By the way, today is the third anniversary of the day I first created Solie's Vintage Wrestling. It has been a very interesting three years. I look forward to many more and thank all of you who come here and enjoy what I have to offer.
By Terry Todd
The difference springs from two related factors - management and entourage - and their effect on the old bottom line. Ali's problems in both areas, of course, are so well known as to require few words here, but Andre's circumstances bear examination. He came to North America first in 1971, to Montreal, and continued to appear as Jean Ferr, working almost entirely in Quebec, though things didn't go all that well there. The crowds were good at first, but then they dwindled, and even though he enjoyed the ambience of Quebec, Andre realized that a change was in order. And so, through his friend Valois, a meeting was arranged in New York with Vince J. McMahon, professional wrestling's permier promoter.
McMahon is a tall, rather elegant man in his 60s, and he has seen many rough beasts in his time, but he recalls the day he first glimpsed Andre. "My initial reaction was, 'My God, I never saw such a man,'" McMahon says. "I'd seen photographs and videotapes, of course, and I knew Andre was 7'4" and over 400 pounds, but I simply wasn't prepared for how he looked up close. He was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and I knew he could become the number one draw in wrestling."
McMahon, whose father, Jess, had worked with Tex Rickard in boxing and wrestling promotions in the New York area and whose son, Vincent K., is being groomed to take over his father's World Wrestling Federation, concluded that what had killed the crowds in Quebec was overexposure. "I saw right away that Andre needed to be booked into a place no more than a few times a year," McMahon says. "Most of our men work one of our circuits for a while and then move to another. It keeps things fresh. A guy may work New England for a few months, for instance, go from there to the South and then on out to spend some time with Verne Gagne in Minneapolis. But Andre's different. The whole world is his circuit. By making his visits few and far between he never comes commonplace. Now, wherever he goes, the gates are larger than they would be without him. I book him for three visits a year to Japan, two to Australia, two to Europe and the rest of the time I book him into the major arenas in the U.S. The wrestlers and promoters all want him on their cards, because when the Giant comes, everyone makes more money."
Not only did McMahon divine the best way to showcase Andre, he also realized that the name Jean Ferr would do little in the U.S. to pull a crowd. But what should the big man be called? What name would produce in the fans the desired *frisson*? It was a crucial detail. Wrestling has always been filled with creative handles, ranging from the alliterative (Whipper Watson, Killer Karl Krupp) to the ethnic (El Mongol, Abdullah the Butcher) to the ethnically alliterative (Bobo Brazil, Tosh Togo) to the mysterious (The Masked Terror, The Mummy) to the simpy and manifestly wonderful (Whiskers Savage, Gorilla Monsoon, Fabulous Moolah), but McMahon guessed correctly that with the towering Frenchman, straightforward accuracy would be best. Hence, Andre the Giant. Perfect.
Fresh come to a land where size in almost everything has been the *terminus ad quem* everyone aspired: a land where possession of the biggest car, biggest farm, biggest house, biggest pool, biggest boat, biggest football team or biggest building signified rank and worth: a land whose seemingly limitless frontier had produced a people who went to the zoo to see the tiger rather than the ocelot, the elephant rather than the tapir, the gorilla rather than the gibbon, and, no doubt, the greater kudu rather than the lesser, Andre quickly bcame the draw McMahon had predicted.
For many years in the U.S. Andre traveled with a billingual companion, often Valois or another francophonic wrestler, but as his English developed and he got the hang of life on the American road, he struck out on his own, completely free of the sort of spiritual advisers, camp followers, school chums, and second cousins-twice-removed that have had so withering an effect on Ali's profit and loss statement. One of Andre's advantages, of course, vis-�-vis Ali, is that he wrestles 330 to 340 times a year, presenting the same sort of moving target to potential hangers-on that Ali once presented to opponents in the ring.
