Captain Lou Albano Interview Transcript

lou albano interviewThe following interview with WWE Hall of Fame pro wrestling manager Captain Lou Albano was taped January 26, 2001. This interview was previously broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.

Eric: Talk about your new book “The Complete Idiots Guide To Pro Wrestling 2”?

Lou: Well, I will tell you. Second edition, it has all the updates in. You’ve got The Rock in there, you have got the Stone Cold, Steve Austin in there, it’s got some of the older timers in like the first book did. Bruno Sammartino and so forth. The Complete Idiots Guide To Pro Wrestling 2, it doesn’t mean you are an idiot if you watch wrestling. It is a series of books, the Idiots Guide To Elvis Presley, Beanie Babies, Computers and this has all the inside information of training camps, how to become a wrestler, what to do, where to go, how to do it, and it is a very educational book if you like professional wrestling and as I said, some of the things they are doing today in professional wrestling I am not crazy about. I liked it better in the older days, however it’s big box office business and I got fourteen grandkids and at time I tell them not to watch it. They have to calm some of it down. Owen Hart getting killed coming down into the ring, it’s got everything in this book. As I said, for me I was in it for 48 years and now, Bert Sugar and I got back together, we wrote this book, we got a really good response on it, I feel great about it.

I comment that is the most thorough book of reference material available on pro wrestling that I have ever read.

Lou: Well, I really appreciate that, a comment from you, because you are definitely a legendary expert and you know your radio, you’re a very dominant in what you do and people love you, God bless you and keep up the good work.

Eric: How did you get started in the wrestling business?

Lou: Well, I got started years ago. I just got out of the service, this was around 1952, and Vince McMahon, Sr., Willie Gilzenberg sent me down to him and I started wrestling and I wrestled for about 20 years and Bruno Sammartino said to me, “You know you are not a great wrestler, but you’re a good talker, a good bs’er, you never shut up.” So they started me managing in the sixties with Crusher Vadue, Baron Mikel Scicluna, Curtis Iaukea, the Moondogs, and I had the British Bulldogs later on and I had the Valiant Brothers and the Wild Samoans, Andre for a while, Tarzan Tyler, Luke Graham, I had them all the way up to Superfly Jimmy Snuka and we went through as a manager and Bruno said, “If you become a manager, you will be around for years.” Well I did that. In 1984 a fellow I knew before he even got started in show business, he used to come to the matches as a kid in the sixties, in 1984 he calls me up and asks me to come read for Brian Depalma’s “Wiseguys”. This guy was Danny Devito. He got me that “Wiseguys”, Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls just want to have fun”. “Stay Tuned” with Jon Ritter and Pam Dawber. I have done “Bodyslams” and 65 episodes of the cartoon show “Super Mario” with live segments and the voice of the cartoon. They have got me going. I just finished a picture now called “A father and a son” and working on another one called “Bigtime” with Eddie James Almshouse directing from Miami Vice, Lorraine Bracco gave us a letter of intent. We also have Bert Young, Captain Lou, so that’s keeping me busy, with appearances, commercials, and so forth. It is enough for me at my age, hey you know I am going to be 30 this year? Let’s add another 38, 39 to that 30 and you have 68, 69.

Eric: What was your favorite part of your wrestling career?

Lou: Well, I liked when I became a manager. There was a lot of excitement in Wrestlemania I. We all got together with Cyndi Lauper, and Muhammad Ali as a referee, Liberace as a time keeper, that was in 1984, that was the first Wrestlemania. Billy Martin, God rest his soul. Gordie Howe, really an extravaganza and that’s what really started off Wrestlemania, which I believe is one of the big events with the WWF and as I said, that was probably one of the highlights, and the rest was being a business that I have loved and done for years. I’d like to see it get back to a little more of the original wrestling where you have a two hour show, with ten minutes of wrestling, and forty-five minutes of hype! Just get back a little more, keep the fingers down, the women dropping their tops, don’t go too far.

Eric: Compare working for Vince Sr., Vince, Jr.?

