Remembering… ‘Handsome’ Johnny Barend

Another great topic suggestion by volleymom2.


Wrestler ‘Handsome’ Johnny Barend dies in New York

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

POSTED: 09:02 p.m. HST, Sep 20, 2011



“Handsome” Johnny Barend, one of the most iconic characters from Hawaii’s golden age of professional wrestling in the 1960s-70s, died today of natural causes at his home in Avon, N.Y. He was 82.

Barend’s career spanned nearly 25 years and he wrestled everywhere from Japan to New York’s famed Madison Square Garden.

But family, friends and fans said one of his favorite places was Hawaii.

A fixture in Hawaii during much of the 1960s when Ed Francis and Lord James “Tally Ho” Blears were the promoters, Barend was known for edgy interviews which amused some and terrified others.



Not being a wrestling fan, I know the name but not the wrestler.  Anyone care to share some memories of Handsome Johnny Barend?  Or any other old time wrestlers from Hawaii?

65 Responses to “Remembering… ‘Handsome’ Johnny Barend”

  1. Ken says:

    I remember him from when my dad was station at Pearl Harbor, Ford Island, in the early 70’s. We used to go see him at the local arena, can’t remember the name, but he always played the bad guy. He used to have long black hair with a top hat and stocked on a big cigar while wearing these black boots that came up to his knees…he looked so cool. At the time I was only 9 years old and one night he was really playing the bad guy so I threw a smashed up soda cup at him and and he pretended like he was coming into the crowd to get me so I was climbing over chairs to get away. Never did that again. Still remember him 48 years later.

  2. Johnny Barend was my favorite. He had charisma which drew screwballs like me to follow whatever mental act he did. To realize later in life that his voice wasn’t really how he sounded.
    I joined the Air Force after HS and became barracks chief on my first assignment. My first barracks meeting I wore a dark blue raincoat with nothing else, had an unlit cigar in my mouth and put shaving creme on my 19 year old face. The only other local boy knew who I was portraying but the rest just stared in awe. What a sight! I never got lip from anybody after that…the haole boys thought I was nuts. My tribute to the ‘Handsome One ‘

  3. LINDA KATO says:

    DIO: You are so right ❗

  4. DIO says:

    Linda: As I said before….all the stuff that is “good for you” is difficult: difficult to eat, difficult to do, difficult to deal with.

  5. LINDA KATO says:

    DIO: Yes, very entertaining ❗ 😀

    Good evening MLCers ❗ 😀

    We just got back from walking a mile ❗ It’s a start ❗ Losing weight sure is hard work ❗

  6. DIO says:

    Good afternoon everybody!!

    Linda, did you enjoy the commentary provided by Seawalker and yours truly? 😆

  7. Steve says:

    @seawalker – Ripper Collins once said that Annie’s nickname for Johnny was “Magilla” because his favorite cartoon show was “Magilla Gorilla”.

    Ripper Collins was married to a lady wrestler named Barbara Baker. They would sometimes participate in “Mixed Tag Team Matches”, where Ripper and Barbara would go up against a team like Pepper Martin and Kathy Starr. If Ripper was in the ring with Pepper and he tagged in Barbara, Pepper would have to step out of the ring and let Kathy come in to wrestle against Barbara. However, Ripper would interfere whenever he could to help his team win.

  8. LINDA KATO says:

    Good morning MLCers ❗ Happy Wednesday ❗ 😀

    Have a great day everyone ❗ 😀

  9. LINDA KATO says:

    DIO and Seawalker: I see what I missed last night! Too funny ❗

    Seawalker: I gotta win more than a few thousand to throw a party ❗ I used it to pay our daughter’s tuition down and her rent through the rest of 2011 ❗ She was happy ❗ Also set aside a little bit for our next trip in January 2012.

    Re: the BJ Penn fight, there are 5 finalists every night or 35 people every week! Gonna be some winning party on 10/10/11 to pick ONE winner! Gotta be super lucky to be the SOLE WINNER ❗

  10. M says:

    Guud morning MLCers ❗

  11. PA says:

    although Johnny was consistantly nutty i think the craziest things i saw was mad dog mayne eat the glass blood pouring outta his mouth (maybe faked) and gorrila monsoon fall over the top rope with ed francis on his back giving him the sleeper hold and landing on ed after 15 ft drop onto the concrete floor where i was sitting not fake
    also one time ripper did the TV weather it was hilarious listening
    pronounce the island names ahoohoo, moi, KY, kakanuts
    when i moved to kailua from town side i was pretty much over
    wrestling but i remember seeing Ripper working at the Pali Lanes
    my friend lived next to him he told me he could hear Ripper say
    “goodnite children” every nite

  12. Seawalker says:

    Oh, and The Bull said they met when she was still a senior in high school. Lucky buggah that Johnny!

