Bob Wall
Celebrity Roast

 

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The old saying from the 60’s “be there or be square” was appropriate August 17th in Burbank California when many of the martial arts champions and founding fathers from the 60’s came together to roast Bob Wall.  The event was a sell out with standing room only for those coming in after the dinner.

The martial artists that attended were a roll call of America’s “best of the best”.  To name just a few; Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, Jim Harrison, J. Pat Burleson, Jerry Piddington, Bill Ryusaki, Gary Alexander, Emil Farkas, Ray Dalke, Roy Kurban, Joe Corley, Sammy Pace, George Baker, David Krapes, Eric Lee, Sid Campbell, Gene LeBell, Donnie Williams, Troy Dorsey, Gocar Chivichyan, Ray McCallum and Lou Casamassa. 

There where also dignitaries from the business world, Larry Wansley, director of worldwide security for American Airlines presented Mr. Wall with an award for WorldBlackBelt’s creation of America In Defense, the program teaching cabin crews self-defense.

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Special guests, Martial Arts Movie great Richard Norton, Marshall Teague, Dan Clark, Alan Bailey from Paramount Pictures, and of course Tom Wall (Bob’s brother) were on hand.

Richard Garcia and Victor Guerrero, special agents in charge of the FBI- Los Angeles office were also in attendance for the Roast of Mr. Wall.

Fred Simon of Beaumont Texas, in his deep voice sang the National Anthem and God Bless America.  Covert Blackledge three times “Golden Greek” award winner and Texas Weapons Champion welcomed the dignitaries in attendance.  Mr. Blackledge was so impressed with all the “great champions” attending the event that he let loose with a Raymond McCallum “howl” thus starting the event and welcoming Gary Lee and Chris Casamassa to the podium.

The evening started with a wonderful dinner and a fifteen-minute “clip” of the film “The New Gladiators”.  This film was made by the late Elvis Presley and Ed Parker, documenting several of the “American karate-ka” competing in America.  The film featuring Benny Urquidez, Tom Kelly, Darnell Garcia, John Natividad, Ron Marchini, Ray Sua and Roy Kurban (just to name a few) is an excellent account of the early tournaments and the men who fought in them.  We can thank Don Warrener of Rising Sun Productions for bringing this outstanding documentary “back from the past” and making it available to the public.

After dinner the roast began with Bill Nicholson, former COO of Amway and Chairman of WorldBlackBelt, recalling Bob’s many humorous experiences with him.  He presented Mr. Wall with a trophy from a hunting trip, which along with the story made people laugh so hard they cried (Mr. Wall aiming at a bull Elk brought down an underfed squirrel wearing a hat).

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Robert DeSantis brought the house down with his stories of Mr. Wall’s daily life in southern California his jokes and quick one liners were hard to follow and left many people drying tears of laughter.  Jeff Smith felt it necessary to give a five-page handout revealing the many sides of Bob.  Mr. Smith’s humor was for lack of words, “for adults only”.

Trying to give a run down on all the roasters will be difficult.  For example Gene LeBell recounted lots of funny incidents with his student Bob Wall and presented Bob with a pink Gi.  Jim Harrison recited some so-called “true incidents” which had Mr. Wall roaring.

Mr. Norris praised his long time friend for all the help he has given Chuck over the years even though Mr. Norris nearly killed Bob once while “para-sailing”.  Chuck related that on a trip with Bob in Hawaii the two tried para-sailing but the boat didn’t have the power to get a man off the water more than a few feet.  Bob and Chuck decided that pulling each other behind a car would have the power to send them to the full extent of the rope.  As Chuck started his u-turn at the trees to drive Bob back down the beach he slowed down a little too much which sent Mr. Wall crashing through the trees to land on the beach.  Bob survived the forty-foot drop and all Chuck could do was stare in dis-belief and the number of times Bob “bounced” and that his friend was still alive with only a bruised leg.

Many of the speakers had nothing but praise for Mr. Wall, Roy Kurban honored him, so did Paul Durso.  Mr. Durso was a student of Bob’s in the ‘60s  at Sherman Oaks Karate School and hadn’t seen Joe Lewis and several of the men in the room for over 35 years. 

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In a tearful presentation Jim Anderson (executive producer of the event) presented Mr. Wall with a beautiful painting honoring America and those lost on September 11th, 2001.  Mr. Anderson is a business entrepreneur, boxing promoter and long time friend of Mr. Wall.  Later that evening Gary Lee presented Jim with a Living Legends Gold Eagle watch.

Michael James expressed his heartfelt wishes for Bob and gave thanks for his own involvement in martial arts journalism.  Lou Casamassa told of how sparing no expense, Mr. Wall helped Lou to beat cancer and on a lighter side counted down his top ten reasons for attending the roast, which included free dinner and “not wanting to get on Bob’s bad side”.

The evening events were kept on track by the host and speaker Gary Lee and Chris Casamassa.  Chris has a future as a television host, his cutting-edge comebacks after the various speakers kept every one laughing and his comments about Mr. Piddington’s peculiar smelling “prayer incense” and Mr. Burleson “recollections” and “slow delivery” once again brought the house down.  Chris just could not help noticing all the “southern boys” at the event.

