Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: RIP Captain Lou Albano, a Goodbye From Paul Heyman

RIP Captain Lou.

We have lost another legend this past week. Never to be replaced.

Captain Lou was such a great talker and an amazing character. As I have said many times about the product these days, there is still a space for managers in pro wrestling (and given that all things come full circle), perhaps the tried and true will become new again. Who knows? Maybe some enterprising young wrestler will have the courage to glue rubber bands onto their face, grab the mic, and seize glory.

Even so, Captain Lou was an original, never to be replaced.

May you rock and wrestle in eternity.

Here is a great road story from Paul Heyman reflecting on his early days with the Captain and the great Classy Freddy Blassie:

RIP Captain Lou

Lou could talk. Oh man, could he talk. There were no influences in the way he came across. The Captain had a style all of his own. "I just remember the point I wanna bring across," Lou once told me, "and then I just babble before, during, and after. Somehow, in the middle, I said the two or three sentences that sold tickets. Mostly, I just tried to make people want to see me get my ass kicked, and along the way, hopefully the guy I was managing would catch a beating too!"

So, here we are. It's October 14, 2009, and we're discussing the passing of someone who many could argue was truly the greatest manager of all time. It's hard to argue against the choice of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, but if there's ever been someone to point to as "better than The Brain," the only choice in my mind was Albano. His impact on the way wrestling was and even to this day is presented cannot be understated. His mannerisms, his way of talking, his ability to draw heat were all unparalleled in his day. He was one of the major catalysts for Vincent Kennedy McMahon's national expansion, as his work with Cyndi Lauper begat The Rock n Wrestling Connection, which gave birth to the Hogan-Piper feud, which delivered The War To Settle The Score, and ultimately the very 1st Wrestlemania.

There are so many "Albano" stories to tell, from the time he ran in his shorts and flip flops up 8th Avenue in New York City when his car broke down during a snow storm, and had hundreds of people following him to what was then known as The Howard Johnson's Hotel where everyone stayed; to the time he got into a drinking contest with Andre The Giant at the hotel bar, took a Ric Flair-esque face bump into the top of a stool, cracked his head, and was knocked out cold ... only to wake up when Don Muraco and Greg Valentine helped peel Lou off the floor. Lou ran outside, threw up all over the sidewalk (with half the remnants of his dinner prominently remaining on his hairy chest), came back inside, ordered another 3 rounds, turned to Andre and said "I get a 3 drink handicap for that bump!"

As a 15 year old who bullshitted his way into getting All Access Photographer Passes for Madison Square Garden, I ran the fan clubs for all 3 Wise Men of the East. During the summertime, I would sometimes go to Allentown and Hamburg, and cover the WWWF television tapings. One time, I ended up catching a ride with Albano, who was driving Blassie (which was a great idea, because Blassie was partially blind and a menace behind the wheel even with perfect eyesight).

This trip was taking place after a great show at Madison Square Garden, and as always when it came to MSG, Lou was lit up beyond belief. "The Captain is hell when he's well," he'd say not only on tv, but also in person, "and The Captain is well when he's drinkin' ... and The Captain drinks a little ALL THE TIME!"

So we got out of Madison Square Garden, and we're flying through New Jersey heading towards Allentown. Lou reaches under his seat, and pulls out one of those big glass Tropicana grapefruit juice bottles. Of course, grapefruit juice was no longer the contents of this bottle. As a matter of fact, I can't even tell you that Lou was drinking Vodka AND grapefruit juice. It was more like vodka with a tiny little splash of grapefruit juice. Or, as Blassie used to tease The Captain, "methane with something to give it a little bit of color."

Now keep in mind, I'm in my mid-teens here, watching and listening to Blassie scream at Albano "you're going to get us killed! This kid's Father is a lawyer! He's going to sue our widows, and take our swimming pools, you (2 minutes of expletives) maniac!"

Lou would just laugh, with both feet on the gas pedal, and hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life.
All of a sudden, Lou goes into an insane coughing fit, and spits up some phlemmy-looking loogie that must have come from the deepest, darkest recesses of his digestive system. This frightening piece of intestinal backwash ends up all over the inside of the windshield, and Lou pulls a tissue out of his pocket, wipes it off the windshield ... we're still going 90 miles an hour, mind you... and proceeds to suck the loogie back down with a big mischievous smile on his face.

Blassie was going to hurl. "Did you see that?" he screamed, "what the (expletives abound) is wrong with you? That's the sickest thing I've ever seen ... and I've seen some sick things in my life! Albano, I'm never driving with you again!"

All of a sudden, Lou slams on the brakes, as the car slides sideways. He tries to open his door, but can't find the handle. He finally jumps out of the car, hangs onto the window as if he'll collapse without its support, and spits up about 10 of those revolting looking loogies.

Blassie was horrified. I, of course, being just a kid, thought this was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. Man, did I have a story to tell when I got home. Of course, I was going to leave the drinking and driving part out when I told my parents, but why quibble over small details?

Lou reaches into the car, grabs his Tropicana bottle (hey, you think they'll sponsor the Hustle after this story?), takes two swigs, gargles, and spits it out on the side of the road.

He gets back into the car, peels out, starts driving 90, with Blassie just screaming at him about how their estates will be sued by my grieving Father. Lou is just laughing his ass off, and finally turns to Blassie and says, "Brother, it's that grapefruit juice. I hate the taste of it!"

Blassie was apoplectic. What could he possibly say in response? So Classy Freddy did what any self-respecting legend would do. He passed the buck, "Hey kid," he barked at me, "say something to Albano!"

The Captain, driving 90 miles an hour while crossing over from New Jersey into Pennsylvania, was now staring at me in the rear view mirror, and said, "Paulie, that's your cue!"

"Hey Lou," I asked, shrugging my shoulders, "if you hate grapefruit juice so much, why do you put it in with your vodka?"

Lou looked over at Blassie ... he was always looking everywhere, it seemed, but the road ahead of us... and said "where did you find this kid? What's wrong with him? Is he retarded or something?"

Lou took another big swig of vodka (with the hint of grapefruit juice), and said "learn in life from this Paulie.

The Captain puts grapefruit juice in his grapefruit juice bottle because The Captain hates the taste of grapefruit juice. Hates it. Makes me gag. Ruins my drink. Makes me regret ever putting this bottle up to The Captain's lips. I hate myself just for putting in my body!"

Lou took one more swig, knowing I was hanging on his every word.

"Don't you get it?" Lou explained, "It's helping me quit drinking!"

Every trip with Lou was a similar adventure. He was loud, obnoxious, insane, and yet in many ways one of the most endearing human beings you'll ever meet. Lou related to people, and at heart was a giving, caring, compassionate man who just wanted to entertain people. He always picked up the tab,and never complained about anything except "Vince Junior." In the "wild and wooly" days of the 70's and 80's, he was a loyal, affectionate husband and a damn good man.

And as you can see, he was never boring, especially when traveling from one town to the next.

RIP Captain Lou. Have a wonderful trip.

With great appreciation and affection,
Paul Heyman

1 comment:

Pete Morris said...

that's one of the best stories i've ever heard. I especially like the fact that you, rather than being terrified, are loving it. thanks for sharing, i'm sorry your buddy is gone.