"He called them swerves," said ex-valet Jack Hunter. "He'd do anything for a swerve, and even enjoyed one on himself. Occasionally I'd put beer instead of perfume in his atomizer. He didn't mind. He used to say, 'A swerve a day keeps the blues away.' "
Hunter was with G.G. once when he stopped somewhere in Pennsylvania to have his hair done. The gorgeous one settled back in the chair, and in the ceiling mirror saw a pair of female legs, skirts raised above the knee—a height calculated to attract attention in those days. While the beauty operator was gone he got up and peeked into the next booth. In a moment he came running out to Hunter yelling, "My heart, my heart!" This time the joke was on Gorgeous. The woman in the other booth was a corpse whose hair was being done for the local mortuary.
For years George had been a heavy drinker, and in 1962 it caught up with him. Doctors told him he could not wrestle any more because of a serious liver ailment, but he kept on drinking and finally was hospitalized. Visitors and other patients lined up outside his room to get a glimpse of the man in the lavender robe on which were painted four orchids. He stayed away from booze for a few months after he got out of the hospital, then went back to it as recklessly as ever. He sold his San Fernando Valley tavern, Gorgeous George Ringside, and the proceeds barely paid off his debts.
In time, his second wife—and former lady valet—Cherie divorced him and took custody of their son. George took up with a kindhearted stripper and went on drinking.
"Sober, there wasn't a sweeter, kinder, more considerate man in the world," said Cherie. "He didn't really have the nerve to do all those things, that's why he drank. When he was sober, he was shy.
"I don't ever regret meeting him and marrying him. When he wasn't drinking it was a good life."
By Christmas 1963, G.G. was so broke that he could not even afford to buy his youngest son a skateboard. Rather than disappoint the boy, he made one himself. But he never got to see it used. On Christmas Eve Gorgeous George was stricken with a heart attack. He died two days later in County Hospital. He was only 48.
Today his grave in Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Calif. is marked by a plaque embedded in the grass. On it is carved:
LOVE TO OUR DADDY