Joe Corley using Chris’s observation’s as a springboard for his comments, made it a point to speak slowly and with a “Georgia southern twang”.  Everyone knows that the promoter of the largest tournament in America is a “fast talker”.

J. Pat Burleson had his “war stories” written on cards but threw many away as Mr. Wall’s lovely wife Lillian and many FBI agents and law officers were in attendance.

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A night to remember indeed as Jerry Piddington first challenged Joe Lewis to a re-match then recalled an event that brought the “iron-man” of American karate, Mr. Lewis, to tears for several minutes, touching the hearts of every one in the room.  Mr. Piddington roasted on Bob and then presented Bob and Chuck Norris with hand made necklaces.

Mr. Lewis in turn shared many memories from the Sherman Oaks School and how Bob hurt Joe’s foot running into his sidekick so much while breaking Bob’s ribs.  Mr. Lewis then expressed his sincere feelings at having such a close and good friend in Mr. Wall and said Bob was his toughest and most courageous Black Belt.

Mr. Wall’s beautiful daughters, Kara and Shana recalled several stories about their father and his peculiar “idiosyncrasies, now everyone knows a “tantrum” from Mr. Wall is similar to one of the many earthquakes in southern California.  They also related that Bob has “your favorite beverage” in one of “his three refrigerators” he keeps in the house just for the purpose of being “a perfect host”.

Gary Lee, rather than roasting Bob presented him with a Silver Eagle ring for his contributions to American Sport Karate and a Sakura Samurai Vase (which Mr. Lee promptly yelled into preserving Bob’s kiai forever).

There were many exciting demonstrations as Garett Lee performed Mr. Kurban’s first place form “Do Sa” and Alexis Porras; the Grand Champion of the Entertainment Competition executed her musical double nunchaku form with precision and grace.

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Garett Lee was the first child to test for Black Belt at the first “Celebrity Roast” held in Houston Texas back in 1999, that event was attended by Allen Steen, Skipper Mullins, Linda Denley, “Big” Ed Daniels, “Whirlwind” Fred Wren, Robert Halliburton, Jack Hwang and Dan Anderson.

Jody Sasaki’s team performed spoofs on Bruce Lee.  To honor “traditional kata” Gabe Reynaga performed his award winning form, which made him the top kata competitor through the 90’s.  Eric Lee and Sid Campbell’s skit of the famous Bob Wall O’Hara/Bruce Lee death match was a “riot”.

A moment of silent prayer and a Living Legends Special Award for fighting was given to Howard Jackson, recently out of the hospital and too weak to attend. 

The Living Legends Tiger, Bear and Eagle Awards represent the “Spirit of Karate”.  These awards were presented to Steve Fisher, Troy Dorsey, Raymond McCallum, Gene LeBell, Jeff Smith, Roy Kurban, Eric Lee, Tayari Casel, Don Wilson, Keith Vitali, father and son Lou and Chris Casamassa.

Tears came to the eyes of Donnie Williams as he and Steve (Sanders) Mohammed were presented with Living Legend Awards for their work with children keeping them off the streets and out of gang activity.

Living Legend Eagle Awards from the first “Roast” in ’99 was given to Mr. Norris who missed that event, other Eagle and Bear awards given in retrospect for their absence were presented to Jeff Smith and Joe Lewis for being the first champions of full contact karate.

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Other Living Legend Awards at this years event went to Michael James for publishing, Emil Farkas for writing, Sid Campbell for martial arts historian and Jerry Piddington for fighting.

Lillian Wall was given an award for being the “woman behind the man”, the beautiful Mrs. Wall, seemed to know “all about” her husband and his many “exploits” in and out of the ring and enjoyed the evening as much as Bob.

Many were invited but couldn’t attend; Mike Stone sent a letter apologizing for his absence.  Benny Urquidez was already obligated to other activities; everyone there missed him greatly and ask “where’s Benny “The Jet”?

Dick Tirschel, one of Chuck’s first Black Belts announced the founding of the Living Legends Sport Karate Museum and Home of Martial Arts.  Mr. Tirschel along with Gary Lee commented that it is time to give respect to the Fathers of Sport Karate, to show them respect and loyalty for their great contributions to a sport that has not had the recognition it deserves.  He concluded with a moment of silent prayer for those that have passed on, Robert Trias, Ed Parker, Don Nagle, Al Weiss and General Hong Hi Choi.  The Sport Karate Museum will host a memorial to these men and others that time has called home. 

After the last roaster, Bob Wall rose to answer his roasters and Mr. Wall’s retorts were amazingly funny and he got the biggest laughs of the evening with his pointed comments. As it turned out, Bob Wall’s legendary wit and skill with words was the highlight of the evening as Bob nailed each roaster with accurate and well timed funny comments.

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A very special thanks goes to World Black Belt, Wissam Ockaili, Gail Trasso, and David and Morgan Krapes for their work in posting the event on WBB’s website and for their work behind the scenes coordinating all the details for Gary Lee, Bob Wall and Chuck Norris.

Next years events are being planned and it looks like Eric Lee, Gene LeBell and Jerry Piddington will be put “on the grill” and honored. 

The “roast” was a huge success and everyone will remember the evening with a warm heart and a big smile.  Everyone left wondering whom Gary Lee and the Living Legends will roast in the future.  

Written by, Covert Blackledge 6th Dan Taekwon Do, Dallas, Texas

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