Mid-Atlantic Gateway Interview with

MARK DE CASTRIQUE

Early 1970s Director of Championship Wrestling at WBTV-3    


 

The Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Gateway


Studio Wrestling

An in-depth look at Mid-Atlantic Wrestling being taped at various television studios in the Carolinas, including WBTV-3 in Charlotte.

 

The Birth of Televised Wrestling in Charlotte

A look at the origins of TV wrestling in Charlotte at WBTV.

 

BT Memories

Link index for studio wrestling references on the BT Memories website.

 

This page is part of the WBTV-3 page of Studio Wrestling  section on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway


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I recently had had the good fortune to have an email exchange with Mark de Castrique, an author and Emmy winning documentary producer who many years ago directed "Championship Wrestling" at WBTV-3 in Charlotte, NC. In this brief interview, Mark reflects on those Wednesday nights at the television studio with Jim Crockett and his crew, including sharing some good memories of host "Big" Bill Ward as well.  - Dick Bourne, 8/23/12

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Mid-Atlantic Gateway: Thanks for taking the time to share with us, Mark. While at WBTV, what was your role there as it pertained to the Championship Wrestling show?

Mark de Castrique: I was one of the staff directors who regularly directed the Wednesday night tapings from June 1970 to December 1972. It was a lot of fun. "High drama."

Gateway: Do you remember in which specific studio you taped wrestling?

Mark: Championship Wrestling was taped in the large studio #2. The ring was set up by Crockett's people on Wednesday afternoon supervised by an old retired wrestler named Wally (Dusek) and we taped in the evening.

Gateway: Realizing this was 40 years ago, do the names of any of the wrestlers from those years stick out in your mind? Any particular memories about any of the wrestlers or things that happened during the tapings?

Mark: Some of the wrestlers on the shows I directed were also ones I had watched on Channel 3 as a kid. Rip (The Profile) Hawk & Swede Hanson, Johnny Weaver, The Great Bolo, Jerry Brisco, The Kentuckians, Haystack Calhoun, Homer O'Dell and his tag-team. Abe Jacobs and his patented Kiwi roll. You remember most wrestlers had their signature hold that guaranteed victory if they could just apply it.

Gateway: Did Jim Crockett attend any of the pre-show production meetings? Do you have any particular memories of dealing with him?

Mark: Big Jim attended all pre-production meetings. We would go over the format, I'd make sure I had I.D. slides for all wrestler introductions. We played it straight. I never knew who was going to win or what dramatic events would unfold. After our meeting, Big Jim would meet with the wrestlers in the dressing room. Big Jim was nice but all business when it came to the show.

Gateway: What are your memories of "Big" Bill Ward? Did you work with him on any other shows?

Mark: I only worked with Big Bill Ward on wrestling. He was easy to get along with and I remember his stock "action" phrases. "They're fighting like gladiators of old." "It's a Pier Sixer" (whatever that meant). "He's lower than the belly of a snake at the bottom of the Mariana Trench" (or bottom of the ocean). Usually used in reference to the evil manager Homer O'Dell. And, of course, Big Bill's signature sign off - "Hello to all the shut-ins" and "Be good sports wherever you go!"

Gateway: Gene Birke, who shared some nice memories about directing wrestling at WBTV on the website "BT Memories", has written that some at WBTV didn't like the association with wrestling and resented the high ratings it got. Would you consider yourself part of that group?

Mark: I think any resentment toward the program came from two fronts. WBTV Sports didn't report on the matches because they didn't consider it a sport. Big Bill Ward referred to them as Exhibition Matches to handle station concerns regarding their being represented as a competitive sporting event. The second negative view came from national advertisers. The program got great ratings, but ad buyers from New York and other areas outside the region looked down on it. This was before wrestling mania swept the country through pay-for-view distribution. Unfortunately, Big Jim didn't live to see the development of the huge national audience. I considered the production entertainment and enjoyed watching the antics of the crowd as much as what was happening in the ring.

Gateway: What other local shows did you direct besides Championship Wrestling?

Mark: Newscasts, Betty Feezor, Pat Lee Show, Country Style Roundup with future congressman Bill Hefner, Tommy Faile Show, Fred Kirby Show, and various special projects.

Gateway: You are a successful author now. How long after you left WBTV did you stay in the TV production business, and at what other stations? Were you ever involved with directing or producing wrestling at another station?

Mark: I am still in the TV production business. I left WBTV at the end of 1972 and worked for over four years as a director at the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. We didn't have wrestling. We had Congress and Watergate. I'd prefer wrestling where the good guys and bad guys were easier to spot. I returned to WBTV as manager of their creative department and then program director. I left in 1984 as a partner in a production company. In addition to writing my mystery/thriller novels, I do documentary and corporate video production. I feel fortunate to have been a part of local television when the stations did a variety of programs and were a reflection of all aspects of their communities.

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Mark de Castrique is the author of several novels including his latest mystery/thriller "The 13th Target." He is a veteran of the broadcast and film production business and has received an Emmy Award for his documentary film work. He also has a pretty good memory when it comes to early 1970s pro-wrestling, and I appreciate him sharing some of those memories with us.

 

Visit Mark's website at http://www.markdecastrique.com/.


Updates:

8/26/12 - Mark posted a link to this interview on his Facebook page, and there was some discussion there with his friends, including a question about any memories of audience regulars at the wrestling tapings, which elicited this funny response: "Tickets were in high demand and no one came week to week. Mostly church groups. I always thought it odd churches came to watch guys pulverize each other."

 

8/27/12 - Mark mentioned on Facebook that a secret of his past had been revealed with the Gateway interview. But we didn't out him; Mark had earlier mentioned his connection with pro wrestling in a 2010 interview with the Salisbury (NC) Post.  From the article: Now based in Charlotte, de Castrique moved here in the 1970s and had a broadcast career with local TV stations. "This was before the days of cable. Local stations did everything. ... I once directed professional wrestling, did an entertainment show ..."  Writer Goes from Broadcast to Books, SalisburyPress.com.

 

Check out these vintage photographs of Championship Wrestling in Studio 2 at WBTV in the 1960s.


Thanks to Mike Cline for his assistance with this interview.

Originally published 8/23/2012

Copyright 2012 Mid-Atlantic Gateway