Retirement and death
As his wrestling career wound down, Wagner invested $250,000 in a 195-acre (0.79 km2) turkey ranch built in Beaumont, California, and the wrestler used his showman skills to promote his prized poultry at his wrestling matches and sport shows, popular during his heyday. He raised turkeys and owned a cocktail lounge in Van Nuys, California, which he named "Gorgeous George's Ringside Restaurant".
In 1962, Wagner was diagnosed with a serious liver condition, undoubtedly brought on by his excessive drinking. On advice of his doctors, he retired. This, combined with failed finances (due to bad investments) worsened his health. He suffered a heart attack on December 24, 1963 and died two days later, at age 48.
A plaque at his gravesite reads "Love to our Daddy Gorgeous George".
Muhammad Ali and James Brown acknowledged that their own approach to flamboyant self-promotion was influenced by George. A 19-year old Ali met a 46-year old George at a Las Vegas radio station. During George's radio interview, the wrestler's promo caught the attention of the future heavyweight champion. If George lost to Classy Freddie Blassie, George exclaimed, "I'll crawl across the ring and cut my hair off! But that's not gonna happen because I'm the greatest wrestler in the world!" Ali recalled, "I saw 15,000 people comin' to see this man get beat. And his talking did it. I said, 'This is a gooood idea!'" In the locker room afterwards, the seasoned wrestler gave the future legend some invaluable advice: "A lot of people will pay to see someone shut your mouth. So keep on bragging, keep on sassing and always be outrageous."
In September 2008, the first full length biography of Gorgeous George was published by HarperEntertainment Press. The title of the 304 page book is Gorgeous George: The Outrageous Bad Boy Wrestler who Created American Pop Culture by John Capouya. In the 2005 book, I Feel Good: A Memoir in a Life of Soul, James Brown said he used many of Gorgeous George's antics to "create the James Brown you see on stage".
Bob Dylan said meeting George changed his life. In Dylan's book The Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan recounts a story of meeting Gorgeous George in person. He wrote, "He winked and seemed to mouth the phrase, `You're making it come alive.' I never forgot it. It was all the recognition and encouragement I would need for years."
The 1951 Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies cartoon Bunny Hugged featured the one-shot character "Ravishing Ronald", modeled after Gorgeous George. The Bowery Boys also lampooned Gorgeous George (with Huntz Hall as a much-heralded wrestler) in the 1952 feature No Holds Barred. Musical performers such as Liberace, Little Richard, Elton John and Morris Day show signs of the George meme. Some consider George to have been an early advancer of camp.
The 1978 motion picture The One And Only starring Henry Winkler was loosly based on his career.
He appeared in one motion picture, Alias the Champ, made in 1949.
He was married twice, first to Betty Hanson in the 1939 in Eugene, Oregon inside a wrestling ring. They had two adopted children. In 1951, after divorcing Betty, he married Cherie Dupré. They had one son, Gary. George also had a son in 1946 with a longtime mistress named Victoria.
Gorgeous George's Youtube list