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09/28/11

Permalink 10:04:54 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 373 words, 5696 views English (US)
Categories: Appearances

SAN FRANCISCO LITERARY FESTIVAL SALUTES PRO WRESTLING PROSE

Figure Four Caps Lock

From seedy carnivals to weekly cable TV blowouts, professional wrestling’s spectacle of musclemen locking up with hairy brutes has long occupied the twilight zone between sports and entertainment, creating a form of acrobatic theater that is both dangerous and surreal. During the last decade, the sport’s most beloved baby faces and despised heels such as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and “Mankind” Mick Foley have put pen to paper and produced a steady and unexpected supply of bestselling memoirs.

And now Litquake, San Francisco’s annual literary festival is finally giving the pro wrestling memoir the respect that it deserves with FIGURE FOUR CAPS LOCK, a night of readings from the greatest published accounts of life inside the squared circle on Friday October 14th at the Hemlock Tavern. Hosted by Bob Calhoun (author of the bestselling punk-wrestling memoir “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling") and All Pro Wrestling announcer Allan Bolte, Figure Four Caps Lock will assemble a stable of San Francisco Bay Area authors, comedians, librarians, rock musicians, burlesque dancers and yes, pro wrestlers to read the most violent, hilarious and just plain wrong moments from the works of the Fabulous Moolah, Classy Freddie Blassie, Chris Jericho, Goldust, Flair, Piper, and Foley. There will also be a recitation of pro wrestling poetry, some choice cuts from the Iron Sheik’s Twitter feed, tender tales of first time romance with Hulk Hogan, plus chair shots—somebody has to get hit with a folding chair.

Figure Four Caps Lock will feature the dramatic oratory of Alan Black (author of “Kick the Balls"), local indie wrestling legend Shane Dynasty, cartoonist and comedian Greg Franklin, Matt Holdaway ("Radio Voices"), Suzanne Kleid of the San Francisco Public Library, Michael Lucas of the Phantom Surfers, Rik Luxury (Pro Wrestling Peronified), Lady Monster (Naked Girls Reading Series), Alia Volz (Literary Death Match), and luchador-turned-educator Norman Zelaya.

For more information, go to Litquake.org
Click here to buy tickets from BrownPaperTickets.com

Friday Oct 14, 2011 8:00 PM
Litquake presents: FIGURE FOUR CAPS LOCK– From Classy Freddie Blassie to the Fabulous Moolah: Pro Wrestling Memoirs Finally Get the Respect They Deserve
at the Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk St.
San Francisco, CA 94109

Contact: bob AT beerbloodandcornmeal DOT com

07/18/11

Permalink 11:16:04 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1359 words, 10725 views English (US)
Categories: Appearances

Whose Captain America is it anyway?

Rally to Restore Sanity Captain America
Captain America salutes reasonableness at the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C. on October 30, 2010. (Photo: Bob Calhoun)

There was a guy in a Captain America suit staking out his space on the lawn of the National Mall in Washington DC waiting for Jon Stewart’s leftward tilting Rally to Restore Sanity during the early morning hours of October 30, 2010. “Hey Steve Rogers,” I said, calling him by the name of Captain America’s secret identity to get his attention. He turned around, flashed a big grin at my level of geekiness and then snapped a salute as I took his picture.

A few months later in April 2011, a different man wearing a Captain America suit stood in the National Mall with the congressional dome in the background. Like the Cap from October, he was there for a rally, only 2011’s Cap was a Tea Party patriot clamoring for a government shutdown while holding up a sign that read, “Shut it down/Save America.” He was there to burn the village in order to save it.

After the release of the summer blockbuster “Captain America: the First Avenger” on July 22, we’re probably only going to see more Captains America waving placards at protest rallies on all sides of the political spectrum. The Red, White and Blue Avenger is and always has been a potent political image, but whose side would Captain America be on? Would he be a New Deal Democrat slinging his mighty shield for new public works programs or would he be rallying with Tea Party to lower taxes on billionaires and gut Medicare? Whose Captain America is he anyway?

“He’s not just a guy in a flag suit,” former “Captain America” writer Steve Engelhart says while taking a break from signing copies of “The Plain Man,” his latest fantasy-action novel , at the Big Wow ComicFest in San Jose, Calif.

“The problem comes from, I think, when people do say, ‘Well, he’s a guy in a flag suit,’” Engelhart adds. “But he sort of transcends. He stands for America as an ideal, not America as it’s practiced.”

Engelhart, a conscientious objector who was honorably discharged from the Army, took over the writing of “Captain American and the Falcon” in 1972 during the quagmire of the Vietnam War. In order to make the comic’s star-spangled superhero appeal to an anti-war youth audience, Engelhart took on the duality and contradictions of not only the comic book superhero, but America itself. During his first four issues (Nos. 153-156), the original Captain America who was frozen in a block of ice at the end of the Roosevelt years and then thawed during the Johnson administration battles a raging McCarthyite Cap from the paranoid 1950s. The ideological struggle between these alternate versions of the hero isn’t all that different from what might happen if the Rally to Restore Sanity and the Tea Party Caps actually came to blows with their plastic shields.

With the Watergate hearings underway, Engelhart had Steve Rogers hang up being Captain America altogether in “Captain America and the Falcon” No. 176, a comic book dated August 1974—the same month that Nixon resigned from the White House.

“He had thought that the ideal and the reality were the same thing, and finding out that it wasn’t threw him off and that was the basis for the whole story,” Engelhart says, explaining the storyline where Rogers took off the red, white and blue and became a darkly-clad hero called Nomad for several issues, ending with No. 183 in 1975.

“He stood for something,” Engelhart continues, “When what he stood for seemed not to exist or seemed to have been damaged, he couldn’t go out and stand for that anymore. Again, in my story, he eventually decided that having a Captain America was better than not having a Captain America, whatever was going on with America per se.”

Looking at the very first issue of “Captain America,” it’s easy to dismiss it as a piece a piece of jingoistic wartime propaganda. After all, the cover has our hero leaping into a war room and punching out Hitler while Nazi goons fire their Lugers and machine guns at him. However, “Captain America” No. 1 hit the stands in December 1940, a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. While Captain America fit right into the mood of the war effort once it got underway, originally, co-creators Jack Kirby and Joe Simon forged the character as a protest vehicle urging a stubbornly isolationist America to action.

“To me, the times were screaming war,” Jack Kirby recalled during a 1989 or 1990 radio interview on “Hour 25″ that can now be found at Kirbymuseum.org. “To me the enemy was Hitler. The enemy was growing and growing, and I didn’t know where it was going to end, but every day something new would happen, and it was really scary. This was the kind of event that I felt was ruling our times and I felt it inside of me and it had to come out in some way.”

