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    Under The Mat, by Diana Hart

    UNDER THE MAT by Diana Hart

    In Loving Memory of best friend and brother

    Owen Hart ? 1965-1999

    FOREWARD

    Diana and Owen were my little blonde palominos. Of all my 12 kids, they had the most to offer. I remember them doing back flips and front flips right in my living room in front of Andre The Giant, Dory and Terry Funk and Lou Thesz. I was so proud of them especially because they were self-taught. That is why I am so impressed with her writing this book and sharing with the world her life in the wrestling industry. It?s her life and she has a right to talk about it, the same right anyone else in my family has.

    In my eyes Di is the perfect human specimen, no knobby elbows, thin hair or odd teeth. She was and always has been a wonderful, beautiful girl. I never knew Di to be anything but sensible and practical and she has a genuine love for wrestling. She was the first one I called when I got word that Owen had been killed in Kansas City after falling from a harness during a tragic wrestling stunt.

    It hasn?t been easy for her growing up female in a male-dominated household and sport. But she did end up working for the WWF with her brothers Owen and Bret and she was an integral part of the career of her husband Davey Boy Smith (The British Bulldog) ? I know someday she?ll end up managing her son Harry who has inherited all of our family?s athletic genes and his mother?s stunning looks.

    Life has continued to give her a few hard knocks. Being a straight shooter in every way has got her into a lot of trouble. But Di never backs down from the truth even when people don?t like it. Parts of this book may not make everyone in the wrestling world happy but it?s high time someone who?s paid her dues, sings the blues.

    STU HART
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    CHAPTER ONE

    DAVEY BOY

    I'm so dumb I didn't even know it was abuse. There I was in Florida, surrounded by crackhead wrestlers with my husband, Davey Smith, aka The British Bulldog, doping my juice nightly so he could rape me while I was unconscious.

    I never should have married him, but even when he came to me three weeks before our wedding and told me he had just got another girl pregnant, I went ahead with it. If only I hadn't been so stupid and stubborn, I wouldn't have ended up getting suplexed by him, a 280-pound drug addict, in front of our children on the lawn of my parent's home. And I wouldn't have had to endure the pain of watching him run off with my sister-in-law and her five kids. But then I come from a long line of anything but normal. How many kids can count Andre the Giant as one of their babysitters?

    I've known wrestlers all my life because I'm Stu Hart's daughter. My dad is a wrestling legend. First, an amateur champion, then a pro, then a promoter of Stampede Wrestling, an operation in western Canada that trained the likes of my brothers, Owen and Bret "The Hitman" Hart, my ex-husband, Davey Boy Smith, my brother-in-law Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Tom "Dynamite Kid" Billington as well as Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho, two of the biggest stars in the WWF.

    For me things really started to take a downward spiral around the Survivor Series in 1997. That was the pay-per-view where Bret felt that he got the screw from Vince McMahon. Bret defended his World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Championship title against Shawn Michaels and Shawn won within three seconds of putting Bret in a submission hold ? The Sharpshooter. The referee Earl Hebner ruled that Bret had submitted and gave the decision to Shawn, who walked off with the belt.

    Two weeks before that, Davey and I were getting ready for a Halloween party. I was dressing up as Davey in his Union Jack tights, spandex shirt, boots and cape. I added a five o'clock shadow on my chin with eyeliner and pinned back my hair. Davey donned a flared spandex skirt and loose top. He couldn't fit into any stockings but he wore some flip-flops on his feet. I was almost falling over laughing at the sight of him with one of my mom's blonde wigs jammed on top of his head. We were both in hysterics and had trouble holding still as I tried to add mascara, rouge and frosted pink gloss.

    It was the first time we had had any fun in weeks. He had been acting so strangely lately. As usual he was on the road with the WWF four days of the week, but instead of being his normal, active self at home he was secretive and withdrawn. The party was starting at nine and he had crawled into bed just after dinner. At first I was annoyed, but when I inspected him closer I noticed he was sweating and shivering at the same time.

