at that time, most
people only stayed in the
territories 6 to 9, maybe 12 months, and some less. I'll give you
a perfect example of that. My daughter Robin, by the time she was
in 8th grade she had been in 12 different schools. You know, like
you, Graham, with your father having been in the service. He
traveled around and we did too, maybe more. We had to move
twice, maybe three times a year. It's not like the 1980s, the
early 80s, when I stayed with Crockett until he sold to Ted Turner, so
I was there 6-7 years. That was the only time I ever stayed that
long anyway. I usually stayed 6 to 9, 12 or 15 months.
That's just how it was.
you meet Johnny
We used to go up,
me and Bobby
Heenan, Raschke, Ernie Ladd
used to work for Dick the Bruiser in the WWA. And we'd go up
for Bear Man in London, Ontario and work. We'd wrestle in Detroit
Saturday night and stay over. In the summertimes, he'd run his
Canadian territory so we'd go in there on Sunday afternoon in London
and wrestle for him. And Johnny would go in there and work the
whole season for him. He'd only bring in a crew for the summer
only because all the arenas we worked were hockey arenas. Ice was
down and it was so cold and he wouldn't do wrestling. We called
him Bear Man because he had a bear; he'd bring girls in and midgets and
he'd have a crew. And Johnny was one of his crew that summer and
we met that way. And when Bobby Heenan wanted to go to the AWA,
WWA told Bobby Heenan that he'd have to replace himself with another
rough guy so he was the one who suggested, he said "Why don't we get
that big blonde kid and they'll be another Valiant brother."
was Handsome Jimmy and we
brought him in as Luscious Johnny.
We talked about him for 6 weeks and the first time he walked down the
aisle, we had a title match in Indianapolis against Bruiser and ...
Snyder ... or Snyder and someone. We took the titles. And
he was red hot. I was Handsome Jimmy and I had been talking about
my brother Luscious Johnny and it just got over so big.
feuding with Bruno and
Dick the Bruiser in the WWA you returned to the WWWF and quickly won
the titles, holding them for quite some time. What was that like?
was a wonderful
experience. Again, I say it was
the biggest territory in the world. And at that time we held them
over a year and at that time we held the record; it was 12 months and
something. And we beat Dean Ho and Tony Garea. We just had
a terrific run there with them chasing us, trying to get the belts
back. We just wrestled against everybody. Bruno, and
Strongbow, and Monsoon, Haystacks Calhoun, and Victor Rivera - you name
it. They threw every team there was at us. It was just a
great, great run.
you think the Valiant
Brothers got over to the extent that they did?
know, I've heard say that
we were ahead of our
time. Just for instance, and I'm not trying to pat myself on the
back, but I was one of the first to come out to music. Me and
Bobby, Beautiful Bobby, came out in 71 - with the Grand Wizard being
our manager. Beautiful Bobby, I'm talking about Bobby Harmon ...
instead of Bobby
Eaton. I wasn't the first blonde
but I was one of the first, you know, long hair walking down the
streets. First one to pierce my ear. Before it was cool is
what I'm trying to say. Now everybody's got long blonde hair,
pierced ears, pierced everything. I walked around with
tattoos. In other words, like the song, I was country before
country was cool.
did everything before it
was cool. Now it's really
cool to have tattoos. Women, guys - they've all got
tattoos. But I was one of the first. You got to be
different, Graham. Everybody comes out to music now. I
brought the music to Memphis, and Lawler started doing it and Dundee
started doing it. And I brought it to Mid-Atlantic, and Flair
started to do it and Dusty started to do it. But I was the
first. Boogie Woogie was the first to come out to music.
Now if I were to come out - and everybody comes out to music, every
single match - now what I would do is come out to no music just to be
different. You've got to be a little different. I tried to
do that. I was one of the forerunners to do different
things. Even tights, having stains on your tights. I used
to have a pair that said "Kiss My" on the back of my tights. Just
different stuff, you know, I'd put different slogans or sayings on.
it like to work with
Andre just as he was getting that mainstream international exposure?
was super. He
didn't know his own strength, of
course you know. He was like a bear. A bear - if he swaps
at you with his paw he could kill you and Andre was the same
thing. He was such a gentleman and such a professional. I
loved him, I loved the man. I had all the time in the world for
Andre the Giant.
than one occasion, the
Valiants headlined Madison Square Garden against Bruno and Chief Jay in
tag team championship matches. What did you
think of Bruno as an in-ring talent?
was the greatest.
He looked the part, like a
fighter, a boxer. He was Italian of course and an ethnic and
that's how they drew, how they wanted to draw just like Morales and
wanted to draw with Hogan as an Irishman. But Bruno looked the
part, cauliflower ear, big neck, and strong. One of the first to
press 500lbs without steroids. Appearance is so important.
Like right now, Graham, I'm a little lean but where am I going, you
know? This is my farewell tour, I'm a vegetarian, and I don't
want to carry all that weight around. But in my prime you can see
pictures of me, I was 240-250, both me and Johnny. We were both
big. The people wanted to see big people. And Bruno, he was
a great champion.
Capt. Lou Albano come
into the picture and why was he paired with the Valiants?
was there in 70/71 under
the Grand Wizard. And I
left and came back with Johnny and when I came back with Johnny, Capt.
Lou bought my contract from the Grand Wizard because he specialized in
tag teams more than singles; he did have some singles. I was sold
and he signed Johnny. We used to go as the "Valiants and Capt.
Lou Too" ... how was it ... oh, "Capt. Lou and the Valiants Too."
We had t-shirts made. In fact, I was the one that gave him the
name Captain. I named him because that morning I heard the Mule
Skinner Blues - *singing* "Good morning, Captain, aha aha
..." Do you remember that song?
probably before my time.
I just called him captain
and it stuck and he had the
whistle, giving signals with the whistle. And that was all with
the Valiant Brothers.
to the introduction
of Gentleman Jerry Valiant?
and Johnny went in and did
three tapes, then went home
and did three more tapes. Six tapes up in Pennsylvania. We
were both going to do a run again and were challenging for the world
championship tag belts. And I came down and became deathly sick
with hepatitis. Man, I burned the candle at each end and ...
well, my book explains it but Angel saved my life. I wouldn't be
here if I didn't change my life. That's all in my book but I had
to bow out. And Vince had so much money invested in me, well, not
me but in the Valiant Brothers. So he had to bring in another
Valiant Brother because me and Johnny's tapes had already gone
out. So they brought him in. Then, if you remember, I was
out for six months and almost died. And when I came back, I
joined the Valiants and we had the 6-man tag team matches everywhere
before the Freebirds. We were the first to do it. And that
was when I got my strength back and was able to get back in the groove.
the 1970s, you faced
just about everyone. Bruno, Andre, Chief Jay, the new guys like
Ted Dibiase, Tito Santana, the guys like that. Out of all of
them, who did you enjoy wrestling the best?
of them. All of
them, and I'm not just saying
that. But probably the closest was Strongbow, of course because
he was my tag team partner. And I did turn on him and I enjoyed
it very much with him. I wrestled all the world champions from
Hogan, Flair, to Brisco, the Funks, to Harley Race, Verne Gagne, Dick
the Bruiser, Jerry Lawler - what a run I had with him - Koloff, Kabuki,
but I can't say who was the favorite because they were all great.
They were all great to me - I'm not talking about the matches, just
great to ...
You got it. Great to be around. And I was easy to get along with, that's just my nature.