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Gary Hart Book Review

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Yakuza Rich

Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 770

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 11:24 am    Post subject: Gary Hart Book Review Reply with quote

Just got done reading Gary Hart's auto-biography, My Life in Wrestling With a Little Help From My Friends.

From what I gather, the book had a short run in publication, but then became a cult classic of sorts and there were no more books published and people were selling it for about $700!

Eventually, somebody created a PDF of the book and put it on the internet for free because the publisher would not re-publish the book. It's a length read, about 330 pages long and goes thru Hart's life in wrestling.

Normally with these books from 'old school' wrestlers like Hart, you tend to get one of the following pitfalls:

1. An old, bitter wrestler that has nothing good to say about the business or any wrestlers except for themselves and close friends.

2. The wrestler that has revisionist history and all of their ideas were great and all of the bad stuff they were involved with was somebody else's fault.

3. The wrestler that is still trying to work the marks.

I really didn't see any of #1 or #3. You could always argue that there was some of #2 involved with the book, but Hart provided a pretty accurate timeline and it coincides with bad ideas where he wasn't the booker and more often than not, when he left the territory business went way down. He didn't like Ken Mantell who had some success at World Class, but as Hart points out...Hart's booking and getting the talent and setting up the storylines allowed Mantell to do that. And when World Class' truly horrific angles that played a major role in killing the territory came about, it was well after Hart was either done as booker or left the territory and Mantell was fully in charge and one could reasonably conclude that they were Mantell's ideas and that the success Mantell had would be akin to the success Barry Switzer had the year after Jimmy Johnson left the Cowboys.

I was always a big Gary Hart fan. He wasn't as money as Jim Cornette was in his prime with his mouth. Heenan was an incredible talent and had going for him the 'if his guy loses, the face gets 5 minutes alone with Heenan' gimmick that sells tickets. What was great about Hart was that he was virtually unlike any other manager. The Hart character was, in the end, a coward. He just wasn't a pussy. The other managers were usually pussies and cowards.

You could argue that Fuji wasn't a pussy and was kind of like a Japanese version of Hart, but his mic skills were not even in the same galaxy as Hart's. Blassie was kind of a caricature that drew some heat, but didn't have that pure evilness that the Hart persona had. Albano was more like a cross between Heenan and Blassie, IMO.

But, I didn't know much about Hart other than that. I thought he was a great manager and he disappeared almost altogether after his run with Muta and Terry Funk in WCW. I didn't know that he was a booker until a few years ago and the book points to what a brilliant wrestling mind he had.

Some interesting tidbits were:

- He found himself in the Chicago mob (The Outfit) more or less by accident. He was brought into the wrestling business by another wrestler who also happened to be a member of The Outfit. Back then being broken into the business meant being that wrestler's assistant and that wrestler was doing some things that appeared shady and Gary finally realized he was a mob guy and didn't have any hard feelings about that, but knew he had to get out and eventually headed to Michigan and then Amarillo.

- He wanted to be a manager almost from the onset of his pro wrestling career where he would actual manage everything for the wrestler such as bookings, expenses, etc. His first success story was with Jim Myers who wrestled as The Student. Myers later went on to be George the Animal Steele. He got the Steele surname from his time working in Pittsburgh.

- By his mid-20's, Hart was living in a penthouse in Australia with his wife that was right on the beach. The penthouse was paid for by the promoter at the time, Jim Barnett. Gary was making good money as a manager and booker in Australia.

- He had high praise for Barnett in general. Barnett gets a lot of flak for his latter time in WCW, but Hart said that by that point Barnett was too old (had attempted suicide a few years earlier) and didn't want to rock the boat and just make the big money WCW was paying out at that time.

- He liked Bill Watts, but didn't like some of the things Watts did and felt that Watts manipulated Fritz by getting him to secede from the NWA and then took Ken Mantell away from him as a booker.

- He liked Eddie Graham as a booker and as a person, but he said he was one of the worst payoff promoters in the business. Problem is that Hart got into trouble for roughing up Jerry Jarrett in an argument and was sent to Florida as punishment since Graham's payoffs were weak.

- Hart hated Jerry Jarrett with a passion. Said Tennessee in general was considered a joke in the wrestling world for those wrestling outside of Tennessee. Jarrett became booker of Georgia for a brief stint and started bossing Hart around and Hart had to let him know that he wasn't going to be treated that way. That roughing up of Jarrett got Hart kicked out of the territory and sent to Florida as punishment.