    "What's the matter?" I asked, concerned.

    "I'm okay. Get outta the house. Go to the party."

    "I'm not going without you!" I protested. "You're sick!"

    His teeth were chattering. "I'll be all right. Just leave me alone for a couple of hours."

    I absolutely refused to budge. After half an hour of his trying to get rid of me he finally broke down. "This is the longest I've gone without taking anything and I'm Jonesing." He began crying. "I don't think I can quit, Di."

    I presumed he was talking about Percocet, a painkiller he'd been taking since 1985 for back pain, or the steroids he used for bodybuilding.

    "Well take your back medication, Davey,? I said. ?You need that for back pain." Of course, I didn't' realize he was taking 30 Percocet a day, a huge amount. I also didn't know he was addicted to morphine, Xanax (a tranquilizer), Toradol (an anti-inflammatory,) the opiate painkillers Vicodine (the drug of choice for many Hollywood addicts) and Talwin, and pain relievers Soma and Dilaudid. He was a walking pharmacy!

    Trying to be Florence Nightingale, I grabbed two Percocets from his bag and handed them to him. He gulped them down gratefully and continued confessing, "I'm really scared about how much stuff I'm taking. I want to quit. I have to quit."

    I looked into his bag. It was full of different colored pills, all shapes and sizes. I'd seen them before, but it never dawned on me he was a drug addict. The bottles were always full. I assumed they were steroids and medicines he had just in case he got hurt wrestling.

    A light bulb exploded in my brain. I reacted immediately, "Oh my God, Davey. Are you taking all this stuff? How often?"

    He hung his head. "Some of it I take every day. Some I don't take too much."

    I flung my arms around him as if to protect him. "Don't worry. We'll do this together. I'll take these pills and dole them out for you, but only when you really need them. We'll get you better. We're a team, Davey."

    He got up and we left for the party. Problem solved.

    A year later we were separated. We hadn't had sex since June of 1998 when during a trip to England I caught him shooting up Nubain or Nalbuphine, an opiate similar to morphine used for pain in sickle cell Leukemia. I knew what it was because a friend of ours named Rich Minzer, who worked for Gold's Gym in Los Angeles had tried to forewarn me. He took me aside while Davey was working out and locked eyes with me.

    "There's a really bad drug called Nubain going around. A lot of the wrestlers are taking it, Diana, and a couple of bodybuilders have died on stage right after shooting up."

    At the time, I chalked it up to Rich just being a worrier. Why was he telling me this? Later I realized he was trying to let me know that Davey was a potential candidate.
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    By 1998, Davey was like a vegetable. He never left the couch. He had stopped working out. He didn't bother talking to me and ignored our kids, 10-year-old Georgia and 13-year-old Harry. His hands shook so badly he couldn't feed himself. He did make it to the bathroom, but that was about the only thing he did on his own, besides shooting up.

    He was on sick leave from his job at World Championship Wrestling, which was WWF's biggest competitor, because he claimed he'd injured his back on a hidden steel door two months earlier at the Fall Brawl pay-per-view while tag teaming with my brother-in-law Jim Neidhardt. They were up against Disco Inferno and Alex Wright. Watching the match on TV at home I noticed Davey struggling to powerslam Disco. Powerslamming was Davey's big move. But Davey seemed to have his hands full. It was like watching him try to pick up a wet seal. I was irritated with Disco. What was he doing to Davey? Why was he going up so heavy?

    I quizzed Davey about it on the phone after the match. Davey was furious, "They had a ****ing trap door under the canvas for Ultimate Warrior to burst through at the end of the match! They didn't tell Jim or me. It was two inches thick and had a solid handle on it. I hurt my damn back!"

    He came home two days after the Fall Brawl, fell down on the couch and within two weeks, he never wrestled for WCW again. I dragged him to every known healing practice I'd heard of to help him get better: rolfing, underwater physiotherapy, acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic clinics and yoga. He'd go for a session or two, then quit. I made a vow to myself to never sleep with Davey ever again unless he cleaned up. Then I tried to kill myself.

