Fabulous Moolah – Mookychick
Addendum: In all conscience, we can no longer uphold the Fabulous Moolah as a feminist icon. This is because of allegations that she abused the women in her care. We have left this piece up in order to acknowledge the existence and energy of female wrestling, but in the case of the Fabulous Moolah, it has a dark side.
Dear Most Fabulous Moolah,
In the world of women’s wrestling, there will always be one irrefutable legend that stands head and shoulders above the rest: The Fabulous Moolah. You were the longest reigning champion in the history of wrestling, or any sport for that matter. And with more than 50 years in the business to her credit, you’ve established a legacy that will never be forgotten, making your name synonymous with female wrestling.
Regaining your WWE chamption title at 76? Baby, that was hardcore. You took bumps till the very end.
Love, Mookychick xxx
Best Fabulous Moolah Quotes:
“I want to wrestle for the moolah.”
“I loved when they got mad at me. They called me all kinds of names. I said: ‘Call me anything you want. You don’t write my cheque.”
The Fabulous Moolah Best Known For:
Wearing a leotard in her 70s. Being a really dirty fighter with signature hair-pulling moves. Being in it for the money.
The Fabulous Moolah Least Known For:
Juggling being the matriach of a large family with worldwide notoriety.
Reasonably high. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that Lillian Ellison was an all-out role model, but she was a scrapper, and that counts for a lot in this life.
The Fabulous Moolah: A quick summary
Occupation: World Champion Wrestler and First Godess of the Squared Circle
* A ‘heel’ wrestler – one of the bad guys
* Regained her WWE chamption title at the age of 76
* Got married at 14
* Profiled in the 2004 Ruth Leitman documentary “Lipstick & Dynamite,” a history of women’s pro wrestling
The Fabulous Moolah’s Background:
One of professional wrestling’s most prized talents is the ability to ‘draw heat’ – that is, to incense the fans so much that they buy tickets in the hope of seeing you beaten. When it came to drawing heat, few wrestlers – male or female – could match the talents of the Fabulous Moolah.
In a career lasting more than 60 years, she dominated women’s wrestling as champion for over 3 decades. Her peak was when she lost the WWF title to Wendi Richter (whose manager was rainbow-haired songstress Cyndi Lauper) in a live match hosted by the then-fledgling MTV network.
The match sparked a feud between the girls until 1986, when Mooler pinned Richter in a match while masked as the ‘Spider Lady’.
The Fabulous Moolah was born Mary Lillian Ellison in 1923 in Tookiedoo, South Carolina, the youngest of 13 children and the only girl. Her mother died when she was 8, so that was the end of any direct female influence on her life. She began following her father to wrestling matches, and grew to idolise Mildred Burke, the queen wrestling champion at the time.
After getting married at 14 and divorced at 16, Lillian decided it was time to become a professional wrestler. It sounds like it was her only option for escape. As her career took a rise, Moolah’s activities were as incendiary off the ring as out of it. A sexually-charged woman, she had relationships with various managers, and also with singer Hank Williams – and claimed, ahem, ‘friendships’ with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis along the way.
However, Lillian would probably never have met or wowed these famous people if she hadn’t taken the hard route and become not just a good wrestler but an unforgettable wrestling personality. Names and identites are important in wrestling – they mark you as a character that can draw the crowds, and your wrestling personality is a clownish cartoon that is, even so, as fluid as water – you can have an image rethink and switch from being the good guy to the bad one in one season.
When she started in pro wrestling in the early 1950s, the promoter Jack Pfeffer decided a name change was in order. As she told it in “The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle” (Regan Books, 2002), written with Larry Platt, Pfeffer told her “the name Lillian Ellison wouldn’t do. Not flashy enough.”
He asked her why she was wrestling, and Lillian recalled: “Annoyed, I blurted out: ‘For the money. I want to wrestle for the moolah.'”
Lillian debuted in 1949 as ‘Slave Girl Moolah’, valet to ‘The Elephant Boy’, but her career took off when, dressed in a leopard skin leotard, she became valet to ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers. Buddy was a ‘heel’ (a bad guy) and Moolah discovered a natural talent for the kind of bad-guy fould moves and slapstick that infuriated the crowds.
The Fabulous Moolah stopped hiding in the shadows behind men and began wrestling as a heel herself. She was only 5 feet 4 inches and 118 pounds when she began wrestling as a professional, but her nasty moves wowed the crowds.
“Flying drop kick is when you jump flat-footed from the floor up as high as the person you’re looking at and kick them in the face or in the chest, wherever you want to kick them, and then you fall to the floor,” she told National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program in 2005.
“And then the flying head scissors is where you jump up, put both legs around their head and throw them forward as you come down. And a flying mare is when you get a girl by the hair of the head and pull her over your shoulder, then slam her to the mat as hard you can. And I love doing that.”
Her jet-black hair dyed strawberry blonde, Ellison remained active in World Wrestling Entertainment into her last years, writing commercials for it. She was profiled in the 2004 Ruth Leitman documentary “Lipstick & Dynamite,” a history of women’s pro wrestling. At the age of 76, clad in a sequined jacket over a green leotard, she pinned her opponent, Ivory, in a match at Cleveland and was again proclaimed the champion.
A fantastic achievement for any woman, let alone one just shy of 80! Nevertheless, her later wrestling years were somewhat ignoble even by ‘heel’ standards – she often did WWE wrestling skits of dubious taste where she tagteamed with Mae Young to sexually hassle young male wrestlers in the ring.
It could be that the Fabulous Moolah wasn’t always a nice girl to know. It could be that she bounced from one rigged match and fiery relationship to another, a strange mix of optimism, insecurity and aggression. But she was a force of nature with a hardy take on life and a sense of humour (well, you’d have to have one, to choose to be remembered as the bad guy).
The Fabulous Moolah is worthy of respect because she took a hard life and turned it into a splendid jewel for all to see, and she became the first godess of the squared circle in an arena very much dominated by men.
The Fabulous Moolah passed away in november 2007. In addition to her daughter from her first marriage, she is survived by six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her five marriages ended in divorce. She lived for many years with Katie Glass, a former midget wrestler known as Diamond Lil, who joined with her in training wrestlers.
The Fabulous Moolah said she never minded the booing inspired by her roughhouse antics.
“I loved when they got mad at me,” she told The State newspaper of Columbia in 2005. “They called me all kinds of names. I said: ‘Call me anything you want. You don’t write my cheque.'”
Tagged in: feminist icons