From the Front Page/Local Section
November 26, 1999
Toiling on Canvas
By Cynthia Gomez
STANDARD-TIMES Staff Writer
Fall River -|
Rob Elowitch is the distinguished co-owner of the Barridoff Galleries in Portland, Maine, and he is also a member of one of the town's most influential families. Last Friday, he spent his evening like he often does -- in a dimly lit building in the city's downtown with a bunch of screaming men dressed in spandex. When the loud music and the strobe light came on and his name was announced, Mr. Elowitch, a.k.a., "Hollywood Superstar" Robbie Ellis, strutted into the wrestling ring at the Police Athletic League outfitted in gold trunks, cowboy boots, a gold jacket, and shades.
Once the match had started, it didn't take long for the 56-year-old wrestler to jump atop his opponent, Suicidal Silva, or Louis Silva, of Fall River, from the ring's red ropes and win the match. Meanwhile, his trusty canine companion, Buzz, sat in a Jeep outside the building awaiting Mr. Elowitch's return. Also in the Jeep were two pieces from Hollywood Superstar's other life -- two paintings he said were valued at more than $100,000 apiece. On a business trip, Mr. Elowitch had picked up the paintings in Berwick to be used at a fund-raising event in Portland.
"This is a great outlet for me, and there's such a rambunctious audience here, so it's a lot of fun," he said. Mr. Elowitch remembers the days when he kept his professional wrestling career a secret from everybody at home except his wife and closest friends, almost never competing in his hometown. His sister is a former mayor of the city, and his father is the co-founder of a local thriving manufacturing company.
"I didn't think my wrestling would be a positive thing for the art gallery, so it was just something I did on the side when I was away on business trips in this area," said Mr. Elowitch.
But in 1985, after 20 years of leading a double life, his secret was finally revealed when he hesitantly agreed to be listed on a wrestling card in Portland, and ended up on the front page of The Portland [Press} Herald.
"I thought I was going to die, but I think it was from that moment on that my art business actually began to grow in leaps and bounds," he said. "I don't think the public was really ready when I first began wrestling, but in the 1980s, it was a different world, so people reacted positively."
Since then, he has been featured on World News Tonight, The Osgood File, Sports Illustrated, and The Today Show.
"It never dawned on me how cute of a story it was -- it was just something I did, but looking at it now, it is, because of the extremity of it," he said. "There was this time when I was sitting on an airplane next to this guy who was reading about me in Sports Illustrated, so I looked over at him, and said, 'Nice Article, huh?' He looked at me and he knew immediately that was me," recalled Mr. Elowitch.
Mr. Elowitch, who graduated cum laude from Amherst College, where he wrestled on the school team, said that when he first began receiving publicity, it was only because his story was so unusual.
"I wasn't good or anything. I mean, I was too small to even seriously consider wrestling professionally, so a lot of guys that were better and not getting any publicity sort of looked down at me," he said. "It has taken a lot of work to get good, but I'm glad I've had to, because it keeps me working out and in shape."
Although Mr. Elowitch enjoys wrestling, he said he would never give up his art business. "Selling good paintings is my life, and that's how I like it," he said.
A volunteer assistant wrestling coach at his old high school, Mr. Elowitch has also devoted much of his time to the development of artistic and culturally-oriented programs throughout Maine.