    It was a Friday night in early December. My daughter Georgia was sleeping at my sister Alison's and my son Harry and I were watching the Tim Burton movie Edward Scissorhands. Davey was passed out on the couch. The movie ended and I watched, despising him as he staggered to his feet and lumbered up the stairs. I knew he was on his way up to our room for another hit of morphine. He hadn't said a coherent word all night. I was so angry. While digging through his pockets looking for money earlier that day, I'd found so many bottles of pills my mind was spinning. Since I'd found out about Davey's drug addiction the previous Halloween, I had been battling severe bouts of depression. I began seeing a psychiatrist who had me on 200 mgs. of Zoloft (an anti-depressant similar to Prozac) per day.

    I heard our bedroom door close and I put Harry to bed. I sat at the computer and wrote myself a note.

    "I don't know how much more of this I can take. Davey's a junkie. He doesn't even try to hide it any more. My family won't listen when I tell them. They think I'm hysterical." As I wrote I got more and more worked up.

    "I mean nothing to him any more. He couldn't make it more obvious." A little while later, I made my way up to our room and stood over Davey watching him snore. He sounded liked a vacuum sucking up water. He was totally unconscious. I felt like attacking him, but I knew I could hit him on the head with a cast-iron frying pan and he wouldn't wake up.

    I stormed into our walk-in closet and snatched up a full bottle of Xanax from the hollow of one of his crocodile cowboy boots. I moved back to the bed and started screaming at him.

    "Look what you've done, you bastard. Look at me, you son-of-a-bitch! I'm going to take your goddamn pills so you'll know what I put up with night and day. I want you to know what it's like to live with a vegetable. You make out like I'm crazy! I'm going to take them. I'm not kidding Davey. Wake up!"

    Davey slowly turned his head in my direction. "No," he mumbled." Don't. Please don't."

    "Call 911, if I mean anything to you, Davey." I dumped the entire bottle into my palm and stuffed then into my mouth, holding my hand against my lips to keep them from falling out. Chewing and swallowing I ran to the bathroom and downed a glass of water. I ran back into our room and watched as Davey struggled to sit up. He was like a turtle on its back.

    The impact of what I had just done hit me. I wasn't sure about whether what I had taken was lethal or not, but I suddenly felt very frightened.

    "Oh ****," I thought. "I don't want to die." I grabbed the phone and dialed 911.

    I gave my address and said, "Send an ambulance immediately. I just took 100 Xanax. I had a fight with my husband. I don't want to die."

    There was urgency in the operator's voice. "Get dressed. Unlock your door and turn your lights on. We'll get an ambulance to you right away."

    "I don't want to die. I don't want to die." I hung up.

    I scanned the floor for a pair of socks. I made do with two unmatched ones. pulled on sweatpants and a loose t-shirt thinking that it would be easier for the emergency room if I was wearing easy-to-remove clothing. I slid my feet into a pair of clogs, unlocked the front door and turned on the lights. I sat in the front room in a little antique rocking chair next to our bulldog Merrilegs and my cat Dempsey. Then I passed out.

    Later I learned my heart stopped four times in the ambulance on the way to the Foothills Hospital, but each time they managed to shock me back to life with heart paddles.

    I opened my eyes for a couple of moments the next day and my little brother Owen swam into my vision. I reached to give him a hug and that's all I remember until I woke up two days later.

    My mother was frantic because she had planned a big jazzercise Christmas Party in 10 days and as a devoted jazzerciser, I was scheduled to be there.

    "Dahling, you think you will be able to make the party? Will they let you out in time?" I assured her I would try to be there, which gave her another thing to worry about. "I don't think we should mention to anyone where you have been."

    The day I got home from the hospital I got fixed up for the party. Most of my family was gathered at my parents. Davey disappeared for a couple of hours. There was a lot of private speculation as to where he had gone. My brother Keith drew me aside.

