A Successful Launch

In August of 2016, I wrote a blog post that would have a greater impact on my life than I could ever have imagined. Two months after that visit to the Charcoal Oven in Oklahoma City, I received a call from a publishing company in Chicago; they’d come across what I’d written. A short time afterwards, I had a contract for a book. More than two years later, the result of that contract hit the streets: Lost Restaurants of Tulsa was a reality.

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I hoped it would be a success, naturally…but I had no idea what was in store for me. It all started on December 1. The first place that the public could get their hands on the book was a craft and local goods show at the Tulsa Garden Center called Carols and Crumpets. Sam sells her jewelry there every year and I got to tag along with my book. With no advertising or fanfare, I sold more than a box. A good sign, but I dared not think much of it.

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On Sunday the 2nd, I invited the families that I had interviewed for the book to my home for a celebration. Several people came by, including a few I’d never met in person, and we had a splendid time. During that day, my publisher also let me know the book was already heading for a second printing – and the book hadn’t even hit shelves yet.

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December 3rd was the official Launch Day. I started off by appearing on Good Day Tulsa at the local ABC affiliate. I was pleasantly surprised to find a friend there that was also waiting for a little time on the television: Briana Shepard. She was there promoting her upcoming craft show and had also helped put me in touch with a member of the Bishop family, an integral part of my book. It was also Samantha’s birthday and we celebrated with our usual tradition: a drink at Hodges Bend.

A few days later, I spoke to the Tulsa World and they wrote a wonderful article about the book. I spoke at a local Rotary meeting and to the Lions Club. I was interviewed on the local NPR station. It was a whirlwind and I hadn’t even had the big launch event yet.

My first book signing was at Ida Red, a gift shop/soda fountain downtown. It was First Friday in the Tulsa Arts District, but a cold front kept most people home that night. Still, I had a good stream of people come in to get a copy of the book.

The formal launch event was originally set for Saturday, December 8th at the Tulsa Historical Society. It had been postponed due to a particularly dire weather forecast…but when the day came there was no winter weather. I decided to go up there anyway in case people showed up — and I’m glad I did! Over 50 people came in to see my presentation and buy a book. I was delighted.

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I felt that the turnout would eat into the rescheduled event on Monday evening, but to my great surprise another 120 people showed up to hear me speak and get a bite of some “found” foods. Samantha had spent all day cooking and baking to provide goodies from a few restaurants featured in the book. We had Hot Toddy Bread (Middle Path Cafe), Baked Fudge (The 1800/The Garden), Blackbottom Pie (Pennington’s), and more. It was a massive success!

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Over the next two weeks, I had a near constant stream of book signings all across town. Decopolis, Whitty Books, both Barnes & Noble stores. I brought Morning Buns (Bakery on Cherry Street) to Magic City Books and My Pi Pizza to Mother Road Market.

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I stopped by KTUL again on December 20th for a second spot on Good Day Tulsa (the first one had been interrupted by a national story) and once again bumped into a friend: Michael Wallis. He was there to talk about his new book about Los Luceros in New Mexico. We were waiting in the Leake Conference Room, named after a previous owner of the station – coincidentally, a man who I’d interviewed about another venture of his, restaurant The Razor Clam.

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My last book signing event of the year took place at Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on Saturday, December 22nd. By then, the publisher had requested a third printing and books were sold out across the city. I brought my last box of books and sold out in less than an hour. I also learned that the book had climbed to #2 on the Oklahoma Nonfiction Best Seller List.

I am thankful. I am awestruck. I am honored. I had hoped the book would be a success and it has surpassed my wildest dreams. I am so very happy that it has been received well and that it is being enjoyed by people across generations. The family stories contained within those pages are important and I am beyond happy that they are now captured forever.

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Thank you to everyone that bought a book. Thank you to everyone that came to one of my talks. Thank you to everyone that told me how excited they were to read these stories. Thank you to everyone that supported me and helped me at every stage of this process. Most of all, thank you to Samantha. I am so blessed to have a partner that is so supportive and so encouraging. I am grateful for you all.

“What’s your next project?” is the question I am most often asked. Truly, I don’t know. I want to get back out on the road and explore new places with my camera. I want to learn more about Tulsa, especially the restaurants I didn’t get to feature in the book. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to write another one some day. For now, though, my next project is a nice long rest.

