(Roughly) Daily

“There’s no drama like wrestling!”*…

 

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Local lore has it that it all began when a gentleman named O’Rourke and a partner developed a business in the late 1940s of fishing for octopuses with O’Rourke serving as live bait, and his partner hauling him out of the water after an octopus was sufficiently wrapped around him.**

In any case, you can read all about it on the ReelChase site, but in a nut shell, by the 60s octopus wrestling had become a lively “sport,” especially in the Seattle area.  Annual “World Octopus Wrestling Championships” were held in Puget Sound; they attracted up to 5,000 spectators and were televised. Trophies were awarded to the individual divers and teams who caught the largest animals. Afterwards, the octopuses were either eaten, given to the local aquarium, or returned to the sea.  For example, in April, 1963, 111 divers took part in the competition; they wrestled– caught by hand, then dragged to shore– a  total of 25 giant Pacific octopuses (Enteroctopus dofleini) weighing up to 57 pounds.

The sport began to die down in the late 60s, and the Championships ceased.  Octopus wrestling is now illegal in Washington State.

* Andy Kaufman

** This, according to reporter and humorist H. Allen Smith in an article for True magazine in 1964; Smith’s source was West Coast raconteur Idwal Jones, so readers are left to dial up their own credulity.

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As we pull on our wet suits, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967– just as the Octopus Wrestling Championship was fading– that elsewhere in Seattle another freaky voice was born:  on March 23, 1967, the first issue of Seattle’s alternative newspaper, The Helix, was published.  Inspired by San Francisco’s Berkeley Barb and Oracle, and New York City’s East Village Other, Helix‘s prime instigators included Paul Dorpat, then a wayward University of Washington grad student, and Paul Sawyer, a Unitarian minister.  This circle quickly grew to include later-to-be famous novelist Tom Robbins, Seattle Post-Intelligencer cartoonist Ray Collins, and Jon Gallant, co-founder of Seattle’s legendary underground radio station KRAB-FM.  It also launched the media career of Walt Crowley, revered local writer, historian, and rabble-rouser, who joined the paper’s staff, first as an illustrator and later as an editor, in May, 1967.  (Crowley and Dorpat later went on to be two of the three founders of HistoryLink, along with Crowley’s wife Marie McCaffrey.)

Volume 1, Number 1

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Written by LW

March 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

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