    "He's as bad as Elvis, Di. You and your kids have to get away from him."

    My oldest brother Smith kept bringing me heaping plates of finger foods and patting me on the head. My sister Alison was as protective as a tigress and my sister Georgia squeezed my hand every time she walked past. My brothers Owen and Bret were absent as usual. My sister Ellie was avoiding me perhaps because her husband Jim Neidhart was in the car with Davey on their way to the home of Alison's ex-husband, Ben Bassarab, to get Davey a morphine fix.

    Owen and his wife, Martha, invited me to their home that Christmas Day. Owen sat down with me and lectured me sternly.

    "Don't ever do that again, Bearcat. If you had died you would have left Harry and Georgia with a drug addict. I've known about Davey's problem for a long time. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, but he has a real problem. I've carried him through numerous airports so he wouldn't miss his flights.

    "When Davey told you about slipping in Brian Pilman's bathroom and hitting his head, that was a lie. I watched him crack that big porcelain sink in half with his head just before he passed out. You can do a lot better than him, Diana. You deserve better than this. Lots of guys would love to take care of you. Steve Austin is a big fan of yours. When a person gets to the point where they want to kill themselves because they are married to a drug addict, they have to leave. You have your kids to think about."

    I filed for divorce just before New Year's Eve. Bret and his wife Julie came over to our home that night. Julie talked to me in the kitchen while Bret cornered Davey in the living room. By the end of the night it was decided Davey would check into rehab. He flew to the Alberta Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission facility at Grand Prairie in northern Alberta the next day.
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    One of the conditions Davey stipulated before going into rehab was that I drop divorce proceedings. So we reconciled, sort of. Davey left rehab after seven weeks, one week before completing the program. He claimed his kidneys were failing. The doctors in Grand Prairie disagreed. But Davey flew home for a second opinion. We spent the next day in emergency where Davey underwent everything from a CAT Scan to a spinal tap. No one found anything wrong with him. He was scheduled to return in six weeks for a white blood cell count.

    The wait was a nightmare. He tried every trick in the book to be checked into the hospital because hospitals administer drugs. He even passed out in a coffee shop in front of my sister Georgia and my mother and had to be transported to the hospital by ambulance. I met up with him there. The doctor recognized him and abruptly threw him out.

    "You're a drug addict looking for a fix. Come back when you have a real emergency." I was incensed, why would he be looking for a fix when he had just come out of rehab?

    Dr. Donna Dupuis, the psychologist I had begun seeing after my suicide attempt shook her head. "Diana, would you say your husband is one of the best wrestlers in the world?"

    "Yes,' I nodded.

    "Well Diana, your husband is a professional actor. He's capable of convincing 50,000 people in an audience that he is genuinely hurt, when he is not. How tough would it be for him to persuade a small gathering, say your mother, your sister and you?"

    From that moment on, her words started to ring true. He would look so pitiful, lying on the bed and moaning.

    "My pain is so bad, Becky, make it go away. I feel like jumping through that balcony window so I can feel something other than all this pain." He called me Becky sometimes for Becky Bear Cat, a derivative of the nickname my brother Owen gave me. Bearcat Wright was a black wrestler, who looked like an otter. His neck was the same width as his head and it was fleshy so it looked as if he was wearing rings around his neck. Owen used to tease me when I was little and it stuck.

    I didn't know whether Davey was faking it or not, but six weeks later when he got the results of his white blood cell count, it turned out he had a staph infection in his back. Less than an hour later he was lying in his own hospital bed. At first the nurses could not find a vein in which to start an IV to administer ultra-strong antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to his spine.

    Of course, he was given liberal doses of morphine to ease the pain. At that time I had no idea how much worse things would get.
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    CHAPTER TWO

    WRESTLERS I HAVE KNOWN

    One of my dad's most unforgettable wrestlers was Andre the Giant. His real name was Andre Rene Roussimoff. He was seven foot four and weighed 450 pounds. When I first met him in 1975, I was 12 years old, so he was beyond big. It was like looking at a huge dinosaur.