  13. Seawalker says:

    @Steve – Curtis “the bull” said Johnny Barend met his future wife in Waikiki. Annie was still married to “Handsome” for 44 years when he died last week. The Bull also said her name was Transistor Annie because she always had a transitor radio to her ear. 🙂

  14. Steve says:

    “Handsome” Johnny Barend was one of the most athletic and exciting wrestlers to appear in Hawaii. He first wrestled in Hawaii in 1955 and returned 9 years later in 1964 to wrestle for Ed Francis. Johnny would enter the ring wearing a black top hat, black cape, sunglasses and carrying a cane. During his locker room interviews, he would read his “fractured fairy tales” while wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigar. At one point, his entrance music was “The Batman Theme” and he would call his locker room the “Bat Cave”. He wrestled in all kinds of matches: Indian Death Matches, Steel Cage Matches, Scicilian Stretcher Death Matches, Battle Royals etc. When he would start to beat up on his opponents, the fans would cheer him on by yelling “Geev Um” (Give It To Him).

    In September of 1967, Johnny married local girl Anita Lum in the ring at the Blaisdell Arena in front of a sold out crowd before the main event. In 1972, he retired from wrestling after being injured in a match here on Oahu. Along with Curtis “The Bull” Iaukea, Ripper Collins, Jim Hady, The Masked Executioner, The Missing LInk, Lord “Tally Ho” Blears and many others, Johnny was a part of the “Golden Age Of Wrestling” in Hawaii.

  15. Seawalker says:

    Salonpas for the MLC (old futs) and Ben Gay for adolescent MLC (young futs). And at the Seniors Fair, they had this clicker inside a heating pad that turns hot instantly with just a click.

  16. DIO says:

    This segment of MLC wrestling brought to you by Salonpas…….

  17. Seawalker says:

    Of course, DiO. It’s the m-other of all l-iving c-reatures squared circle bouts. Just like Monday Night Raw with Triple H, John Cena, and Booker T, us homeys are a tight bunch and got your back. LOL

  18. DIO says:

    Gee, I didn’t know there was a MLC division in the WWE. 😉

  19. Seawalker says:

    @DiO – LK will give me a pile driver, atomic drop, full-Nelson, flying drop kick, elbow smack, head-butt, airplane spin, body scissors, knuckle sandwich, and a body slam before she sends me an invitation. 😆

  20. Seawalker says:

    And in this corner, fighting out of Oregon, standing 6’5″ and weighing in at 350 pounds… it’s DiO the real deal! *the crowd goes nuts*

  21. DIO says:

    Seawalker: Linda already threw the party…weren’t you invited? 😀

  22. Seawalker says:

    @LK – Just have a good memory for names, but not much else. Ask the wife (kidding). Good luck with the Vegas / BJ Penn fight. Those MMA guys are worse than the wrestling boys. The object is to beat the living daylights out of your opponent. When the audience sees blood, they go bonkers. I worked with a guy once who enjoyed the sport to no end. Think everyone else thought he was a psycho.

    Hey, since you were a big winner the last trip, what happened to ‘winner in Vegas throws party for the rest of us working stiffs’? 🙂

  23. DIO says:

    Good evening retirees, MLCees, and recoverees 😉

  24. LINDA KATO says:

    Good evening MLCers ❗ 😀

    Seawalker: you have a photographic memory! Who remembers details as you do ?!

  25. ankleBYTERS says:

    Beauregard – Curtis Iaukea’s flunky….

  26. DIO says:

    Wow, so many wrestling memories…I swear, I feel like I was born in the wrong time frame. All of this action seems to have either taken place before I was born, or when I was so young that I hardly remember much of it. By the time I was old enough to watch and enjoy wrestling, many of the folks mentioned here retired from the wrestling, and were either managers or announcers.

    One story I came across about Lord Tally Ho Blears still amazes me:

  27. dihudfan says:

    one day in the late 80’s or 90’s… was working on a Saturday and went to Queens BBQ to have lunch… aftah ordering, who walks in, none other than Don Moraco… this guy was built and very intimidating… talked to him a little while… nice guy!!!

  28. Seawalker says:

    @hema – Heard about the the hairless antics of competitive swimmers. Where does that put the Okinawans when they’re in the pool… a full body wax?

    Curtis “the bull” Iaukea was one crazy buggah. I still remember on one of the wrestling locker room interviews, he wanted to show how tough his head was with scar tissues accumulated over the years. “Whap”, he breaks a bottle of beer on his forehead. Lord and Ed was amazed, and it was kind of freaky to see on TV.