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America’s Corner

In late November, my friend Nic asked if I had been down to Oklahoma City to see the Railway Museum. I told him I hadn’t, and that was as good an excuse as any to get out of town. I had been stuck in a loop of book-related activity and really needed a break. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Once we left Tulsa city limits, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. 2018 has had far fewer road trips than previous years for a variety of reasons and I think of the open road often. I was so thankful to have a day where it was just me, a friend, and my camera.

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We took I-44 down to OKC to make sure we had plenty of time to explore. There are signs as you enter the city welcoming you to ‘America’s Corner‘. I have always found these signs a bit ridiculous. What kind of nickname is that? It doesn’t have much in the way of marketability. I guess I’m not the intended crowd. Anyway…

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The Railway Museum is wonderful! They have several beautiful locomotives showcasing various eras of rail history along with a number of other interesting cars. There’s a caboose from the late 1800s, a passenger car that has a giant model railroad inside, and more. Nic is something of a railhound so we spent a good deal of time wandering the exhibits and exploring the tracks. The museum recently took possession of an old railway turntable, which I’d visited a few years ago when it was still in an active rail yard. In the coming years, the museum hopes to install it and provide demonstrations.

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Just a few blocks away, the 45th Infantry Museum beckoned for us to explore some more. The grounds of the museum house an impressive collection of vintage military vehicles, from jeeps to tanks to helicopters to airplanes. The museum itself is in an old armory – and I was extremely impressed with the collection. In addition to the artifacts you’d expect to see (firearms, uniforms, and other accouterments from eras of American warfare) they have items taken from Hitler’s personal bunker and original artwork from illustrator Bill Maudlin. Even more vehicles are stored inside, too. Something I didn’t know: the 45th Infantry Division liberated Dachau. There’s a whole room dedicated to it at the museum. It’s a place I really need to re-visit with Samantha.

After our heavier-than-expected visit, it was time to grab a bite to eat. We dined at the nearby Geronimo’s Bakery, a no-frills restaurant known for their burgers. Nic and I sat and ate while the owner discussed the state of football with a long-time customer. It felt very much like the small-town diners I enjoy so much while exploring much smaller towns.

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There were a few places I wanted to show Nic that he hadn’t visited before. First was the Milk Bottle Building, a classic Route 66 attraction on Classen Blvd. The little 350-square-foot building was once a grocery store, incredibly, but today appears to be empty. The giant milk bottle on top advertised local Townley Dairy for decades, but has advertised Braum’s since I’ve known it.

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We also stopped at Skydance Bridge on the south side of downtown. I didn’t realize how much work was going on with city development right now; currently, the pedestrian crossing that spans I-40 is a bridge to nothing but fences, dirt, and construction equipment. Our visit there was short, as was our stop at the Centennial Land Run Monument. Since we still had plenty of daylight we decided to take old Route 66 home.

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It was refreshing to be a Route 66 passenger for a change. I was able to talk about all kinds of local history as we headed east, stopping in a few of the towns for photos. My favorite stop was at the Ozark Trails obelisk outside of Stroud. Although the poor thing is totally covered in graffiti (as it has been for some time) it’s a reminder of a time long past, a time before Route 66 even. There are very few of the old trail markers left…only two in Oklahoma. It’s hard to imagine what long-form travel was like back then.

It was dark by the time we made it back to Tulsa, which is the way I like it. It was a day well-spent exploring places new and old. As I mentioned at the start of this post, this was from November – the last few weeks of my life have been entirely engulfed in Lost Restaurants of Tulsa book stuff. It’s been GOOD stuff, of course…news interviews, presentations, and lots of book signing events. I have a few more events before Christmas if you haven’t made it out to one yet! I have been humbled by the response so far.

December 18th: Mother Road Market (6 to 8 PM)

December 19th: Barnes and Noble on 71st (4 to 7 PM)

December 22nd: Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios (11 AM to 2 PM)

January 19th: Full Circle Books in OKC (3 to 5 PM)

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Lost Restaurants of Tulsa – Release Info

Hello friends!