    I'll never forget his gigantic hands. He was sitting in my dad's living room and my little brother Owen and I were playing around him. He let me try on his ring. It slipped right over my wrist. This really scared me because up until I?d met Andre, I thought my dad could beat up anybody in the world. I believed he was invincible. There wasn't anybody who could outwrestle my dad. What the Pope is to religion, that's what I thought my dad was to wrestling, amateur and professional. Andre The Giant was the first person?the only person?I thought my dad would have a hard time with. Then my mom compounded my fear by telling us Andre was temperamental.

    Every July, Andre would come to Calgary for Stampede Week. The Calgary Stampede began as a small rodeo in 1912 and is now one of the biggest cash rodeos anywhere. Dubbed "the greatest outdoor show on earth," it attracts more than a million visitors a year. It takes over the city for 10 days every summer.

    When Andre first started coming up, he was fairly humble. He'd stay in a small hotel and wrestle some local guys without complaint. But as his celebrity grew, so did his demands. He would insist time off to watch an exotic dancer named Babette Bardot.

    Babette became a friend of our family. Her kids, Bianca and Bobby, were the same age as my younger brother Owen and me. She was married to a fellow named Bob Baker. Bob was her manager and the leader of the small band that accompanied her act. Thanks to some early cosmetic surgery, Babette had the Dolly Parton chest. She was beautiful and spoke with a sexy French accent. She showed us photos of her posing with Joey Bishop and Merv Griffin, so I figured she was a real celebrity.

    Babette and her family traveled to Calgary each year to perform at the Majestic Inn, a semi-seedy hotel on Calgary's south side. Babette had a lunchtime show and an evening show. I remember sitting in the show at lunchtime with Bianca watching Babette do back walkovers and some fairly tough acrobatics. As a finale she took off her skimpy bathing suit top, which had only covered her nipples anyway. When Bianca clapped and cheered, I was floored. The idea of my mother taking her top off in public was beyond comprehension.

    Year after year this little family would stay in Alberta for a month. They'd come up for two weeks in Calgary and stay with us, then Babette and Bob would head for Edmonton and leave their kids at our house. That is until 1975. Bob was a bully and so was Bobby. Bobby was forever beating on Bianca and my parents barred them from our home forever when Owen and Bobby got into a fight and Bobby pushed Owen into the closet. Big Bob held Owen down while Bobby peppered him with rabbit punches.

    In 1973 Babette billed herself as Miss Stampede Wrestling and Andre was front row center at most of her shows. This became a problem because he was reluctant to miss any of her performances, even when they conflicted with his wrestling schedule. Sometimes my dad wanted him to travel out of the city to Regina or Montana, but while Babette was in town, Andre balked at the road trips.

    One time when Babette was in Edmonton, Andre did agree to go to Montana for a show, but they were late. My brother Smith loaded him into my dad's Cadillac, a gray Brougham De Elegance. Andre usually didn't travel in a car because of his size, but this Cadillac had a sunroof. With his head sticking out of it and Smith driving 120 miles an hour, they headed for the border. When they were just past Del Bonita, Alberta and the border was within spitting distance, the RCMP began chasing them.

    Smith knew they'd never make it to the show if he stopped. He also knew if he could just get to the border the RCMP wouldn't be able to touch him. So he floored it and flew into Sweetgrass, Montana. Later, Andre admitted he had never felt true fear in his life until that driving trip with Smith Hart.

    One of my first memories is of my dad taking a grizzly bear for a walk. I remember watching my dad's powerful body with his perfect posture, leading the hulking 600-pound animal on a thick rope around our yard. The bear's name was Terrible Ted and belonged to an animal trainer named Dave McKigney, aka Bearman, Wildman, Canadian Wildman and, the name my dad knew him by, Gene Dubois.

    Dubois was born in Toronto but made his home in North Bay, Ontario. His hair and beard were long and shaggy and he looked like a bear. That was part of his gimmick. He came to Calgary at the end of June one year and stayed in our yard that winter. Terrible Ted lived under our front porch next to a U-haul trailer that Dubois slept in.

