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Gypsies on parade: Bill Dundee’s career comes full circus

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Baby, he's a Superstar. Bill Dundee, circa 1977.

Legend has it that Memphis wrestling’s Bill “Superstar” Dundee (William Cruickshanks) ran away in his youth and joined the circus (at least according to a story published in “Action Ringside,” the weekly Memphis program sold at the arenas). In what might seem like a lateral career move at best by some people, the scrappy little Aussie (Scot) eventually left life under the big top for the wrestling business and never looked back–until now. Dundee recently resurfaced during a local newscast promoting a performance by the Coleman Bros. Circus in Vero Beach, Fla., best known as the hometown of “Red Rooster” Terry Taylor. (From what I understand, the Coleman Bros. and the Ringling Bros. had a bitter rivalry similar to the Funks and the Briscos for years.)

Displaying the promo skills that made him a superstar, Dundee discusses the nomadic lifestyle of the circus. I found this very reminiscent of the TV interviews conducted by Lance Russell in which Dundee frequently referred to the countless miles he and Jerry Lawler logged traveling up and down the roads together in their heydays in Memphis.

Watching that piece, I can’t help but think back to how Dundee’s wrestling travels were heartbreakingly captured in this music video that aired on Memphis TV in the late ’80s.. Warning: Do not view without a hanky handy.

  1. Old School Sammy
    August 26th, 2010 at 07:16 | #1

    My 7 year old got to ride the Elephant when they came here this late Spring/Early Summer—if I had known Dundee was going to be here, I’d have probably taken my Mom’s invite to go with him and his Grandma to see if I could meet him…oh well…

    What exactly DOES Dundee do with the Circus anyway?

  2. PG-13
    August 26th, 2010 at 10:35 | #2

    I must admit Dundee was a handsome looking dude back in the day. now he kinda reminds me of a Elvis impersonator and not the skinny ones

    interesting article Scott

    I’ve been wanting to ask for a while if you knew the reason Dave Brown got into the business I was always been curious of why local DJ and then weather forecaster was interested in doing territory wrestling

  3. Mike
    August 26th, 2010 at 10:44 | #3

    I seem to recall them putting this same footage to the tune of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”. Or maybe that was Lawler’s video.

  4. Tyler from Charlotte
    August 30th, 2010 at 02:59 | #4

    After watching this vignette, I have several questions. I always heard the payoffs were pretty weak down in Mempho…That said, how do you think Superstar could afford the mortgage on that house with a $500 a month Lincoln payment? What do you think that conversation is about when Bill is in that phone booth. I am guessing something like “Jamee did what? I am going to kill that boy when I get back off of the road”…Scott, did you ever get those same type of stares when you were eating at the local diner, when someone recognized you?

  5. Robb Helt
    August 31st, 2010 at 13:25 | #5

    I always like when Scott uses my videos….It bumps up my youtube stats!!!

  6. Brian Craig
    September 5th, 2010 at 22:50 | #6

    “if you knew the reason Dave Brown got into the business I was always been curious of why local DJ and then weather forecaster was interested in doing territory wrestling.”

    Dave was a dj on WHBQ radio here in Memphis. He asked Lance Russell who was the program director of WHBQ-TV about moving over to the tv side. Lance said there was about to be an opening co hosting the studio wrestling show with him and that doing live wrestling would be a great way to learn the tv business. Apparently, Dave accepted with some reluctance.

    He later started hosting the morning movie on WHBQ-TV which had a segment called “Dialing For Dollars” where the host would call viewers and ask the amount of the daily jackpot. When WHBQ started a Noon newscast in 1972, Dave started doing the weather and was so good at it that he became the weatherman for all of WHBQ’s newscasts.

    Later after wrestling moved to WMC-TV in 1977, Dave moved as well and continues to this day to be the number one television personality in Memphis.

    One thing that always impressed me about Dave and Lance Russell was how nice they were to the fans. Sometimes the wrestling crowd is not the most “sophisticated” bunch but Lance and Dave always treated everyone with great respect.

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