Gary Hart Interview Transcript

The following interview features legendary pro wrestling manager the late “Playboy” Gary Hart. Gary discusses his career, J-Tex, the Von Erichs, Chris Adams, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, his return to MLW and much more. This interview was recorded live on Pro Wrestling Radio on January 24, 2004.

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

Gary Hart: I started professional wrestling through my Uncle, Billy Gales in 1960 believe it or not at the Marigold Arena, but I was only 17 at the time. I wrestled around Chicago and at the time there was a gentleman by the name of Angelo Poffo, some people may remember him as Macho Man Randy Savage’s father along with Lanny. He was looking for a part-time for a second manager/tag team partner, and he choose me from a young group of wrestlers at the time and gave me a great opportunity to wrestle in areas that I would not have been selected for because of my age. In those days if you were not in your mid-30s or 40s, promoters would not really look at you as a serious main-event wrestler. Due to my association with Angelo I finally left Chicago, Angelo decided that he wanted to spend more time with Randy and Lanny. I went off to Detroit and the first guy I managed in Detroit when I went off and started my company was a guy by the name of the Student who later became George “The Animal” Steele.

Eric: I have heard mixed reviews over the years on my radio show of former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Lou Thesz. What are your thoughts and experiences with the former champion?

Gary: To me, Lou Thesz was a true gentleman. It was an honor to be in his presence. A lot of guys did not like Lou because if you did not show proper respect, or you did not understand that you were in there with an ex-World Champion and a real wrestler, he would teach you the finer arts of stretching and squeezing. I will tell you a funny story about Lou and I. I was in Dallas, this was about 1965 and I had just developed a young guy by the name of the Spoiler. We got red hot here in Texas and we looked at the booking sheet and we discovered that we were wrestling Lou Thesz. Him and I were a little apprehensive about it because number 1, Lou did not like managers. Number 2 Lou did not like masked men, he was more of a traditionalist. Spoiler and I talked and I said, “I think I am going to stay in my seat. I am not going to do a damned thing until this week is over.” About four or five days into the series of matches, we were in Houston, Texas. Sam Houston Coliseum and I am standing in the hallway and Lou came out of a room, looked at me, and said, “Kid do you do anything other than sit in a chair?” I said, “Mr. Thesz I just want to sit there and learn and see what made you so great.” He started chuckling and said, “Be yourself kid.” After that Lou and I became great friends, when I was booking the Dallas, Atlanta, or Florida area, anytime I could use Lou to help him and to help the card itself I always did. I found him to be a great gentleman.

Eric: What are your memories of the first time you met or worked with the Von Erich family.

Gary: First I wrestled the kids’ dad, Fritz in the 60s, early 70s. I knew Kevin, David, Kerry, and Mike when they were little boys. Probably met Kevin when he was 10, 11 years old. The other children were between 6-12. They were always at the matches, fanatical wrestling fans when they were small children, and over the years after I think the late 70s, early 80s, they started wrestling and I really think changed the face of wrestling in Texas, and as a matter of fact through World Class Championship Wrestling, throughout the world. I have very fond memories of that time in my life, but the tragedy and glory that was part of the Von Erich mystique, I think anyone that had an opportunity to watch the boys over the years were very sad to see how everything ended. I have a lot of respect for that family, really had a lot of tragedy, and they were all great athletes, and they were a credit to wrestling. They really opened wrestling up to the younger guys. Like I said, when I was starting in wrestling if you weren’t in your mid-30s or early 40s, you would not even be considered to be above a mid-card wrestler, but the Von Erich boy helped a lot of people change that. The Von Erich boys helped the promoters understand youth, excitement, and new faces made a big difference, so everyone should take their hats off to the Von Erich boys.

Eric: What are some of your memories of managing the J-Tex Corporation and being paired with both Great Muta, and Terry Funk?

Gary: Well, I had known Terry Funk since the early 1960s when I was wrestling for his father in Amarillo, Texas when Terry came back from the Kansas City Chiefs after he had messed around with football for a little bit. Him and I were just two crazy kids out on the great prairie in Texas. One of the things that Terry and I used to do, along with his brother Dory was up and down the highway going back and forth to the towns, mainly from the town we would drink a few beers and shoot jack rabbits. I think we killed just about every jack rabbit in Texas. The Funk boys, I have known them practically my whole life, I met them when I was in my early 20s. Terry was like he is now, he was then. His brother has always been more quiet and Terry is just when you see, is what you got. A typical Texan. The Great Muta, George Scott at the time, I was managing Al Perez at the time, and there were some problems between him and the office, and especially him and Ric Flair. He did not have a lot of time for Ricky, I don’t understand why, but he didn’t. There came a situation where there was a series of title matches and Al didn’t really want to be, or was not very cooperative, they approached me and said, “I think we should find someone else, we are not really happy with Perez, he’s not a company guy.” This is when corporate wrestling just started. They approached me about a “Kabuki-type” wrestler, and I said, “I do have a wrestler in mind, he’s not a Kabuki, but someone very similar.” I looked at three, or four Japanese wrestlers and there was a young kid in Florida at the time, a mid-card level wrestler by the name of the White Ninja, I said’ “Bring him in.” I spent four or five weeks with him in smaller towns in the Carolinas, I decided that he was someone that we could do something with. He was very talented, very hungry at the time, really wanted to break through. Because to become big in Japan, you had to be big in America first, his big dream was to be a big name wrestler in Japan, and I said, “Let’s take it slow and see what we can get out of this.” Within six-eight weeks I believe that he was one of the hottest wrestlers on TBS.