Lou: Well, first of all Vince Sr., me is a legend. When I was hurt years ago, every week I got my paycheck. Years ago, four or five hundred dollars was alot of money. We did not make the kind of money that the guys were makingtoday, so there is no envy there, in our day that was good money. Every weekI had a check. Vince McMahon, Sr. was truly a legend in his own time. Junior,is a business man. Junior and I do not see eye to eye on a lot of things. I don’t want to criticize him, he’s not here to answer. As I said, I don’t like some of the things he is doing, however business wise he is a business man, he’s out there, he’s out there calling his daughter a name and his wife is this and is that and he is doing things I am not crazy about. The daughter comes out and says, “You know dad that Mom is very sick?” this and that, he comes out with a blonde with him and he says, “I can’t believe it,” and he’s looking in a mirror. “She’s very sick, I can’t,” all the sudden a big smile on his face (imitating Vince laughing), he said, “All they wanted was my money.” I think they are over doing it. Little kids are watching it and they are imitating what they are seeing and we tell little kids not to do it, I noticed he is putting little disclaimers on Saturday mornings when little kids watch. I guess there have been accidents and people are getting turned off and parents are irritated. You know you have to be careful.

Eric: Would you ever see Vince Sr., doing that with his family as a promoter to sell tickets?

Lou: No, Vince made a statement at one time, “If my father was alive, he’d turn over in his grave if he knew what I was doing,” I guess that is true. Vince McMahon, Sr., ago had his own territory. We ran from Virginia up to Maine and never went past Pittsburgh. There were territories in the Midwest. Out in California there was Roy Shire and Pat Patterson, in Florida you had Eddie Graham, Eddie Gosett. There were different territories, you went from territory to territory. Vince, Jr. got on national television and went all over the world and I am sure that some people are aggravated. You had Verne Gagne in the Minnesota area and Vince just went out and did what he wanted to do. Of the two if I had to have a choice, I would say I definitely prefer the dad. I am just being honest and I am not knocking Junior or anything. I would pick his father if I had to, I think his father is a legend.

Eric: How true are the stories about you getting fired weekly at television?

Lou: Well, I mean there were times at television certain things would go wrong and this and that, and McMahon would get upset, but Vince, Sr. if you got fired, he would have a way about him. Sometimes he’d yell at me, I’d got fired Ericuite a few times. He would come back at me and say, “Captain Lou, get back here and behave yourself, and be careful and don’t be drinking, and don’t be this, and don’t be that.” He had a point. A couple of weeks later he would call me up and say, “Are you going to behave yourself now?” and I would say “Yes, Vince I will.” I would come back again. He would give you a second chance and I do not know if Junior would do that.

Eric: What are your memories of working with Jimmy Snuka and his crazy side in and out of the ring?

Lou: Well, Jimmy I think is seasoned with age. He is not a kid anymore, he’s not that old, I guess he is in his late forties, early fifties, whatever. He is doing independent work and we got back and forth and had that feud on television and went around with Jimmy Snuka and all I would do in my day, I was not a great wrestler, I would go in there and hit you with a gimmick, a piece of wood or something, and he’d come back at me and chase me through the dressing room. As a villain, the people would yell, “You big, fat, son of a gun, stay and fight you coward!” I said, “Once I get beat they are going to be happy and we won’t draw anymore money.” We did that for years, and then finally I became a good guy and I started handling Andre The Giant for a while, and then I had the British Bulldogs, and Jimmy, and Jimmy turned back and forth. Jimmy’s still going around with King Kong Bundy and all of the fellows, and they are making appearances here and there and they are doing independent shows, and they are doing very well.

Eric: What were your thoughts watching Jimmy’s famous Superfly leap off the top of the cage during his match with Bob Backlund?

Lou: Well, he was really one of the originators of that. I mean, that was amazing, you are up there ten or twelve feet high and I mean just one bad thing. I wouldn’t go for that to be honest with you. When I wrestled him he wanted to do it and I told him, “No, you can jump on me from the thing, but there is no way.” If he jumped on to me from the top of the thing, I would try and roll out of the ring. I figured, I could barely walk as it is you know?

Eric: Memories of working with Andre The Giant?

Lou: Well, Andre was a super human guy. Very difficult in his life because they told him they he would never make it past forty and he made it to forty-six and he kept growing. I think they did something to his pituitary glands to try and stop him. He’d walk down the street and he would call everybody boss and he he’d say, “Look Boss, they are looking at me.” You’d get fifty people turn around, I mean he was 7’4″ and over 500 pounds, they’d be staring at him, and I mean the guy was am amazing athlete, a strong human being, and I don’t think if he wanted to be beaten that he was going to be beaten. He made forty-six, did Princess Bride. He was definitely a unique personality, and I know there is a heaven, I happen to be a Christian, and I believe in the good lord, Jesus and I know that Andre is up there with him.

