Everyone that I have spoken to was saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Lillian Ellison, otherwise know as the one and only Fabulous Moolah on Friday. She will forever been known as one of the forerunners in women’s wrestling in America.
The following tribute was written by Richard Goldstein of the New York Times newspaper.
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Published: November 6, 2007
Mary Lillian Ellison, whose flying drop kicks, flying head scissors and hair-pulling “flying mare” body slams brought her renown as the professional wrestler the Fabulous Moolah, died Friday in Lexington, S.C., near her home in Columbia. She was 84.
She died at a hospital after shoulder replacement surgery and might have had a heart attack or a blood clot, said her daughter, Maryetta Austin.
For more than half a century, as a wrestler, promoter and trainer, the Fabulous Moolah was a leading figure on the women’s circuit. She held versions of the women’s wrestling championship for all but short intervals from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s. World Wrestling Entertainment brought her back at age 76. Clad in a sequined jacket over a green leotard, she pinned her opponent, Ivory, in a match at Cleveland and was again proclaimed the champion.
The Fabulous Moolah enjoyed the mayhem, but she especially coveted the money.
When she started in pro wrestling in the early 1950s, the promoter Jack Pfeffer decided a name change was in order. As she told it in “The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle” (Regan Books, 2002), written with Larry Platt, Pfeffer told her “the name Lillian Ellison wouldn’t do. Not flashy enough.”
He asked her why she was wrestling, and, as she recalled: “Annoyed, I blurted out: ‘For the money. I want to wrestle for the moolah.’”
First, she apprenticed as a valet for Nature Boy Buddy Rogers; she was billed as Slave Girl Moolah and clad in a leopard-skin outfit. Soon, she was wrestling as the Fabulous Moolah, and she won the championship belt in 1956. On July 1, 1972, when the New York State Athletic Commission lifted a ban on women’s wrestling, she was the featured attraction at Madison Square Garden.
Mary Lillian Ellison was born in the country town of Tookiedoo, S.C., near Columbia, the 13th child and only daughter in her family. When she was 10, her father took her to pro wrestling matches in Columbia and she was inspired to become a wrestler by watching Mildred Burke, the reigning women’s champion.
The Fabulous Moolah was only 5 feet 4 inches and 118 pounds when she began wrestling as a professional, and her physique did not seem particularly imposing. But her maneuvers wowed the crowds.
“Flying drop kick is when you jump flat-footed from the floor up as high as the person you’re looking at and kick them in the face or in the chest, wherever you want to kick them, and then you fall to the floor,” she told National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program in 2005.
“And then the flying head scissors is where you jump up, put both legs around their head and throw them forward as you come down. And a flying mare is when you get a girl by the hair of the head and pull her over your shoulder, then slam her to the mat as hard you can. And I love doing that.”
Her jet-black haired dyed strawberry blonde, Ellison remained active in World Wrestling Entertainment into her last years, writing commercials for it. She was profiled in the 2004 Ruth Leitman documentary “Lipstick & Dynamite,” a history of women’s pro wrestling.
In addition to her daughter, of Conway, S.C., she is survived by six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her five marriages ended in divorce. She lived for many years with Katie Glass, a former midget wrestler known as Diamond Lil, who joined with her in training wrestlers.
The Fabulous Moolah said she never minded the booing inspired by her roughhouse antics.
“I loved when they got mad at me,” she told The State newspaper of Columbia in 2005. “They called me all kinds of names. I said: ‘Call me anything you want. You Richard Goldsteindon’t write my check.’”
I am running the 2018 London Marathon to raise money for Livability UK in memory of my dad. If you can I'd appreciate any donation you can spare. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/deansaliba