How A Traveling Blues Musician Brought Jello Wrestling to Florida

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Most people don’t know that Jell-O wrestling was invented in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1927. A young wiseguy by the name of Sal Mavicci had just pulled off the biggest heist of his career, hijacking a trainyard shipping crate packed with illegal bathtub gin headed for Cleveland. Prohibition was in full swing, and the rival mobsters he stole the load out from under were using none other than a metric ton of boxed Jell-O to disguise their booze. Mavicci and his boys packed the whole contents of the crate in an 18-wheeler and took it to the garage of their hideout, a nightclub disguised as a mechanic shop in the middle of the city. They sold off three-fourths of the score to a Minnesota gangster and threw a massive party with the rest. It was a scene straight out of flapper girls gone wild, and by 3 a.m., everybody was incredibly drunk. Mavicci dumped 100 pounds of bright-red powder into a ten-foot-square garden planter in which they’d originally planned to dispose of a body, filled it up with water, grabbed a couple of broads, and body-slammed them in the gelatinous gloop. The crowd loved it, and a new sport was born. Twenty-five years later at a shot house in Wildwood, Florida a traveling blues musician who claimed he had been there that fateful night in New Jersey performed a song he’d written about it, but never recorded. The crowd went wild and soon the wood frame was shaking and the sport had its first Florida bout. After the party, the jukebox was the only thing left standing, and someone walked up, dropped a nickel in the slot, and played a record.

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