Let me come clean with you: back in high school (shudder), for some reason I re-discovered professional wrestling and watched every minute I could. I will allow you to judge me all you want. I also thought KoRn was the best band ever and wore a necklace that spelled out "VOLTRON." So, whatever, I wasn’t very cool. I admit it.
I’m a fairly immature person, so when the chance to interview Matt Stone from South Park fame came up, I couldn’t believe my balls. For a couple of weekends, WCW Thursday Night Thunder came to Fargo, North Dakota, near where I lived, so a few friends and I gathered some face paint, made shitty posters, and hit the road to watch some awesome professional wrestling. If you’ve never been, go. Even if you’re not a fan, you’ll catch yourself screaming, "Fuck you, Hulk Hogan! I used to believe in you!" Just because all the other halfbreeds are doing the same thing.
One time after the matches, we ate at an establishment called Hooters. Their wings delight the taste buds, as do the waitresses. Apparently, some of the wrestlers had the same idea. Another time we met some at I think TGI Friday’s or Chili’s. We saw Chris Jericho "Monday Night Jericho," Kanyon, Chris Benoit "The Canadian Crippler," Eddie Guerrero, Chavez Guerrero, Disco Inferno (seriously, these guys were real wrestlers), Dean "The Man of 1,000 Holds" Malenko, and maybe a few other smaller named guys.
For the most part, they were all pretty cool. They signed our tickets and took photos with us. I even made the bonehead mistake of telling Chris Benoit, "You’re my favorite" while I wore a Sting t-shirt.
Jericho made it pretty big, but if you recognize some of the other names, it’s probably because they’ve all died fairly recently. Eddie Guerrero died of an overdose and Chris Benoit ended up killing his entire family and himself—sparking the big Rush Limbaugh debate debacle, "Should wrestlers be banned or drug tested?"
I worked at a newspaper for about three years, which is where I learned to write this here column so brilliantly. I interviewed hundreds of people, and some of them happened to be famous. A lot of times the PR peeps of famous folks send out interview offers to every paper, magazine, and website. Sometimes you interview somebody over the phone. Other times you’re on a conference call with ten other reporters and if you’re lucky you get the chance to ask one question. You just collect all the notes from the other folks and cram as much as you can so it looks like you actually talked to whoever.
I lived and worked in Colorado, and I’m also a fairly immature person, so when the chance to interview Matt Stone from South Park fame came up, I couldn’t believe my balls. I dreamed of asking him about his proudest moment, the coolest celebrity he’s ever met, and if he’d want to hire me as a writer for his show. Instead, it was a conference call. I spent all my time listening to idiot reporters asking him about Mortal Kombat and George W. Bush, and I barely had time to kiss his ass let alone ask for a job. The South Park guys are actually from Colorado, so I worked that into my question—although I can’t remember what my single query was. I do remember Stone said, "Wow, you’re from Colorado. Is it still cool?" My eyes fluttered with stars and lollipop butterflies.
Like I said a million-billion-jillion times, I lived in New York. For one stop of his "Maybe I’ll Run for President" Tour, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani came to speak at my city. During the press time, I asked him how he thought Mayor Bloomberg was doing, and Rudy had nothing but great things to say. Later, as he was leaving after his great speech, I pushed my way up to him and said, "Mayor Giuliani, I lived in New York during 9/11 and I just want to say that your voice, inspiration, and dedication made me so happy I lived there and so happy you were our mayor. I trust you and believe in you. All I want to do is shake your hand and say thank you." We shook hands and he said, "Thanks. That means a lot to me."
Sometimes the celebrities you interview aren’t really that famous, but they mean a lot to you. I interviewed John Ficarra, but you probably won’t know who that is. I didn’t, until I saw his job title: Editor-In-Chief of MAD Magazine. When I found out I was supposed to interview him I prepared a beautiful stack of notes and questions. I called him, I said, "I have to admit, I’m a lifelong MAD reader and—ah damnit I just dropped all my notes." He laughed, "I expect nothing less from a lifelong MAD reader." He was super cool.
Another guy who couldn’t have been cooler was Kevin Nealon. Again, when the boss told me my assignment was to interview Saturday Night Live‘s best "Weekend Update" anchor (in my opinion at least) and shining star of that Showtime show Weeds, I couldn’t believe I actually got paid to do this stuff (although, I didn’t get paid very much). Again, I gushed over him in the beginning and said, "When they told me this assignment, all these memories of staying up late and watching you on Saturday Night Live came rushing into my head. I dressed up as Franz from ‘Hans and Franz Will Pump You Up’ one Halloween." Then BAM! A short zapped one of our phones. Pretty soon the secretary called out, "Hey! There’s a Kevin looking for a KC!" Holy shit, Kevin Nealon remembered my name. Celebrities never do that. Nealon was super-extra-cool.
In Part 3, I’ll detail my celeb encounters as a bartender/bouncer, and my childhood exercise with the Terminator himself.