Wilhelm von Homburg
Wilhelm von Homburg
25 August 1940
|Died||10 March 2004 (aged 63)|
|Occupation||Boxer, actor, professional wrestler|
|Height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Wins by KO||24|
Norbert Grupe (August 25, 1940 – March 10, 2004), better known outside Germany by his stage name Wilhelm von Homburg, was a German boxer, actor, and professional wrestler known for his villainous supporting roles in various high profile films of the 1980s and 90s, including Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II, the henchman James in Die Hard, and Souteneur in Werner Herzog's Stroszek.
Norbert Grupe was born in Hamburg . He grew up without his mother, feuded with his father who wanted to teach him how to live a clean life and who Norbert was jealous of in his later years, and had envy at his brother Winfried. Norbert, as an early adult, worked variously as a meatpacker, a stevedore, a butcher, a longshoreman, and a waiter.
Professional wrestling career
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Prince Wilhelm von Homburg|
|Billed from||Berlin, Germany|
|Trained by||Richard Grupe|
Grupe moved to California to follow his father, who had emigrated in 1960 to further a professional wrestling career. The father and son duo would wrestle professionally as a tag team, first as The Vikings, wearing horned helmets and shiny gladiator outfits, and later as the Von Homburg brothers, billed as German heel jobbers to American faces. Norbert would adopt the stage name “Prince” Wilhelm von Homburg, which he would use for the rest of his career. He came to regret the name, as it would lead to his being labelled a "Nazi" in the wrestling ring.
Von Homburg and his father eventually had a falling out when Richard accused his son of raping his step-mother, and Von Homburg subsequently left wrestling.
In 1962, he shifted from wrestling to boxing, as he had been training in the sport since age 10 by his father. Homburg made his professional boxing debut on 20 July 1962, drawing (tying) over four rounds with Sam Wyatt in Los Angeles. Over the span of eight years, he had 46 bouts with 29 wins in the light heavyweight and heavy weight classes. Homburg adopted the nickname "Prinz" ("Prince"), in order to create an aura of royalty around himself. He was always searching for recognition.
Homburg's first boxing victory came on 16 September 1962, when he knocked out Bob Brown in the third round at San Diego. On 25 October he lost for the first time, being knocked out in round three by Freeman Harding in the third round at Los Angeles. Eight victories followed, including two over Clifford Gray, before he drew against Tommy Merrill on 1 June 1963 in Las Vegas. Homburg won three of his next five fights, then returned home with a record of 17-3-2. He settled in his hometown of Hamburg and was managed by Willi Zeller in Germany. Homburg held his German professional boxing debut on 8 May 1964, when he was held to a ten round draw by Ulli Ritter. However, he went on to win seven of his next ten bouts, being described by German press at the time as a "promising newcomer" and using his fight earnings to move to the Hamburg neighborhood of St. Pauli. He was known for channeling his braggart persona into wrestling as well and mixing in examples from Cassius Clay’s, and was christened the nickname “the Beatle Boxer” due to his haircut resembling those of The Beatles. During this period he and his lifelong friend, Texas heavyweight fighter Buddy Turman, shared billing on several occasions in Germany and Austria, until Turman's retirement in 1967.
Homburg got his first championship try on 19 November 1966, when he contested Piero del Papa for the EBU Regional Light Heavyweight title in Berlin. Homburg was defeated by an eleventh round disqualification against Del Papa, who later lost by a first round knockout to Vicente Rondon in a challenge for the WBA World Light Heavyweight title. Grupe successfully knocked out Del Papa, however the referee declared Grupe's head movement to be an illegal headbutt in the 11th round and awarded the match for Del Papa.
Homburg next faced Guido Rinaldi, who lost a fifteen round decision to Archie Moore for the world Light Heavyweight title, three times in 1969, beating him in their first fight by a fifth round knockout, losing a ten round decision and winning their third clash, by an eighth round knockout. The latter would turn to be his last victory. Homburg went on boxing, but he lost his next four fights, including defeats at the hands of Oscar Bonavena and Jürgen Blin. On 11 December 1970 he held his last fight, losing by a ten round decision to Rudiger Schmidtke in Cologne. Homburg retired from boxing with a record of 29 wins, 11 losses and 6 draws in 46 bouts, with 24 wins coming by knockout.
Film and television career
Thinking of a future after boxing, he launched a career as an actor. He had a featured role as a Dutch bare-knuckle boxer offered a bribe to throw a fight in an episode of the Western television series Gunsmoke entitled "The Promoter" (1964). The director Andrew V. McLaglen, had writer John Meston write the episode inspired by Wilhelm's life as a boxer. On film he started with a small role in the World War II film Morituri (1965) starring Marlon Brando, and around the same time a bit part in the Alfred Hitchcock political thriller Torn Curtain (1966).