Kirby’s depiction of Hitler as a comic book villain had Nazis calling the artist at his office and threatening to “beat the daylights” out of him. “These were New York Nazis,” Kirby explained, “they had a camp on Long Island.” Growing up as a tough scrapper during the Depression on New York’s Lower East Side, Kirby was ready for a fight, but the Nazis never showed up.

“They wanted to fight well what the heck,” Kirby said flippantly, “I would do it.”
Jack Kirby passed away in 1994, but Joe Simon is now 97 years old. Simon supported President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11, and he even recreated the iconic cover of “Captain America” No. 1 with Osama bin Laden taking the place of Hitler.

“We just couldn’t sit back and let this keep happening,” Simon told the Asbury Park Press in 2004. “We had to go in there. I know it’s very sad and everything, but I think he’s doing the right thing. I’m 100 percent behind (President Bush).”

However, an earlier interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer found Simon in a more reflective mood. “After Sept. 11, I redrew the cover of ‘Captain America’ No. 1, but put Osama bin Laden in place of Hitler,” he said. “But I just did it for myself. War is too sensitive a topic for comics to deal with today. “

In the comic books themselves, Captain America never fought the War on Terror as directly as he did World War II. Marvel instead preferred to keep its heroes in their own universe where metaphors for current events were safely open to interpretation. The “Civil War” crossover series by Mark Millar and Frank McNiven that ran from July 2006-January 2007 had Captain America and Iron Man taking opposite sides over a US government Superhuman Registration Act, but not the Patriot Act. When Eisner Award winning writer Ed Brubaker depicted a Tea Party protest in a slightly negative light in “Captain America” No. 602 in 2010, the rightwing blogosphere and Fox News cranked up their outrage machine, griping that Marvel was “making patriotic Americans” into “its newest super villains.” With a $140 million “Captain America” movie only a year away, Marvel had more to lose than when it was just selling magazines, and promised to remove the material that hurt the Tea Party’s feelings from future reprints of the series.

Joe Simon may have put it best when he said, “Things are far more complex than they were in the days when Captain America could punch Hitler in the jaw,” but the broad appeal of Captain America appears undiminished by recent controversies. In between Captain America’s appearances at the rallies to restore sanity and shut down the government, Mexican American pro wrestler Rey Mysterio wore a Captain America costume during his match at WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta. Mysterio’s outfit had a Mayan motif in place of the star on Cap’s chest, making the character more Meso-American than merely Norte Americano. It seems that Captain America may be the only thing that can bring this fractured country together, if we could only agree on who he is.

07/05/11

Permalink 10:31:13 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 810 words, 7678 views English (US)
Categories: Appearances

They Need to sell Comic Books at Movie Theaters

Superman Serial Credits
The producers of the Superman serial in 1948 couldn’t let a good marketing opportunity go to waste.

For Superman’s live action silver screen debut, the first image that flickers onto the screen wasn’t a star’s name or a movie studio’s emblem. It was the cover of a ten cent comic book, or a “52 page magazine,” as the cover line above the title boasted. Kirk Alyn, the first actor to don the red cape and tights, then bursts through the pages to let us know that this 1948 serial isn’t a cartoon. After the cast listing is dispatched with a single title card (Noel Neill is Lois Lane; Carol Forman plays the Spider Lady), the next screen is there to inform us that this photoplay is “Based on the Superman adventure feature appearing in the magazines ‘Superman’ and ‘Action Comics.’” We’re also told that the serial is adapted from a radio program “broadcast on the Mutual Network.”

When “The Adventures of Superman” TV show started up four years later, a voiceover during the end credits was used to announce the existence of “Superman magazines,” just in case a good portion of the viewers weren’t old enough to read. They really wanted you to know that you could find more of the Man of Steel in the funny pages back then.

Today, not so much. Millions of people saw “Thor” or “Green Lantern” without being burdened by the knowledge that there are also “Thor” and “Green Lantern” comic books. Sure there’s that Marvel Entertainment logo that begins all of their releases, and it does have sifting panels of comic book art, but these are just design elements without much of a message. The DC Comics movie logo gives us only three pieces of comic book art, but at least they left the word “comics” in place instead of eschewing their original medium the way that Marvel does. The hucksters of old didn’t leave so much to chance. They told you every medium where you could find more of Superman. The designers of today are more concerned with making you feel good about a product you might not even be aware of. They call this murketing. The producers of those Superman serials, TV shows, and yes, magazines, didn’t come from fancy design schools—they were barely one step removed from the carnival fairway. They knew to reel you in once they’d hooked you.

With this more round-about approach to letting moviegoers know about the rest of the product line, “Thor” has grossed $177 million in the USA alone, while comic book sales were down by 15.46% in May 2011 when compared with the previous year. “Thor” was released on May 6th, but the cinematic Thunder God and his uru hammer Mjolnir were able to little to keep May from sporting the second lowest comic book sales this year, behind January 2011, the month with the worst year-to-year sales drop in over a decade.

Since comics and candy have always gone together, the comic book publishing divisions of the major conglomerates that also release superhero movies should place those old-school spinning racks next to the movie theater concession counter so bratty kids can spur their parents into buying “Green Lantern” and “Captain America” “magazines.” Yes, spinner racks crease the spines, but the back issue resale market ain’t what it used to be with Marvel and DC rushing reprint collections to the surviving Barnes and Nobles just as soon as a storyline reaches its conclusion. And no book is going to retain its value once fingers slicked with butter flavored oil have smudged the covers almost beyond recognition.

As it stands, Marvel, DC and IDW (publishers of the Transformers comic books) don’t even hype their offerings during that cavalcade of digitally projected commercials that precedes the movie trailers on every multiplex screen. During that soul-crushing block of advertising, I have learned about every terrible reality show that the History Channel can muster as well as digital downloads from a multitude of mop topped teen heartthrobs. You’d think that Disney (the owners of Marvel) or Time Warner (DC) could slip in a piece of “infotainment” with Geoff Johns talking about the most recent labors of the Green Lantern or Ed Brubaker cluing us into the latest Captain America saga. You’d think.

When Disney acquired Marvel and Time Warner merged with DC, they created potentially monstrous cross-marketing platforms that they now refuse to utilize. Or at least they won’t use it to benefit the comic books themselves, where new ideas can be developed far more cheaply than making a $200 million franchise film that still hasn’t made back three quarters of its estimated budget.

But still, multitudes of moviegoers are going to see Thor, Transformers and even Green Lantern. All the media companies have to do is tell them that the comic books are out there. All they have to reel them in.

