Pile Driver

Down for the count with Lord “Tally Ho” Blears.

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The Blears family lived in a big apartment just off the Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki. I was the same age as Jimmy, the oldest of the four kids. Laura  was three years behind me, then there was Car- ol, then Clinton. All of us spent a lot of time  in the water together at Ala Moana. The whole family surfed except their mom, Lee. Their dad went by Lord James “Tally Ho” Blears, a great surfer and even better professional wrestler. 

Hawaii’s 50th State Big Time Wrestling was a company that hosted weekly, sometimes biweekly, matches at the Civic Auditorium. It was very popular with its host of characters like “Gentleman” Ed Francis, “Handsome” Johnny Barend, Chief Billy White Wolf, the Masked Executioner, “Prince” Neff Maiava, Ripper Collins, and Moondog Mayne. The local favorites were King Curtis “Da Bull” Iaukea and Sammy “Steamboat” Mokuahi—the latter a longtime surfer and Waikiki beachboy. 

Gentleman and Tally Ho hosted a wrestling TV show that aired locally every Saturday and was one of Hawaii’s most watched programs in the 1960s and early ’70s. The highlight of each episode was the locker-room interviews magnificently conducted by Tally Ho, especially when he and King Curtis would have at it. Curtis always sat with his broad back to the camera, glancing over his shoulder whenever Tally Ho—who always addressed Curtis as “Bull”—asked him a question. Curtis, who played the part of a belligerent 350-pound moke but was actually brilliant and well-spoken in real life, prefaced each truculent response with a “BLE… ARS…blah, blah, blah.” It was tremendously entertaining. (Tally Ho would later become a permanent and endearing fixture as an announcer for pro surfing events.)

One morning after surfing, we all piled into the car and drove down to the Civic Auditorium, where a wrestling event was scheduled for that evening. Jimmy and I, both wrestling fans more so for the personalities than the action, always figured the sport was more fake than real. Jimmy must’ve said something about our shared opinion to his dad, because Tally Ho called Jimmy and me to join him in the ring as he was prepping for the match. We climbed in and bounced off the ropes a few times, imitating how wrestlers do it. It kinda hurt. 

Watching us, Tally Ho said to “do it like this” as he flung himself into the ropes, catapulting him into a tumble across the ring and into the other side’s ropes, rebounding him into another somersault before leaping high into the air and belly flopping onto the center of the ring. The floor shook from his impact, practically knocking us off our feet. He was a big man, 250 pounds or more, but he tucked and rolled right up to his feet with the grace of a gymnast.

Laura, Carol, and Clinton were watching ringside with big eyes. Tally Ho grabbed a startled Jimmy around the chest, flipped him over his leg, and cradled him as they both dropped to the mat in what could have been a major body slam, but with Tally Ho hitting the mat first and Jimmy landing mostly on top of him. Even though Tally Ho broke the fall, it was still a gnarly takedown. He let a shaky Jimmy stand up, then looked at me to see if I was ready. After witnessing what he just did to my friend, I certainly wasn’t. Before I could process what was about to happen, Tally Ho had a hold of me around my waist as he dropped on his back into the notorious pile driver. Thankfully, he let me land on my ass instead of my head, like the move normally calls for. I was immediately seeing stars and sorry I ever thought there was anything fake about professional wrestling. Laura was laughing her butt off and shaking her head as she said, “You guys should stick with surfing!”

[Feature Image caption: Lord Blears, girded with gold in full kayfabe. Who’d dare question wrestling’s authenticity to his face?]