Johnny Heidemann, Carolina Staple, Dead At 90
Oklafan was saddened to learn of the death of Johnny Heidemann, who passed away January 27 at the age of 90.
Heidemann was a Carolina staple, working for promoter Jim Crockett, Sr from 1938 until Crockett's death in 1973. Always a preliminary wrestler, Heidemann's loyalty was something of an oddity even in his own day. But that loyalty was due to an undying sense of doing the right thing in the business. Heidemann served as something of a snitch for Crockett, rooting out corrupt performers and making sure everything was as much on the up-and-up as possible. In that regard, Heidemann would sometimes ask Crockett to book him into other territories temporarily when he felt that he was getting too much heat from the other wrestlers. He ventured into the AWA and wrestled Verne Gagne. He was sent up to the Northeast to compete with Bruno Sammartino. And he even ventured into Japan on 2 occasions, once for Rikidozan's Japanese Wrestling Association, the other Antonio Inoki and the newly-formed IWGP.
Heidemann certainly understood publicity. He once put Jackie Gleason in an armlock and Gleason then claimed that the move had cost him the ability to work, putting his losses at about $75 000. But Gleason didn't hold a grudge (or perhaps was in on the work the whole time) and invited Heidemann to appear on his show 2 more occasions.
Heidemann retired in 1973 and took a job as a county sherriff for 23 years until becoming a security guard. He had been in good health until about 3 weeks ago, when he took a fall and ended up in intensive care.
In total, Heidemann has 23 documented appearances in Oklahoma. His first was on November 27, 1961 in Tulsa, where he wrestled Torbellino Blanco to a draw. His last was May 30, 1969 in Oklahoma City, where he lost to Antonino Rocca
Oklafan extends its condolensces to Heidemann's family & friends.