06/09/11

Permalink 02:20:45 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 146 words, 4243 views English (US)
Categories: Appearances

Anthony Weiner has my MacBook

Oakland designer Joshua Kaufman’s MacBook was stolen out of his apartment. He had a piece of anti-theft software installed on his MacBook called Hidden, which told him where the laptop was and also snapped pics of the guy who stole it. Kaufman told the Oakland police where it was, but they did nothing. He made a Tumblr site called “This Guy Has My MacBook,” where he posted pics of the theif. The story got picked up by CBS News. The Oakland Police got his MacBook back. It was the big story on the Internets last week.

And now that uplifting story of the wonders of today’s technology and our nation’s current tawdry Twitter tragedy called Weinergate have converged into the Tumblr page “Anthony Weiner has my MacBook.” The picture of the shirtless MacBook thief and the topless Weiner do have an eerie similarity. Ah the Internet.

Anthony Weiner Has My MacBook

05/03/11

Permalink 11:52:28 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 762 words, 10882 views English (US)
Categories: Appearances

The Obama-Wrestling Connection Continues

Trump WrestleMania
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump back when he still possessed a sense of dignity.

Does Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock, have top secret security clearance?

According to a Monday Huffington Post article, his Sunday postings on Twitter may reveal that the former WWE champion and star of “Fast Five” knew about the death of Osama bin Laden “long before Obama spoke to the nation.”

“Just got word that will shock the world — Land of the free … home of the brave,” the Rock tweeted on May 1, “DAMN PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!” In following tweets the Rock wrote that he couldn’t ask for a better birthday present while his 564,609 Twitter followers could only wonder what he was talking about.

Does this mean that SEAL Team Six shares information with The Rock’s Team Bring It (t-shirts available on WWE.com)? Or maybe Barack Obama really does transform into The Rock Obama just like he does in so many “Saturday Night Live” skits and the president couldn’t hide even the most closely guarded state secrets from his rampaging alter-ego.

The revelation that the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment is privy to N2 naval intelligence briefings came the night after President Obama took the podium at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to “Real American,” Hulk Hogan’s entrance theme from the 1980s. Sadly, President Obama didn’t rip off his shirt and flex his muscles while cupping his hand to his ear to better hear the cheers of the Barakamaniacs in the crowd the way that the Hulkster would have. Instead, the president left the theatrics to a video montage, which included images of Hogan himself doing his patented pose down along with clips of the hair metal band Poison, Ralph Macchio going into the crane stance and Obama’s just released birth certificate.

Produced and recorded by 70s rocker Rick Derringer (”Rock ‘n Roll Hoochie Koo”) and sporting back-up vocals by Cindi Lauper, “Real American” was released on “The Wrestling Album,” a compilation of mostly novelty tunes performed by the likes of The Junkyard Dog and Hillbilly Jim released in 1985. The anthem was originally intended as the entrance music for the patriotic tag-team of Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo, who were feuding with Nicolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik at the time. But fate intervened in the form of Windham leaving the then World Wrestling Federation for a Florida grappling league, and the tune was then recycled as the music that Hogan would flex his pectorals to while celebrating his ring victories. If the song had remained the theme of a mostly forgotten tag-team, it’s doubtful that Obama would have used its repetitive chorus to taunt potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and like-minded birthers at the correspondent’s dinner.

Seated in the audience, Trump scowled like a bad guy wrestler, or at least a bad guy wrestling manager, as Obama and “SNL” head writer Seth Meyers landed vicious verbal chops to Trump’s enormous ego during their remarks. As our political discourse mirrored what they call “cutting a promo” in pro wrestling parlance, it was amazing that The Donald didn’t slam Obama with a steel chair. While Obama is definitely familiar with the world of what is now called sports entertainment and may even seek inspiration from current WWE champ John Cena, Trump appeared at WrestleMania 23 in 2007 where he shaved the head of Vince McMahon. Disappointingly, Trump’s comb over was spared the razor, even though most of us who tuned into that pay-per-view wanted to see the host of “The Apprentice” finally made to look like Superman’s billionaire foe Lex Luthor. Regardless of the pre-planned outcome, Trump earned $4 million for the Donald J. Trump Foundation for putting up coiffure on the line.

But a sizable charitable donation isn’t the only thing that Trump has received from McMahon as Vince was yelling “YOU’RE FIRED” in the face of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin years before “The Apprentice” first aired in 2004. If Trump’s campaign should become something more than Hulk Hogan’s publicity stunt bid for the presidency in 2000 (yes, Hogan pretended to run too), you can expect McMahon to supply campaign contributions as well as catch phrases. However, the McMahons (who just threw $50 million on Linda McMahon’s losing senate campaign last year) might want to reconsider ousting President Obama. Not only is he the most sports entertainment friendly president since Bill Clinton confessed to watching “American Gladiators,” but his command decision had multitudes of Americans chanting “USA! USA!"–something I used to only hear in arenas when Sgt. Slaughter fought the Iron Sheik.

04/20/11

Permalink 12:50:44 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 1205 words, 24329 views English (US)
Categories: Appearances

Thor, Idris Elba and the Integration of Viking Movies

Idris Elba
UK actor Idris Elba as the Norse God Heimdall in the upcoming Marvel Comics movie “Thor.”

As of last Friday, 1,473 people liked the “Boycott Thor (2011) by Marvel Studios” Facebook page. Among those showing their virtual disapproval of director Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming comic book moive is Elmer Smith of Bradenton, Florida, a “47 year old proud son of the South” with a Confederate flag combined with skull and crossbones as his profile pic. On the Facebook page itself, Ian Tucker writes, “I’ll watch this when they remake ‘Shaft’ with a white guy.” Nikola Brdja Spaskeh, assault rifle in hand in his profile image, adds, “Jewlywood, more History, less Political Correctness and Liberal Agenda,” before wondering if Hollywood will make a movie with “Will Smith as Adolf Hitler” and bemoaning the stealing of European heritage. There is also a link where you can buy “Boycott Thor” t-shirts, bumper stickers and even aprons on zazzle.com.

The reason for the outrage isn’t that Will Smith was cast as the Norse God of Thunder, but because Idis Elba, a British actor of African parentage best known as Stringer Bell on “The Wire,” has been chosen to play Heimdall, the steadfast guardian of the rainbow bridge to Asgard. The boycott was organized late last year by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist organization that condemns interracial marriage and refers to blacks as “a retrograde species of humanity.” A December 27, 2010 entry on the group’s “Boycott Thor” website rages against the multi-racial Valhalla depicted in the upcoming movie, and points out that Stan Lee “has personally funded Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy.”

“It is very clear where his bias lies,” the anonymous author quips.

