Dean Silverstone, wrestling promoter and beloved record store owner, dies at 73

Dean Silverstone, wrestling promoter and beloved record store owner, dies at 73
Dean Silverstone photographed in 2017 at Golden Oldies Records in Wallingford. His front counter was repurposed from the wrestling bleachers he used as one of the Northwest’s top professional wrestling promoters. (Photo courtesy of Casey McNerthney)

Dean Silverstone, who turned his love for professional wrestling into a business at age 13 and went on to become one of the top Northwest wrestling promoters and historians, died March 26. He was 73.

Silverstone also had a lifelong love of music and on weekly wrestling trips spanning 2,400 miles around the Northwest with business partner J. Michael Kenyon, he’d make offers for all the records at second-hand stores and come back to Seattle with a trailer full. Silverstone collected millions by October 1977 when he opened the first Golden Oldies Records in Seattle.

The store expanded to 11 locations from Bellingham to Olympia and became a favorite for record collectors. U.S. News and World Report once called Silverstone’s store one of the best sources for vintage records.

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When a producer for David Letterman called in 1994 looking for 100 copies of “Chicken Fat,” the youth fitness song promoted by President Kennedy, Silverstone had 96. When “Thriller” was selling for $1,225 online after Michael Jackson’s death, Silverstone sold dozens of copies for $4.99 knowing he’d get more repeat business by selling them for what they were actually worth.

He also got calls from Hollywood and helped find songs for major motion pictures. “Fried Green Tomatoes” was one.

One day, Ruth Godsey and her sister came into the store looking for a rare song by J.P. Richardson, who became The Big Bopper. Silverstone didn’t have the record that day, but he eventually got the nerve to ask out Ruth.

They were married on August 23, 1980. He eventually found her that record, too.

They had beloved pets, including dogs Hector and Hector Dos. At Golden Oldies, customers’ dogs were welcome and always met with treats. The flagship store next to Dick’s Drive-In’s Wallingford location continues under the new ownership Silverstone sold to in 2017.

Ruth also shared Silverstone’s love of wrestling, and they would hold annual reunions at their waterfront home in Issaquah. Often when Golden Oldies customers found and brought him old 1950s wrestling ads, Silverstone could tell stories of their matches and those wrestlers’ visits to his reunions.

Silverstone was secretary and treasurer of the Cauliflower Alley Club – a fraternal organization of professional wrestling and boxing enthusiasts – and served as an executive board member for nearly three decades.

“Dean worked tirelessly and devoted much of his time and passion to assist those from the wrestling industry that have fallen on difficult times,” CAC President and CEO B. Brian Blair wrote on the club’s website. “Words alone could never describe what he meant to us personally and professionally.”

In 2014, Silverstone published his autobiography, “I Ain’t No Pig Farmer.” It shared stories that otherwise might have been forgotten about the Northwest wrestling circuit, which had the biggest annual sports draw in Washington before the Sonics, Seahawks and Mariners.

The book told how Silverstone produced and sold his own wrestling programs as a Garfield High student at venues including the Eagles Auditorium, now the ACT Theatre at 7th and Union. And it told stories of the record shop, like the day Freddy Fender stopped by before his show at the Puyallup Fair and Silverstone gave him a decades-old recording that even Fender himself hadn’t seen. The moment brought tears and a friendship that lasted the rest of his life.

When stories of the Showbox started swirling during preservation efforts in 2018, Silverstone recalled how he staged the Super Star Championship Wrestling there in 1975. A University of Washington graduate who studied journalism, Silverstone kept his reporter’s attention to detail.

Silverstone, who was preceded in death by his wife in 2016, wanted no services. But Blair wrote that ‘’both his family, as well as our board members, would simply want you that knew Dean to share a note on the Cauliflower Alley Club Facebook page, in remembrance of this wonderful human being.”

As a kid, Silverstone read Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and later wrote that he became a salesman for professional wrestling by passing on the fine points of the sport from his own mind.

“Unlike Arthur Miller’s character, I never questioned myself or thought it wasn’t worth it,” Silverstone wrote. “Had I attempted to do what I did decades later, I doubt I would have been successful or enjoyed it as much … because the world I knew no longer existed.”

“I was born at just the right time in history.”