Wrestling and the Entertainment World Loses Ed “Phantom” Garea
By Dr. Mike Lano
I was honored last Friday (but mostly extremely saddened to the gut) that Ed Garea’s sister texted me from, I believe, his cell for the first time that he’d shockingly passed away the day before.
I’d known Ed since he was my first editor at Wrestling Eye newsstand magazine in the 1980s, and we stayed friends ever since. Few knew their pro wrestling history better than Ed, especially its original carnival and AT show origins. And he was still watching today’s current product until his passing, perhaps not with the same enthusiasm for his professed glory period of it in the 1970s thru 1980s. He turned his energy into being an on-staff writer along with other top reporters/columnists for the respected Wrestling Perspective newsletter, which had intelligent wrestling commentary and breakdowns. Still, Ed’s satiric take on things that seemed ridiculous to him, even in storyline wrestling. He disdained the term “sports entertainment,” although he wrote about it being both worked sports and entertainment. He seldom, if ever, revealed his real shoot name in Perspective, instead taking the pen name of the Wrestling Phantom as Lon Chaney Sr’s silent film version of Phantom Of The Opera was his then “favorite of all time.” To poke fun at the more serious Wrestling Observer annual awards, Ed had his “Phannie” annual awards, again trying to make sense of the most ridiculous events and angles of the year, like Ole Anderson voicing the Black Scorpion, but who was unmasked around 1990-1 as Ric Flair after several had put on the mask and body suit, and played the character with varying body types. Or, as Ed put it in WWF, “nearly every wrestling character here in WWF has a “job.” From an everyman plumber to a trash collector, an IRS agent, an embalming skinner, a hockey goon, a baseball player, a widow maker, and a funeral parlor mortician. And that’s just off the top of my head.”
Ed and I never lost touch, and Evan Ginzburg and I had him on our various radio shows and podcasts, often comparing thoughts on what Bruno Sammartino, Moolah, Nick Bockwinkel, Red Bastien, etc. had told each of us individually on a variety of topics, wrestling-related and otherwise. With the Monday Night Wars, massive stadium shows a regularity, and of course, ECW, Ed loved talking and breaking down all that. We’d discuss All Japan Women versus JWP Joshi groups from the late 1980s on. Although few were as on top of everything going on in grappling as Ed, not many could additionally discuss intricate Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey circus nuances or that of performing magic, the military, pop culture, and New York professional sports like the Mets, Jets, and Giants; music, classic tv like behind-the-scenes haps at Ed Sullivan’s and Jackie Gleason’s CBS 1960’s variety shows, cinema plus Ed’s many other passions.
He lost a leg several years ago, which he said had been from cancer, which he beat. He then moved from his Northeast base to Texas to live with his sister Jayne Webster who wanted to take care of him from then on. She texted me last Friday morning: “It’s with a broken heart that Eddie passed away early yesterday of a rare, aggressive form of Salivary Gland cancer. About four weeks ago, he had a slight cheek swelling. Took him to the hospital. It had spread to his Lymph Nodes and was inoperable, they said. I brought him home to Hospice, and he passed in 2 weeks. I am flabbergasted that a month ago, he was fine and surviving the loss of his leg. Bedridden but doing okay. Living in a brand new state with no friends here was tough. But thanks to his longtime friends like you and others, he had people he could reach out to and who checked in on him. Thanks, Mike, for caring about my brother and your friendship with him. Thanks for being there for us. It meant a lot to him.” Ed Garea had a ton of friends and was a true mensch in the wrestling community. He is just beloved for all his contributions. He was also well-known in the tv and film community for his reviews and writing, particularly with his print and online classic-to-current film reviews that were well-known by those at TCM/Turner Classic Movies and beyond. He also had an extensive email fanbase list he’d regularly forward his goddaughter’s newspaper reports and columns on living in France. She was a decorated Judokai and MMArtist who also wrote about training others, especially how to use MMA takedowns in her work as a police officer there. When she cracked criminal cases and wrote about them, Ed took extra pride in putting those columns out there, often with his comments relating that, when possible, to MMA, boxing, and wrestling. Especially sleepers!
This is from Ed’s longtime family friend Susan Crawford who was also part of his various email groups: “I’d only seen maybe one pic of Ed from in the ’80s and then his Facebook profile pic, which is him wearing a wrestling outfit and mask! I knew Ed through his late wife Kat, who passed away in 2008, and when I spoke with him, we always talked about music, movies, and more. He knew I was clueless about wrestling, so we didn’t discuss it much! I knew he did a lot of coverage on that subject. So amazing to find out about that realm of his life from you! I feel like I’m getting to know him all over again. What I did know was how brilliant he was! I wanted to tell him, ‘Geez man, you should go help out the United Nations or solve world hunger or cure cancer or something!’ There was really nothing he couldn’t see in absolute full and extremely intelligent perspective. I was just proud to know him. I did revamp my dedication group to his wife Kat on Facebook to include Ed now so that I can have updates there, etc., at https://www.facebook.com/groups/friendsofedandkat. I first heard about Ed passing from Salivary Gland Cancer from Elise Skolnick, who had heard from Ed’s sister Jayne. He was just interested in everything and had always been kind to everyone. If I called Kat and she was out, I would chat for a loooong time with Ed – that guy liked to talk! “
Another friend(Dave Lau) of Ed’s sent me this: “Ed was a total wrestling and movie historian. His breakdown of classic old films involving wrestling and boxing, like Gorgeous George’s Alias the Champ, really got into the nitty gritty, especially if it involved Film Noir. No one was better.”
As soon as I hear how fans and friends of Ed’s can honor him and if there’s a service, I’ll pass it along to everyone in our community here.
Dr. Mike Lano, DDS, has had his photography and writing featured in wrestling magazines since the 1970s. He has done freelance work for WWF/E, was on staff for the WCW Magazine in the 1990s, and has been the Cauliflower Alley Club’s board photographer since 1987 after serving on its executive board in the ’90s. His images are featured in many wrestling books, documentaries, and networks such as Dark Side of the Ring, A&E Biography, E!, MTV, and Reelz. He has hosted and co-hosted wrestling radio on and off since 1974 and has a long-standing syndicated newspaper column. He can be reached by email at [email protected].
Ed Garea the “Phantom of the Ring” Passes Away- Dr. Mike Lano’s Tribute
Wrestling and the Entertainment World Loses Ed “Phantom” Garea