Surprisingly, African American fantasy author Charles Saunders, creator of the Sub-Saharan sword and sorcery hero Imaro, weighs in on the side of those who want to keep Heimdall white. “The internal integrity of those mythologies should be acknowledged and respected,” he writes in a Jan. 25 blog post titled “The Heimdall Hullabaloo.” Saunders’ reasons for disparaging an African Heimdall stem from being asked to rework his African descended characters as Caucasians for a 1985 Roger Corman produced film called “Amazons.” Saunders finds Hollywood cynicism as the motivation for shifting the race of his own characters in the 1980s and Heimdall today. “To my mind there is something wrong with both pictures,” Saunders concludes, “and I don’t need the likes of the Council of Conservative Citizens or ‘Boycott Thor’ to tell me that.”

But both Saunders and the Council of Conservative Citizens get this all horribly wrong. The casting of Elba has nothing to do with the cultural authenticity of 8th Century Scandinavian seafarers, but instead hails from a mid-20th Century American cinematic tradition. A few years before the sit-ins, Freedom Rides or the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Viking movies produced with American stars and financing had started the march towards integration with the casting of Trinidad-born Calypso singer Edric Connor as Sandpiper in the 1958 Kirk Douglas epic “The Vikings.” However, Connor’s role in “The Vikings” is closer to a slave narrative than a berserker’s saga as he and Tony Curtis escape their Norse bondage by stealing a ship and sailing it for England. This one sequence of “The Vikings” has an alarming parallel to “The Defiant Ones,” Curtis’ other major film of 1958 where he and Sydney Poitier are chained together as they make their getaway from a brutal Southern chain gang.

black viking
Left to right: Sydney Poitier’s Moorish King serves as the antagonistic equal of white Vikings in “The Long Ships” (1964), while Deacon Jones pillages alongside Lee Majors in “The Norseman” (1978).

During the same year that Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, Sydney Poitier’s Moorish king in “The Long Ships” (1964) was an antagonistic equal to Richard Widmark’s Viking treasure hunter. Poitier and Widmark had already faced off from opposite sides of the color line in the tense racial drama “No Way Out” (1950), which was also Poitier’s first film. “The Long Ships” would see the two replaying this conflict only with more swordplay and Viking panty raids on Portier’s harem. Although the conflict between Moor and Viking is unlikely to upset even the most bigoted “Thor” boycotter, “The Long Ships” shows a reticence on the part of producers to place Vikings in a mono-ethnic setting.

More thorough integration of movie Vikings would have to wait all the way until 1978 with the release of “The Norseman,” a bargain basement effort filmed in Florida swampland with Lee Majors wearing a Roman breastplate for some reason and Italian guys in obvious wigs as totally evil Native Americans. As dwindling factory production in America had become integrated during the last throes of organized labor dominance, “The Norseman” gives us NFL hall of famer Deacon Jones in a horned helmet fighting alongside guys with names like Thorvald, Ragnar and Olif. Near the film’s conclusion, Jones risks Indian arrows to carry the corpse of a fallen Viking back to the ship because the dead man “deserves a Norse burial.” Unfortunately, Jones’ character is named Thrall although it’s doubtful that a Heimdall of any color would bar his entrance into Valhalla when the time comes.

Thor Panther
Left to right: The Mighty Thor fights the Stone Men of Saturn in his first Marvel Comics appearance and the Black Panther leaps out of the page as the first black superhero. Both comics were the work of Jack Kirby.

And now that the US has its first African American president, we also have black Heimdall standing guard over the Rainbow Bridge, deciding which warriors are worthy of entering a multi-ethnic Asgard like an armor plated St. Peter. While the 1,473 boycotters clicking on the thumb icon on the “Boycott Thor” Facebook page will hardly matter to the success of Marvel/Paramount’s “Thor,” Elba still felt the need to answer his critics as recently as last week. In an April 8 interview with “Female First,” Elba admits to questioning race when Branagh first offered him the role, but later came around. “It was so refreshing - and a testament to him as an actor and director that his casting was genuinely color blind,” Elba said before adding, “I feel very proud of being part of that movie.”

What should rankle white supremacists even more is that a New York Jew who fought the Nazis during World War II is responsible for making the Norse Thunder God into a modern super hero. Marvel Comics artist Jack Kirby along with writer Stan Lee first put Thor into a comic book in 1962, and had him doing things that were decidedly inauthentic. During Thor’s early four-color adventures, he fought the Stone Men of Saturn, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde, and even the Greek gods. Four years later, Kirby integrated Marvel’s characters with the creation of the Black Panther, the first black superhero. “There were plenty of white super heroes, so I thought there should be a black hero too,” Kirby told me unpretentiously during one of the times I was fortunate enough to speak with him. After Kirby jumped to DC Comics in the early 1970s, he created that company’s first black super hero as well in the first issue of “The Forever People” (1971). Ironically, that character’s name was Vykin the Black.

03/10/11

Permalink 12:19:53 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 2210 words, 8606 views English (US)
Categories: News

The Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy Stories That Need Adapting

science fiction paperbacks
A whole pile of science fiction, horror and fantasy paperbacks that have gone untouched by Hollywood producers (pulled from the author’s shelves and piled on his bed).

Remakes. Reboots. Re-imaginings. Prequels. Prequels to remakes. That’s what 2011 is going to remembered for—the year of the prequels to remakes. We’ve got three of them coming out this year ("Death Race 2,” “Untitled Thing Prequel,” and “Rise of the Apes"). I’d say this could start a trend, but it already is one. Meanwhile, Alcon Entertainment has announced that it’s going to produce a sequel or prequel to “Blade Runner,” it doesn’t know which. Last year’s “Tron Legacy” was a sequel that was widely referred to as a remake. It’s getting so the critics and the producers themselves can’t tell what’s what anymore.

There was a glimmer of hope offered by Guillermo Del Toro’s $150 million version of H. P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” but Universal has dropped this project like it was an awful (and costly) squid-head with writing feelers and the stench of a thousand opened graves. With the idea in mind that there may be some sentient life in Hollywood, I asked the authors, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and artists in my inner circle (i.e. Facebook) what science fiction, horror, or fantasy novels or short stories they thought should be made into movies. To be fair (and to jumble things up a bit), I’ve alphabetized the responses by the authors of the works being suggested for adaptation.

I hope to see further suggestions in the comments, making this the eldritch creeping horror of blog posts. With all of the great responses, I’m still not seeing anything by Asimov, Fritz Lieber, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven (etc. etc.) on this list.

Alan Black (Author of “Kick the Balls: An Offensive Suburban Odyssey;” web): “Wasp Factory” is so twisted you wish at times that you had not unscrewed the cap on Iain Bank’s first literary shake. Explosively remote, imagine a fantasy of murders executed by the clear eyes of a young nutjob screwing you tighter into his wicked ways. Not to be read in the dark.

