By Jim Phillips, Senior Editor – Classic Wrestling
(Ding)…”Welcome aboard United passengers, and thank you for choosing us today. We will be arriving in New York City in four hours and once the ice has been sprayed off the wings, we’ll be ready for departure.” As I shuffled through my items one last time, producing a book to read and my notebook for any random ideas that me hit me along the way, our plane was pushed out of its cozy home in gate C47 and into the lane that would lead us to take off.
I had chosen to bring along my signed copy of Through the Shattered Glass, that Jeannie Clarke had sent to me a month or so back. I had started the book just after receiving it, but with my hectic schedule at my morning job, added to my regular writing time in the evening, it had gotten put on the back burner for a bit. The long plane ride would be the perfect opportunity to give it the attention that it deserved. Once I had enjoyed the jolt of take off, I put my tray table down and picked Jeanie’s story back up again.
I have read several wrestling autobiographies of note, with Freddie Blassie’s being at the top of my list….until now. Jeanie tells a no holds barred story of life at the top of the mountain and also the view from the valley, after being laid low at the hands of addiction and pair of mentally abusive marriages. She bares her soul and takes you on a journey that will leave you shaking your head at the craziness of the business, as well as put a tear in your eye at the turmoils she has faced, and ultimately overcame. It is an appealing read to not only wrestling fans, but to anyone that loves a story of conquering personal demons and coming out the other side anew. Her days spent with Chris Adams were especially interesting to me as a longtime WCCW/USWA fan. I urge all of you to check it out. You will be better off for having read this one.
For all the crying babies, rude little heifers, and slow debark-ations that I encounter in my travels, I do enjoy flying. The only thing that would be better than flying in a jet, is if we could helicopter everywhere we went. The pitch and yaw of a helicopter ride is unparalleled, but that view from an airplane is hard to beat, especially when you are going to a city for the first time, and one as grand as NYC too boot. I also like the opportunity to meet new people as I travel, and hearing the myriad of stories behind their trip is always interesting as well.
I devoured Through the Shattered Glass and as I was finishing it the pilot came back on to tell us that the de-icing and que to take off had slowed our timeline a bit, but we were about to land, none-the-less, at LaGuardia in the next few minutes. I gathered my things and prepared to grab my backpack, and head to the door. Now while I live in Denver right now, the cold wind of the Big Apple grabs your attention instantly. I got down into the terminal as quick as I could to get my coat out of my bag. My cellphone rang, and it was my friend, and host for half the weekend….the Queen Heel, Nyah Kennedy. She was on her way and then next thing I knew we were laughing in the back seat of a Benz on our way to an independent wrestling event she was working in that evening.
Now, knowing that the Gangstas were the headliners for the event that was an ECPW sponsored show, I had my eyes on rove. You just never know what you’re going to get with them as the main event. Hahahaha! The show was good with a few standouts that caught my eye. A young guy that was wrestling under the name Zombie King showed a ton of heart, as well as having command of the crowd, which wasn’t huge, but had that indelible New York attitude that I was expecting to see. Other workers that made me take notice were a a powerhouse that really knew had to draw you in named Supa Nitro, but it was a six year veteran with a distinctive look and tons of charisma that stole the show from the time he broke the curtain.
“Simply Splendid” Bobby C. was a breath of fresh air for me. The heel that he portrays harkens back to the days of a Gorgeous George, Adrian Adonis, and Austin Idol. A lifelong fan of the business whose influences go back to the days of the old WWF, with Ernie “The Cat” Ladd as one of the wrestlers he looked up to, Bobby brings the love of the old ways of the business to his persona. Regularly accompanied by an entourage, which includes a limo driver, and his Queen Heel Manager Nyah Kennedy, the flamboyant wrestler knows how to captivate the crowd and reel them in. Mentored by wrestling great Christopher Michaels, who was also in attendance for the event, “Simply Splendid” travels up and down the East Coast wrestling, and is headed to the Dominican Republic in the near future to work. Donning his bleached blond hair and purple ring attire, with the intense love of himself that is crucial for a heel, he has no problem letting you know that he’s better than you. Be sure to keep your eyes out for Team Splendid in the future as Bobby continues to assemble a talented cast of people around him.
It’s always fun to sit next to a fellow Hellraiser at a show and Christopher Michaels and myself enjoyed ourselves fully. He is a great guy and a fountain of knowledge about the McMahon dominated years of professional wrestling. I will be doing a Breaking In and Life Through the Lens with him in the following weeks, so be on the watch for that. It’ll be jam packed with great info about the business.
The main event came and went in the blink of an eye, with the Gangstas coming out to redecorate at the little corner church that ECPW was using that evening. The referee was the only one that spent any time in the ring for this one, and was much like the fans, in that he was just a spectator to the carnage that New Jack and Mustafa were dealing out to the Tag Team Champs. The night ended as so many indy events do with tow or three of the local acolytes holding up their store bought titles in triumph for their selfie collections as the ring came down in the background. The crew, and other members of the staff made short work of the disassembly and we were headed down the road after the hand shakes and farewells. Once again it was out into the chilly New York night air, and off to our next stop on the adventure.
