The Esquire Gala Celebrity Mixed Invitational Arm-Wrestling Tourney
In the spring of 1975, Esquire magazine was in the process of putting together its second Super Sports issue. At the time, wristwrestling was receiving good ratings whenever it aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. So to announce the upcoming issue, the magazine decided to organize a special celebrity wristwrestling tournament. To add some credibility to the event, they reached out to the Petaluma-based World’s Wristwsrestling Championship Association and invited Bill Soberanes, the sport’s founder, to oversee the proceedings. Mr. Soberanes brought along reigning heavyweight world champion Jim Dolcini to officiate.
Esquire sent out invitations for the contest and a handful of people in the entertainment industry agreed to take part. There was an open weight men’s division and an open weight women’s division. It was a single elimination tournament, using wristwrestling rules.
Some of the women who took part included:
- Ethel Scull – a collector of American pop and minimal art
- Rosemary Kent – a magazine editor
- Margaux Hemingway – a fashion model and actress (and granddaughter of writer Ernest Hemingway)
- Judy Baldwin – a film and television actress
- Pat Loud – one of the first reality TV stars (she appeared in the documentary An American Family)
- Gail Gorman – a film actress
The eventual winner was the 6’ tall 21-year-old Margaux Hemingway. She beat Pat Loud in the final.
Some of the men who took part in the tournament included:
- Geoffrey Holder – actor, choreographer, singer, director and painter best known for his role as villain Baron Samedi in the 1973 Bond film Live and Let Die, and as 7-Up’s pitchman (he was the guy in its “un-cola” commercials)
- Peter Boyle – a television and film actor at the time best known for his portrayal of Young Frankenstein in the classic Mel Brooks film of the same name
- Geraldo Rivera – a reporter and future talk show host
- Dick Tuck – a political consultant and prankster
- Errol Wetanson – a TV producer and hamburger baron (of the Wetson’s fast food chain)
- Rod McKuen – a singer-songwriter and poet
- Mac Davis – a country music singer and songwriter
- Dennis Wayne – a ballet dancer
- Bill Beutel – a television reporter and news anchor
- Moses Gunn – a stage and screen actor
An early surprise saw Peter Boyle quickly pin 6’6” Geoffrey Holder. While Peter was by no means a small man, most expected Geoffrey’s long arm and large hands to be enough to ensure a win. Peter won his second round match against Mac Davis but then faced Geraldo Rivera in the semi-finals, who proved to be too strong of an opponent. The finals saw Mr. Rivera face off against Mr. Wetanson (who had downed the arm of Dennis Wayne in the semis). The young reporter wasn't able to overcome the burger king, who was declared the winner of the men’s division.
There was a final match for the cameras between the women’s champ and the men’s champ, though the match ended with Errol kissing Margaux’ hand. (The two were already engaged to be married). They were one strong celebrity couple!
Following the contest, everyone stuck around to enjoy the party and the wine flowed freely. The Esquire Gala Celebrity Mixed Invitational Arm-Wrestling Tourney was a one-time affair and I’m not surprised that it took place in the ‘70s, one of the wackiest decades of the 20th century.
Researched and Written by Eric Roussin