Rafael Navarro (Graphic illustrator and creator of El Sonambulo; web): The works of Alfred Bester have influenced the sci fi community for years. From space travel, telepathy, to teleportation and the earliest fundamentals of what eventually became the cyberpunk movement. Two noted works, “The Demolished Man,” and my personal favorite, “The Stars My Destination” are stories that are just DYING to be made into film. Sad to say, they have not! “Demolished Man” has all the traits of a great film noir/murder mystery but involving government controlled mind readers or “peepers” if you will. It follows Ben Reich, an industrialist giant caught in an intergalactic web of intrigue, deceit and murder all leading to a spiraling brainwashing conclusion! “The Stars My Destination” is an absolute masterpiece! It tells the tale of Gully Foyle, a survivor of a space wreckage left for dead, who, like the Count of Monte Cristo and even Travis Bickle, decides to go on a vendetta kick against those that wronged him and feed the angry inner demon from within.

Daniel Boyd (Writer/director “Chillers” and “Invasion of the Space Preachers;” Professor of Communications; independent pro wrestler; web): A Russian novel I’ve always wanted to adapt (science fiction in the way “Frankenstein” is); “Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Crissy Calhoun (Author of “Love You to Death: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries;” web): Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate” series ("Soulless,” “Changeless,” “Blameless,” and the forthcoming “Heartless” and “Timeless"). Set in an alt-world Victorian London with “out” vampires and werewolves, the books are “New York Times” bestsellers and with good reason. Heroine Alexia Tarabotti, a woman without a soul, is clever, hilarious, and often in the middle of a misadventure featuring dirigibles, parasols, and steampunky science. With writing that’s been favorably compared to P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen, Carriger has created a world that begs to be adapted for the screen. We may be overrun by vamps and wolves these days, but the “Parasol Protectorate” series is an entirely new, and wicked, twist that crosses genres.

Chris Morley (Visual Effects Supervisor, Tippett Studio; imdb): “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski. An attempt at this would be purely insane, which is the greatest reason it SHOULD be done. If executed in a beautifully stylized way my faith in Hollywood would be one step closer to climbing out of the void.

Floyd Webb (Documentary filmmaker currently working on “The Search for Count Dante;” web): Great sci-fi stories for film are space Operas like Sam Delany’s “Nova.” Set in a world of cyborg machine-human interface tech where decisions are made by tarot card in a metaphorical Moby Dick-like tale in which one noble family is pitted against another. The Ahab character is a half Senegalese-half Swede on a great quest to turn the economic tide of energy dominance against his super rich nemesis, a plot that’s even more relevant now than it was when the book came out in 1968.

Andre Perkowski (Writer/director of zero-budget film versions of the Ed Wood novel “Devil Girls” and William S. Burroughs’ “Nova Express;” youtube): It’s impossible not to daydream about doing Philip K. Dick justice on the screen as so many of his quirky works lend themselves to flickerin’ pictures despite the mostly grim track record of extant adaptations. If somebody dumped a sizable sack of cash in front of me, I’d love to tear into “Ubik” – his corrosive, hysterical novel that flips upside down and rots from within, playing with time and tepid SF tropes, mutating them into his own gorgeous personal stew of personal problems and bureaucratic annoyance. You get crunchy satire about life and death and a spritz of salvation in spray can form – what’s not to love? I hope someone does it right but I’ll always snarl and do an Elvis lipcurl knowing I could’ve done it better with ten times the power – oh, and without stupid Super Mario sequences of CGI platform-jumping too. Consider this your final warning, motion picture business.

Jackie Kashian (Comedian; host of the podcast “Dork Forest;” web): I picked randomly from the bookshelf behind me, “When Gravity Fails” by George Alec Effinger from 1988. Here’s why it needs to be a movie (and please don’t ruin it. Daredevil I’m talking to you).
• It’s Islamic Cyberpunk, set in a futuristic Dubai. (That should sell it.)
• People get surgical ports into their heads so that they can “chip in” with flash cards with different personality “mods” (endless porn-y possibility should sell it).
• Our hero is a lapsed Muslim in the red-light district who doesn’t want the technology himself (i.e. “you can get an iPad, I don’t need an iPad”).
• There’s a serial killer using illegal “mods” to simulate different killers from history on a killing spree. (Jack the Ripper, James Bond, etc.)
• The “Godfather” character insists our hero gets “mods” to out “mod” the bad guy. (Which is just awesome and you should already be looking for directors).
• I checked to see if it had ever been adapted and couldn’t find anything but a reference to a computer game called Circuit’s Edge which I may have to get now that I know it exists.

Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin (former editor of “Fangoria;” screenwriter of “Frankenhooker;” imdb): I read Daniel F. Galouye’s “Simulacron-3″ in 1966, while flying from a stay in San Francisco General’s psychiatric ward [a stay brought about by ingestion of bad drugs and an accumulation of my own sorry shit], back to my family in New York. In the novel, the protagonist develops the thesis that he, and everyone he knows, exist only in a computer model of the world, maintained for the purpose of getting poll numbers without actually bothering anyone with polls. The climactic moment comes about when the protagonist chooses to test his theory by driving to the city’s limits, where he finds finds himself staring into a void of electronic nullity at the edge of his world. For me, that moment came to represent the arbitrariness of all existence, not just for the poor souls in that fictional computer, but through all of time in all manifestations of being. I have often thought since what a problem it would be to bring that moment to film. I only recently learned that “Simulacron-3″ has been adapted twice, in 1999 as “The Thirteenth Floor,” and before that as “Welt am Draht” ("World on a Wire"), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder for German television in 1973. I’m afraid to see either of these.

Arturo R. García (Site Lead, Racialicious.com; twitter): “Stranger In A Strange Land,” by Robert Heinlein. Sci-fi fans like to think they’re progressive? Let’s see if they could deal with this plot played out in 3-D: nice-enough guy, raised on Mars, comes back to Earth, becomes a celeb, forms a polygamist cult, gets killed … then gets made into soup by his buddies. Somebody get David Tennant on this, stat!

Steve Leialoha (Multi Eisner Award winning comic book artist of “Fables” and “Howard the Duck"; wikipedia): CGI animation has advanced to the point where I think it would be possible to do some sort of animated version of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” by William Kotzwinkle. It’s (kinda) the story of a bear that comes across a book manuscript in the forest, is subsequently assumed to be the author and becomes a media sensation. There’s lots of other wackiness of course, but it has terrific potential in the right hands.

Mandy Keifetz (Journalist and author of the crime novel “Corrido"; twitter): I’d like to see H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” (WT, 1927) made into a movie. The horror is inchoate and eterne - and I almost live there. It’s ineffably creepy.

