Lou Albano biography
Lou Albano managed wrestling tag teams, and in his 20-year career, 15 of his teams became World Tag Team Champions, including future hall of famers the Valiant Brothers and the Wild Samoans. In the 1980s, as the WWF (later the WWE) became a popular form of mainstream entertainment, Albano softened his public persona, and his evil character in the wrestling world transformed into a fan favorite.
Intro to Wrestling
Professional wrestler Louis Vincent Albano was born on July 29, 1933, in Rome, Italy. Albano emigrated to the United States from Italy as a child with his parents and four siblings. After attending the University of Tennessee on a football scholarship, he served a tour in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s.
Albano was working as a bouncer when he first became interested in professional wrestling, then a somewhat underground phenomenon that blended athletics with entertainment. A mediocre solo wrestler, "Captain Lou" Albano found success when he paired up with Tony Altimore to form "The Sicilians," a Mafia-spoof tag team. The Sicilians moved from Canada to the United States, where they defeated champion duo Bruno Sammartino & Spiros Arion for the 1967 Worldwide Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE) United States Tag Team Championship.
In the 1970s, Albano left the ring to become a wrestling manager. He cultivated a "villain" persona, drawing boos from crowds for his stated goal of unseating the reigning Champion Bruno Sammartino. In 1971, Albano's protégé Ivan Koloff defeated Sammartino and claimed the title, which he held for a brief three weeks. Albano specialized in the management of tag teams. In his 20-year management career, 15 of Albano's teams became World Tag Team Champions, including future Hall of Famers like the Valiant Brothers and the Wild Samoans.
In the 1980s, as the WWE emerged as a popular form of mainstream entertainment, Albano softened his public persona. He befriended pop star Cyndi Lauper, appearing in the music videos for her hits "Time After Time," "She Bop" and "Girls Just Want To Have Fun." After a much-publicized scripted feud between the two, Albano and Lauper agreed to settle their grudge at a special event called "The Brawl to End it All," promoted by both MTV and the WWE. Lauper and Albano each chose a female wrestler to represent them. When Lauper's wrestler Wendi Richter pinned Albano's representative The Fabulous Moolah, Albano publicly apologized, and his character within the wrestling world transformed from evil schemer to fan favorite.
Career Outside WWE
In 1986, Albano semi-retired from the WWE to focus on his showbiz career. With his trademark Hawaiian shirts and long goatee, Albano cut a familiar and beloved figure. He appeared on television shows such as Miami Vice, Hollywood Squares and the Nickelodeon comedy Hey Dude. Alongside fellow pro wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, he starred in the 1987 wrestling film Body Slam. Albano also took his managing talents to the music world and briefly managed the rock band NRBQ, which wrote the song "Captain Lou" in tribute to him.
In 1989, Albano shaved his beard on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to promote his role in the upcoming children's variety program The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! Albano starred as Mario opposite Danny Wells' Luigi in the show's live-action segments, in which the video game brothers welcomed celebrity visitors to their Brooklyn apartment. He also voiced the character of Mario in the animated segments. Albano grew his own handlebar mustache for the series, which aired only three months of original shows but lived on in syndication for years.
Albano's last foray into the wrestling world came in 1994, when he returned briefly to manage the Headshrinkers tag team. Captain Lou Albano was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996. In his later years, he appeared frequently on cable-access television to promote local businesses around his home in Westchester County, New York. He also stayed active in WWE reunions and promotional events.
On October 14, 2009, Albano suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep at home. He was survived by his wife Geri, their four children, and 14 grandchildren. In a statement released after his death, WWE called him "one of the company's most popular and charismatic legends."