After being defeated in the boxing ring by Bonavena in 1969, Homburg made an appearance on German TV the next day. After the reporter Rainer Günzler had made some snide remarks about his boxing career and his flamboyant lifestyle, Homburg sat through the 10-minute live interview not answering any of Günzler's questions, only putting on a sarcastic smile.
Homburg appeared in small roles in several films such as The Wrecking Crew (1969) with Sharon Tate and Dean Martin. German director Werner Herzog, who had watched Wilhelm fight as a young man, cast the ex-boxer as a bullying pimp in Stroszek, a 1977 film about an ex-con trying to leave Germany for a better life in the United States.
After 1977, Homburg's career in movies was in abeyance for a decade as he was given a prison sentence of two years and three months for assault and "activities in prostitution".
Homburg made his big screen return in the action thriller Die Hard (1988) with Alan Rickman and Andreas Wisniewski. Homburg plays James, a member of the German group that plans to rob the Nakatomi Tower, meeting his demise courtesy of a DIY bomb from John McClane (Bruce Willis). From there, Homburg appeared in the movie sequel Ghostbusters II (1989) playing Vigo The Carpathian, a 16th Century Eastern European tyrant (based loosely on Vlad Țepeș), the role for which Homburg is possibly best known. The character’s full name was Vigo Von Homburg Deutschendorf, an homage to his ring name. With his speech being slurred, all of his lines were dubbed with Max von Sydow’s baritone. Wilhelm's last notable role was in Diggstown as a vegetative ex-boxer who had been cheated out of his life. His final film role was in John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (1994), with Sam Neill.
Later life and Der Boxprinz
In 2002, German filmmaker Gerd Kroske traveled to Los Angeles to film a documentary on Homburg's life and career, titled Der Boxprinz (The Boxing Prince). The documentary revealed that Homburg's acting career fizzled out due to his publicly combative and abrasive personality making him an unpopular hire, and that he was living in an old VW camper van in Sherman Oaks. He often went to Griffith Park with his pet dogs, and also practiced equestrianism.
During his professional boxing career, Homburg was well-known for his public and flamboyant lifestyle. He was involved in several affairs, and was nicknamed "Germany's answer to Ali" due to his braggadocious in-ring persona. He had a well-knowing smoking habit, unusual for a boxer, often entering the ring with a cigar. During his time living in St. Pauli, he frequently went into the red-light district where he would socialize with drug dealers, pimps, and a local chapter of the Hells Angels.
Homburg was bisexual.
He lived in Sherman Oaks California with a friend. He rented a room until his money ran out and then started living in his Volkswagen Van with his dog. He drove down to Puerto Vallarta in March 2004 to visit his close friend in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where one month later he died of prostate cancer.
Professional boxing record
|30 Wins (24 knockouts, 6 decisions), 11 Losses (2 knockouts, 8 decisions, 1 DQ), 6 Draws |
|Loss||30–11–6||Rudiger Schmidtke||PTS||10||December 11, 1970||Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Loss||30–10–6||Jürgen Blin||PTS||10||December 12, 1969||Sporthalle, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Loss||30–9–6||Rudiger Schmidtke||PTS||10||November 14, 1969||Festhalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Hesse|
|Loss||30–8–6||Oscar Bonavena||TKO||3||June 20, 1969||Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin|
|Win||30–7–6||Giulio Rinaldi||TKO||7||April 2, 1969||Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin|
|Loss||29–7–6||Giulio Rinaldi||PTS||10||February 14, 1969||Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg|
|Win||29–6–6||Giulio Rinaldi||TKO||5||January 3, 1969||Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin|
|Win||28–6–6||Gerhard Zech||PTS||10||November 8, 1968||Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg||Germany BDB Heavyweight Title Eliminator.|
|Win||27–6–6||Franklin Arrindel||KO||3||September 18, 1968||Hohe Warte Stadium, Vienna|
|Win||26–6–6||Rudolf Nehring||TKO||8||August 30, 1968||Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin|
|Loss||25–6–6||David E. Bailey||PTS||10||April 11, 1968||Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin|
|Win||25–5–6||Paul Roux||KO||5||December 15, 1967||Circus Krone Building, Munich, Bavaria|
|Draw||24–5–6||Ray Patterson||PTS||10||May 3, 1967||Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Win||24–5–5||Archie McBride||KO||9||December 9, 1966||Festhalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Hesse|
|Loss||23–5–5||Piero Del Papa||DQ||11||November 19, 1966||Deutschlandhalle, Charlottenburg, Berlin||EBU Light Heavyweight Title.|