Eric: Memories of working with Bob Backlund and his crazy reputation outside of the ring?

Lou: Bob Backlund, I heard is going to run for office up in Connecticut. He mentioned it to me, Bobby was a great amateur wrestler, of course he was a little off the wall, like you said, that’s part of the showmanship in wrestling. Bob is a pretty smart individual and he would probably make a good State Senator or something like that.

Eric: Memories of managing and working with Don Muraco?

Lou: Well, Don Muraco I hear is out on the Island now renting out boats. Don was a great athlete, and I also had Mr. Fuji by the way. Fuji and Saito. Saito was an Olympic champion, Silver Medalist for his country. As I said, Don Muraco was a very good wrestler, a big man, I guess he weighed about 260, 270, about 6’4″ or 6’5″, he was very good.

Eric: Was there any behind the scenes tension between you and Roddy for the top heel spot?

Lou: No, when we did the Cyndi Lauper video he called me out and I called her a little broad, I was a heel and she whacked me, hit me over the head with her pocketbook, I didn’t realize that she had a bottle of perfume in there, she almost killed me and then Roddy and I got into a little deal, this was later on. Roddy would go back and forth. Roddy was a very good manager, he’s an actor now, I believe he has done about thirty movies, and God bless him, he is a young fellow, Roddy is definitely a unique personality.

Eric: What were your thoughts when Hulk Hogan returned and the new era of the WWF began?

Lou: Actually, the Samoans told me about Hulk Hogan originally, because we had Andre, and we wanted a big man to go against Andre. Hogan’s name was Terry Bollea and was a bass guitar player out of Floirda and they were looking to bring someone in and Terry came in and he went around with Andre and he got a little aggravated and he left and went out to Verne Gagne. He did that movie and he was Thunderlips in Rocky III, and after that his career just bloomed, and he went down with Turner, and he has a career with him, and back and forth, and he’s definitely been a money maker and an icon in the business of wrestling. When you talk about the older timers you have the, Bruno Sammartinos, the Killer Kowalskis, Agrentina Rocca, I mean you talk about these guys were truly legends.

Eric: Did you and some of the older veterans see the change coming?

Lou: Well, I kind of noticed it because he was at Wrestlemania I and you could kind of see that they were leaning a little more towards showmanship than they were in the older days, and when Hollywood Hulk Hogan, with the blonde hair. As I said, these are the world’s greatest athletes. That I will admit to, however you are not betting on wrestling, it is sports-entertainment, which the promoters themselves will tell you, and as I said Hogan coming was definitely something new, and from there it just kept growing.

Eric: How did the whole Cyndi Lauper angle get put together?

Lou: Cyndi met me on a plane coming in from Puerto Rico. I think Danny Devito mentioned me to her and she asked me if she should come to the Garden. She came to Madison Square Garden and they had the Star and the Enquirer there. I was a heel then, so I winked at her. I said, “Cyndi Lauper, you are a nice little broad.” She said, “What?” I said, “You are a nice little broad, you are like other women, good for making babies and cleaning house.” Well, the women’s lib, I went on Letterman, they picketed me, they kept booing me, I said, “They aren’t booing me, they are yelling Lou, Lou, Lou! The body women love and men envy.” Meanwhile, I am 350 pounds, my belly sticking out, now I am down to about 210, at that time she said, “I will pick a girl wrestler to wrestle your girl!” She picked Wendy Richter, a young good looking athlete. I had Moolah, who I am not knocking but Moolah was almost my age and maybe more. We got beaten and I apologized and said, “Women are at least as good as men and if not in most cases better.” So that made me straight again, and I went back to handling the babyfaces.

Eric: Memories of working with the Dynamite Kid?

Lou: Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy were excellent athletes. Dynamite has been off for a while and Davey Boy had been back and forth, their brother-in-law is Jimmy Neidhart and they were related to the Hart family. I would say fine, super athletes like so many guys. Bobby Backlund again, was a great amateur athlete and in our sport we had, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, National AAU Champion, Danny Hodge, Olympic champ years ago. So, these are the world’s best athletes with the showmanship.

I mention that Ozzy Osbourne was with him at Wrestlemania 2.

Lou: Yeah, we did and we had Donny Wallberg from the New Kids On The Block, oh we had so many throughout the years. Later on, Chuck Norris had come in, Burt Reynolds was on some of the Wrestlemania’s, and all the way through until the present. You had Arnold involved, in fact Arnold was on one of them and I said, “Arnold Schwarzennager, big deal. You got a 54″ chest, I got a 54″ waist. Look at those lumps all over, you look terrible. Who trained you?” He said, “You did Captain, you are my trainer, my mentor.”