  29. hemajang says:

    sw…the movie “the wrestler” has Mickey Rourke character in a hairnet for dye job while shaving his chest and armpits before a match…but understand certain athletes do the same, maybe swimmers and bodybuilders?

  30. Seawalker says:

    @DiO – That’s what you call living off the fat of the land… LOL

  31. DIO says:

    Good morning everybody!

    Seawalker: I’m surprised…I wouldn’t think you guys would have cable. 😉

  32. Seawalker says:

    Gosh, we used to buy wrestling magazines at King Fort on Fort Street Mall. Hate to admit it but read it from cover to cover. Out of all the wrestling moves, my favorite is the figure-four leg lock. Every wrestler had their signature manuver that was identified to them. Ed Francis was famous for his sleeper hold, and, man, he was a short little guy in the ring!

    When Wrestlemainia started in the 80’s, we’d order PPV and soak up all the action. Of course, Dad used to complain why the cable bill was so high. At $100 a month, he said we mobettah’ buy a brand new TV set. He didn’t understand what PPV was. Bless his heart!

    The thing with King Ripper Collins was that he could not wrestle at all. He was a haole from the mainland, and with his Southern Drawl, he could whip the local crowd into a frenzy by butchering the local dialect.

    The Missing Link a.k.a. Pamero Furple was another one of those wrestlers who was ‘all mouth’ and not much more. But his tagline, “ohhhh yeah” was something memorable crafted more for the viewing audience than his loud yell.

    Anybody ever noticed that the wrestlers had no hair under their arms? We’re not talking about the Fabulous Moolah and the other female wrestlers. With all the sweating that goes on in the ring, guess it’s better to be hairless than hairy. 🙂

  33. volleymom2 says:

    @NaPueo- thank you, it is Giant Baba!!

  34. LINDA KATO says:

    Good morning MLCers ❗ Happy Tuesday ❗ 😀

    Have a great day everyone ❗ 😀

  35. M says:

    Guud morning MLCers!
    Happy Tuesday!

  36. NaPueo says:

    You must be thinking of Giant Baba.

  37. volleymom2 says:

    @seawalker- I thought Andre the Giant was the Japanese guy.. I know there was a Japanese wrestler that was very tall for being Asian. Does anybody remember his name?? Ah, yeah… the Missing Link.. he actually was a nice guy, but kinda scary behind all that hair.

  38. dihudfan says:

    @seawalker… very interesting reading!!

  39. Sally says:

    Never saw a live match but it was fun to be allowed to stay up late to watch at home.

    And we all know the real way to say his name is Johnny BaRAND! LOL!

  40. LINDA KATO says:

    Good afternoon MLCers ❗ Thanks for sharing your stories ❗

    Everyone has such good memories for MLC ❗ 😀

  41. Seawalker says:

    Was watching Don Muraco on Leahy and Leahy not too long ago. You would think these big thugs were all muscles and no brains. Not the Magnificent Muraco. Think he mentioned he graduated from one of those private schools in Makiki. He was witty, articulate, telling a good story, and so interesting. He even got old man Leahy to talk about the good old days of wrestling. Muraco said he was the original “Rock” before the poster-boy Dwayne Johnson took on that schtick. But I wonder what U.H. coach Mac has to say about the Rock of his football playing days for the Miami Hurricanes? Mac was the defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes back then.

  42. Seawalker says:

    As big as Andre the Giant was inside the ring, his legendary drinking outside the ring was most impressive. Read on…

  43. Mary C says:

    I never got to go see a “real” wresting match in person but loved to watch on TV. My favorite was Missing Link (ohhhh yeah). Wresting on TV was a big part of our growing up years…..

  44. Seawalker says:

    Awesome topic suggestion, @volleymom2.

    From a guy’s point of view, those were the days when we could go 200 mph and still think it was too slow. And who says wrestling is fake? It was so real that it was unreal… LOL.

    I was a little young yet when 50th state rasslin’ was at it’s peak. But I do remember watching Joe Moore hosting the boxing matches on Saturday morning at my gramp’s house. And the national wrestling scene shortly after… Super Star Billy Graham, Dusty Rhodes, The Destroyer, Billy Robinson… those guys were the real deal.

    In the early-1980s, they had shows on Friday night. It was Gentlemen Ed Francis and Lord Tallyho Blear’s second go around. Nevertheless, it was just as exciting watching with my testosterone-loaded brothers.