|Draw||23–4–5||Erich Schöppner||PTS||10||May 14, 1966||Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Draw||23–4–4||Archie McBride||PTS||10||May 28, 1965||Deutschlandhalle, Charlottenburg, Berlin|
|Win||23–4–3||Bas van Duivenbode||KO||4||April 29, 1965||Neue Sporthalle, Hannover, Lower Saxony|
|Win||22–4–3||Jose Angel Manzur||TKO||8||April 2, 1965||Stadthalle, Vienna|
|Win||21–4–3||Ulli Ritter||TKO||6||February 20, 1965||Ostseehalle, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein|
|Loss||20–4–3||Piero Tomasoni||PTS||10||January 16, 1965||Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Win||20–3–3||Joseph Syoz||TKO||10||December 5, 1964||Sporthalle, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Win||19–3–3||Paul Kraus||KO||3||November 27, 1964||Ostseehalle, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein|
|Win||18–3–3||Lars Olaf Norling||TKO||9||November 6, 1964||Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg|
|Win||17–3–3||Jean Huiban||KO||6||May 29, 1964||Weser-Ems Halle, Oldenburg, Lower Saxony|
|Draw||16–3–3||Ulli Ritter||PTS||10||May 8, 1964||Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg|
|Win||16–3–2||Roy Crear||KO||5||April 7, 1964||Stockyards Coliseum, Oklahoma City|
|Win||15–3–2||Bob McKinney||TKO||9||January 6, 1964||New York Coliseum, Bronx, New York|
|Win||14–3–2||Monroe Ratliff||SD||10||November 18, 1963||Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California||7–3, 8–1, 3–6.|
|Loss||13–3–2||Billy Stephan||PTS||10||September 19, 1963||Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California||4–7.|
|Loss||13–2–2||Chuck Leslie||PTS||10||July 23, 1963||San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California|
|Win||13–1–2||Bobby Sand||TKO||9||June 24, 1963||Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California||Referee stopped the bout at 1:09 of the ninth round.|
|Draw||12–1–2||Tommy Merrill||PTS||6||June 1, 1963||Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Win||12–1–1||Bobby Sand||TKO||9||May 20, 1963||Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California||Referee stopped the bout at 2:29 of the ninth round.|
|Win||11–1–1||Pete Gonzales||KO||3||March 25, 1963||Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California|
|Win||10–1–1||Gus Calf Robe||KO||6||February 25, 1963||Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California|
|Win||9–1–1||Clifford Gray||TKO||1||February 19, 1963||San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California||Referee stopped the bout at 2:35 of the first round.|
|Win||8–1–1||Bob Mumford||KO||6||February 15, 1963||Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California|
|Win||7–1–1||Yancy D Smith||UD||8||January 22, 1963||San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California||5–2, 5–2, 6–2.|
|Win||6–1–1||Yancy D Smith||PTS||8||January 15, 1963||San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California||6–3.|
|Win||5–1–1||Clifford Gray||PTS||6||December 18, 1962||San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California|
|Win||4–1–1||John L Davey||PTS||6||December 14, 1962||Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California|
|Loss||3–1–1||Freeman Hardin||KO||3||October 25, 1962||Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California|
|Win||3–0–1||Al Cummings||KO||3||September 21, 1962||Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California|
|Win||2–0–1||Tony Fern||KO||3||August 24, 1962||Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California|
|Win||1–0–1||Bob Brown||KO||2||August 16, 1962||San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California|
|Draw||0–0–1||Sam Wyatt||PTS||4||July 20, 1962||Los Angeles Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California|
|1966||The Last of the Secret Agents?||GGI Agent|
|Torn Curtain||Blonde Twin in Bus||Uncredited|
|1967||Hotel Clausewitz||The American|
|1968||The Devil's Brigade||Fritz|
|The Hell with Heroes||Hans|
|The Wrecking Crew||Gregor|
|1970||Gentlemen in White Vests||Max Graf|
|1976||The Swiss Conspiracy||Hitman in Santa Claus Costume||Uncredited|
|1989||The Package||Lt. Koch|
|Ghostbusters II||Vigo the Carpathian|
|1990||Midnight Cabaret||Juan Carlos|
|1991||Night of the Warrior||Bike|
|Eye of the Storm||The Killer|
|1992||Diggstown||Charles Macum Diggs|
|1994||The Silence of the Hams||Maitre D'|
|In the Mouth of Madness||Simon|
|2002||Der Boxprinz||Himself||Documentary film|
Final on-screen appearance
|1964||Gunsmoke||Otto||Episode: "The Promoter"|
|1966||T.H.E. Cat||Tony||Episode: "To Kill a Priest"|
|Jericho||German Sergeant||Episode: "Panic in the Piazza"|
|1967||The Invaders||Injured Alien||Episode: "Labyrinth"|
|1967-1968||The Wild Wild West||Herr Hess / Abel Garrison / Gunther Pearse||Episodes: "The Night of the Tottering Tontine", |
"The Night of the Iron Fist" & "The Night of the Big Blackmail"
|2000||Rosa Roth||Schorsch||Episode: "Tod eines Bullen"|