Saturday, May 21, 2011

Macho Memories

It was the most terrifying thing I'd ever seen. And for a seven-year-old boy, I'd seen a hell of a lot. My hero, Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat, lay helplessly while the WWF Intercontinental Champion, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, tried to kill him right in the middle of the ring. The first strike, a Savage double-axehandle from the top rope that drove a prone Steamboat's throat into the steel guard-rail, had been devastating. But this was criminal. I cried and yelled at Steamboat to move, but it was no use. "Macho Man" launched from the top rope and smashed the timekeeper's bell into Steamboat's throat.

My hero was surely dead.

I've shared my memories of that famous 1986 match several times in my book, in blogs, and in interviews. And I've credited Steamboat for being the one who inspired my dream of becoming a professional wrestler. But the one thing I haven't done is give credit to the other half of the team that created that magic: Randy Savage.

Lex Luthor. Darth Vader. The Joker. Marshmallow Man. Without villains, there are no heroes. And Savage was the most dastardly villain of my childhood. Not only did he try to kill my hero, he also treated his beautiful, pure-as-snow valet, Miss Elizabeth, like garbage. Men and boys of all ages daydreamed about rescuing her from him. But none of us ever did anything to help her and she suffered for it.

When "Macho Man" became a babyface (wrestling lingo for good guy), the wrestling fanatic in me was thrilled. But the Steamboat worshipper in me would never forget what he'd done to "The Dragon".

Randy Savage was one of wrestling's greatest success stories. He captivated millions, became a household name, enjoyed success in other forms of entertainment as a spokesman and actor.

Randy Savage. Rapper. Sorry, I just can't put those words in the same sentence. But it's cool that he tried.

As a wrestler, he was one of the top 5 stars from 1985-1998. He was believable, innovative, and intense. Fans either loved or hated him but they never felt indifference.

I'm saddened to hear about the death of Randall Mario Poffo, a.k.a. Randy "Macho Man" Savage. "Macho Man" was one of the greatest characters and a big influence on many of today's greatest stars. And while I'll always remember him as the villain who tried to kill my hero, I'll also remember him fondly.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Peace & Quiet: O-ver-ra-ted (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap)

"If I'm writing and the house catches fire, call the fire department. But leave me alone." That was the rule around my house back in the olden days. My wife, for the most part, respected my need for solitude during marathon writing sessions in the computer room. I needed peace and quiet, no distractions, so I could focus on creating.

Alone with my thoughts, I produced zero finished full-length manuscripts and added at least 100 documents to my computer's Incomplete & Abandoned folder. I wasted a lot of years of my writing life consumed by self-doubt, afraid to male a mistake, and worrying about how each word would be received by editors and readers and critics. Alone with my thoughts, I was my own worst enemy.

I tried everything to break out of my funk. I read books on writing. I listened to the Writing Excuses podcast. I journaled. I wrote fiction and non-fiction, poetry, short stories and screenplays. I wrote in the morning and at night. I wrote using Word and writing software and longhand. I replaced computer desks and notebooks and everything else I could blame for my writing woes. Nothing could help me work through it.

Then my son came along and rescued me from peace and quiet. The interruptions and distractions that were once a sin in my house have become commonplace:

"Dad-dee...can I play the Star Wars game on the computer?"

"Dad-dee...I'm thirsty."

"Um, Dad-dee...when I'm a parent, I don't think I'll want to drive a car."

My wife joins in:

"I'm making tacos next week. Would you rather have beef or chicken?"

I wonder if Elmore Leonard's wife has ever interrupted him during sacred Writing Time to ask him "beef of chicken?"

But to my surprise, the distractions and interruptions have actually been refreshing. They keep my mind from wandering to self-doubt and other thoughts that quickly become barriers to my writing productivity.

I'm also becoming less interested in solitude. These days I'm more comfortable writing from my living-room chair than at one of the desks in my writing den.

My writing self from eight years ago wouldn't even recognize me.

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