Absolutely "Fabulous" – The Life and Times of Don Fargo
When they made Don Fargo (nee Don Kalt), “they” didn’t just break the mold. They took the mold, shattered it into molecule-sized pieces, threw it down a mineshaft, and dumped a load of dirt on it.
That much was apparent to anyone who followed Don Fargo as one-half of The Fabulous Fargos in the National Wrestling Federation from 1970 to 1972. Don and Johnny were indisputably the top heel tag team in the area during the lifespan of the company. John would become known worldwide as Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, but Don was clearly the senior partner and leader of the troop (and old enough to be Johnny’s father, not his brother). A fine in-ring worker, Don’s wrestling persona as a hard living, leather jacketed tough guy was no gimmick. And he’s unafraid to lay out all the hilarious and gory details in Shooting with the Legends: Don Fargo, a DVD produced by Crowbar Press and historian Scott Teal of Whatever Happened To … fame..
These “shoot” videos — wherein a wrestler delivers a near-soliloquy to a camera and perhaps an interviewer — are all the rage these days. But the one with Fargo stands out from the current crop of 1980s and 1990s wrestling recollections. Fargo goes back into the 1950s to the time of his partnership with Jackie Fargo, and his memorable matches with Argentina Rocca in New York City. First-hand accounts of those days, however cloudy, are hard to come by, but Fargo has a lot of details, and some funny yarns about Kola Kwariani, Rocca’s protector and spokesman (even though, as Fargo notes, Rocca spoke much better English than his Russian muscle).
Fans in the Buffalo-Pittsburgh-Cleveland area will be most interested in the origins and development of the team of Don and Johnny Fargo. The duo first paired in the Sheik’s Detroit promotion, where Don was using a knockoff of the prissy Gorgeous George character. Don had his hair nicely coiffed and wore fancy attire to the ring, while Johnny, whose first ring name was Babyface Nelson, was to work as his valet and spray him with perfume or astringent. As Don recalled to Teal, “I said, ‘We ain’t got nothing in the damn can; we gotta get perfume, powder, anything. Get something, will ya?’ He went out and got powder. He bought douche powder. He filled the can and it had one of those big needle spray things …I’d get out, take my robe off, raise my arms up, then he’s supposed to spray me with perfume. He took that son of a bitch and foom! He got it all over ringside, everybody!” The Sheik, Fargo makes it clear, was none too happy with the development. “That ended my gimmick,” Don chuckled.
Not long after that, the Fargos traveled slightly east to the NWF, where they set up shop and became the federation’s tag team champs on two occasions. “If you remember ‘Tiger’ Jack Vansky, he was the one that recommended Don Fargo,” Ron Martinez, the NWF TV announcer and executive, said to Steel Belt Wrestling. “He came in for the Sheik originally, but hated the payoffs and wound up with us. He and Greg had a great run. We had a main event in Buffalo with those two against Dominic DeNucci and a mystery partner that was huge at the time. We never had tag team main events, but they were hot and we ran with it. Ernie Ladd was the partner.” On the DVD, Don notes that he was the hell-raiser, while Johnny was more methodical and reserved. “We were like the odd couple,” he said.
Fargo’s DVD goes on for more than three hours, and it’s doubtful anyone is having a better time than he is. Dressed with a confederate bandanna around his neck, and a couple of cold Bud Lites at arm’s length, he discourses from subject to subject. Among other highlights that will interest fans in the Great Lakes area:
• How he suggested a regimen of dips and bench presses to a scrawny Pittsburgh-area youth who grew into Italian legend Bruno Sammartino
• How Luis Martinez got his finger a tad too close to the mouth of a wrestling bear for comfort (chomp, chomp)
• His reminiscences of Bobo Brazil and Ernie Ladd
Still one of a kind, Don is now 76. He lives outside of Pensacola, Fla. with a house full of dogs and a yard full of downed trees from storms in the fall of 2004. For anyone interested in knowing how he managed to get to that point — and who wouldn’t — Teal’s videos are the right tool.
For more information on Shooting with the Legends: Don Fargo, click here.