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Early life and career
Born Frank George Fakety (or Faketty) in Michigan in 1919 to Hungarian immigrants, and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Von Hess was a lifeguard and swimming teacher before entering the navy in World War II serving aboard the USS Montpelier in the Underwater Demolition Corps. Upon his discharge, he worked the carnival circuit for several years, then worked in various regional wrestling promotions.
In post World War 1955 he was inspired by another wrestler, Kurt Von Poppenheim (of the Pacific Northwest) who had a local "heel" gimmick, and there Von Hess further developed the gimmick of the villain into the wrestling personna of a Nazi sympathizer there being the first to take the gimmick nationwide. In doing this, Von Hess became one of the most hated wrestlers; and fans flocked to the arenas to boo him. He adopted the name of Karl Von Hess, later changing his name legally. Von Hess was so convincing as a "heel" that some fans tried to stab him, burn him, and even shoot at him. Von Hess quickly rose to fame in Vince McMahon Sr's World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), drawing huge crowds wherever he went. In truth, he was reportedly, not a Nazi sympathizer, but used the gimmick to inspire the position of the villainous "heel".
In the early 1960s, Von Hess's gimmick began to wear thin, and he was gradually phased out of the WWWF. He continued to work in various wrestling promotions before quitting the business in the late 1960s.
Later life and death
After wrestling, Von Hess operated trailer parks and other businesses with his wife Lenore. Von Hess died on August 12, 2009 of Alzheimer's disease.