Three hundred thirty to 340 times a year. Have mercy. What can life be like for this 500-pound, peripatetic butterfly? To find out, I traveled for a time in his company, going with him to Philadelphia, Boston, Montreal, Atlanta, and New York. Once, almost 10 years agao, I had met and spent some time with Andre in Macon, Ga., and I was reminded again of that earlier meeting as I approached him in the dressing room at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. As he had been in Macon, he was standing with a group of fellow wrestlers, and again lines from the *Iliad* describing ajax came to mind:
Such bulk prodigious. Exactly. In an odd way, Andre's height seems somehow less critical to the effect he creates than do his width and thickness. There are, after all, quite a few men these days who are seven feet tall, but they usually weigh around 250; Andre often weighs more than twice that much. Yet neither in his street clothes nor wrestling trunks does he appear to be particularly overweight. No victim he of Donelap's disease, in which a man's belly is said to have done lapped over his belt.
This bulk prodigious results primarily from two physical peculiarities - unusually heavy bone structure and relatively short legs. As for bone structure, the best single indicators are the circumference of the wrists and ankles; the circumference of the wrist, for instance, tells much more about the overall bone structure than does the length of the hand. Consider this. The largest wrist circumference on record of a non-obese person was believed until recently to have been that of Cleve Dean, a 6'7", 450-pound arm wrestler from Georgia, whose right wrist is 10 1/4" around. Seven inches is about average from an adult male; eight inches is a very large measurement. Andre's wrist, however, is almost a foot in circumference, far larger than most men's ankles. His wrist, in fact, is about average for an adult male western lowland gorilla.
And as for the effect of the relationship between his leg length and trunk length on his body weight, remember than most men of 6'6" and beyond have relatively long legs and short bodies. This produces both their comparative lightness and their somewhat storklike appearance. Andre's proportions are actually quite normal - for a man of about 5'6". The fact that he rises almost two feet beyond that height accounts for much of his weight, because the trunk of a man weighs for more per inch of height than the legs. One of the reasons a gorilla weighs so much, in fact, is that, compared to a man, his trunk is quite long, averaging approximately 63% of his standing height as opposed to 52% in a man.
However, Andre's proportions, added to his height and unique bone structure, are only part of what makes him so truly giantlike. His hands, in particular, have always drawn attention, not only for their length and greadth but for their massiveness. They, like his feet, are disproportionately thick, giving them an almost pawlike appearance. His fingers are so large that he wears a ring through which a silver dollar may easily pass. Shaking hands with him is a humbling experience, producing memories of boyhood in the largest of men. And his head, his enormous jut-browed head, scarred from both rugby and wrestling and crowned with a thick shock of wiry black hair, also appears to be larger than it ought, adding the final touch to his fearful symmetry. In part, his capacity to fascinate must stem from the combined effect his great height and breadth, his slablike feet and hands and his colossal head have on oursubconscious, evoking, as they do, our formative years, years of storybooks and fairy tales, years which Andre symbolizes as he towers among us, a living manifestation of our childhood dreams.
Interestingly, it is among children and adolescents that Andre often seems most at ease. They swarm around him at matches and follow him wherever he shows himself in the street, the children yelling for him to lift them high, high into the air. He is unusually gentle and quiet with them, saying, "I try to be very soft with children. I don't want them to fear me. Often, when I go to the homes of people who have small children, the children will run from me even though they have seen me on television. I understand why they do this, but it is a sad feeling for me, even so."
Andre's experiences with small children not only support those who argue that television has an essentially trivializing effect, but they also help explain how anybody feels when first in his presence. Andre never enters a restaurant or a bar without bringing all conversations to a close, as people stop what they are doing and simply watch him, incredulous, as he goes to a table or stool. His visual impact is so extraordinary, in fact, that is sometimes effects even animals. In two separate instances, one reported by Valois and one by Roger Sembiazza, owner of a restauarant in Studio City, Calif., trained guard dogs have turned tail and headed for cover at the first sight of Andre. Asked about this, Andre chuckled in his *basso profundo* and said, "Boss, it was so funny. Dogs often react to me that way if they don't know me, but these two dogs were supposed to be so mean. So vicious. One was a German shepherd and one was a Doberman. Both times I was asked to stand still while the owner brought the dog in, and both times the dog got one look at me and ran the other way as fast as he could go."