    I went to WWF(E) wrestling at the Blaisdell once when I was in college. You can take a kid out of wrestling, but you can never take wrestling out of a kid. 🙂

  45. volleymom2 says:

    I must’ve been in 6th or 7th grade when wrestling peaked in Hawaii. My next door neighbors were into big time so I got into it too. We used to go down to KGMB studios on Saturday to watch, sometimes at the civic, but every Sunday at Bloch Arena which used to cost $1.00. I got every autograph… those were the days. I was so sad to learn when Jim Hades died, he was one of my favorite. I also like Johnny Barend cuz he made me laugh along with Rippa Collins. Chief Billy White Wolf was such a nice guy. RiP Johnny!!
    Thank you Rod!!

  46. dihudfan says:

    those were fun days… Civic Auditorium… great matches… good entertainment!! Good acting… always looked forward to watching wrestling matches on tv, local and from mainland. Will always remember Andre the Giant… while eating lunch on the rooftop (News Building) I see this giant of a person crouching down at the door. One of the sports editors was going to do an interview with Andre. He introduced Andre to us at the table… Wooooow, this guy was big… as he shook our hands, which felt like my hand was just a finger in Andre’s palm… unreal!!! What memories!!!

  47. DIO says:

    Good morning wrestling fans!!

  48. hemajang says:

    When watching the movie “The Wrestler” it reminded me of my encounter w/Curtis Iaukea. The sport may be “fake” but it must take a terrible toll on your body…and these guys wrestle way beyond their prime. Mickey Rourke was perfect in his role but his worn out face was mostly due to bad plastic surgery from what I read. Great actor.

  49. LINDA KATO says:

    Keoni: We don’t need to ask permission to go on a trip now, just pack our bags and go ❗ 😀

  50. Seawalker says:

    Read an article last week that he married a McKinley girl. She was 18 and he was 38. Go Johnny Go! 😆

  51. M says:

    Johnny Barend married a local girl in the middle of the ring as I recall.

  52. Rodney says:

    @Brad – Hey Brad! Welcome to the MLC blog. Thanks for posting you wrestling memories. (Brad is one of the hottest drummers in town).

  53. Keoni says:

    Gee Linda, you sure love go holoholo! 🙂

  54. Brad says:

    I’ll never forget watching Johnny read a “bedtime story” as part of one of his interviews. I couldn’t stop laughing!! He was da best!

  55. LINDA KATO says:

    I entered hubby in a Vegas contest on KHON TV 2 to see the BJ Penn fight in Vegas on 10/29/11. Hubby is a finalist for this contest! If he is picked the big winner we’ll be off to Vegas again ❗ Fingers crossed ❗ 😀

  56. LINDA KATO says:

    Good morning MLCers ❗ Happy Monday ❗ 😀

    Have a great day everyone ❗ 😀

    I don’t remember much about wrestlers.

  57. M says:

    Jim Hady
    The Misssing Link….OOOOHHHHH yah…
    Tosh Togo
    Nick Bockwinkle

  58. M says:

    Gas tip, Sam’s Club gas is $3.89….

  59. hemajang says:

    Was walking around natatorium and passed Curtis Iaukea sitting in a lawn chair on the beach. He was by himself, not too many people around and long retired from wrestling. Did a eh howzit and he acknowledged. But man, he looked had it, injuries and scars from wrestling messed up his head and face, scary looking but sad.

    Wasn’t a big wrestling fan but watched many matches on TV, as far back to the 50’s at my uncle’s house on b&w tv, recall watching Gorgeous George and Freddie Blassie. Uncle took me to my only live wrestling at the civic, can’t remember who the wrestlers were but think Curtis Iaukea and a Japanese guy…maybe kenji Shibuya. The only vivid memory is when a wrestler got hit, spit and sweat went straight up and pity the ones sitting ringside. I think wrestling went big time during those Saturday matches on TV and how entertaining the interviews were with Tally Ho Blears and Curtis Iaukea with his back to the camera.

  60. losthawaiian says:

    Barend, ripper collins, the missing link, chief billy whitewolf, the sheik, haystack calhoun, andre the giant, the tag team midgets, mad dog mayne, sammy steamboat kauahi, handsome jim hades. Just a few that I remember watching on saturday afternoon on KGMB. Right after the fights and weird beard theater. They were much larger than life characters!

  61. PA says:

    prince pupule was my favorite the taped wraparound sunglasses
    the epic matches @ the civic (eating boiled peanuts) and the HIC the crazy stuff he did in the ring like when he stuffed those leis down russ francis’s throat remember barely staying awake friday nite to watch 50th state wrestling @ 10:30pm waiting for his interview “hello mr francis” later then when was teenager lord blears brought him down to the beach @ makaha and johnny was wearing penny loafers with white athletic socks that kinda ended my childhood infatuation

  62. M says:

    Johnny Barend’s theme song was, ” Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machine”.

  63. M says:

    Rippa Collins!
    Curtis, “da bull” Iaukea!
    Sammy Steamboat!

  64. M says:

    Guud morning MLCers!

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