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Louis Bacigalupi
Louis Bacigalupi (Bacigalupo): organ builder, wrestler, actor, herpetologist
recollections by Thom Yaras (050315 MMDigest)

bacigalupi2.jpg (25 kb)Louis Bacigalupi (Jr.) was quite a character.  I was a young sidekick of his in the 1960s.  We used to call him Bachi.  While I do have some memories of helping him assemble parts for his musical instruments, I was more interested in working with him in his interest in reptiles.  Did you know he was also a WWF [World Wrestling Federation] type wrestler in his younger days and he also had credits in several Hollywood movies?

When I was with Louis, he was working from a large shop at the back of the property where his home was, on Pine Street in South San Gabriel, California.  His home was just a few blocks from the El Monte city limits.  I do not think he had a shop in El Monte when I knew him as I spent quite a lot of time with him and he never mentioned having one.  And I doubt he had one after our time together as he was getting older then and died not long after that.

I was associated with him from probably 1960 until 1966 and at that time he was probably in his mid 50s or early 50s.  I was a young teenager.  During that time I recall he repaired organs for the guys who used them with monkeys.

He had a calliope that was motor driven that he said he built himself.  It had large wooden pipes.  In fact, it was the calliope used by Henry Mancini for the song "Baby Elephant Walk," which was a hit song from the John Wayne movie, "Hatari."  I went with him to deliver it to the music studio when Mancini was recording, and also to the Greek Theater when he performed a live concert.  There were other times we delivered it to the studios but I'm not sure which artist it was for or if it was a sound studio for the movies.

As for what he was building during those years, I do not recall him specifically building complete organs, but he was always working on making those wooden "barrel" cylinders, large square organ pipes, bellows, etc.  He also had the capability, of which he seemed to be particularly proud, of placing the metal pins in the cylinders.  I recall only one guy who had a specific interest in the musical side of Louis' life and I recall he was killed in a car crash before he became a master.

Most of the young people who were attracted to this interesting man were more interested in his interest in reptiles and his wonderful character.  He was an amateur herpetologist of some renown.  He had a large collection of mostly snakes, some of which were gifts from zoos and foreign suppliers.  Many were quite poisonous and in fact he was bit by rattlesnakes more than once.  He lectured on reptiles to schools and clubs.

I also know he was in a dozen or so Hollywood movies.  A search of the Internet will bring you a list of those supporting roles.  If you would like, I can send you a link.  At one time he owned an independent gas station on Garvey Avenue in El Monte, California, and he also was a machinist for Lockheed Aircraft Co. (probably at Burbank) where he said he was fired for harassing a supervisor or something like that.  Bachi also owned property in the 29 Palms area during the time I knew him.

He was a huge man, and a gentle giant, but I suppose he could be intimidating in certain situations just due to his size and strength.  He was also a "Pro Wrestler," the WWF kind.  I have not been able to find any link to that but supposedly it was his link to Hollywood.

Bachi had a full head of gray-white hair when I knew him.  He told us kids he learned not to have pain when people pulled his hair from the wrestling.  So one of us 13/14-year-olds would grab onto his hair, with two or three other boys pulling also from each other's belts, pulling away from him.  Not only could Bachi maintain his balance against us pulling, it did not hurt him a bit.  Yank as we could, he did not budge nor did he show any pain as we hung on to two fists full of his hair.

Louis was married to Mary Bacigalupi who, I recall, was from the east, possibly New York.  I do not think they had any children, at least they never said they did.  Since I was quite close to them for those few years, I probably would have known if they did.

As I became an older teenager, my interests changed to friends, girls and school stuff and I drifted away from Louis.  I visited his wife once while I was in my early twenties, after Louis died, and that was my last contact with the family.  I did some searching on the Bacigalupi family name and found several people with that name in the San Francisco Bay area.  Perhaps someone there might have more to offer, but I do not recall meeting any of his relatives so I do not know if they were close.

I will try to get my thoughts more organized and get them to you, and I will try to get in touch with my neighborhood chum.  It was his parents who introduced me to Bachi.

Thom Yaras
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
12 Mar 2005 18:44:53 EST

At  : (Los Angeles Times, January 6, 1933) ... Ed (Strangler) Lewis, bowing as majestically as ever, despite a huge paunch, endured Louie Bacigalupi's insolence for 7m. 31s. and then dumped him hard and fast with a combination headlock and body slams.

According to scholar Rosemarie Brieger of Berlin, Louis Bacigalupi (Jr.) -- organ builder, wrestler, actor, herpetologist -- was born in Philadelphia in 1904.  He was the son of Luigi "Louis" Bacigalupo (Sr.) (1872-1957) of Berlin, and the grandson of Giovanni Battista Bacigalupo (1847-1914), of the organ building firm Cocchi, Bacigalupo & Graffigna of Berlin.  Louis (Sr.) changed his name to Bacigalupi when he settled in America.

It is uncertain which "L. Bacigalupi" was the proprietor of West Coast Organ Company in El Monte, California.  Ed Gaida wrote in 980310 MMDigest about an organ built by

   West Coast Organ Company
   Manufacturers of
   Kiddie Ride and Concert Band Organs
   2026 N. Chico Avenue
   El Monte, Calif.    FOrest 8-5646

Bob Lemon wrote in 980312 MMDigest about an organ bearing the label

   L. Bacigalupi Organ Co.
   2026 No. Chico Ave.
   El Monte, Calif.

15 March 2005

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