This is a short post to let everyone know that my book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa, has a release date! It will be available for sale on December 3rd at a variety of local shops in the city (Magic City Books, Ida Red, etc.) as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Amazon is great for folks around the globe, but if you’re in town I highly encourage you shop locally! Easier to get a signed copy that way, too. 🙂

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My launch event will be at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum (2445 S Peoria Ave) on Saturday, December 8th at 2:00 PM. More events are being planned before Christmas – if you’re on Facebook, the best way to stay up-to-date is by following my page at:

http://www.facebook.com/LostTulsaRestaurants

I’ll post again when we’re closer to December and I have a few more events lined up. I was also on KTUL Channel 8 a few nights ago! You can see the segment here:

https://ktul.com/news/local/local-author-diving-into-the-history-of-tulsas-restaurants

I can’t wait to share the stories of many of Tulsa’s beloved lost restaurants with everyone. Thank you all for the support and encouragement over the last two years of research and writing!

Ghost Louisianne

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Sucker Day

For nearly 70 years, the town of Wetumka, OK has held an annual festival called Sucker Day. It’s an odd name for a celebration, and it has a colorful story. It inspired me to take a little trip to Hughes County and explore a little more of the Sooner State.

Here’s the story of Sucker Day: In 1950, a man came to town claiming to be a scout for a traveling circus. The smooth-talking salesman convinced the citizens that a great event was on their doorstep, so the city prepared. A local hotel bought new mattresses, hay was shipped in to feed the animals, the grocery store stocked up on food, and many local merchants bought advertising. The day the circus was supposed to arrive, however, the man (who had also been enjoying free room and board) disappeared. The circus was a sham. Instead of succumbing to anger or self-pity, the town decided to use many of the goods they’d brought in and use them for a street festival; they named it Sucker Day to poke fun at how they’d been hoodwinked. It was a big success and has been an annual Wetumka tradition ever since. The festival was featured once in Time Magazine and Paul Harvey even included it as part of, “The Rest of the Story.”

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When Samantha and I arrived at 10:30 AM, a good crowd was already milling about on Main Street. We joined them and checked out the booths that were set up on the sidewalks. A flatbed trailer had been set up in the middle as a makeshift stage. An old movie theater, which looked like it had been saved from a demilitarized zone, featured a welcoming banner over the marquee. The smells of barbecue and tamales were in the air. Kids were running around in capes and masks, as the 2018 theme revolved around superheroes. Everyone knew everyone else, it seemed.

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At 11:00, the parade started. It was a lovely small-town parade with much good cheer. Drivers and float-riders tossed candy to the crowd and the pint-sized caped crusaders scrambled around to scoop up as much as they could carry. The parade consisted of about what you’d expect: emergency services, school/church floats, some classic cars, and a few political candidates. It was refreshingly simple.

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Full parade photos at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudlesslens/albums/72157696029106150

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Once the parade was over, Sam and I hit the road; we didn’t fancy staying around for the evening rodeo.  However, a straight drive home is never my idea of a good time. I had a few bridges marked on my map, so I ventured north. One of the bridges had been demolished and replaced with a boring concrete slab (I was devastated) but the second one was still proudly spanning the North Canadian River…even if it was quite littered with graffiti.

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The bridge was a beauty; built in 1951 by the Henryetta Construction Company and featuring a K-Parker truss, a type of bridge design that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation was quite fond of for many years, and multiple pony truss spans. It was lovely to walk the road with only the sound of the river and my camera shutter.

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I was surprised to discover I’d picked up a hitchhiker: a small butterfly perched on my shoulder during my walk. Even though I shooed it away when I got back into the car, he circled around and snuck onto my hat as I got in. Sam helped me get him outdoors and we went on our way.

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Our next stop was the Honey Springs Battlefield, a site marking the largest Civil War battle in Indian Territory. Several walking trails feature interpretive signs that tell about the 1863 battle in which white men were in the minority: Native Americans made up most of the troops on both sides and the Union force included African-American troops. The Union-won battle was also instrumental in the later Confederate defeat at Fort Smith, AR and the Union capture of the entire Arkansas River Valley. I had no idea such an important battle took place in Oklahoma.