Eric: You were telling some of us at MLW a great story about the aftermath of the infamous, “Ric Flair bag angle.” Can you repeat that story to the listeners?

Gary: Well, the situation was as I said, corporate wrestling had just taken over, and you had a lot of people in my opinion that had no association with wrestling before Turner bought the company, and they really went more by style and look, than by performance in the ring. Terry and I, we got the point where we were not too happy with them and they were not too happy with us. I believe it was on a Clash, and we knew we were going to have a national audience. I don’t remember if it was me, or Terry that came up with it, but we said that we really had to do something to get noticed, because at the time we always liked to get noticed. We came up with the idea that we were going to put a bag over Ricky Flair’s head and try and choke the life out of him, which we did. The TV station, TBS the phones from what I understand the phones lit up, and it was amazing. Amazing enough when they did the replay two hours later, they took the bag incident out, a couple of days later I was called into Jim Herd and Jim Barnett’s office in Atlanta, Terry was supposed to show up but he was someplace else, I don’t know where he was. I spent half of the day trying to explain to them that it was Terry’s idea, and Terry probably spent half of the day trying to explain to them that it was my idea, they couldn’t figure out who’s idea it really was, they weren’t really happy with us over something like that they said, “We had gone one step too far,” and I believe after that they kept their eyes on us both pretty much and that is when they said to me, “You’re too violent for wrestling.” I said, “That’s odd. I have been in wrestling since 1960 and nobody ever told me anything like that.” Terry and I did several things like that angle in different places, but for some reason I don’t know if it was just the shock value of it, or all of the comment about it that it has become one of the most famous incidents in wrestling.

Eric: What brought you out of retirement and to MLW?

Gary: Well, I was sitting at home and I was flipping through the channels like most of us do and I popped across Major League Wrestling. At first I saw Joey Styles and I said, “Gee that guy is very familiar to me.” So I left it on for a little while and I watched a little more, watched a little more, watched a little more, and before I knew it the show was over. To me, it was really different from anything that was on television at the time, still is I believe, it is a very fast paced show, you get to see a lot of young talent, some shows you really don’t get the chance to see a lot of young talent, and surprisingly some very good talent. I checked into what was going on there and I found out that the owner and CEO was determined to have a wrestling organization, over a period of time I got in touch with Court, I sent him a couple of tapes of my son, and in a little while Court called and said that he was restructuring the company and was interested in talking to me. I am always interested in talking to an energetic young promoter that wants to make a go of it, and that’s basically how I got involved there.
Eric: At MLW you are managing Low Ki and Homicide. Is working with the younger talent very important to you?

Gary: To me, I have always been someone that shook the tree of talent pretty hard, if you look at my career, guys that I have developed over the years. John Studd was with me first. King Kong Bundy was with me first. Guys like Gino Hernandez, the Von Erich boys, Chris Adams, Buzz Sawyer, a lot of these guys I was either their booker, their booking agent, or their manager. So, I have always had an opportunity to take young guys and establish them and break them through the slot, like I said. A lot of times even now, people over look the young guys. I have had my main success in wrestling with young guys. To me, there is nothing better than a fresh piece of talent that you can develop, and direct in the right way. There is nothing better. Take a guy like the Dingo Warrior. I had him for a year, developed him, got him confident in himself, he did have something to offer, he ended up being the Ultimate Warrior. I have had a lot of luck with young guys I picked up early in their career, and MLW has quite a few good young wrestlers.

Eric: Can you talk about a film project entitled, “Gentleman’s Choice,” in which you are working on?

Gary: Chris (Adams) was another guy that I managed for many years and helped break through. As time went by, Chris had some major problems with alcohol and drugs. Ended up a very nasty situation in which he was shot and killed by one of his best friends a little over two and a half years ago. I have a friend of mine that is an independent film maker, Mickey Grant. He approached me and asked if I would be interested in working with him on a documentary on the last few years of Chris’ life. I was very excited about that because I have known Mickey for many years. A lot of people don’t know, but if you are familiar with World Class, Mickey was the creator, he was the guy that was the first one to bring in more cameras, four-five camera shoots, full sound, better lighting, more music, he was the one, what you see today in modern day wrestling in the way it is presented, Mickey Grant was the first guy with Continental Productions to produce wrestling in that format. He and I are doing a documentary on Chris. It would be on the web at http://www.creativehat.com for anyone that is interested in finding out more about this. My main project right now is my son, and a couple of the younger guys in the MLW. Low Ki, Homicide, and I have my eyes on a couple of other guys there too, so I will have a full plate for a while.

Eric: It was an honor and a pleasure, and maybe next time you can come back for a full hour and take calls?

Gary: I would love too and I want to say hello to everyone in Philadelphia, I always had a great time there at the Civic Center, it was one of the truly great arenas in the world.

Playboy Gary Hart: My Life in Wrestling

Gentleman’s Choice Chris Adams Documentary

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