At the traditional meeting in the center of the ring, when the referee is supposed to run his hands down each wrestler's body, feeling for grease (artificial slipperiness is illegal), George always refused to be touched until his valet had sprayed the referee's hands.
After his lace-and-fur-trimmed robe was doffed, George became pretty much a routine heel, although perhaps able to anger the fans quicker than most. He maneuvered his opponents around so the referee could not see him deliver kidney punches with his fist. He gouged eyes and bit ears. He pulled his opponents' hair and screamed foul if foes messed up his own elaborate marcel. Between falls he gazed at himself in the mirror and primped.
For the record, it should be noted that Gorgeous George was not even remotely homosexual. He was a tough man in a barroom brawl, was generally liked and respected by other wrestlers, was very fond of women and was twice married.
"He was a tremendous performer on the mat when he wanted to be," says Promoter John J. Doyle, who remembers one notable night at the Olympic when Gorgeous George threw Jim Mitchell out of the ring, then kicked him in the face to keep him out and won the bout. A huge man in the audience took off his coat, got through the ropes and charged Gorgeous, who sidestepped him and flipped him heels over head. The crowd went berserk, and one fan was stabbed in the shoulder, but the Human Orchid escaped through a tunnel under the ring without so much as a bruised petal.
That match and others like it at the Olympic were kinescoped and shown later all over the nation, making Gorgeous George a full-blown TV celebrity. (Unshrinking Muhammad Ali has admitted that his own style of conceited ballyhoo was copied from George's.) In 1951 G.G. made $160,000, and he probably earned close to $2 million in his career. At least seven songs were written about him, and a former valet, Jack Hunter, now a cab company employee in Houston, still remembers the words to one:
He has an armful of muscle and a head full of curls.
He wrestles with the fellows and thrills all the girls;
A two ton truck with a velvet sheen,
Gorgeous George is the man I mean.
He has a chest like a mountain and a face like a dream,
He starts women swoonin' and makes men scream.
In 1949 George was the star of a movie which deserves honorable mention on any selection of the worst ever: Alias the Champ, made by Republic. George's best line was, "Come, little one, it's time for my marcel." He was not nominated for an Academy Award.
In time, George came to believe he was the character he had played for so long. A friend in Oregon remembers G.G.'s return to the Northwest.
"I saw him the last time about 1960," he said. "You'd be alone in a hotel room with him and he'd be acting just like he was in the ring. I had to tell him off a couple of times and remind him to knock off that stuff with an old friend."
George may have been convinced that he was really gorgeous at last, but he never lost his sense of humor—his sometimes weird sense of humor. He loved to play jokes.