My Thoughts on Arnold Skaaland
By Scott Epstein
Gut wrenching is the best term I can find to describe my feelings upon being notified of the passing of WWWF / WWE persona Arnold Skaaland.
It was around 1974 that I created Wrestling Training Illustrated magazine along with bodybuilding entrepreneur Dan Lurie who already had a successful barbell company and a magazine called Muscle Training Illustrated. In those days of kayfabe and pretty much a closed shop especially at the larger venues like MSG, I had to try and work my way around the old-timers like Willie Gilzenberg, WWWF President to be accepted as a legit member of the wrestling media. It was Arnie who allowed me to succeed, of course with the blessings of Vince Sr. and Jr., but it was Arnold Skaaland who, as Bill Apter properly reported on his website, that had the responsibility of giving us the Press tickets for the Garden shows which were held once a month on a Monday night back in the seventies and early eighties. I too, knocked on Arnie’s door in the makeshift “office” of the Holland Hotel and was always greeted by Arnie and his cigar……..waited when I had to…….and Arnie was so great even to my young son who was usually with me. Ian was only about 5 years old then and knew Arnie as Bruno’s manager and was thrilled as a baby mark to enter his “office/room” for us to pick up our “Walk In” tickets. They were stamped “WRESTLER” most of the time and we used them to go in through the employee entrance where the boys also entered.
Arnie never denied me and was so humble that each Christmas when I brought him a box of some very fancy cigars he never wanted to accept them as he was just doing his job as some folks put it.
Equally pleasurable during my main years of 1974-1985 in the business I got to know Arnie’s wife Betty quite well, as well as George, his son. It never failed that when I went to PJ Clarks’s for a few drinks or dinner or both either after a Garden show or at anytime, if George was tending bar he saw to it I was well taken care of and we had many a fine chats about the business and life itself. Many times when I didn’t shoot ringside because my young son was with me, Arnie would give me the seat tickets next to his wife Betty and she and I seemed to just bond so well. What a lovely gal and I can’t tell Betty and George how saddened I am for their monumental loss.
With kayfabe gone and wrestling turned into sports entertainment these days, Arnie still hung in there in every capacity there could be……..now that’s a trooper if I’ve ever seen one.
A quick funny story, the night Iron Shiek beat Backlund for the belt, my son and I were waiting in Arnie’s office for our tickets while the Sheik was apparently talking with him about the finish………my son was around 5 years old and scared stiff of being in the same room as the Sheik. Arnie picked up on it right away when he noticed Ian clinging to me like glue and whatever words of wisdom came out of his mouth to Ian when Sheik left worked magic as Ian relaxed and was not even too upset with the title change that night.
Rest in Peace Arnie. For sure, this business doesn’t make ‘em like you anymore…..
Former Editor in Chief Wrestling Training Illustrated
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