Leturgey Musings and Goings On

These are some of my writings...from events going on in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance and elsewhere, to observations from the rest of my decidely unformulaic life.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cuttin' and Struttin' with a Dick

The Man with No Name stood at the top of the escalator, luggage in hand, tacky Blue Tooth blinking above his left ear.
My crudely-drawn "Mr. (Surname inserted here)" sign stopped him in his snake-skin booted tracks. The name card was a trick given to me by my last "assignment," Koko B. Ware. We had an awkward moment of "are you him," and "why are you looking at me?" I figured the placard would come in handy and it did.
I walked over, extended my hand, introduced myself and shook perhaps three of his right-hand fingers. Eddie Golden drops his brown rag-tag bag for no one.
Immediately I ascertained that this wasn't going to be as pleasant as meeting Koko and the other wrestling superstars I've either spoken to or had in the passenger seat of my gas-guzzlin' SUV. More on them later.
After picking up Zodiac's last sack at Gate K, we were off to the vehicle. Any numbers of topics were broached, from family to the upcoming Super Bowl (he lives outside Boston) to the current wrestling product on USA Network and Spike. Nothing really got him to utter more than a few grunts, but he was eager to serve as unofficial spokesman for (without peer) the most popular sports entertainer in the storied history of the business. Conversely, as long as the Disciple has been in the business, he's been regarded as nothing more than a sycophant to that big name. That will again be evident this Sunday when he accompanies the perpetual champion to the Mardi Gras parade.
The ride was a long one. Armed with Satellite radio, I offer my guests anything they'd like to hear, with the exception of Rap (I argue that no one really "wants" to hear Rap; in addition, I really have to draw a line somewhere). Dizzy said he'd like to hear "Classic Rock." I asked about his favorite artists so I could narrow my 170 channels, or pluck my ELO CD from the arm rest. "I like a lot of them," was the mumbled answer. After yet more awkward moments he ticked off the same old tired laundry list of baby-boomer favorites: Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin (the others quickly became nothing more than white noise in my head). "I've partied with Ozzie Osbourne and Steven Tyler," he said. That's when the name-dropping reached its apex. In opposition, I could have rambled off a list of genuine partygoers like Belsterling, Gutonski and Zygmuncik who easily out-class any of those jokers in the "friend" department.
But I digress.
From time to time his overall tone and attitude would alter from cold to rude to downright condescending. Perhaps I didn't meet him with an iced cooler of his favorite ale. I run the chauffer gimmick because I can be at the airport in about half an hour, I generally respect the superstars I retrieve, and I do a favor for the business. It's not about the money. I usually and gladly take a financial bath with gas and my own meal costs.
Unlike 20 years ago, Mr. Boulder doesn't exist entirely off of his marginal ability as a showman. "I work for a company," was his 1950's white-bread retort when I asked how he makes a living. Later I'd hear him tell someone that he used to manage a gymnasium before the state of Massachusetts shut them down. I didn't hear the rest.
I mistakenly took my guest on a scenic route to our destination, but soon decided that his overall unfriendly demeanor would be cause enough for no corrective measure.
There were long stretches of silence as Brother Brudi wasn't up for any stories from the road. He did not tell a single tale.
Almost nothing has been written about my extraordinary weekend with Lex Luger. From the second I introduced myself to the controversial figure to the moment he asked me for a hug farewell, I knew my life changed on an intrinsic, basic level. Never before had I met someone who has looked the devil in the eye only to soar so incredibly high. Lex, limited in September by crutches, exhibited boundless energy and zest for life when he was in town for his autograph and wrestling events.
I think often of the twentysomething fan at the chain steakhouse that recognized the legendary Lex. The young man worked in the kitchen. He asked the waitress to get a single autograph. Lex, impressed with his steak, requested the chef's presence. The average-looking youth was quickly reduced to an "awe-shucks" lad when Lex spent a few minutes getting to know him. To this day the kid still has to tell friends of the experience.
That scene played out wherever we went. People would recognize Lex, while others wouldn't. It didn't matter, he was beyond friendly to everyone he encountered, no matter how briefly.
There would be none of that with The Clipmaster.
When we arrived near the hotel it was approximately an hour and five minutes after our departure from the airport, or about what I told him the trip would take.
"It wasn't so bad, huh," I asked already knowing the answer. "Harrumph," was the agitated reaction in grunt form.