I alway try to make these trips into working vacations, as I’m sure most writers do. Part of that is looking at the world around with wide open eyes, and inquisitive mind. As Nyah and I headed out for a look at the city the next evening, I had baited breath at the adventure to come. The sheer mass of humanity in and around Rockefeller Center to see the world famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink was unlike anything I have experienced since the time I saw Pantera and White Zombie concert. It was one big mega-organism of people that left me feeling like a lone fish trying to go against the ever shifting collective dynamics of movement within the shoal. We left that insanity behind us to head past Radio City Music Hall, towards Times Square.
I saw the yellow umbrella of a Nathan’s Hot Dog cart and knew this was the chance to break away from the throng for a second to cross an item off my foodie bucket list. We enjoyed chili dogs, taking the neon lights and monsterous billboards of one of the most famous intersections in the world. Seeing the Empire State Building at night was amazing as well. That building, along with the New York Public Library held special importance to me because of their significance in one of my all-time favorite movies, the original Ghostbusters. We also made our way down to the Dakota Apartments because I wanted to see the spot where John Lennon had been shot. I did not realize that we were going there on the thirty-eighth anniversary of his assassination. They were people holding a candlelight vigil, and the weight of that moment will stay with me forever. It was beautiful.
Sunday morning saw me back on the clock, and headed to do the Evan Ginzburg Radio Show at the Village Connection Network. It was a great experience for me in every aspect of the situation. Jim Savalli, the director of the show, and Evan were extremely friendly and welcoming to me, and made me feel comfortable and at ease for the show. Also, talking with fellow historian Scott Wilson about the early years of the business was a treat for me. Likewise, when Monte and the Pharaoh joined the show the conversation went to another level as we began to discuss not only the viability of healthcare for current workers in the professional business, but what it would take to implement some type of retirement benefits system to help with the ever increasing costs of medical bills for the men and women that have given their bodies to this business. I will include the link to the show for anyone that would like to hear the discussion.
After the show we went to have lunch, and I was able to cross another foodie item off with the trip to an old school Chinese restaurant. The decor was really great and the food was top notch as well. We filled up and headed to the train back to Queens. Evan was kind enough to let me crash on his couch to save a couple bucks. A nice little extra about that was the couch I was sleeping on had also been where Lanny Poffo, Greg Valentine, and the late, great Johnny Valentine had also crashed. It may seem insignificant to some, but it gave that old school fan in me a huge grin.
Evan was incredibly accommodating and we talked for hours after we got back to his house, which was adorned in jazz, and r&b memorabilia all over the walls with many signed pictures and albums by the original artists. We took a short walk down to a local diner while we continued to talk about making movies, and the array of things that go into their production. And yet another foodie item went into the bucket with a trip to a real NYC diner for a meal. We went back to his house, and it wasn’t long after my head hit the pillow that I was out.
Evan had to get to his teaching job early the next morning, and we headed to the subway around 8am. The cars were jammed to the gills, and we went our separate ways, then just like that…I was alone in the city for the day to see it my own way, in my own time. I headed back over to The Dakota at the corner of 72nd and Central Park West to start my adventure. The rest of the day was spent tromping all over the city and attempting to conquer the subway system.
Even the ever present chill in the December air, couldn’t stifle the fire in my belly to see as much as I could of the things that interested me most. Central Park was pristine in it’s frigid state of suspension. The ice on the ponds, and the skating rinks scattered throughout really gave the Christmas feel to it all. Combine that with the handsome cabs, adorned with their holiday regalia providing the clip-clop, clip-clop soundtrack, it was such a great moment in time that I’ll always remember.
I made my way through the park down to the intersection of Broadway and 7th to pay homage to one of the sacred shrines of professional wrestling; Madison Square Garden. Stepping foot onto that piece of real estate was a special moment for me, and in my mind I could imagine the screams of the fans in the air as a match like Sammartino and Koloff may be happening beyond those walls. I felt the same thing at the old Kiel, and the Chase Hotel in St. Louis when I went there. For those that understand, it’s a feeling of electricity that always leaves my hairs standing end and covered in goosebumps.
After heading to the Metropolitan Art Museum, which left me in awe, I headed back to Central Park for one last moment alone in the quiet serenity of an off the way outcropping of rock to sit on, and contemplate the trip. I don’t want to emulate the persona of a Ric Flair, styling and flying on jets and living the high life. While, to a certain extent with my travel schedule that may be true, it would not be possible without the great Bruthas and Sistas that I’ve made friends with along the way. They let me crash on their couches, and act as impromptu tour guides to show me their little corners of the world. Seeing all the sites along the way are, without a doubt, a huge bonus to the journey, it’s those friendships that I’ve cultivated along the way that mean so much to me.
I hope you enjoyed this little diary of a road story Bruthas and Sistas. It is one that will last with me for many years, and I plan on building upon with my next trip to New York City this Summer. As I’ve said in the past, anyone can sit at home and talk about the road, or living the life. The old Rocky Mountain High Hat is out here living it ya’ll, and talk it from me…I’m enjoying the ride! Until next time, peace.