Wilhelm von Homburg

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Wilhelm von Homburg
Born
Norbert Grupe

(1940-08-25)25 August 1940
Died10 March 2004(2004-03-10) (aged 63)
OccupationBoxer, actor, professional wrestler
Years active1960−2000
Boxing career
Statistics
Weight(s)Heavyweight
Light heavyweight
Height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)[1]
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights47
Wins30
Wins by KO24
Losses11
Draws6

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.[2]

Early life[edit]

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[edit]

Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Prince Wilhelm von Homburg
Billed fromBerlin, Germany
Trained byRichard Grupe
Debut1960
Retired1962

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.

Boxing career[edit]

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.[3]

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[edit]

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.[3]

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[edit]

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.

Personal life[edit]

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.

Death[edit]

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[edit]

30 Wins (24 knockouts, 6 decisions), 11 Losses (2 knockouts, 8 decisions, 1 DQ), 6 Draws [1]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 30–11–6 Germany Rudiger Schmidtke PTS 10 December 11, 1970 Germany Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Loss 30–10–6 Germany Jürgen Blin PTS 10 December 12, 1969 Germany Sporthalle, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Loss 30–9–6 Germany Rudiger Schmidtke PTS 10 November 14, 1969 Germany Festhalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Hesse
Loss 30–8–6 Argentina Oscar Bonavena TKO 3 June 20, 1969 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Win 30–7–6 Italy Giulio Rinaldi TKO 7 April 2, 1969 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Loss 29–7–6 Italy Giulio Rinaldi PTS 10 February 14, 1969 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg
Win 29–6–6 Italy Giulio Rinaldi TKO 5 January 3, 1969 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Win 28–6–6 Germany Gerhard Zech PTS 10 November 8, 1968 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg Germany BDB Heavyweight Title Eliminator.
Win 27–6–6 Aruba Franklin Arrindel KO 3 September 18, 1968 Austria Hohe Warte Stadium, Vienna
Win 26–6–6 Germany Rudolf Nehring TKO 8 August 30, 1968 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Loss 25–6–6 United States David E. Bailey PTS 10 April 11, 1968 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Win 25–5–6 France Paul Roux KO 5 December 15, 1967 Germany Circus Krone Building, Munich, Bavaria
Draw 24–5–6 United States Ray Patterson PTS 10 May 3, 1967 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia
Win 24–5–5 United States Archie McBride KO 9 December 9, 1966 Germany Festhalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Hesse
Loss 23–5–5 Italy Piero Del Papa DQ 11 November 19, 1966 Germany Deutschlandhalle, Charlottenburg, Berlin EBU Light Heavyweight Title.
Draw 23–4–5 Germany Erich Schöppner PTS 10 May 14, 1966 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia
Draw 23–4–4 United States Archie McBride PTS 10 May 28, 1965 Germany Deutschlandhalle, Charlottenburg, Berlin
Win 23–4–3 Netherlands Bas van Duivenbode KO 4 April 29, 1965 Germany Neue Sporthalle, Hannover, Lower Saxony
Win 22–4–3 Argentina Jose Angel Manzur TKO 8 April 2, 1965 Austria Stadthalle, Vienna
Win 21–4–3 Germany Ulli Ritter TKO 6 February 20, 1965 Germany Ostseehalle, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein
Loss 20–4–3 Italy Piero Tomasoni PTS 10 January 16, 1965 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia
Win 20–3–3 France Joseph Syoz TKO 10 December 5, 1964 Germany Sporthalle, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Win 19–3–3 Netherlands Paul Kraus KO 3 November 27, 1964 Germany Ostseehalle, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein
Win 18–3–3 Sweden Lars Olaf Norling TKO 9 November 6, 1964 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg
Win 17–3–3 France Jean Huiban KO 6 May 29, 1964 Germany Weser-Ems Halle, Oldenburg, Lower Saxony
Draw 16–3–3 Germany Ulli Ritter PTS 10 May 8, 1964 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg
Win 16–3–2 United States Roy Crear KO 5 April 7, 1964 United States Stockyards Coliseum, Oklahoma City
Win 15–3–2 United States Bob McKinney TKO 9 January 6, 1964 United States New York Coliseum, Bronx, New York
Win 14–3–2 United States Monroe Ratliff SD 10 November 18, 1963 United States Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California 7–3, 8–1, 3–6.
Loss 13–3–2 United States Billy Stephan PTS 10 September 19, 1963 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California 4–7.
Loss 13–2–2 United States Chuck Leslie PTS 10 July 23, 1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California
Win 13–1–2 United States Bobby Sand TKO 9 June 24, 1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California Referee stopped the bout at 1:09 of the ninth round.
Draw 12–1–2 United States Tommy Merrill PTS 6 June 1, 1963 United States Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 12–1–1 United States Bobby Sand TKO 9 May 20, 1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California Referee stopped the bout at 2:29 of the ninth round.
Win 11–1–1 United States Pete Gonzales KO 3 March 25, 1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California
Win 10–1–1 Canada Gus Calf Robe KO 6 February 25, 1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California
Win 9–1–1 United States Clifford Gray TKO 1 February 19, 1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California Referee stopped the bout at 2:35 of the first round.
Win 8–1–1 United States Bob Mumford KO 6 February 15, 1963 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win 7–1–1 United States Yancy D Smith UD 8 January 22, 1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California 5–2, 5–2, 6–2.
Win 6–1–1 United States Yancy D Smith PTS 8 January 15, 1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California 6–3.
Win 5–1–1 United States Clifford Gray PTS 6 December 18, 1962 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California
Win 4–1–1 United States John L Davey PTS 6 December 14, 1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Loss 3–1–1 United States Freeman Hardin KO 3 October 25, 1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win 3–0–1 United States Al Cummings KO 3 September 21, 1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win 2–0–1 United States Tony Fern KO 3 August 24, 1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win 1–0–1 United States Bob Brown KO 2 August 16, 1962 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California
Draw 0–0–1 United States Sam Wyatt PTS 4 July 20, 1962 United States Los Angeles Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1965 Morituri Crew Member Uncredited
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
1977 Stroszek Souteneur
1988 Die Hard James
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

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
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"

References[edit]

External links[edit]