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The final stop of the day took us just south of Muskogee. A Muffler Man statue stands guard at an auto salvage yard on Oktaha Road. He’s a little worse for wear, but according to Muffler Man expert Joel Baker, this guy isn’t going anywhere for a long time…his legs are filled with concrete! A couple from Texas stopped at the junkyard to take photos during my short visit, too. These fiberglass giants do certainly attract attention. Speaking of: a new Route 66 business in Tulsa is raising funds to have their own Muffler Man built. You can read more about that here.

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JDRF One Walk for Diabetes

Hello friends,

It’s rare that I use this platform for anything but travel reports, but I do want to raise awareness for a cause that I am raising money for, as it is very close to my heart. Please do not feel obligated by any means, but I want to get the word out as best I can.

On October 7th, I will be participating in JDRF One Walk® to raise money to work towards a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). I do this in honor of my father, Tony Clay Martin.

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In 1991, around the time of his 35th birthday, Dad received some unexpected news. After a standard checkup through his workplace, he (along with several of his peers) was told that he was a Type-1 diabetic.

If you’re not familiar, Type-1 diabetics stop producing insulin. Even with the most vigilant management, a significant portion of their day is spent with high or low blood-sugar levels which can lead to unpleasant side effects and long-term damage. Dad’s diagnosis explained his mood swings and some peculiar cravings he’d bee having for a while. Life changes had to be made immediately to manage this disease.

As a ten-year-old, I learned how to help. I learned how to manually mixed his insulin and help recognize symptoms of low blood sugar. Over the years, it just became a regular part of life…but it takes constant awareness. When Dad passed away suddenly in 2011, his kidneys were beginning to fail and other medical complications were slowly manifesting. Although we don’t know what caused his sudden death, his body had been severely taxed by diabetes. I know it was a contributing factor.

Dad and me (with my brother in the background) at EPCOT Center in the early 1990s

With T1D there are no days off and there is no cure…yet. I’m asking for your support for life-changing research that helps people with T1D live healthier and longer, until a cure is found.

I’ve set an ambitious goal of $1,991 to represent the year my father was diagnosed. I want T1D to be a disease that we talk about in the past tense & your support will help make that a reality. You can donate at the below link:

https://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR?fr_id=7499&pg=personal&px=12326631

Thank you for reading; I’ll see you on the road!

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CAF AirPower History Tour

I haven’t taken as many road trips in 2018 as I have in years past – there’s been so much going on around here it’s been tough to get away. Thankfully, though, I’ve been able to check a few things out here locally that I would’ve missed out on otherwise – one of which took place this weekend at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. For the last few days, TASM has hosted the Commemorative Air Force and several historic aircraft from World War II.

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After paying my entry fee on Saturday and passing several displays of military memorabilia, I walked out onto the tarmac and into the shadow of “Fifi”, a B-29 Superfortress bomber. Until very recently it was the only airworthy B-29 left. It’s now titled the “World’s Most Famous” flying B-29. The other one, “Doc”, just received a green light for passengers last week. Both planes had been grounded and relegated to a life of target practice before they were purchased by private entities and fully restored.

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The line to see the cockpit of the 75,000 lb. aircraft was quite long, so I looked around at some of the other vintage planes first. There was a blue-and-yellow Stearman biplane taking off as I arrived. At first, I was a little confused as to why an older aircraft like this was nestled among its more advanced brethren…but one of the folks explained to me that these planes were the primary training aircraft used during World War II. It sure looked like a fun ride with the open cockpit and all.

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Next up was T-6 Texan. This one was also a trainer aircraft and quite popular. Over a quarter of a century, these airplanes were involved in training hundreds of thousands of pilots in dozens of countries. They also saw service in battle into the early part of the Korean War.

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The C-45 Expeditor, named “Bucket of Bolts”, is a military transport plane. Over the course of this model’s service these craft were used for bombardier training, staff service, and photo reconnaissance. It was the most active airplane during my time on the tarmac; it didn’t stay still very long before another group of folks boarded it and went on a flight around the city.

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The airplane that got the most attention (aside from Fifi herself) was a P-51 Mustang called “Gunfighter”.  This fighter plane is one of the most well-known aircraft of its era; they were used extensively due to their long range and effectiveness in combat. In fact, some were still in use as recently as the 1980s by other air forces around the world. Sadly, I never saw this one in flight during my visit.

