Scottish Daily Mail
Time to call Ghostbusters
QUESTION What became of Wilhelm von Homburg, once described as the German answer to Muhammad Ali? Few people might remember wilhelm von Homburg the boxer, but many will remember the film Ghostbusters II.
The plot revolved around an attempt to resurrect a villainous sorcerer called Vigo the Carpathian, trapped in a giant painting housed in the fictional Manhattan Museum of Art where Dana Barrett (Sigourney weaver) worked. The imposing figure in the painting was, in fact, von Homburg.
Von Homburg was born Norbert Papen Grupe, in Berlin on August 25, 1940. His father, Richard, was a Nazi soldier who escaped most of the fighting because of his skills as a boxer.
At the end of the war, Richard was imprisoned by the British. After his release, he boxed professionally from 1946 to 1952 before turning to professional wrestling. He went on the road in Italy with Primo Carnera — aka the Ambling Alp, a 6ft 6in former world heavyweight boxing champion turned wrestler.
In 1960, Richard emigrated to the U.S. where he and his son Norbert, by then a 6ft 3in blonde giant, fought as tag-team partners called The Vikings.
As a wrestler, Norbert called himself Prince wilhelm von Homburg, and his charisma made him famous when he switched to boxing in 1962. He made his professional debut in Los Angeles on July 20, 1962, in a tied bout with Sam wyatt. over eight years, he had 46 bouts with 29 wins in the light heavyweight and heavyweight classes.
In 1966, Norbert was disqualified in the 11th round of his match in the european light heavyweight championship. He had knocked down Italian Piero Del Papa (the first man to do so) in the first round and was winning, but in the 11th, the French referee declared an illegal head-butt and called the match for Del Papa.
Norbert said later: ‘I was the best thing German boxing had back then, and then I had a 70-year-old Frenchman as the referee. we all know what the Germans did to his parents and his sister.’
Norbert was a colourful character. After retiring from boxing, he became established in the Hamburg underground, associating with gangs, pimps and drug dealers. Throughout his boxing career, Norbert had taken bit parts in movies and TV shows. In a 1964 episode of Gunsmoke called The Promoter, he played a bareknuckle boxer who is offered a bribe.
Norbert got his big acting break a decade later with a bit part as one of Hans Gruber’s (Alan Rickman) Germanspeaking goons in Die Hard. This secured him his biggest role as Vigo, and he went on to have small roles in the movies Diggs Town, The Package, eye of The Storm, In The Mouth of Madness, The Devils Brigade and The wrecking Crew.
Norbert’s life later spiralled into decline. He lived in a trailer in the Malibu/Santa Monica Mountains with his dog, Kiss. In 2004, he moved to the house of walter Staudinger (Germany’s version of Paul Raymond) in Mexico where he died of prostate cancer on March 10.
T. P. Jones, Wakefield, W. Yorks.
QUESTION When did it become a legal requirement to have motor insurance? Which was the first company to insure motorists?
LLOYD’S of London offered the first motor insurance in 1901. Back then, cars were such a novelty that specific policies didn’t exist, so the first underwriter to provide an automobile policy wrote a marine policy for the car, as if it were a ship on dry land.
A dramatic increase in car ownership after world war I, inadequate traffic rules, poor highways and the increasing number of accident victims, especially pedestrians, led to a 1928 Royal Commission.
on its recommendations, the government enacted the Road Traffic Act of 1930, a comprehensive statute providing for (a) the regulation of motor vehicles and traffic on roads; (b) the protection of third parties against risks arising out of the use of automobiles; (c) amending the highway laws; and (d) the grant of power to local authorities to regulate public service vehicles.
Section 35 of the Act made it unlawful, under penalty of a fine up to £50 or up to three months’ imprisonment and, subject to the court’s discretion, disqualification for a year to obtain a licence, to use or to permit another person to use an automobile unless there was in force an insurance policy in respect of the thirdparty risks specified in the Act.
Dennis Willis, Bristol.
QUESTION What are ‘tenterhooks’?
FURTHER to the previous answer, in the village of Helmshore, Lancashire, during the late 19th and early 20th century, there were a number of woollen mills that used the ‘fulling process’.
Before the use of Fuller’s earth, human urine was used as a fulling agent as it had a similar effect.
In order to collect the urine, villagers were issued with earthenware pots which were kept outside their front doors and which they filled from their chamber pots. These were emptied by the mills, and the households earned 1d per pot.
My old company, Porritts & Spencer, paid 1½d for every full pot. However, they took their supplies from Methodist (non-drinking) households only, which gave them a better, stronger product.
Don Fraser-Clark, Clitheroe.
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