Before talking about Reggie Parks as “The King of Belts,” it’s important to talk about carpets. You see, for more than 30 years, Parks, who died October 7, 2021, had a side business, running a carpet cleaning company in Arizona. It was a regular gig, with employees, that balanced out his time as a beltmaker.
It was legendary Florida announcer Gordon Solie who introduced him to people in the carpet cleaning business. “Belts was just a sideline,” Parks said in 2009.
However, by 2009, Parks had been — rightfully — promoted by the wise trio of fellow beltmakers/promoters, Ed Chuman, Dave Millican and Rico Mann into “The King of Belts,” and he had little time for anything else.
It was Chuman, who died in 2010, who saw that, with the development of the internet, there was a market for belts. So naturally, he sought out the best of the beltmakers, Reggie Parks. Business took off.
“Chuman saw the potential in what we were doing here,” Parks told the Arizona Daily Star in 2008. “He opened up a Web site and used the site for his business and also to promote our belts. Everybody in the world knew about us then.”
Later, Chuman would create a team that included Dave Millican and Rico Mann in the beltmaking process, and business would continue to grow — including the ultrapopular UFC title belts. He also opened other avenues to sell the belts — company awards, pizza-eating contests, McDonalds, golf tournaments, Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Cardinals, Madonna, Hell’s Angels; “We’d done a lot of weird things … as long as they pay,” Chuman said.
Parks had to adapt to the Internet, but it paid off. “Rico deserves a lot of credit. He can sit down and hell, in a matter of minutes, he can design a belt on his computer,” recalled Parks. But the Internet also created a market for replica belts, and Parks parted ways with WWE when it refused to share royalties on replicas of belts he designed.
Not all the belts were celebrated. The NFL’s Cardinals had a title belt made for the sack champion, but the league looked at it as a bounty and it wasn’t presented in the same fashion.
The belt that Madonna wore on the cover of her Hard Candy album was Parks’ and got him plenty of attention. The “M” in the center is diamond-studded, with similar dollar signs, and it says “give it to me” above the “M” and it “M-Dolla” beneath.
Parks’ first hockey belt came in 2013, when the Phoenix Coyotes bought one. “About three, four, five of them got together and they bought this belt. They spent a nice little amount of money for it. I made them a nice belt,” recalled Parks in an interview for The Hockey News. At a subsequent game, Parks was interviewed in the dressing room with the title belt. “We’ve been making stuff this year for the football team, for the last three years. The team logo is on the front and some of them had a lot of jewels on them, pretty elaborate belts. But this is the first one that we’ve made for a hockey team. It’s got to be the first hockey team to ever have a belt to show at their games.”
For all the elaborateness of Parks’ later creations — made, it should be said, in partnership with Mann, Millican and select others — the beginnings of his beltmaking are quite modest.
It was 1962, and Parks was wrestling in Omaha, Nebraska — which was his home for many years. Joe Dusek was the promoter and the promotion had a championship tag team trophy. Parks and Doug Gilbert (Doug Lindzy) were the champions.
“The trophy was about six feet tall, and anybody who touched it, it would fall apart,” Parks laughed years ago. It didn’t even fit in some cars, so the trophy would be dismantled to travel to the next town. It was often a target for villains too, and the abuse was constant.
Parks told Dusek that he needed to get tag team title belts instead — and he was just the man to do it.
“(The promoter) said if you can make something presentable, we’ll use it,” Parks told the Arizona Daily Star in 2008. “That first belt cost me about $75. I cut out a piece of copper and had it plated. Then I glued it to the leather.”
“From there, word got out,” Parks said. “I made for the WWF for 10 years, WCW, independent groups. Just about everybody you could think of.”
Modest to a fault, Parks did all the important title belts during pro wrestling’s 1980s heyday. “If you grew up loving wrestling in the 80s or 90s, you grew up loving his work,” wrote podcast emperor Conrad Thompson on Twitter.
The WWF “winged eagle” belt was his; the Intercontinental title of the late 1980s; most of the 1970s Mid-Atlantic titles. Chances are if Parks didn’t make it, his style making other belts influences those who did.
“He’s the king. He’s the reason everybody involved in beltmaking today is involved in beltmaking,” said Mann in 2010. For many years, Parks and company made the championship belts for the Cauliflower Alley Club reunions to be raffled off, the proceeds going to the CAC Benevolent Fund.
SlamWrestling.net’s Bob Kapur got a rare chance to see Parks in action, and his 2010 story — A golden visit to Reggie Parks’ belt workshop — is as magical today as it was then. “Reggie was very welcoming when I visited him and had no problem with me exploring the treasures — completed and in-progress — that he was working on,” recalled Kapur. “He spoke very softly, as if humble about his work, and seemed almost amused at how much I geeked out over the history that he had on display.”
Other publications featured him too, this wizened beltmaking sage in the desert, quiet and thoughtful, skilled and celebrated, his cauliflowered ears standing out.
To many, Millican supplanted Parks as the tops in the business, and the recent WWE’s Most Wanted Treasures series on A&E paid a visit to Millican’s workspace/shrine. In 2009, he put Parks’ contributions in perspective:
“We (beltmakers) all owe Reggie a huge debt of gratitude because nobody did this this way before he did. Were there belts before Reggie? Absolutely. Were there good belts before Reggie? There weren’t.”
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