relax and enjoy the fruits of victory. Hatless, let us walk in the sun again, oblivious to the glare bouncing off our domes. Let us forgive our hairy fellow-men for the insults they rained upon us as they bushed up their hair, flaunted healthy roots and otherwise rubbed into our sensitive scalps the hideous fact that some guys got it and some don't. Mark Spitz probably did more to wound the psyche of more men than any other living male. He was not satisfied to have a remarkable head of hair; he cultivated a beautiful crop on his lip as well. And every other guy in his 20s copied him Did' they ever think of their poor Dads? Did they ever stop to think, just once, about that poor man who helped raise them, how he felt about all that hair when he had to look every morning in a mirror that bounced back the awful truth? And won't it be swell not to have to listen to all that dry look versus wet look stuff on radio and television again? And won't it be nifty, not to be ashamed to take out a small comb from the back pocket to comb a thin head of hair again? There is nothing more devestating than to watch some smart aleck whip out a rake in public and strain and wince as he pulls it through tangled growth. Some of them really rub it in when they held up the rake for all to see and pull more hair out of it than some of us have in our scalp. That is always the unkindest cut. So three cheers for the short hair look. Let the look come back in all it's naked glory! But if anyone ever does invent a formula to grow hair on a man's head, just get out of my way. One must always be willing to change. Right? i

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