Sex, Lies and Headlocks: Part 1 (Early Vince Edition)

Onto the next book, “Sex, Lies And Headlocks” by Shawn Assael and Mike Mooneyham, originally published in 2004. There are some interesting anecdotes but overall the book was a mild disappointment, probably because the James Dixon series on WWF from 1995-98 is better. But here are the highlights:

However, he also said that he was long estranged from her and hinted that the reason was sexual abuse. “Was all the abuse physical, or was there sexual abuse, too?” Playboy asked him. “That’s not anything I’d like to embellish,” he replied, “just because it’s so weird.”

Vince McMahon talking about his birth mother. If you ever wondered why his perspective and sense of humor is so screwed up there is your answer.

When the cameras started rolling, Albano delivered in spades. “Tell them how you came off my reputation, Cyndi!” he screamed, waving an indignant finger at the woman he insisted he had made a star by virtue of his appearance on her “Girls” video. “Tell them how all women are nothing! They’re slime!” Lauper, just getting over a cold, had little trouble looking irked. She threw over a table, jumped to her feet, and clocked Albano with her purse. The only thing that took him by surprise was the bottle of perfume in it. It left a small welt.

I’ve been watching the weekly WWF TV from 1984 lately and the build to this is pretty great. Albano had met Lauper by chance on an airplane in 1983 and was cast as the father in the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” video. He then went on Piper’s Pit and claimed credit for all her success and said he was her manager.

After a couple of false starts where Albano said Lauper would be on the show, she finally appeared on the 06/16/1984 edition of Championship Wrestling on the Pit. The build to this had started in April so they took their time.

And the company’s cash flow was tight. He was paying out a small fortune—up to $10,000 a week to some stations—to guarantee that All-Star Wrestling and its siblings had berths on broadcast television in major markets such as Chicago.

This is the way wrestling television in the 1980s worked: the promotion would go to a TV station and usually pay for the airtime, and sell ads and promote house shows to cover the cost. What Vince McMahon did was go to stations with more money and promising better production values, so he “stole” a lot of time slots. One notable exception was Mid-South.

The risk was he needed a big money maker to get things national. They had a foothold in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and Los Angeles but the challenge was the rest of the country. The Lauper angle brought eyeballs to the product along with Mr. T later on towards the first WrestleMania.

Had Vince missed a single payment on his purchase of the WWF from his father in 1982 (who passed in 1984), ownership would revert to the previous partners which included Gorilla Monsoon, promoter Phil Zacko, and Arnold Skaaland.

At a Ms. magazine benefit for Lauper, Wolff borrowed an MTV camera that was on hand for the event and stuck it in front of the face of one of the guests, Geraldine Ferraro, who had just run as the first female candidate for vice president on the Democratic ticket, and along with her running mate, Walter Mondale, had been defeated. “Geraldine, do me a favor,” Wolff asked sweetly. “Just say, ‘Piper, you’re going down!’ ” To his utter amazement, she did. “She had no idea who he was,” Wolff remembers. “So when Vince started running the clip over and over, he got a call from her law office pleading with him, ‘You got to take this off.’ She was mortified.”

Mondale and Ferraro lost 49 states in 1984. I cannot find the video of this, but it led me to do some interesting sounding YouTube searches like “Geraldine Ferraro WWF” and “Piper Ferraro”.

Unfortunately, he’d never watched wrestling, so he wandered around backstage slightly drunk and muttering, “Who’s this Hulk guy again?”

This refers to baseball manager and noted alcoholic Billy Martin, who was between stints as manager of the New York Yankees at the time in March 1985. He was the guest ring announcer for the WrestleMania 1 main event.

Enough fans watched the show for Vinnie to gross $4 million, a figure that no one in the wrestling world had thought was possible for one night.

This includes a sellout of Madison Square Garden and the adjacent Felt Forum (now known as The Theatre at Madison Square Garden), closed circuit locations around the United States, and a few cable companies that offered pay-per-view at the time.

Good fortune of sorts struck in the final weeks leading up to the show. Hulk Hogan choked out Richard Belzer by accident on live TV:

And Hulk Hogan and Mr. T were able to host Saturday Night Live on March 30, 1985, the night before WrestleMania. This only happened because the original host backed out at the last moment. This video is great for the half of a second where Mr. T breaks character.

(According to one Titan Tower intimate, Vince liked to brag with apparent justification that “I can snort as much of that stuff as anyone can put in front of me and never get hooked.”)

Vince McMahon, man of power and passion.

Coming up next time: Dr. George Zahorian faces an indictment and the steroid scandal begins, and a dip into the craziness of early-Turner owned WCW.

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