Dan Kelly (Journalist specializing in the weird, obscure, historic and religious; web): “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” by H.P. Lovecraft. Beginning with the totally emo quote, “Life is a hideous thing,” “Arthur Jermyn” is populated by a weirdo cast of anthropologists, archaeologists, aristocrats, gorilla trainers, showgirls, murderers, lunatics, and a lost tribe of white apes for good measure. It features no alien gods, dabbling instead in cursed bloodlines, Cronenbergian body horror, and, (SPOILER ALERT!) inter-species romance. Sadly, Lovecraft’s penchant for racism is evident—the gentle and scholarly Arthur’s simian appearance explained through the red herring of Portuguese and Roman ancestors, for example—and the twist ending is telegraphed early on. Still, the story is a blackly comedic romp. I picture Wes Anderson at the helm, with Alec Baldwin narrating passages like: “One morning in Chicago, as the gorilla and Alfred Jermyn were rehearsing an exceedingly clever boxing match, the former delivered a blow of more than the usual force… They did not expect to hear Sir Alfred Jermyn emit a shrill, inhuman scream, or to see him seize his clumsy antagonist with both hands, dash it to the floor of the cage, and bite fiendishly at its hairy throat.”

David Henry Sterry (Author of several books ranging from “Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent” to “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published;” web): “Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk–it’s a story about all these strange ways that people have of getting themselves off. The climax involves a swimming pool, lots of suction, and tons of unraveling intestines. It just begs to be made into some kind of sick creepy, fucked up movie.

Eugene Robinson (Punk singer, journalist, MMA fighter, author of “A Long Slow Screw;” web): Hmmm….well I would say the Thanos epic that was part of the “Captain Marvel” and “Warlock” series drawn by Jim Starlin… Jesus, I hate to even mention it on the outside chance someone else might read this and according to the same laws that had Hollywood destroy a great comic book like “Howard the Duck,” completely ruin this by making it a simple expansion of the bar scene from Star Wars. But you have asked and so I have offered. So there. Now I have done it. It will now be ruined. All that’s left is the crying….

Adam S. Cantwell (Emerging author of works of weird fiction; web): We all know that Hollywood won’t plumb the infinite wealth of imaginative fiction out there without some guaranteed cross-marketing payoff they can sell to the bankers. So why not just go for unfilmable, unsellable gold? I hereby challenge Tinseltown to bring Gene Wolfe’s protean science-fantasy epic “The Book of the New Sun” to the screen. Hypothetical 18-to-34-year-olds will (never) thrill to the exploits of the apprentice torturer Severian; nor will they shiver as the dread Alzabo, who absorbs the memories of its prey, prowls the night, nor gasp at mountain ranges carved in the likenesses of long-dead Autarchs of remote-future Urth; nor will they tremble as the mindless hordes of the dread sea monster Abaia march to battle to foil a last desperate plan to reignite the dying Sun… Wolfe’s masterpiece has all this plus aliens, time travel, romance, intrigue, and hidden destinies galore–actually, Hollywood, never mind, I’ll just read the books again.

02/14/11

Permalink 11:02:26 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1139 words, 20452 views English (US)
Categories: News, Music, Wrestling

Chris Jericho wrestles for literary gold in Undisputed

Jericho Undisputed
Left: Chris Jericho’s new rock and wrestling memoir, “Undisputed.” Right: Jericho launches himself off the top rope during a match with The Rock. (Images: Grand Central Publishing.)

Pro wrestler/rocker/game show host Chris Jericho ends his first wrestling memoir, “A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex” (2007, Grand Central Publishing), only moments before his 1999 debut in Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. After spending the bulk of the 1990s toiling in ramshackle Canadian wrestling schools, Japanese hardcore matches, Mexican lucha-libre, crazed Hillbilly leagues and ineptly run cable TV operations, Jericho finally makes it to the top of sports entertainment. But if you think that getting signed by the WWE puts Y2J on easy street, his inevitable follow-up, “Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps,” has arrived to dispel such foolish notions.

Fortunately for Chris Jericho the best selling author, he’s never more endearing or hilarious than when he has a ladder to climb. “Undisputed” not only has him climbing that ladder, but this time around he’s getting knocked off of it over and over again like a competitor in a Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania. Only days after his pyro-laden intro on “Monday Night RAW,” sympathetic wrestlers tell Jericho that he has “a target on his back” and that he doesn’t know how to work the WWE’s style. When Jericho first signs with the WWE, McMahon says he’ll let him know if he’s doing anything wrong, but such instructions never come, leaving the wrestler to fritter away his newly signed $450,000 contract by bombing on national television. When McMahon finally gives him some feedback, the grappling impresario calls Jericho “the drizzling shits.” Now that’s a performance evaluation.

But verbal drubbings from McMahon and having “scorching heat” in the locker room aren’t enough to keep the Lion Heart down, and Jericho uses his ups and downs with the WWE to forge a compelling page-turner. As committed as he is to living his big time wrestling dreams, he still recognizes the absurdities of working for a company where calling the boss’s daughter a “filthy, dirty, disgusting, brutal, bottom-feeding, trash-bag ho” on national cable TV is a good career move. Reading “Undisputed” quickly becomes like watching an old “Naked Gun” movie with Leslie Nielsen, where if you only laugh at a third of the gags and tales of the just-plain wrong, you still won’t stop chuckling. This makes Jericho the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker of wrestling memoirists, a cultural reference that I’m sure he’ll appreciate—and Jericho loves cultural references.

In the prose of Jericho and collaborator Peter Thomas Fontinale, the minutiae of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler comedies and an intimate knowledge of the track list of Dio’s “Holy Diver” album are co-mingled with dense recollections of the early 2000s wrestling scene. The Godfather; the Ho-train; Chyna; X-Pac; Road Dogg; Mr. Ass; D’Lo Brown; Jindrak & O’Haire; Tajiri spewing green mist; Steveweisers; the Peoples’ Elbow; Stephanie McMahon’s breast implants—they all come flooding back along with an entire Ozzfest’s worth of metal references. However, the frequent name-checking of just about everything that Jericho holds dear only helps to maintain his everyman vibe even after he becomes the WWE’s only undisputed champ (hence the book’s title) and holds his own in a very real backroom brawl with Bill Goldberg. Jericho knows his audience and he is us.

Even after his greatest triumphs in the WWE, Jericho never feels that his position is quite secure. Almost as a reaction to his uncertainty, he doubles down on the trash culture crazy train by launching his power metal band Fozzy at the same time that he’s darting around the country in rental cars to make weekly installments of “Smackdown.” With the concurrent careers, not only does he get chewed out by McMahon, but he’s also called a “wanker” by Sharon Osbourne for playing a game of fastball with Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde in the parking lot during an Ozzfest show. Jericho also recounts being kissed on the lips by Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, making me ponder what beautiful children they would have had.

Aside from the kind of hair-metal gossip that could’ve kept the website Metal-Sludge.com going for another year, the best aspect of the Fozzy tour diary material is the contrast between wrestling in packed arenas one night and playing to nearly empty dive bars attached to homeless shelters the next. Rock and roll is a hard business, but just like his early years of working makeshift matches in Winnepeg sports bars, Jericho is undeterred. Last year, I saw him put on a rockin’ set with Fozzy in a Tempe, Ariz. strip mall rock club a little more than a day before he was slammed through a table at WrestleMania. When I interviewed him over the phone last May, he was in between a record signing at an FYE in Austin, Tex. and a match with R Truth on “Monday Night Raw.” Like any other musician, Jericho can’t quite quit his day job.

But Jericho does walk away from the squared circle during the last third of this volume, and it’s here that “Undisputed” takes a dark turn. His mother passes away, his longtime friend and former tag team partner Eddie Guerrero also dies, he’s arrested for drunk driving, and then there’s Chris Benoit. Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself in his weight room in late June 2007. He was also Jericho’s friend. Jericho could have easily written Benoit out of “Undisputed,” the same way that the WWE no longer references the man who once held their world title (and it’s hard to blame them). But to Jericho’s credit, he stands by the Benoit he once knew if not the murderer he became. “I’ll always love the kind, funny, excitable, supportive, levelheaded, polite and humble man whom I’ve trusted more than anyone I’ve ever met in this business,” Jericho writes, “But I’ll always despise the man who murdered his family and ruined his entire legacy in the last days of his life.”

“Undisputed” only covers Jericho’s initial run with the WWE and the months directly after it where he goes to Hollywood to become a true multimedia star with work in improv comedy and a brief stint on a reality show. Like “A Lion’s Tale” before it, “Undisputed” sets up another follow-up that will likely cover his WWE comeback, the continuing saga of Fozzy, and his short season of hurtling prizes off of a building as the host of a primetime ABC game show. If this future memoir to be written in airports and all-night diners in between band gigs and pay-per-views is anything like the first two, I can hardly wait for it.

Chris Jericho’s “Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps” will be hitting the shelves on Wednesday, February 16th.

02/02/11

Permalink 12:51:23 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 611 words, 6440 views English (US)
Categories: Press, Television

Parenthood Recap: My Book Makes its NBC Debut

NBC Parenthood
My book, “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal,” makes its network television debut as a piece of set decoration on the NBC series “Parenthood” in the lower left corner of the screen.

“Parenthood” is about the Braverman family. We know this because they tell us over and over again. They’ve already said the word Braverman four times by the episode’s 25-minute mark. Craig T. Nelson, as grizzled patriarch Zeek Braverman, says his surname three times. Does my dad say “Calhoun” this many times? Does he regale me with tales about the “whole Calhoun male bonding experience” or the “original Calhoun hunter-gatherers"? No. He doesn’t. But he’s just a Calhoun, not a Braverman. When you’re a Braverman, you’re really into working your last name into sentences.

Three minutes in. Bonnie Bedilia as Camille Braverman is standing in front of a bookcase. I can’t make out the spines of the books even with a 45″ Zenith Plasma TV. There are a couple of black books with white lettering. I don’t think that any of them are “Beer, Blood & Cornmeal” though. I can spot my 2008 punk-wrestling memoir on the bottom shelf of the sports entertainment section from across a crowded Barnes & Noble. I could definitely spot it on Camille Braverman’s bookshelf.

Last month, I got an email from ECW Press publicist Simon Ware telling me that my book will be “used as permanent background set dressing in the NBC series ‘Parenthood,’” starting with season 2, episode 14. This episode was supposed to air last week, but was preempted for the State of the Union address.

We’re 11-minutes in. Bonnie Bedelia is reading a book, but it’s a hard cover. My book is a trade paperback. Damn it.

Eight minutes later. Amber and Haddie, two teens, are unpacking. Haddie has been exiled from her parents’ home because she’s dating a 19-year old. The camera pans out into the hallway. There’s a bookcase or some kind of table in the hallway. Saints be praised! Clearly visible on the shelf is a copy of “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal.” They don’t just show it once, but twice, with the NBC Peacock right next to it. Thank you cinematographer David J. Miller for getting my book into the frame. I owe you a beer or ten.

NBC Parenthood
A closeup of my punk-wrestling memoir, “Beer, Blood & Cornmeal,” on the Braverman family’s hallway shelf in the NBC comedy-drama “Parenthood.”

I don’t know why the producers of “Parenthood” chose to put my book on the shelf in the Braverman family’s hallway. Maybe art director Susan Alegria or art department coordinator Charlene Blanco Agabao read the book and liked it. (Thanks to both of you by the way.) Maybe they or somebody else working for True Jack Productions thought that the cover picture of The Cruiser rolling up a Macho Sasquatcho for a pinfall. The show takes place in Berkeley so they could think that this what people in the East Bay are reading these days. If only this could be so. But then again, maybe this is just the kind of rock-ribbed rasslin tell-all that hard-headed Bravermans like Zeek and Camille like to sink their teeth into.

Thirty-nine minutes Adam Braverman (Peter Krause from “Six Feet Under") gets high from a THC loaded lollipop. Shortly after, Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter) and Bonnie Bedelia have a heart to heart on the porch. “Beer, Blood & Cornmeal” isn’t seen again, but maybe next week Craig T. Nelson will crack it open for the cameras. This would be rad because not only was Nelson in “Poltergeist,” but he got killed by vampires in both “Scream Blacula Scream” and “The Return of Count Yorga” back in the 1970s.

11/10/10

Permalink 12:58:44 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 1679 words, 12566 views English (US)
Categories: News, Interview, Politics, Wrestling, Television

Mick Foley: Wrestling with Reasonableness

Mick Foley
“Countdown to Lockdown” and its most reasonable author, Mick Foley (Images courtesy of Grand Central Publishing).

Mick Foley is the last person that you’d expect to be honored at something called the Rally to Restore Sanity. In the world of pro wrestling, he’s known for taking sports entertainment to its most masochistic extremes. He’s lost an ear in the ring, and just a little over a week before his appearance at Jon Stewart’s “Million Moderate March,” Foley body slammed a half-naked, 61 year old “Nature Boy” Ric Flair onto a mat covered in very real thumbtacks on Spike TV’s “TNA Impact.” But there is a kindly Dr. Jekyll to Foley’s grappling Mr. Hyde. Outside the ring, he helps build schools in Africa through his giving to Child Fund International and is a passionate supporter of RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence nonprofit that Foley first learned about through his devotion to singer-songwriter Tori Amos. Yes, the man dubbed “the Hardcore Legend” in wrestling circles is one of Amos’ biggest fans, both literally and figuratively.

Equally as extreme in his philanthropy as he is in a steel cage match, Foley donated the entire advance for his fourth memoir, “Countdown to Lockdown” (Grand Central Publishing, 2010), to his charities. Although Foley’s previous three memoirs all hit the “New York Times” bestseller list and he still earns a living through wrestling, forfeiting his advance is no small tithe from a man nearing the end of his ability to sacrifice his body on the altar of sports entertainment. Foley writes about living at the twilight of his career in “Countdown to Lockdown” and intersperses stories of his philanthropy with the red meat of his pay-per-view comeback and his parting with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. In a recent phone interview, Foley discusses the Rally to Restore Sanity, how he got talked out of going on “The O’Reilly Factor,” and how democrats can tap into their inner pro wrestler.

BOB CALHOUN: Did you ever think that Mick Foley, the hardcore legend, would get an award for sanity?

MICK FOLEY: I don’t know about sanity. It was officially for “reasonableness,” and I know that because I’m looking at it as it hangs around my neck. No, especially because one can argue that many of my actions in and around the wrestling ring were not all that reasonable so I think it’s appropriate that Jon specified that the award is for being reasonable everywhere else but my day job.

BC: You’re not losing an ear for your charitable work.

MF: No, but I’d be willing to.

BC: But that’s almost reasonable–almost.

MF: You know I think that is completely reasonable. If the stakes were high enough I would lose a body part to end sexual violence.

BC: Being at Stewart and Colbert’s rally, what do you think it accomplished?

MF: I loved Jon’s speech at the end of the rally. I think almost everybody who watched could take the story of the cars passing one by one into a small tunnel only by working together to heart. When it’s phrased that way, and when Jon mentioned that we actually do work together in this country everywhere but in congress and on cable television, it struck a chord with people.

BC: In keeping with Stewart’s criticism of the 24-hour news cycle, in “Countdown to Lockdown” you write that you contemplated going on “The O’Reilly Factor” to address the Chris Benoit tragedy, but were talked out of it. (In June 2007, WWE wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and two children and then committed suicide.)

MF: I was talked out of it by a woman at Child Fund International, formerly the Christian Children’s Fund. I told her that I thought that Bill and I could have a good conversation and her quote was, “Yes, you could, but that’s entirely up to him.” I really thought about the coverage that the Benoit murders had received and I realized so much of it was sound bytes and knee jerk reactions. Despite the fact that the cable news channels ran 24-hours a day, there was almost no deep reflection on what may have happened. More recently, the chaos in Iran following the elections ceased to exist once Michael Jackson died. It seems amazing to me to think that the people in charge of the news don’t think that the American people can concentrate on more than one issue at a time.

BC: How do you feel about the beating that your profession took in the recent Connecticut senate race? Was there a better way for Dick Blumenthal and Democrats to criticize Linda McMahon’s tenure as a CEO of WWE?

MF: As someone who is close to the subject and who has fed his children through the business of professional wrestling for their entire lives (I’ve been in it for 25 years; I’ve had a family for almost 19), although Blumenthal won in Connecticut, I think the idea that people were criticizing a form of entertainment enjoyed by millions of people across the country was very condescending and may have led to the feeling Americans had of democrats being out of touch.

BC: Do you think that the Democrats need to get in touch with their inner pro wrestler?

MF: I think they need to make Jim Webb the senate majority leader and attempt to shift the image of democrats from liberal weenies to tough-talking, straight-shooting Americans. I really respect what Harry Reid has done and I think Nancy Pelosi is a great congressperson, but I do not think that people can connect with them at all. If every liberal in the country was willing to give up lattes for two years, you could put those republicans in the unenviable position of having to talk about those “damned whiskey drinking liberals.”

BC: In your new book you have your own criticisms of WWE like the fake McMahon memorial.

MF: I openly criticized them and I thought that a couple of storylines that (the Blumenthal campaign) trotted out to hurt Mrs. McMahon were indeed terrible storylines, but I don’t think that they’re indicative at all of the type of program WWE is. It reminds me of reading Joe Lieberman’s memoir, “In Praise of Public Life,” (Simon & Schuster, 2000) where he warned that with senators who make thousands of votes over the course of their careers, that one or two votes can serve as fodder for political attack ads. As an American citizen watching the fifth game of the World Series, I was just irate over the sheer number of political attack ads coming from both sides. The only person who serves to gain from that is the guy doing the voice-overs.

BC: There’s another part of “Countdown to Lockdown” where you’re cheered by an entire village in Sierra Leone and this isn’t for running your body into exploding barbed wire.

MF: It was such a surreal feeling. I had been on the flight from the US to the UK, and then from the UK to Freetown. I knew that nobody in the country was really was familiar with wrestling at all. I took a ferry from the airport area to Freetown proper. Out of the six or 700 people on that ferry, not one person knew who I was. They looked at me because I was a large white guy with long, unkempt hair, but that was the only thing remarkable about me. Yet when I got to these small villages, child after child was yelling my name. They even had songs they sang in unison, and it turns out that I am known and very well liked solely because I contributed money to help build schools in the area.

BC: How did that change your outlook on things?

MF: First of all I realized that I did not have to commit so many reckless acts to earn the acceptance of people I’d never met. But I also, on a serious note, I came to identify Africa, at least the part of Africa I was in, as a place of hope and joy and not just despair. I really believe education is a key to bringing this continent out of the situation it’s in.

BC: Has Tori Amos been getting more attention from wrestling fans since your book hit the shelves?

MF: (Laughs) Honestly, I do not know. I have not had contact with her since the book was published. The people I know at RAINN who know her, say she’s still very flattered. I imagine that there’s been a lot of people Googling her or checking out the links to certain songs. If she knew that it’s drawing people to a cause like RAINN that she holds so dear, I can’t imagine her minding.

BC: You’ve written four memoirs. Other memoirists write about cooking Julia Childs recipes, or they don’t use toilet paper for a year, or they write about their tawdry sex lives. Do you worry that the success of your writing is too closely tied to getting choke slammed off of steel cages and would you rather have the tawdry sex?

MF: I do write about my sex life, but because it’s mine, I can’t use the adjective tawdry to describe it. I really enjoy telling stories. This book is not doing as well as the others have, but the people who are reading it are enjoying it. Because 100% of the advance was donated to the causes I care about, it’s always seemed like a labor of love to me.

BC: What’s next for Mick Foley?

MF: I’ve got a lot of things on the horizon. I’ve got a movie based on parts of my life that I’m writing along with director Christopher Scott. It’s a movie being produced by Jeff Katz ("Snakes on a Plane") who’s had great success in the motion picture industry. I may dabble in fiction again. I intend to talk RAINN when the opportunity lends itself and hopefully try to make a difference where I can while simultaneously being a dad who’s home a little bit often.

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Beer, Blood and Piecemeal.

The rock and reading odyssey of a 300-pound hulk.

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