Midways and Monsters: The “Tarzan Mike” Lane Story

Born this day 90 years ago, boxer, wrestler and actor Mike Lane (1933-2015).

Originally from Washington DC, Lane grew to nearly 6’8″ tall in adulthood. He started out boxing and wrestling in a sideshow tent on the King Brothers Circus midway, and was a professional wrestler under the moniker “Tarzan Mike” throughout most of the 1950s. Like most professional wrestling handles, the name made little logical sense as an identity for Lane to attach himself to. His main attribute was his size, it had nothing to with the Edgar Rice Burroughs character or a resemblance to Johnny Weissmuller or Buster Crabbe. The screen roles he would later play would have served as much better types for him to base a wrestling character on, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. And I do mean horse! C’mon, Mike! Stay in your Lane! Your Mike Lane! No, not your Bike Lane, your Mike Lane!

At any rate, much like Tor Johnson, Lane was able to parlay his impressive physique into screen roles, starting with the 1956 boxing picture The Harder They Fall, in which he played a character based on Primo Carnera. 60 parts in film and television followed. While seldom spoken of as one of the principal actors to play Frankenstein’s Monster, he did nonetheless essay versions of the character, numerous times: in the films Frankenstein 1970 (1958) and Grotesque (1988), in a 1968 episode of The Monkees, and on the 1976 series Monster Squad, co-starring Fred Grandy of The Love Boat. He also played a monster called The Megasoid on The Outer Limits (1964) and the demon Asmodeous in Demon Keeper (1994). You can also see him as Hercules in Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (1962) and a Centurion in the 1970 Get Smart episode entitled “Smarticus”. Most of his roles, not surprisingly, were thugs, henchman, and mob soldiers in westerns and crime dramas. In addition to those mentioned, his theatrical films included Who Was That Lady? (1960), The Way West (1967), The New centurions (1972), Gone with the West (1975) and about a dozen others. Most of his credits were in television. Apart from those appearances already mentioned he was on such programs as Cheyenne, Have Gun — Will Travel, Daniel Boone, Love American Style, Adam-12, Gunsmoke, Ironside, Emergency!, The Rockford Files, Kojak, and Starsky and Hutch. Mike Lane retired in his early 60s.

For more on show business history, please read No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.