Mil Mascaras: The Masked Marvel of Mexico
by Bill Apter
I'll never forget the days living in my parent's apartment in the New York suburb of Maspeth, New York. It was there, in the late 1960's I found my first experience with UHF (Ultra High Frequency) TV channels. Unlike the ‘rabbit ears’ that controlled the quality of ‘regular’ TV stations, you had to turn and wiggle the circular wire of the UHF antenna until you got a halfway decent - not too much snowy interference - signal.
Why would I go through this somewhat annoying exercise every Saturday night at 8pm? My parents wondered how I could keep my wits about me trying to get Channel 41/UHF to come in. It was frustrating for sure, but I was (and still am) a pro wrestling fan. Lucha Libre from the Olympic Auditorium was presented on that channel and at that time and I had to see it.
At times, the signal drifted and I had to get up and re-adjust the antenna, but it was worth it. I marveled as I watched Fred Blassie, John Tolos, Ernie Ladd, Victor Rivera, and other combatants I had only seen prior to this if they came to a New York arena or were featured in a wrestling magazine. Here they were now, in full action on my TV screen for me to see. Of the 30 or so grapplers that would appear on each show one of them stood out. He was feuding with Black Gordman and Goliath. This was a masked wrestler. His muscular body, and dazzling outfits - even on black and white TV - grabbed my attention. It was an excellent presentation. The man of mystery became even more compelling to me with his combination of strength and amazing flying maneuvers. It was like ballet in motion. He was the most graceful athlete I had seen in a wrestling ring. He was (and still is) Mil Mascaras.
Anyone who knows me and has read my book Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn't Know It Was Broken has learned that I have always had a love of flying wrestlers. Antonino Rocca, the Amazing Zuma, Edouard Carpentier, were just some of the ring stars that shaped my passion for that kind of ring-style. Mil Mascaras was unlike any of them. He had his own brand and I bought into it very quickly. He was the reason I started watching the Saturday shows from the Olympic.
When I began my career as a reporter for the Stanley Weston published magazines - Inside Wrestling and The Wrestler - I hoped that one day I would see Mascaras in person and perhaps let him know how much his work impressed me. Luckily for me, Mascaras was booked for several shows in New York and New Jersey in the early 70's and I got my wish. I was quite surprised when he knew who I was and thanked me for the coverage that publisher Mr. Stanley Weston and I were giving him in almost every issue. Mr. Weston’s head photographer in Los Angeles, Theo Ehret, covered the matches at the Olympic weekly and always sent a ton of Mascaras photos. He and his colorful outfits made excellent cover material.
Throughout the years, I was fortunate to cover Mil both photographically and as an interview subject. I marveled at taking action shots of him with my Nikon camera at ringside. From New York, to Texas, to Puerto Rico, I photographed him during his prime years. It’s something I will never forget. It was the cliché ‘poetry in motion’, that’s for sure!
Mil and I became dear friends and are still in touch a few times a year. When I look back at his career and realize the superstar that he was all over the world, I smile as I fondly recall when Mil was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he thanked the wrestling magazines for helping make him a legend.
There can be no International Hall of Fame without this fabulous athlete in it. I am proud to be here to see him take his place in the historic first induction ceremony. Congratulations Mil! You are the greatest masked wrestler that I have ever seen!