Dave Allocca, StarPix
Lou Albano brought together two very different types of fans whose interests didn't often intersect: pro wrestling buffs and New Wave music lovers.
For Albano, who was born 80 years ago this week, wrestling came first. Beginning in the 1950s as "Leaping Lou Albano" and continuing through the 1960s, he moved from pretty boy to heel to tag team member, though he never quite achieved the success that his inspirations – Gorgeous George and others – had.
Perhaps Albano was better cut out to be a manager. In 1971, he added "Captain" to his name to kick off his management career, and he soon established his skill at one of the pro wrestling manager's greatest responsibilities: riling up wrestling fans. So masterful was Albano at "drawing heat" from the audience, he once had to escape an angry mob that chased him out of the venue, followed his car, and rioted in the bar where he tried to take cover. Of course, in the pro wrestling world, that's what you call good publicity.
It was in 1983 that Albano gained a whole new audience – one that sported brightly colored hair and listened to edgy tunes. Singer Cyndi Lauper, who had met Albano on a plane a few years before, needed someone to play her father in the video for her new single. Initially reluctant, Albano was convinced to take the gig, and it was the beginning of both an acting career and a lifelong friendship with Lauper (who would return the favor by joining Albano in the ring and in charity work).
Albano appeared in three more Cyndi Lauper videos before moving on to movies and TV shows – including recurring appearances on game show Hollywood Squares.
When Albano died in 2009 at age 76, his legacy was vast and varied, including a place in the pro wrestling hall of fame and an autobiography with introduction by Lauper, Often Imitated, Never Duplicated. You can say that again.
Written by Linnea Crowther