B-29 Rumble

I finally got back to Fifi and joined the line for the tour; the shade under the port-side wing was quite welcome. It took about 45 minutes to get to the plane’s interior, but I didn’t mind the wait. Most of the other admirers were older and spent their time sharing knowledge or memories with their families. Many of them were veterans and some had served on similar aircraft personally. I would never associate my Dad with the military or a particular love of aircraft, but I sure did miss him as I heard fathers and sons bonding around me.

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We entered through the forward bomb bay doors, which had been outfitted with replica bombs to give a sense as to what the racks looked like during the war. It was awesome in the original sense of the word.

B-29 Cockpit

When I finally reached the cockpit, it was easy to see what I was later told: the configuration had been an inspiration for the creation of the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars. How amazing must that view be during flight! Alas, a ticket in the bombardier seat is $1,600.

Since Fifi’s flights for the day were over, I came back the next morning to get some video of the behemoth in action. It sure was a sight to see! Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to go up in something like this. Until then, it’s enough to be a witness to this history with my feet planted on the ground.

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DragonCon 2018

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been coming to the Con since 2010. A lot in my life has changed since that first trip to Atlanta…but one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the Con is a great big party. It’s filled with people of all kinds and all passions: if you have a little piece of pop culture that you absolutely love, you’ll find your family here. I’ve developed a wonderful Con Family that I seek out every year.

I arrived earlier than usual on Thursday, flying out of Tulsa at 6:00 AM. For the first time, I took Atlanta’s light rail (MARTA) into downtown. It couldn’t have been easier. In fact, it brought back the feelings of taking mass transit that I experienced while abroad. I sure wish Tulsa had a stronger transit system. All that being said, I was able to arrive at my hotel downtown and check-in well before noon. That gave me a lot of time to explore before the Con started on Friday!

Although, really, the Con doesn’t start on Friday anymore. It starts on Thursday. And, really, it’s getting busier on the Wednesday and even the Tuesday before. I couldn’t believe how packed everything was as I wandered the Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton lobbies. Thursday is no longer the ‘quiet day’ of DragonCon. I saw just as many A-Game costumes at the Marriott Atrium that day than any of the other days.

DragonCon is made up of many parts: celebrity panels, creative workshops, vendor booths, gaming halls, cosplayers, and a parade that lasts nearly two hours. In and around those happenings are nearly 100k fans of all ages celebrating every imaginable aspect of pop culture. Since there’s so much to do, everyone gets to make their own Con experience. My Con consists mostly of wandering the host hotels with my camera, taking photos of my favorite costumes. I am consistently amazed at the craftsmanship on display. Although I didn’t dress up this year, I was able to share in the pride of many others that did.

There’s always a trend. This year, there were far fewer Harley Quinn’s and a lot of the Deadpools were of higher quality. A ton of costumes integrated portable speakers and music. And a lot of the photographers were taking video…I’ll admit I got annoyed more than once when someone was commanding cosplayers to do different things while they walked back and forth to get certain shots while I just stood and waited.

It was a long weekend in the best way. I spent time with friends I only see once a year, sharing meals and having great conversations.  In fact, that quality time meant I took fewer photos this year since 2010; no regrets! Below are a few of my favorite costumes from DragonCon 2018. My full photoset is available on Flickr here. To my friends in Atlanta: thank you. It was a magical weekend.

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SPACE FORCE! There were dozens of cosplayers around in various costumes dedicated to the current administration’s passion around a new branch of the military.

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A great re-imagining of Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

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Phenomenal detail on a costume inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road.

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I love it when cosplayers come toghether – like these Cinderella Step-Sisters and The Queen.

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This Bob Ross guy was actually painting!

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Best Judge Doom I’ve ever seen – great props including a squeaking shoe!

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Many scary clowns this year (many from IT) – this was my favorite!

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Royal Tenenbaums cosplay group.

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Strong Pro Wrestling representation in 2018 – including this picture-perfect Macho Man.

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French Kiss.

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It’s easy to phone in a Dread Pirate Roberts costume – this one is stellar! Great detail with him and Princess Buttercup.

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Back to the Future III group – what a great Buford Tannen!

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