If you’re a wrestling fan, you’re probably familiar with the concept of kayfabe — the sport’s carny roots of misdirection that lets good friends backstage act like bitter enemies in the squared circle. Two guys can tear each others throats out in front of an audience and then go backstage and share a beer — or tag team partners can hate each other after the bell rings and we all go home.
But one duo that tore through the 1960s territories took kayfabe to a whole new level, breaking boundaries both in and out of the ring.
For most of their time together, they were Ron and Paul Dupree, also known as Hell’s Angels No. 1 and No. 2. Clad in leather vests, swinging chains through the air, the pair of heels traversed the American wrestling landscape.
But the Duprees weren’t brothers. That shouldn’t surprise you much — neither were Kane and the Undertaker, really. What they were, though, was lovers.
Under the tutelage of promoter Tony Santos, who ran Big Time Wrestling in the Northeast, Russell Groves started working in 1960 as “Golden Boy” Ron Dupree, a flamboyant heel with bleached blonde hair. He soon partnered with a younger wrestler named Chuck Harris, who took on the name Paul Dupree. Their team was first called the “Golden Boys,” but Chuck’s time caddying for noted wrestling iconoclast Don Fargo inspired him to push the pairing in a new direction.
The duo changed their name to the California Hell’s Angels, cashing in on the swelling moral panic around the motorcycle club. They dressed in identical leather vests, grew their hair long and started swinging chains around on their way to the ring. The gimmick was an instant success.
It’s not really known when Harris and Groves began their romantic relationship, but it continued throughout their time as a tag team. Although they kept it secret from the fans, it was open in the locker room. Harris was a decade younger, so Groves was in many ways his mentor in the industry.
There were few other out wrestlers at the time. Terry Garvin was known to have a little black book of young men that he’d hook up with as he traveled the country with the NWA, and Pat Patterson has been public since the early 1970s. But the Duprees were different simply due to being in a committed partnership both in and out of the ring.
In 1968, they relocated to Arizona to get away from the cold Michigan winters. At first, they kept using the Hell’s Angels name until the motorcycle club forcefully objected. After a name change to the Comancheros, Ron and Paul Dupree riled local crowds up with masterful dickishness. Even hated local grapplers like Don Arnold and Woody Palmer turned face simply by dint of being across the ring from them. They were so outrageous that they once burned a flag on live television, causing their promotion to lose their broadcast license.