- He liked both Jim Crockett Sr. and Jr. At one point he was booking for Crockett and they had 3 bookers...Ernie Ladd doing South Carolina, Wahoo booking Virginia and Gary booking North Carolina. And everything worked well.

- He hated the idea of a 'booking committee.' This isn't even about TV writers like the WWE. Any 'booking committee' was a bad idea in Hart's mind because of too many cooks in the kitchen. Said that the 3 bookers with their own state was different since they weren't tripping over each others' ideas.

- Was great friends with Bruiser Brody, Abby, Tim Brooks, etc. Really had few problems with wrestlers outside of the Missing Link and...

- He hated Sting. Had not one good work to say about him. Said he was a prima donna, kiss ass that tried to bully him (big mistake). What was weird is that he had nothing but good to say about Jim Hellwig (Gary created the Dingo Warrior gimmick and came up with the idea to shake the ropes). Hellwig even told him that he didn't want to practice wrestling to get better because he wasn't interested in being a wrestler and wanted to be an attraction. Hart saw his point and went with it. You would almost think that Hart had Sting and Hellwig confused because he was nothing but complimentary to Hellwig and nothing but negative about Sting.

- Of course, he said Jim Herd was a moron. But he didn't look highly on the WCW booking committee which had Cornette, Kevin Sullivan, Flair, Eddie Gilbert, etc. And he liked all of those guys, but really soured on them as a booking committee. That may have been Herd's influence although Sullivan seemed like he was the leader of the booking committee and I think he's always been an inconsistent booker, at best.

- Al Perez was going to be a star and was being elevated and had a main event match against Flair in Perez's hometown of Tampa, but he told Sullivan (and then Hart) that he planned on stretching Ric and then they would be forced to give him a big contract. Hart refused to participate and didn't show up and Perez went to wrestle and was out at the ring, Doug Dillinger came down to the ring and informed Perez he had been fired.

- Hates Meltzer because he claimed that Meltzer got so much information wrong. He also felt that Meltzer was the self appointed gospel and historian of wrestling. He did say that Meltzer has a weird problem with dated references which did make me laugh.

I've never had a problem with Dave. He was always nice to me and I never picked up the WON because of Dave's reporting. I picked it up because Dave did a good job of capturing how various elements of the industry think and I valued his opinions. Doing investigative journalism is almost an exercise in futility in the world of pro wrestling since everybody is trying to work you (especially back then). Hart has a point that Meltzer needed to ask him for his side of the story, but I'm certain that Hart wouldn't have given him that side if he asked. I would normally come down on a sports reporter for this, but pro wrestling is a completely different animal.

Also, anytime somebody else reports something like the Torch, Scherer, etc. and gets it wrong, Dave is the person that ends up being mistakenly blamed for it. So there's a chance that Hart may have mistaken what Dave has written. Dave was a big Brody mark, but really didn't like Fritz which would make me believe that Dave's remarks towards Hart (I just don't remember many) would be positive.

- Okay, onto Fritz. Back when Hart was the booker for the Texas office (prior to 1983), all of the Texas companies....Joe Blanchard in San Antonio and Paul Boesch in Houston...had to go thru Hart to get NWA talent. Fritz's guys (Dallas) would also have to make trips to Houston for Boesch and San Antonio for Blanchard.

Hart was always mindful of making sure his guys that he either booked or managed were taken care of. He hated Joe Blanchard because Blanchard was lazy and only made money when he brought the luchadores and Guerrero's in about once a month. The luchadores and Guerreros were in Mike Labelle's promotion in LA and that TV hit San Antonio and it would draw, but only when the luchas and Guerrero's were in town (once a month). So when that monthly show happened, Blanchard didn't need to book any of the NWA talent from Hart. On the other shows, he would book the Dallas guys and they would have to show up, but they were showing up to no crowds because Blanchard was too lazy to promote and those wrestlers would lose money. Blanchard was given San Antonio by Fritz as a favor as his friend...and then Blanchard broke off from Fritz and tried to go against him which shortly failed completely.

- Boesch was a better promoter in Hart's eyes. But, Fritz basically stole the Texas booking office from Boesch back in the 60's and Boesch always held that against Fritz. Hart didn't hate Boesch, but said that at times he was almost impossible to deal with. The Von Erich's were over huge in Houston and Boesch didn't want to have anything to do with them, even Kerry who threw the discus at U. of Houston. In the end, Boesch teamed up with Joe Blanchard to take on Fritz and because they didn't have the NWA support and the laziness of Blanchard and Boesch being a so-so wrestling mind, it failed. This may also explain the Hart/Meltzer beef as Meltzer was a Boesch guy.

- What surprised me a bit was Hart's view of Fritz. I had thought they didn't like each other, but Hart was mostly complimentary about Fritz. For instance, Hart says that Fritz never pushed any of the kids into wrestling. They wanted to wrestle since they were kids. He also said that Fritz didn't micromanage and often times booking was very easy for him.

However, Fritz was very greedy according to Hart. Fritz could pay off quite well, but to me it came across that while Fritz was greedy in terms of getting the money he could get...he had a real problem with what other people were making. He seemed to be the type that could go from making $10 million with Hart getting $2 million and go to making $100 million with Hart make $50 million and he would get hung up on Hart making more money and a high % of money. Meanwhile he just increased his earnings by tenfold.

Hart claimed that Fritz would do the same with his boys. One of them could be in the main event in a sold out arena and Fritz would pay them *less* than the midcarders. Hart would object, but Fritz wouldn't budge. Hart concluded that was how Fritz was controlling his boys, by controlling what they can make and that was the worst type of control a parent can have over their child.

I really enjoyed the book in the end and I don't enjoy most wrestling books. You could stated that Hart was trying to make himself look like a genius and everybody else screwed things up, but the timeline is pretty accurate and what's great about this book is that Hart gives a lot of reasoning behind things he did as well as share his life philosophies which were very sound and he came off as a well adjusted human being. This is unlike other books that put the blame on everybody else and then you read the wacky life philosophies and you can connect the dots that the wrestler isn't as smart as they think.

It reminded me a bit of Foley's Have a Nice Day book because it was a story of the wild ride a person who got into wrestling and the journey was rapidly moving from early on in his career. The difference is that Foley looked like a pro wrestling character, but didn't look like a main eventer and behind the scenes in real life was very much the opposite of what he looked like as he was a very intelligent, college educated man that came from a middle class family in Long Island. Hart was a pro wrestling lifer that discovered that he had an incredible pro wrestling IQ and that always made him a commodity.

Reading the book you would think that it would turn out much like Casino where Lefty Rosenthal (aka Ace Rothstein) is still working as a handicapper for the mob because he always made the mob money. Unfortunately, it didn't end that way as the NWA folded, WCW was something Hart didn't want a part of with Jim Herd there and he could never hook up with the WWF because Bruno blackballed him there and then Fuji and Strongbow attempted to sabotage him when he went to speak with Vince in 1984. So Hart ended up out of the wrestling business in the early 90's and retired for good.

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Tom Greaves

Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 169
Location: Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good review Rich! Agreed that it was largely free of the bitterness towards the modern business that colors so many of these bios.

FWIW, the PDF that is floating around (at least the one I've seen, anyway) is a galley copy that has some changes from the print version. The biggest change from what I've read is that the chapter ripping Dave is cut out.
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Yakuza Rich

Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 770

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom Greaves wrote:
Good review Rich! Agreed that it was largely free of the bitterness towards the modern business that colors so many of these bios.

FWIW, the PDF that is floating around (at least the one I've seen, anyway) is a galley copy that has some changes from the print version. The biggest change from what I've read is that the chapter ripping Dave is cut out.

Interesting although the Meltzer ripping was basically a chapter for Meltzer.

I can understand Hart's viewpoint, but the WON wasn't well received by the business in the 80's and early 90's, so I would have been surprised if Hart liked the WON.

Hart ripped Dave for praising certain wrestlers because they were sources. That happens quite a bit in sports journalism, but I think Dave just happens to be a Flair fan. He was also a huge Brody mark and Brody was close iwth Hart.

But Dave was helped into the business by Boesch and Hart respected Boesch's promoting and payoffs, but couldn't see eye to eye with him on anything else.

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Steve Yohe

Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 2995
Location: Wonderful Montebello CA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had the book years ago, and I would really be willing to sell it for $700. If I can find it.---Yohe
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