    Terrible Ted wrestled on the circuit my dad set up. In British Columbia, there was High Level, Hundred Mile House, Fort Nelson and Golden. In Alberta, the stops included Jasper, Calgary, Lethbridge, Rocky Mountain House, Red Deer, Edmonton and Medicine Hat. The circuit continued with North Battleford, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina and Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan and Billings, Great Falls and Helena in Montana.

    A grizzly bear is one of the toughest, most ferocious animals alive, yet a wrestler called The Great Antonio used to make the bear cower due to an incident that happened at one of the matches. Antonio was a big, ugly, hairy wrestler from Yugoslavia. Maurice ?Mad Dog? Vachon, a famous wrestler and promoter, sent him to Calgary from Montreal.

    Mad Dog is still a folk hero in Quebec today. He came from a family of 13 children. Several of them got into wrestling, including Paul ?The Butcher,? Vivien Vachon and their niece, Luna Vachon. Mad Dog and The Butcher bit heads and scratched eyeballs around the world.

    Mad Dog started as a legitimate amateur. He represented Canada in the 1948 Olympics in London, finishing seventh in the middleweight class. Professionally, he was always a loose cannon, sometimes the hated heel, sometimes the underdog hero. In October 1987, he lost a leg after being hit by a car near his home in Iowa while out for some exercise.

    Mad Dog wanted the 400 pound Antonio to get some experience with my dad out west. Dad had trouble finding guys to wrestle him because he was so big and clumsy so he decided to put him up against Terrible Ted. The first couple of minutes of each match the bear would get really annoyed. The Great Antonio would slap its head and the bear would smack Antonio back, leaving big welts and bruises all over his arms.

    During one match things got a little carried away and Antonio threw the bear out of the ring through the bottom rope and into the crowd. The fans scattered screaming and crying as the bear scrambled to its feet trying to flee. But it had a big chain around its neck and could only move forward 17 feet ? the size of the ring. Dubois and all the other wrestlers on the card grabbed hold of the chain and pulled the terrified bear back into the ring. My dad said they almost ripped the poor bear's head off.

    After a 15-minute struggle, Terrible Ted was mad. He was growling and spitting and ready to kill Antonio, so the match was suspended for another 10 minutes while Dubois tried to calm him. The fans were reluctant to take their seats again. Little kids were still whimpering and the adults were all shaking.

    Knowing the bear loved junk food, Dubois handed him a bottle of Coke, and it swatted it across the ring like a petulant kid. The crowd began to laugh and returned to their seats. The match resumed. The crowd got their money's worth.

    During that tour my dad decided to offer a $1,500 prize to anyone who could pin the bear in the ring. In 1968, $1,500 was an absolute fortune. When they got back to Calgary during the Stampede, a young girl in her twenties and weighing only 115 pounds, stepped up from the audience and said she wanted to wrestle the bear.

    My dad said, "Ah, we can't have girls wrestling the bear." But the girl insisted. "I grew up on a farm. I've been around animals my whole life, horses, cows, dogs, cats, you name it. I'm really good with them. I have a special rapport with animals."

    My dad held strong. "No, we are not going to have any girls wrestling the gaddamned bear. It's too dangerous." But the girl pleaded with him and finally convinced him to let her into the ring.
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    The bear had her pinned in less than 10 seconds. He straddled her and was getting set to crush her with his full weight when my dad lunged into the ring and grabbed her by the ankles. He yanked her out from between the bear's legs mere seconds before the bear plunked down full force.

    The girl was embarrassed and accused my dad of robbing her of the chance to beat the bear. She stupidly insisted she be given another chance. This time my dad politely, but firmly sent her on her way.

