What a con Louis Vincent Albano perpetuated throughout all his decades in the wrestling game.
Way back in the 1950s, Albano began figuring out how to get people to hate him at work. Being a heel seemed to come natural to the Italian-born, Westchester County, New York-bred future Pro Wrestling Hall of Famer.
As the 1970s were welcomed in, Albano transitioned to managing. There was his first protégé, Crusher Verdu. Next, WWWF Promoter Vince McMahon, Sr. made Albano the mouthpiece of super-heel Ivan Koloff, and the man who would dethrone the very popular singles champion Bruno Sammartino.
In time, Albano was at the top of a majority of east coast wrestling fans’ hate list. He presented as a thug, an unkempt, maniacal, win-at-all-cost, handler of rule breakers.
But this was only one side of a manager living out of his suitcase, from his Carmel, New York home — an hour’s drive to Manhattan.
“He (Albano) was an amazing guy who marched to a different beat,” said Carl Albano, 65, during a recent telephone conversation.
Carl Albano knew who the real Hall of Famer was. To him, Captain Lou, as he was known during the second half of his career, was simply Dad.
With all the TV exposure and arena rants, it was only natural, particularly back in the ’70s when the wrestling game presented itself with a more realistic; legit product, that what you saw publicly was what the person privately is.
Not so with the Captain.
One of four kids of Lou and Geraldine Albano, who were married for 50-plus years, Carl paints a total opposite picture of his father, from the reckless behavior demonstrated in arenas that made him some one fans loved to hate.
“Yeah, he was a crazy man on TV, just out there in left field when watching him wrestling,” Albano confesses. “And he was a tough dad but a very loving father, as well.”
The myths and real-life escapades of the Federation’s brawling cornerman are legendary. In listening to Carl speak from life as a child growing up in Carmel, the Albano household was as normal as their neighbors.
“Dad was a great family guy. That was his priority. He was one of the neighbors who everyone knew, and got a kick out of,” explains Carl Albano. “Just when we went into the City, dad would be recognized, and he had a crowd follow him.”
Carl Albano, along with his brother and two sisters, saw the wrestling business simply as their dad’s line of work. There was never any thought of following in his dad’s footsteps.
On Route 6, in building # 2, settled in the hamlet of Mahopac, New York, is the Albano Insurance Agency. Specializing in real estate and insurance, Carl Albano’s sign outside of his building still brings in inquiring customers concerning his last name.
Is he related to the wrestling fella they remember growing up? This has been brought up many times. Carl Albano doesn’t shy away from his family’s famous name. He is quite proud of the man his dad was, when he wasn’t being photographed or splashed on the cover of wrestling magazines, usually with his face covered with blood.
Captain Lou Albano was on his best behavior when at home.
“When dad was home, and sometimes he’d be away for a week, he treated everyone the same. That’s the way he was raised. On occasion dad would bring home wrestlers with him. Bruno Sammartino was one. Once, Andre the Giant was with him, and they hit a few bars, while they were traveling through.”
As a child growing up in Putnam County (NY), Carl Albano didn’t attend many live wrestling matches that featured his father. Wrestling wasn’t his thing to follow. However, when in his 20s, the wrestling light bulb went off in Carl Albano’s head.
“I got a kick out of what he did,” recalls Albano.
Religion mattered to Lou Albano. As a Catholic, going to church was a priority for him.
As a teenager in the early and mid-1970s, I witnessed Lou Albano, first-hand, attending church.
As a routine, on the day of the WWWF Madison Square Garden show, I would arrive in Manhattan by 9:00 a.m. First, I would stand outside the Edison Hotel on West 47th Street. There was the adult movie theater directly across the street that seemed to catch many locals and tourists’ eyes.
As the cabs would pull up, by mid-morning, wrestlers would begin to arrive. Greg Valentine, Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Andre the Giant, anyone working the card, in all likelihood got a room for the evening at The Edison.
Lou Albano was among those who would enter the lobby and was always gracious in signing autographs and posing for pictures.
From the Edison, walking five blocks west, at 42nd Street was The Holland Hotel. Capitol Wrestling had an office in the Holland. Wrestlers, working press, anyone associated with the MSG show stopped by during the day to pick up their tickets.
Gorilla Monsoon, Arnold Skaaland, and Angelo Savoldi were the agents usually manning the office, and greeting those who entered. Right next to the Holland was a Catholic Church. Routinely, each month, as I would stake out the Holland with hopes of filling up my autograph books and getting pictures signed, I would keep an eye on the church.
Seeing Lou Albano walking down the steps of the church, making the sign of the cross, and stopping to greet his admirers in a time long before it was cool to be a heel, was amazing. He treated all us kids the same — with respect.
The Captain passed in the fall of 2009, and is buried in Westchester County, New York. Shortly before his passing, he published his autobiography, and he was inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in May 2009; WWE inducted Albano into its WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
TOP PHOTO: Captain Lou Albano is interviewed in the 1970s. Photo by John Arezzi.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Donny will be on Pro Wrestling Spotlight LIVE today, March 20, 2021, joining Alex Robertson to talk about the article. Pro Wrestling Spotlight LIVE is at 6 pm EST, here.
- Oct. 14, 2009: Captain Lou Albano passes away at 76
- Mar. 7, 2013: Albano hams it up in ‘The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!’
- June 2, 2009: Albano book surprisingly coherent and factual
- Albano’s first book reviewed: Idiot’s Guide pretty good
- Albano Insurance Agency