Eric: Have you gotten any negativity from your ex-fellow wrestlers for exposing some of the facts you did in your books?

Lou: No, because most of the fans already knew that Terry Bollea is Hulk Hogan, and they knew all of the different names, and Arnie Skaaland knew that he used to be called Bobby Weaver. They basically knew the names, look at years ago right after World War II, Willie Gilzenberg tells Hans Schmidt to walk into the ring dressed as a Jewish boy with a little cap on. He goes into Madison Square Garden, the old Garden on 49th street and Willie told him to click his heels together and make a nazi chant. So Willie clicked his heels together and did the chant, and he goes to come out of the elevator and one of the people that sold jewels has a gun on him and says, “You dirty Nazi son of a gun, I ought to blow you away!” He goes, “Please, please I am not German!” He went back to Willie and said, “You click your heels together, the heck with the gimmick, I don’t want to get killed!” A lot of the people knew the boys names anyway, so what are they going to say? I have never disgraced the business, I have never said anything bad about it, I was proud to be in it, I started in 52′, I still make occasional personal appearances, Vince McMahon, Jr. had my doll out, with Jimmy Snuka and Freddie Blassie, which did very well. I have a new doll coming out now from a New England outfit up in Providence, Rhode Island, they got Bundy, Snuka, and myself. That will be at all hobby shops and stores around the country.

Eric: How different was the WWF during your last run managing the Headshrinkers?

Lou: One of them is the big guy now with the big rear end. Rikishi. Forget about it, he must have gained about 300 pounds since I had him. It started and I had them, and of course at first I had Afa and Sika. Those guys, Rikishi and them are the nephews of Afa and Sika. Samu is Afa’s son. Rikishi is Sika’s son. In fact, the big guy Rodney Anoia. He was not Japanese, he was Samoan. I believe we have lost Rodney. The poor guy, I felt sorry for him, he got so big, and of course the strain on his heart. My Headshrinkers were good guys you know, and then from there handled Snuka again, it was great. I enjoyed more being a babyface. The villain was great, but they were cutting my tires and throwing rocks at me, so I said, “Hey, these people are taking everything to heart!”

Eric: Were you ever approached in the last 20 years by the competition?

Lou: Yes, I had been approached several times by the competition. In fact, I took a premature release in my contract with McMahon. I was doing a movie and for some reason he said, “You are a wrestler, not an actor.” I said, “I am going to do the movie, I already made a commitment.” I think it was Bodyslam, we had a little falling out and I said, “I want a release.” He said, “I will give you a premature release, providing I did not go down to the WCW for a year.” That was a few years ago, if I wanted to go now I could, but as I said at my age with the traveling, I would not even consider it. I am doing well for myself, I did a national commercial for 1-800-ESCREDIT. I got another couple of commercials lined up, I also made a deal with the World Of Wheels. They are the antique car shows. I just came back from Cincinnati with Snuka and Bundy. We make appearances around the country. To me, stuff like that, a few commercials, a movie here are there, where am I going? I get up in the morning and I look at the Obituary Column, and if I am not there I am happy.

Eric: What is your current relationship like with Vince McMahon, Jr.?

Lou: Personally, nothing close. I met him on a couple of talk shows, I gave my opinion, I didn’t bury anybody, I just gave what I thought. I wasn’t crazy about what is going on today. As I said, he put my doll out, I made money with the doll. In fact, they sold out and are no longer around. I can’t really say anything, I wouldn’t want to go back. Again, I would say his father was the greatest and not knocking Vince, it’s not my cup of tea.

Eric: Who was the greatest you ever saw or worked with?

Lou: One of the greats, not his great wrestling ability, but the charisma he had with the people was Bruno Sammartino. Agrentina Rocca was magnificent. He just put his feet up in the air and he was a great athlete, and Bruno was a big powerhouse. In 1959, without steroids which he hated, he bench pressed 565 pounds and did 38 consecutive reps with 330 pounds. At that time, it was unheard of. Bruno was definitely a legend. Then there was the Killer Kowalskis. There were so many great wrestlers. If you want to get into amateur styles, you have people like Steve Williams and Danny Hodge. It is hard to pick out one single one.

Listen to the Captain Lou Albano interview on Pro Wrestling Radio.

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