    Sweet Daddy Siki loved to wrestle the bear. He was charming with the animal. The charismatic African American was wrestling's answer to Little Richard. He wore high hair like Don King's, bleached white or sometimes dyed pink. He wore trunks covered in thin black and white stripes. My dad used to call him the black Gorgeous George of his day. He made dramatic entrances squirting perfume in front of him to fight off the foul odor of his opponents.

    Siki had a long wrestling career, from the 1950s to the 1990s. Siki and the bear had some great matches with Sweet Daddy often making it look like Terrible Ted was getting the better of him. This really worked because Sweet Daddy was perceived as such a narcissist. He was particularly successful in Toronto and Calgary, where he had a second career as a country singer. He attracted a lot of ring rats including some high-school girls from Regina.

    Terrible Ted was Dubois?s first bear and far less ferocious than his second ? Smokey. In July 1978, Dubois left Smokey's cage door open when he ran into his house to answer the phone. Smokey entered the house and sniffed the air. Dubois' girlfriend Lynn Orser was upstairs in bed, and she was having her period. The smell apparently led Smokey right to her and he mauled her to death. The incident made headlines and the Ontario Humane Society took the bear away. Dubois died in a car accident on the TransCanada Highway that same year when he swerved to avoid a moose.

    Dubois also had an alligator with him the year he and Terrible Ted lived at our house. He would wrestle it and during the match, he'd force its jaws open and stick his head in its mouth.

    That winter while the bear hibernated, Dubois took the alligator on the road. It was housed in an open cage that sat on the floor at the back of the unheated van. It was absolutely freezing in that cage driving from town to town in the western Canadian winter. Alligators are ectothermic so by the time they arrived at their destinations the alligator would be pretty damned cold. They'd work on it for over an hour, rubbing it and wrapping it in heated towels so that it could move.

    When they got back to Calgary, my dad let Dubois keep the alligator under our big front porch steps next to where Ted was hibernating. But nobody knew that except my dad and Dubois. They fed it raw chicken and coconut-covered marshmallows. Dad didn't dare tell my mom. I can just hear what she would have said. "Goddamn it, Stu! I don't need any alligators! Christ!"

    My dad has always insisted we protect my mom from knowing about things she doesn't want to know. To this day if we see a mouse in the house, we aren't allowed to say anything because he says she would pack up and leave.

    We had all kinds of unusual animals at one time or another. Al Oeming, a man who built his own wild animal zoo in Alberta, would bring wolves and his cheetah over for visits.

    We had a ferocious police dog staying at our house for a few months when Owen and I were in junior high. It was a Doberman owned by Kim Klokeied, a policeman who wanted to get into wrestling. He brought this dog down from Edmonton to Calgary while he trained with my dad, but his apartment superintendent refused to let him keep it there. So my dad let it stay in our basement furnace room.

    Owen and I used to play in the basement all the time and we would approach the dog in an attempt to make friends with it. It pulled against its chain, snapping and snarling and foaming at the mouth, straining in its desire to rip our throats out. We'd come within a foot of its fangs and I remember Owen looking quizzically at it one day and saying, "Boy, that's a mean dog."

    One of my dad's favorite matches was with a male tiger named Sasha. Sasha was borrowed from The Ringling Brothers Traveling Circus when it came to town during Stampede Week. My mom had no idea Dad was in the ring with Sasha. Even though she knew he was capable enough, he didn't want her to worry. He told her he was just "doing a little socializing" with the tiger in the ring, "introducing it."

    Sasha still had all of his claws and his teeth and must have been a wrestler in another life because he used to head-mare my dad all around the ring. This means he would grab my dad by the back of the neck and flip him over. My dad would try to get behind the tiger to put it in a headlock or go through the tiger's legs to take it down. The tiger actually threw my dad over the top rope and dad took a bump outside the ring. They had great chemistry. Dad loved that tiger. He said it was such a good-looking cat.

    Two other wrestlers who made an impression on me as a kid were Billy Leon and Benny Loyd McCrary, aka Billy and Benny McGuire, the world's heaviest twins. They weighed 743 and 723 pounds respectively. Dad billed them as two 800 pounders. They didn't like to call themselves fat. They preferred the word, ?heavy.?

