Sunday, August 23, 2009
Ever since the success of Mick Foley's 1994 autobiography "Have A Nice Day" proved that there is a surprisingly large public interest in wrestling books, the floodgates opened and the books have been pouring in. In addition to Foley, I've read books by Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, and The Fabulous Moolah just to name a few. But while Hart and Jericho's captivating retrospectives have received a lot of well-deserved positive press from the wrestling media, there is an overlooked gem about which I've heard barely a peep. It is the story of the Hollywood Fashion Plate, "Classy" Freddie Blassie. Blassie and co-author Keith Elliot Greenberg guide us through Blassie's incredible story which also functions as a history of professional wrestling itself, from the carnival side shows of the 1930s to the modern world of Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment. We meet many other colorful characters along the way, including such Blassie disciples as "The Rockabilly Rasputin" Johnny Legend, former intergender champion Andy Kaufman, and believe it or not, Regis Philbin, who chose Blassie for his first ever guest on television. Blassie was fond of saying that Regis was nothing before Freddie Blassie, a statement which Regis admits is not entirely without merit. The best thing about the book is that it is written with the same grouchy wit with which Blassie was famous for speaking. We are also treated throughout with firsthand accounts of Blassie's exploits from the aformentioned Johnny Legend and Regis, as well as Vince McMahon, George "The Animal" Steele, The Iron Sheik, and Nikolai Volkoff. Here are some samples of Blassie's wit and wisdom:
On modern wrestling:
Today, the few of us who are still alive from that era debate over whether wrestling was better back then. Some give you this bullshit speech, "In my day..." But when they look back, they're only remembering guys like Lou Thesz. They forget about all the boring matches they had to watch, and all the shitty wrestlers who never drew a nickel. And they ignore people on today's WWE roster. I'm convinced that, in a shoot, Chris Benoit would beat 90 percent of the guys I've seen. Brock Lesnar was the NCAA Heavyweight Champion in 2000, and Kurt Angle a gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics. How much better can you get than that? With all deference to Lou, if Kurt had been around in 1948, he might have been the one who held the NWA title for all those years.
On "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers:
Rogers was a fuckin' prick, and a lot of the wrestlers hated him. In 1962, Karl Gotch and Bill Miller beat the shit out of him in a dressing room in Columbus, Ohio. I heard that Rogers had to flee in a jock strap, nursing a broken hand. If you ever had any dealings with that son of a bitch, you'd understand why Gotch and Miller were driven to violence. There was nobody worse.
On his novelty radio hit "Pencil Neck Geek":
To this day, people bring it up all the time. About a week ago, a fan was telling me, "I was just listening to 'Pencil Neck Geek'. Boy, that was a great song." I thought, "Jesus Christ. This guy is stuck for an answer when you say hello." A great song? Shit. I still haven't learned the words to it.
On Andre the Giant:
Although I liked Andre, I found him revolting...On my birthday one year, he insisted on throwing me a celebration. We went to this narrow diner, where there wasn't a lot of room to move around, with a bunch of the boys. The waiter brought the food out, then Andre went up to the door, held it shut, and let out a big fart. Everybody was choking. And Andre was laughing his ass off. "Eat, eat", he was saying. "Do you think it smells nice?" Needless to say, I lost my appetite. When we left the diner, Andre was still gloating over his rib, and handed me a piece of cake. "You forgot to finish it," he chuckled. "Ho, ho, ho." "Ho, ho, ho, your balls," I said and threw the cake in his face.
Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks! by Freddie Blassie with Keith Elliot Greenberg was published in 2003. The Classy one passed away later the same year.