In the early 1960’s, I was growing up in Houston, Texas, when my mom got a new boyfriend and my life entered a golden era. My parents had divorced when I was seven and there was a long, bleak period until Claude Little came into our life. Poor Claude was a good 20 years older than Rachel, but he knew a few things about showing a girl a good time.That meant winning her kid over to his side. He took us to my first circus, rodeo, and demolition derby.
The topper in the entertainment department was a visit to the Sam Houston Coliseum to see the pro wrestlers. Yes, I know it was all supposed to be fake, but somehow I showed up on a night when a pair of real monsters were going at it. Fritz Von Erich was a huge star and a pioneer in the sweaty arena of wrestling. He was an early promoter in his own right and helped introduce new levels of hype and theatrical flourishes like theme music and bigger than life characters. He was known as the “Iron Claw” with his signature move of clamping his opponents forehead and squeezing them into oblivion.
That night he faced “Wild Bull ” Curry, who really was one of the meanest, most dangerous brutes ever to tread the canvas. He was widely hated and feared by the ringside fans who learned better than to toy with the Bull. Here was a man who earned his name by wrestling a runaway steer to submission. Bull Curry had beaten up several customers and attacked his opponent with a concrete cinder block. For awhile, he was in prison and was released only for wrestling matches where he was conveyed in chains. He was so ugly and scary that Fritz the Nazi was cast as the good guy. One look from the Bull was enough to make women faint.
Well, I won’t give you a play by play account of this bloody match up, but I never saw anything like it. My days of happiness came to an abrupt end when Claude died of a heart attack. My mother and I were ourselves, heart broken, for a long time . My view of wrestling was from a distance, but I enjoyed seeing the occasional appearances of the big boys. I was amused to see Hulk Hogan in Rocky 3 and enjoyed Andre the Giant in Princess Bride. I never got into the televised matches and was not excited by the era of Rowdy Roddy Piper, Stone Cold Steve Austin,The Undertaker, and other noteworthy characters. Wrestling was off my radar until Hollywood discovered a new talent.
Dwayne Johnson was famously billed as a third generation wrestler, whose father and grandfather are proud members of the wrestling Hall of Fame. Indeed, many members of his family were active in the “sport” of wrestling as promoters and participants. Early in his career, Dwayne had a shot in football, but for whatever reasons, that didn’t work out and he returned to his family roots. His father discouraged his choice at first, but then agreed to train Dwayne after a warning to expect no mercy.
Dwayne’s wrestling career is a soap opera too big for this article. He veered between being a villainous “heel” to a good “face” guy and fought the biggest names in the business. His promotional appearances always popped on camera and his charisma was like a beacon. An appearance on Saturday Night Live lifted eyebrows and he was featured on television shows like Star Trek:Voyager and That 70’s Show.
After a cameo in “The Mummy Returns”, Dwayne was cast in his first leading role as ” The Scorpion King”. Since then, The Rock has never stopped working. He has demonstrated his range from action movies to comedy and has a new movie,”Snitch”, coming out in 2013. His fans anticipate his version of Hercules to be released in the summer of 2014. Meanwhile, Johnson renewed his credentials in the wrestling trade in January by reclaiming his championship of the WWE.
Here are some links to other articles I wrote :
John Wayne and Tarzan with the Hollywood Gang
The Cults of Jane Fonda and Pamela Anderson
A Forgotten Clint Eastwood Movie
Top 10 Books and the Famous Movies They Inspired
Legendary Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra
The Rise and Fall of a Hollywood Empire
Classic Movie Sex Goddesses
Growing Up in Show Business
Women of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Best Comedy TV Shows of the 1960’s
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment.