The first thing you need to realize before reading any further is that it is (was) common place in the wrestling biz to pull pranks or (ribs) on your fellow wrestlers. It’s just the way things were back then. There are even documented cases of this type of stuff happening in WWE and you can see how it can sometimes get out out of control. Just needed to put that out there.
My dad was quite the joker. What’s funny is, growing up, people use to always say how mean he looked.
Certainly as I was a teenager and he was at this time paralyzed from the waist down and would drive around town in our 79 blue Chevette using hand controls. For 1) he couldn’t have waved at you if he wanted to, one hand had to be on the steering wheel while the other was using the hand controls to accelerate or brake.
But it wasn’t just that, he LIKED looking mean. I’ve already mentioned how he liked to be the heel when he was wrestling. He preferred that people thought he was a badass; that if you said the wrong thing to him, he would flip out. I imagine that was a protection mechanism, would you make fun of a little person who looked like if you did they would kill you? I doubt it.
But the thing is he was actually quite fun and funny. When he would drive up to Oakville to pick me up to bring me home for a weekend from college the first thing he would ask me when I got in the car was “So, getting any BJ’s?.”
There are quite a few pics of when my dad would be at a wedding, dancing with some woman (not my mother) and he would always be placed perfectly between their breasts and he loved every minute of it.
And man did he love his Hawaiian shirts, looking at that pic I can hardly keep a straight face remembering the time my dad found out mom had gotten rid of his shirts. He had them from his days in Hawaii which were years in the past, but on that day he wanted those shirts and man we made fun of him for how out of style they were. Little did we know they would come back and were probably totally valuable.
Yes you read that correctly, when I was in my teens he would pull this joke, I’d have my buddies Steve or Archie over and he would insist that they had to sit beside him at the table, just so half way through the meal he could start to caress their leg. I’ll never forget the time it happened to my buddy Bill, “Mike, your dad has his hand on my leg, what do i do?.” In the 80’s ‘playing gay’ was certainly not the norm and certainly not from your friends mean looking, little person dad.
That isn’t it though.
His other favorite joke to pull usually involved the younger kids my brother or sister would invite over. We’d all be around the dinner table, usually wrapping up the mean when he would ask. “So Jessica, do you like apple pie with vanilla ice cream?”
The little girl, now beaming at the thought of an amazing desert, “yes I do!”
“Great, the stuff is in the kitchen, let us know when you are done baking it and we’ll all have a piece.”
To which these poor little kids didn’t know what to say.
Sometimes the jokes went to far …
My mom tells this story of this joke my grandfather (her dad who was also a wrester back in the day) and my dad would do.
My grandfather would get out a .22 rifle and my dad would pretend to be the rubber ducks you shoot at the carnival. He would walk one way while my grandfather would ‘shoot’ him (with blanks), as soon as he would get a ‘hit’ and my dad would turn and waddle in the other direction.
This one time ..
I decided it was time to get in on the action (I had seen my father and grandfather do this joke before) I was ready, or so I thought. We were all out in Shilo, Manitoba for my uncle Cliff’s wedding. The day before the wedding I believe it was, all of the families from both sides were gathered at our soon to be my uncle’s in-laws house. There had to be about 20 or 30 people in the backyard, everyone was drinking and having a good time.
This one lady was talking to me and seemed very nice and I thought, ok lets pull this joke. So, barely able to contain my excitement I mentioned to the lady that she should ask my dad about how his sister’s ballet lessons were going. (FYI my dad does have 3 sisters but this story is not about any of them or anyone else real for that manner)
Up until this point our conversation was so polite and nice that this lady HAD to ask about my dad’s sister, how could she not? She was never expecting that this 13 yr old kid was setting her up.
As soon as she asks the question the entire party changes tone, all conversations stop (most of the people knew this joke). My dad gets super upset and storms out of the party, this poor lady is still kind of laughing wondering whats happened. She’s asks louder this time, “how is Butch’s sisters ballet lessons coming? Someone please tell me what the punchline is.”
“Butch’s sister has no arms or legs,” comes the reply from someone at the party.
The entire backyard is silent. This lady looks at me, “HOW COULD YOU?” She storms out of the backyard in tears embarrassed as hell.
I, who at this point had been laughing because I knew the joke was working perfectly suddenly forgot that this was a rib and felt like a piece of shit. My aunts and uncles (all in on the joke) were yelling at me, my mom grabbed me and shoved me out of the backyard into the house. I was now crying my eyes out, what had I done? This was horrible.
“Maybe not the best time or place for this joke Mike,” my mom tells me.
I’m balling my eyes out as my dad comes in and tells me how its all ok, they told the lady that it was just a bad joke and that my dad’s sisters were fine. But THIS is the type of thing that would happen at our family gatherings.
I get asked a lot …
“What was it like growing up with a little person as a father?”
What I hope to show you through these articles is that it was amazing, there were some pretty awesome highs and some scary lows. I imagine just like any other family out there. At least I hope so. I haven’t even mentioned my grandfather’s ‘best friend’ Lord Nelson, whatever you do if you meet my grandfather at all costs tell him you have already met Lord Nelson. Believe me, you’ll thank me for that advice.
-- Downs out.