The one-time mid-carder asked for a Wal-Mart so he could buy Polaroid film. After an attempt to pry a Marlin-fishing story from this treasure trove of silence, I asked jokingly if he'd be doing some "Cuttin' and Struttin" for the shoppers who might be sold on his appearance a few towns south later in the evening. "I'm just gonna buy film, man," he moaned. "Just gonna buy film."
When I ushered Koko B. Ware to a McDonalds one late Friday evening some time ago, he sprung up a conversation with two twentysomething gals who also waited a millennium for their fast food (the computer system was down). Koko initiated the pedestrian small talk with people he encountered.
There would be none of that with The Butcher.
He dashed into the store. A quick phone call to a friend was the grounding I desperately needed. The friend, who I consider among my best, half-heartedly said I should leave the big man's bags in front of Wal-Mart and take off.
I almost did.
Instead I drove around the parking lot until he returned. Next up we stopped at a Steak n' Shake where he ordered three double burgers with all the trimmings and then some. Both Lex and Koko bought me lunch. In fact, Lex wouldn't hear of me spending a dime at the various steak restaurants we patronized the entire weekend. He was blown away when I bought him two Coke Zeros and refused his money.
Snake Skin Boots and I arrived at the hotel, then our respective rooms. The quarters, he complained, had close proximity to the heavily-traveled, two-lane roadway. In two previous trips to the motel, I never once considered the artery, let alone had the audacity to ache about the complimentary accommodations.
Hopefully an afternoon nap would perk up the so-far charisma-free egotist.
A siesta didn't help.
The lone highlight of the trip to an autograph session was when I asked if he had ever been to lovely Moundsville, West Virginia, before. "What," he bristled. "Did you have a lapse in memory as to who I am? I've wrestled for 30 years. I've been everywhere."
I laughed out loud and thought "what an ass" inside.
Totally disinterested, the Bootyman arrived at the autograph session unwilling to do anything more than the bare minimum. Most of the faithful were also in attendance at Luger's autograph session in September. Some of those autographs still adorn the walls and on T-shirts. Knowing that I brought Lex in, nearly everyone asked how he was doing since his health took a drastic turn for the worse a mere three weeks or so after his visit. Doctors initially called it a Spinal Stroke. At the moment and at least temporarily, Lex is a quadriplegic but in remarkable spirits as conditions improve.
The folks in the crowd at the autograph session were the quintessential representation of fans that "made" the Bootyman and hundreds of others who jerked curtains or kept fannies in seats before Main Eventers like Luger took the ring. Lex, unquestionably the bigger "star," used his swing through Ohio and West Virginia as a "Thank You" to loyal friends and fans. Ed Boulder was in town for the easy paycheck.
We got to the wrestling venue where I saw my grappling buddies. I hugged all of them and shouted how I was never happier to see them. I wanted to kiss the biggest worker on the cheek, but I ultimately thought better of it.
A few hours later and after his less-than-stellar appearance at the wrestling event in which he ignored all of the independent workers—unless he needed something—Dizzy, beer bottle in each hand, called the fans cheap. Coincidentally, he would later chuck both empty beer bottles out of my vehicle window and onto the landscape above Rt. 2.
I told him how another, younger, hungrier, more prized "with the boys" mid-card mainstay was in the locker room during intermission encouraging the workers, teaching them in-ring psychology and other aspects of the industry. The mentor was dropping names of well-respected Indy workers who continue to bust their humps in small venues around the country. The spirited speech received a hearty ovation from everyone in the locker room. All the while Brute Force was in the ring trying to sway $10 from the house DJ for a picture with his own personal camera.
There's a misconception that this former card-filler is a Born-Again Christian. In no way did he carry himself as anything other than an elitist and opportunist. Not a single kind word was ever overheard. Vulgarities flew freely and often. Not that even the best Christian doesn't float a four-letter hum dinger from time-to-time, but most at least attempt to temper their language and/or apologize for it. I am take tentative baby steps in my Christianity (buoyed by the effervescent Luger), but I'm light years ahead of Stuart Healey.
In the middle of the night, I raced to the Pittsburgh Airport through snowy conditions, eager to deposit this follower. It was only when we said goodbye did I see the smile you might remember from 1989 TV and merchandise.
He was already licking his lips, thinking about his next paycheck. Fans in St. Louis would later assuredly ask aloud if the toady was okay. Dicks choose to be Dicks.
Good riddance.