Sunday, 22 August 2010

Payin' dues, the old school way

I've had a lot of posts backing up in my mind lately which I haven't found (or made) the time to write, but this log jam must be broken. It seems appropriate to start with a tidbit which recently came my way from my brother Mike. This apparently aired on the NBC Prime Time Sunday show hosted by Tom Snyder, two days before Christmas in 1979. In it we see Memphis' own Jerry "The King" Lawler during one of his many phases spent on the dark side, with his inimitable manager, Jimmy Hart, himself a Memphis music legend of sorts (Lawler is also a musician and vocalist). His nemesis in this segment, Bill "Superstar" Dundee, first arrived in Memphis in the mid-70s, as part of a tag team who claimed to be Australian, despite Dundee's obviously Scottish accent - that he could pull off being an Australian was evidence of how isolated Memphis was back then. I waited on Bill Dundee once at the barftastic Steak and Ale on Summer Avenue, and unlike Charlie Rich, he seemed to accept (somewhat grudgingly) the attention he attracted from the other patrons as part of the job.

I attended the WMC Saturday morning TV show once, and the Monday night matches at the Midsouth Coliseum on many occasions, once of twice in the cheap seats up top, where there was a thick fug of marijuana smoke. My recollection of the experience is very much as it is portrayed here - a lot of angry people with questionable dentition venting their frustration at the beginning of another thankless work week. I remember Lawler himself at the time saying something along the lines of, "You know what's got ten teeth and an IQ of 100? The first four rows at a wrestling match." There were always a few spectators at ringside who I suspected (and still suspect) were plants by the promoters used to whip up the audience, in particular an ancient black woman who always had with her some fried chicken legs wrapped in foil, which she would eat during the matches, occasionally standing up and hurling abuse at one of the bad guys while stabbing her drumstick in the air. I guess it didn't help matters that referee Jerry Calhoun seemed to be easily distracted and had terrible vision.

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