One boy-man’s journey from the sycophantic purgatorial dungeon of maudlin syndication of self to the freedom of fandom afterlife
“Heck you hurt my friends and you hurt my pride, I gotta be a man, I can’t let it slide” – Real American (Hulk Hogan’s theme song circa 1988)
I’m not going to lie to anyone: 1988 was a big deal to me. I was the undisputed champion of my own childhood, relishing the completion of my Late French Emersion Program at Cosburn Middle School, awarded with a brand new 18-speed banana yellow and electric blue Norco mountain bike, heading into the summer with my best friend and cottages and bike rides and slumming around our well manicured neighbourhood until the onset of me beginning high school lay blurry ahead in the hazy summer weeds, something intangible, false and unreal.
As I handed my yearbook around for signatures that late June afternoon, I knew with acuity, I was one of the most watched, talked to and rotary phoned thirteen-year-olds of all time.
For the era, I was extremely cute, reddish-brown Ferris Bueller style hair, rosy cheeks, preppy clothing, and I had impeccable taste in Top 40 music (as well as some oldies such as The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Alan Sherman) television and film properties that churned in my ears, eyes and cerebral viaducts while Mountain Dew / Cream Soda blend 7-11 Slurpees churned in my stomach. In my mind it seemed, I was an invincible champion, socially flawless. And in the magnificent magnet of popular culture, my two top-tiered glam heroes were poised to continue to dominate 1988 the way they had since January: George Michael’s faith album was burning up the charts and reducing the grade six girls to tears as they signed their yearbooks and cleaned out their lockers on the second floor, his fourth single One More Try pouring down the hallway through the canvas of two hundred pairs of converse high tops, treetorns or leather sandals, while Randy “Macho Man” Savage had captured his first ever WWF championship at a tournament at Wrestlemania IV in March with the help of former champion and his new best friend, Hulk Hogan. He was sitting high on life, in a spread in WWF magazine, sitting pretty beside his big belt, tye-dyed shirt, bandana, sunglasses, jeans and cowboy boots as the sun set on the beach, with the caption “His first 100 days as champion” in distinct yellow font.
About a week before school finished, a few of the local schools met up for a track meet, and my classmate Juan Miranda, who I called The Juan Man Gang (cribbed from The One Man Gang) began to toss me around in front of a few of my friends. Suddenly I heard a big crash on the fence. Juan stopped shaking me around.
It was Andrew. “You better stop that,” he said.
In my mind of course, remembering it now, or even a few weeks after it happened, there was grand posing, there hand handshakes, and thousands of screaming fans and interviews after the fact.
It breathed life into the skeleton of my fantasy friendship with Andrew. He was aware we were friends, just not how I saw our friendship. The cracks however, were months away from showing themselves.
The summer of 1988 and all its pastel possibilities presented itself before me as I stepped down and pumped the pedal and crank of my new Norco bike and headed over to the park with Andrew.
In WWF wrestling storylines earlier in the year, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan had formed a hyperbolic union of ego, body and soul called The Mega-Powers, and since I was shorter and dark-haired and Andrew was taller and blonde, I started to refer to our friendship as The Mega-Powers, Macho Madness and Hulkamania coming together to overcome all odds.
The timing seemed perfect: though I had partially outgrown my affection for wrestling, (I had seen Savage face Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at a house show at Maple Leaf Gardens in the summer of 1986 with my brother and father, which included an appearance by Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the Junkyard Dog and the Elvis-inspired Honky Tonk Man) Randy Savage’s WWF title win and his subsequent friendly and highly enchanting interactions with Hulk Hogan set things up for to dive right into celluloid altitudes and sugary excitement, glancing at glossy photos of Hogan and Savage at the corner store while loading up on over-processed supplies. When Savage announced his tag team partner for Summerslam he said “I’ve got me a tag team partner. Andre The Giant and Ted Dibiase, I got me a tag team partner, and he’s the greatest tag team partner that anybody in the world could ever have. And here he comes right now…”
Hulk Hogan’s music played and he came out with a big nodding smile, and I was so grateful the little red REC dot was on my groaning VCR.