B: Bobby Barron
Can you think of a wrestler who has their achievements acknowledged on a plaque in a public house? Well,Bobby Barron for one. On Blackpool Promenade The Velvet Coaster, named after an early 1900s fairground ride, celebrates Blackpool entertainment milestones through the century. One of those mentioned is Bobby Barron's wrestling booth at the Pleasure Beach's Hoseshoe Bar.
The Pleasure Beach shows were initially regular Sunday afternoon programmes. The booth started mostly by luck when Bobby booked Abe Ginsberg to wrestle. Bookings were very slow and Ginsberg took hold of the microphone and very soon filled the hall. The Booth was born. Steve Fury was one who worked on the booth and recalled, "I had five matches a day, finished tea time and could wrestle again at night." Others who regularly worked the booth included Rex Strong, Tony Francis, Jack Cassidy, Bobo Matu, The Monster (Jim Green), Pedro the Gypsy and Bobby's wife, Apache Princess. Tony Francis recalled, "All introduced to the hundreds in the crowd by Abe Ginsberg, resplendent in white slacks, scarlet shirt, straw boater, and cane in hand enticing the challengers and filling the hall. Halcyon days indeed!"
By the time he started the booth Bobby had twenty years experience in the business. Born near Bradford on 13th September, 1940 he was wrestling professionally by the time he was twenty. The name on the bills in those days was the one he had been given at birth, Dave Shillitoe. He travelled extensively from the start with opponents that included experienced men such as Eric Sands and Bob Sherry, and other newcomers like Zoltan Boscik.
In 1962 he started working for Joint Promotions. Norman Morrell gave him his only tv wrestling exposure when he lost to Ian Gilmour at Lime Grove Baths in 1964. Shortly afterwards Dave returned to the independent halls and started on an ascent that was to lead to him becoming one of the most influential men outside Joint Promotions.
He moved to St Annes near Blackpool. This wasn't the only change in his life. He created an entire new persona. Dave Shillitoe gave way to the bombastic blond, Beautiful Bobby Barron. The colourful character of Bobby Barron was a far cry from that of Dave Shillitoe, the erstwhile Yorkshire baker. He took over from where Dominic Pye had left off, training and promoting young professionals. His World Wide Promotions Company, initially a partnership with Shirley Crabtree, started promoting all over the country and held the contract for Pontin’s holiday camps.
Beautiful Bobby capitalised on the increasing acceptance of the gay lifestyle and annoyed the fans as he preened himself in preparation of his rule bending his way to winning or losing. He was a prolific trainer who encouraged and developed many professionals of the time.
The list of wrestlers with kind words to say about Bobby is a long one…Steve Regal, Steve Fury, Klondyke Kate, Steve Peacock, Dave Duran and more. In October, 2011 Bobby received The Respect Award, chosen by Wrestlers at the Leeds Wrestlers Reunion. Not once have we heard a bad word said against Bobby as a promoter though many wrestlers have sung his praise, “He always stayed one of the lads,” one of the other lads told us.
Bobby Barron made a huge contribution to British wrestling, largely unrecognised by those who only had eyes for the Joint Promotion shows.