When I was fifteen, I spent my junior year of high school in Argentina on a foreign exchange program sponsored by Rotary International. As part of the program, all of the potential exchange students from northwestern Oregon and southwestern Washington (I lived in Portland at the time) were made to gather periodically in the year preceding our departure. Usually, we were packed off to a campground for a few days at a time, in the company of a bunch of foreign exchange students and a few Rotarians, and lectured on cultural sensitivity and the importance of being good ambassadors for our nation and such. In between lectures, we mostly got drunk and made out.
As you might expect, I had a lot of fun on these excursions, and it was cool to get to go to Argentina afterward. But more than the various make-out sessions, one of my fondest memories from my pre-exchange training was a story told to me by another outbound exchange student. A story about Macho Man Randy Savage.
D.K. was bound for South Africa and she was very, very hot. She was a classic haughty, popular girl, and much too hot for me to have a chance with, but I was too naive to realize. Through the grace of God and Rotary International, we found ourselves sitting alone one afternoon at a picnic table at a campground on the Oregon coast, and when she asked me what I was doing that evening – meaning, which of the condoned after-dinner activities would I choose – I said my plan was to sneak off somewhere and make out with her. I had already had quite a bit of rum. To my surprise, she said OK, and after kissing briefly, we joined hands and marched into the woods with the determination unique to fifteen-year-olds on that sort of mission.
But the ensuing odyssey of awkward outdoor nakedness, exciting though it was at the time, is not the point of my story. The point is this: Later in the evening, D.K. and I found our way to a large bonfire (Rotary approved) where kids not otherwise occupied were roasting marshmallows, singing songs, and surreptitiously drinking contraband liquor. We met up with some friends and sat around shooting the shit, and after a while, D.K., snuggled beside me in a blanket, told the following tale, which I believed then and believe now, about Macho Man Randy Savage:
At D.K.’s high school (in Beaverton, Oregon, maybe? I can’t remember), there was a kid called Dumptruck. Dumptruck was not, of course, his real name. He was a nerd and an outcast and D.K., being attractive and popular (and hot – did I mention that?) never knew his real name, or how he came to be called Dumptruck, or really anything about him. He was a heavyset loser who wore black clothes, and that’s about all she could say. Well, one Friday, Dumptruck pulled out a gun in class and told everyone to get the hell out, which they did, apparently without incident. The school was evacuated, except for Dumptruck and his gun, the police came, and they settled in to talk to him on a phone in the classroom and try to get him to come out without killing himself. I guess somewhere along the way, Dumptruck told the police that he would come out if they could get Macho Man Randy Savage to come talk to him. Now, I remember this seeming preposterous to me, even at the time, because, well, why would a professional wrestler be anywhere near Beaverton, Oregon, on a given Friday? But maybe Wrestlemania was in town or something and that’s why Dumptruck was asking? I don’t know, but according to D.K., THEY GOT THE MACHO MAN. After maybe an hour, he showed up and went bounding into the school alone to talk to Dumptruck. They talked for a long time – “I guess they had, like, a heart-to-heart?” D.K. said, suburbanly. And then, miraculously, it was over. Macho Man came out with one of his famous pythons slung over Dumptruck’s shoulder, and that was that. Randy Savage had saved the day.
Is this story true? I don’t know. Google is not helping me, especially now that news of Savage’s death is all over the internet. I’m disinclined to vouch for D.K., especially since I learned later that she had told a mutual acquaintance that I French-kissed “like a dog.” (This didn’t so much hurt my feelings as it made me bridle at her indiscretion. Frankly, I had found her kissing style to be weird and not-that-sexy, but I at least had the good graces to keep that opinion to myself!) But for all her shallow, popular-girl hotness, she didn’t seem like a fabulist. She also didn’t seem like the sort of person who would ever invent a story involving Macho Man Randy Savage. I am that sort of person, but she was not.
So for now, let us imagine that Macho Man Randy Savage, nee Randall Mario Poffo, really took time out of his schedule to help a depressed high school outcast in suburban Oregon. Let us hope that in addition to being a splendid physical specimen, a vibrant showman, and a memorable pitchman for snack products, he was, at heart, a kind and patient man, concerned most of all with the well-being of his fans.
I snapped into a Slim Jim in his honor when I heard the news. Oh, yeeaah!
Why has nobody ever touched on the obvious similarities between professional wrestling and religion? The most obvious, wonderful aspect about them is the one you’re discouraged from admitting despite all logic and reason pointing to it: it’s FAKE. Despite you KNOWING this, people immensely care.
One of the real beauties of wrestling, looking back on how it’s formulated, is that they only try to provide what stimulates the deepest, most lasting, satisfying emotional response. Demand completely dictates supply without any judgment tossed in. Good or bad, they don’t care, just what pushes your buttons and keeps you watching. Which is an interesting litmus on an audience’s tastes. We might go for all kinds of nasty, mean spirited things in the safety and buffer of it being the theater of wrestling. We’re ALLOWED to admit the kinda narrative we enjoy (Jake the Snake in my case—basically the ponderous drug addict shtick)
But, in the end, who was the most popular: Hulk Hogan. Pretty much the Jesus narrative reinforced with a cartoonishly dad-ish goodness. You’d think standing up against evil, aspiring to be a good role model for kids, asexual aside from the odd wink or smirk when a pretty girl crossed his path, and always being loyal to his friends would be dull for an audience before too long. But then I ponder this element of his routine: after he’d won. Hulk Hogan could bask in wrestling’s equivalent of a victory lap, sometimes for 30 minutes doing, of all things, a bizarre pose down for his mostly male audience. Imagine the time allotted for anybody else after they strutted their best work being permitted to bask in our celebration of them? How long does MJ get after winning a world championship. A season’s work: 5 or 10 minutes. Superbowl? 20 minutes. Boxers? We’re bored 2 minutes after the decision. Michael Jackson? 5 minutes. Standup comedians? Hogan consistently got that 30 min from an audience with license to do whatever they wanted in terms of acting out given how low most of society thought of wrestling and wrestling fans.
Brin, I think you’re just the man to tackle an essay on this subject. It would seem that you have good start. I’ll expect it on my desk in 2 weeks.
I would just like to commend you on the use of the adverb “suburbanly.”