Research by Tim Hornbaker
George Raymond Wagner was born on March 24, 1915, according to his Social Security
Application, in the small town of Butte, Butte County, Nebraska. His parents were Howard
James and Bessie Francis Wagner. In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, the Wagner Family
was living in Waterloo, Iowa and Howard worked as a house painter. When the census was
taken 10 years later, the Wagners were in Houston, and Howard's occupation was listed as
"building painter." There were three sons by 1930, George (15), Elmer (11), and Carl (7).
Elmer and Carl were both born during the family's stay in Iowa. A nephew was also staying
with the family, although his name was hard to read on the census paperwork. He was a
year younger than George.
George, in 1930, was an attendant at a filling station.
His father likely died on December 7, 1952 in Houston. His mother, Bessie, may have died
on October 8, 1932 in Houston, and George would've been 17 at the time. More on
Howard James Wagner, he was likely born on December 9, 1890 in Sioux City and lived in
Phoenix in June 1917, at the time of registration for the draft in World War I. The family, at
that time, lived in Phoenix, Nebraska. I use the term "likely" because this information is
unconfirmed, and needs a second source.
In the 1930s, some sports writers called George Zaharias, "Gorgeous George."
George Wagner and his wife Betty sailed from Honolulu to California on June 13, 1941 on
the S.S. Matsonia.
Claude Bullard, his wife Esther Bullard, and Charlie Morelock filed suit against Gorgeous
George, Jim Mitchell, Cal Eaton, Johnny Doyle, and Babe McCoy after an August 24, 1949
show at the Olympic Auditorium. George reportedly threw Mitchell from the ring, and
during the ensuing riot, each of the spectators claimed injury. Claude Bullard claimed he
was stabbed during the melee. The total amount asked for in alleged personal damages
was around $30,000.
In 1950, it was estimated that George was going to earn $200,000 that year.
A number of people involved in professional wrestling tried to take credit for giving
Gorgeous George his popular gimmick:
According to the Los Angeles Times on August 12, 1970 in a column by John Hall, Aileen
Eaton "took a man by the name of George Wagner, dyed his hair bond at the Frank and
Joseph Beauty Salon, changed his name to Gorgeous George, bought some perfume, and
that started it all."
According to an Associated Press report on August 9, 1972, there was a direct quote from
Aileen Eaton about "how she got Gorgeous George started." She said: "It was my idea
originally, to give him a permanent and dye his hair and start him out as Gorgeous
George. But a couple of times, he would have everyone believe that he was something
super human. You had to crack down on him and remind him that he was a very good
wrestler, but just another wrestler with a gimmick."
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Gorgeous George Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling