Jackie Pallo

Pantomime baddie of wrestling


Jack Ernest Gutteridge (Jackie Pallo), wrestler: born London 12 January 1926; married Trixie Wilson (one son); died Ramsgate, Kent 11 February 2006.

Jackie Pallo died a thousand deaths in his villainous career, and all but the last were for the benefit of a braying public. Pallo understood as well as anyone that wrestling was an entertainment best served loud and obvious, and he was one of the most skilful and reviled in the business. In his heyday, no one made people madder.

Pallo specialised in the back-breaker, a submission move that invariably had his opponent writhing in agony; its instigator later revealed it to be no more painful than a child's kiss. For Pallo's other trademark was revelation, and 20 years ago his tell-all memoir You Grunt, I'll Groan (1985) delivered the last rites to a magical passing world. Everything in wrestling was bent, he said. If his career as a fighter and would-be promoter wasn't over before, it was certainly finished on publication day.

He was born Jack Gutteridge in 1926 in Islington, north London, above the boxing gym managed by his father. He was an amateur boxer and a useful garage mechanic (he once built his own car), and he became a professional wrestler at 26. Pallo was the name of a brother-in-law, and Jackie thought it provided a certain flair.

To the name he added striped trunks, golden bouffant locks tied in a ponytail, and the extreme schtick of the pantomime baddie. He was expert in doing awful things behind the referee's back, and in inciting the crowd to indignant fury (his worst injuries were usually hatpin indentations and handbag bruises incurred as he exited the ring). His battles with Mick McManus in the 1960s filled the Royal Albert Hall, and drew millions to ITV's World of Sport on Saturday afternoons, and his abilities as an actor earned him spots on Emergency Ward 10 and The Avengers (as a gravedigger who wrestled Honor Blackman). He was an old-fashioned entertainer, and seldom a modest one.

A few years ago I spent a wonderful but complicated afternoon with him and his son Jackie Junior (JJ). He picked me up at Ramsgate station in his Saab, and I told him that I drove the same model. "Simon," he said in a measured tone, "I have lots of Saabs." This turned out to be true. There were eight or nine Saabs parked in the undergrowth by his house, each with a different level of rust. He couldn't bear to part with them.

As his wife Trixie prepared tea, I noticed a huge hole in his garden, the result of an ambitious, incomplete DIY pool-building programme. Pallo senior told me he had been ill with flu. "Also, we got the wrong bloody tiles."

The pair then explained why wrestling had died in Britain - too many fat men, not enough "dolly fellas" like them. Pallo senior said that even at his peak, say at a televised bout attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, he earned no more than £80 a fight, and it was usually much less. But, without Pallo, we might never have learnt of the Boston Crab or flying head-scissors at all; it was Pallo who had sat beside the inexperienced commentator Kent Walton during the earliest television broadcasts of wrestling in the 1950s, instructing him on the names of the moves and inventing some of his own.

Despite the match-fixing, Pallo said, much of the pain was real, and only hard men survived the gruelling schedules. JJ had followed his father into the ring, and for a while they fought as a tag-team; both of them hobbled round their garden with inflamed joints. They spoke about the "heat" they generated in their best fights. "It was nice in those days to think people came just to boo you," Jackie Senior reasoned.

Towards the close of his life, Pallo felt nothing as much as a sense of betrayal. For several years he tried to promote bouts by himself. A rival once took him to dinner and told him he didn't have a chance as a promoter. "Well, buy me out," Pallo suggested. "No," his rival replied, "we're going to destroy you."

Many of Pallo's fellow wrestlers had harsh words for him while he was alive, although most of their stories were tinged with delight. Adrian Street, who rose to fame by playing a mincing queen in the ring, was convinced that Pallo only made it because he once mistimed a dropkick during an early televised contest, his legs flying either side of a corner post. "He mashed his Christmas crackers," Street recalled. "Nobody had ever seen that on television before."

Pallo claimed everyone was just jealous. He said that no one inspired so many letters of complaint to a television station for violent behaviour. "I have that sort of razzmatazz," he told me. "When I walk into a gents' toilet, everybody turns round and looks."

On the morning his death from cancer was announced I happened to be in a photographer's studio with Dickie Davies, the former host of World of Sport. Davies had already heard the news. "It's the only time he's not faking it," he said.

Simon Garfield

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes