August 8, 2004
As I pulled into the sloping driveway and exited my car, I could
already hear the grunts, groans, and slams coming from the - for lack
of a better word - barn located 50 feet up the hill. The echoes
of bodies hitting the mat provided a stark contrast to the tranquil
Southwestern Virginia setting on that warm Sunday afternoon and
reassured me that I was in the right place, that being Boogie's
Wrestling Camp and the home of legendary performer Jimmy Valiant.
After walking by gimmick cars used by all of Valiant's personas, whether it be the lavish Cadillac driven by Handsome Jimmy & Luscious Johnny or a much smaller two-seater used by the flamboyant Boogie Woogie Man, I found myself in what has come to be called "Boogie Land". In front of me was a wishing well and statue of an angel, further on ahead was Jimmy's wrestling museum - with all sorts of memorabilia, plaques, and photographs contained within - and to my right stood the building from which all the sounds of agony were originating. Inside was the man himself doing what he's done for well over a decade - giving guidance to his students - none of whom, at least on this day, appeared to be out of their teenage years.
Boogie's Wrestling Camp, now celebrating its 12th year, has provided
opportunity for all who are interested to get their start in the
professional wrestling industry - whether as a wrestler, manager,
referee, or valet. With magazine clippings, photographs,
t-shirts, memorabilia, phrases of inspiration, and life-size cut-outs of
current day performers adorning each of the four walls, there is little
chance of mistaking this as anything other than a training ground for
future superstars. And while the two ceiling fans certainly did
their part to ward off the outside heat, a strong smell of sweat
remained in the air as both students and trainers gave and received
inside the ring while a small audience watched on.
One could not help but hear the encouraging words coming from one audience member in particular. His shirtless and tattooed body had probably seen better days but he, much like those inside the ring, was clearly enjoying himself just the same. Of course the person I'm referring to is WWF Hall of Famer 'Handsome' Jimmy Valiant.
He's scheduled to retire on Christmas Day 2004 but, even after 40 years in the business, it's clear to see he still has the same enthusiasm for the industry he had when he was 20. An autobiography as well as a local TV deal for BWC are both scheduled for next year so, while his in-ring career may be coming to a close, he plans to maintain his busy schedule even after hanging up the tights for the final time.
With his wife Angel working the concession stand and the trainers controlling the action inside the ring, Mr. Valiant was kind enough to sit down with me in one of the locker rooms adjacent to the main building and answer a few questions about his career and time spent in the W/WWF.
The Interview: Part
Contact information for Boogie's
Jimmy would like to welcome one and all to visit his school and museum each and every Sunday from noon to 4pm, absolutely free of charge.
2916 Alleghany Springs Road
Shawsville, VA 24162 (about 15 miles south of Roanoke)