Although a giant can apparently stop traffic and even take the starch out of a guard dog, one of the real problems Andre shares with other of history's giants is simply living among men. Many cultures, our own included, have legends of a time in which giants held sway over us, only to be finally vanquished themselves. These days, although Andre doesn't have to fear valiant knights or enraged townspeople or Jacks of any sort, his own life among men is not an easy one. Imagine, if you will, reading about a film like *Star Wars* and hearing it discussed by everyone, knowing all the while that unless you cared to stand in the back of the theatre you couldn't go, because the seats provided would not fit neither your length nor breadth. Imagine, if you will, passing a display window filled with handsome fall clothing, knowing that although you could easily afford to buy whatever you pleased, not a thing in the store would fit, except perhaps the scarves.
Or imagine seeing a Ferrari snap around a corner, and realizing that, whereas a good month's income would give you the title, even a shoehorn and Vaseline could never get you behind the wheel. Many obese people, of course, are similarly excluded, yet with few exceptions they have been partners, often quite willing ones, in their own exclusion. When the truly fat fly they are forced by their avoirdupois to buy a first-class ticket and pray for a slow day along the old alimentary canal, yet they must admit to many thousands of forkings in their lives' loads, forkings which have made all the difference between themselves and people of a more normal size. Their plight, however, seems to us rather more comic than tragic because they usually have the means, if not the will, to rejoin their smaller brethren. Not so with Andre, who has no choice but to suffer many indignities, including the ironic discomfort of a nightly sucsession of Procrustean beds.(to be continued...)
Copyright 1981 - Sports Illustrated
Quite possibly the most over female in the wrestling game today is the most over rated female as well. Most of us have seen her between the pages of Playboy and watched the grind, yes of course, Sable.
In all fairness, she is attractive and even does have minimal athletic ability. Unfortunately its overshadowed by her obvious lack of mic skills and arrogant character. The few times she does wrestle its only interesting for the few moments that my teenage testosterone flairs as I imagine......anyway, back to my point.
The most recent clone to attempt to knock the queen from her throne comes out of the WCW. Gorgeous George. I must admit, when I first heard of George I couldnt help but to think of past wrestlers who took on the prissy female persona as their heel role. I was curious to find out what George was. When my eyes were blessed with her appearance for the first time I was quite enthralled. Her youthful look puts Sable to shame. As a valet for the reverse aging Randy Savage she was perfect. Even more perfect when she pimp slapped Charles Robinson. She looks like a girl and fights like a girl, the way its supposed to be.
I do have a serious complaint about the women of wrestling today though. Just like any other male, I like to look at nice looking women. The increasing problem though is some of the women look more like men. In fact, so much so that I have to really stare hard to make sure if the female is really that.
Take Nicole Bass. Take her please. Take her far away from my television screen. For the first time in my life I cheered for Val Venis as he ran from her. I would run too. This is one scary creation. Either this thing was a man at one time or steroids has really done her wrong. I first saw her as a body builder, before the silicone implants. I swore it was something nature had not created and I stand by that statement today. Aside from being repulsive, her character stinks as well. WWF would be better off without it.
Then we have the mysterious nurse of Ric Flair. Now the Flair angle has gone far beyond sour but to incorporate a Bass-like female is just making it worse. This nurse is better looking than Nicole but still has the man body that causes me to wince.
For once both major feds have made the same mistake at the same time. If you want to have women wrestle then do it. Put Debra in the ring against Sable and let the catfight begin or GG against a box of kleenex. Who cares! Just please, no more grossly stout she males. It takes the fun out of it. Plus, the most elaborate multi-female catfight, evening gown, puppy teasin',oooh you can almost see something fantasy dies pretty hard when you take a good look at Nicole Bass. When you take out the sex appeal from women in wrestling you might as well put Charles Robinson in a dress and call him Saturn.
Joseph Holt is a freelance writer in the Ft. Worth Texas area and a regular contributor to Solie's.
Well, that's all for tonight. I will be back on Monday with another abreviated Monday Night Wars Edition (Nitro is pre-empted yet again). Until then...
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.
Copyright 1999 - Jump City Productions