    The McGuires were born December 7, 1946 in Hendersonville, North Carolina and have held the record as The World's Heaviest Twins in the Guinness Book of World Records since 1968.

    They usually came to Calgary during Stampede week. My dad used to arrange for all his wrestlers to participate in the Stampede Parade. The twins rode little Honda motorcycles and their fat billowed over the handlebars, past the footrests to mere inches above the ground. One year, Benny's bike blew a tire so he had to hoof it the last few blocks of the route. The effort left him a deep shade of purple.

    The twins billed themselves as the undefeated tag team of the world. Their big thing was to ?splash' the guy they were wrestling. One of them would get onto the bottom rope at the turnbuckle where the padded ring post is. Using it as a springboard, he would jump up and belly flop on an opponent being held down by the other twin. The crowd would go wild.

    In the early seventies, my dad and mom took their gold, four-door convertible Cadillac De Ville to the airport to pick up the McGuire twins. Knowing the boys couldn't sit side by side, my mom slipped into the backseat. When Billy sat down in the front, the seat collapsed. Dad got out and wedged a crowbar behind the seat to stop Billy from squishing my mom. Because the crowbar worked so well, he never bothered to take the car in to get it properly fixed. That's how things were in our family. Patched up.

    Dad didn't know what to do with the twins once he had them in the car. He didn't want to take them home because they might fall through the floor, so he dropped them off at BJ's Gym. BJ and my older sister, Georgia, who was 20 at the time, were newlyweds. BJ was a firefighter who opened a boxing gym where my dad's wrestlers weight-trained. Wrestlers are big guys, so the equipment was all industrial strength and the gym had a solid cement floor. My dad figured both the twins and the building would be safe.

    Georgia was horrified when the twins left their spittoon next to the toilet. She had never seen one before and thought they were using it as a potty. Later, Georgia whispered to Owen and me that the twins couldn't reach over their stomachs to aim at the urinals so they had strings tied to their birds. I said, "Oh, that's terrible!" But Owen thought it was really funny.
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    Georgia said sometimes they couldn't get hold of the string so they just aimed in the direction of the toilet. She said BJ was pretty mad because they were not very careful and they were peeing all over the floor. In addition, one of them cracked the porcelain bowl when he sat on it and there was a big crack in BJ's floor near the dumbbells where they had been standing.

    As the week wore on, the twins had some good heart-to-heart talks with BJ and Georgia. They confessed they had been diagnosed with a pituitary problem. They were normal until they were four years old and contracted the German measles. They said they were really hurt when Johnny Carson had them on as guests and tried to make fools of them, having them stuff their faces with pie and treating them like big pigs.

    They further told Georgia they were kicked out of school in the tenth grade. They said by that time they each weighed more than 600 pounds and had to carry special chairs from class to class. The chairs were heavy and it took them a while to do this. One day the principal made fun of them for being so slow and they jumped him, which got them kicked out of school forever. It broke their mother's heart, but there was nothing they could do. So they took off for Texas in a 1953 Chevy half ton.

    After the incident with the car seat, Dad began transporting the twins in an old yellow school bus that often broke down. My poor mom and dad spent forever getting those wrestlers to the shows. They often had to get out and walk or hitchhike. Normally, the only distance Billy and Benny walked was from their dressing room to the ring or to a waiting car, but one July day they had to hitchhike in the pouring rain. Two sopping wet, 800-pound guys hitchhiking. They didn't get picked up.

    Another big hit for my dad was the midgets, the little people. He brought in three of them: Coconut Willy, Roland Barriault aka Frenchy Lamonte and Wolfman Kevin. They just loved my dad. He was like Santa Claus and they were the elves. He treated them like they were regular people. That was my dad. He treated everybody the same. He'd give you a pat on the head and a peanut butter sandwich. He wasn't this side-show promoter with a big cigar in his mouth, puffing away, saying, "Yeah, do this, do that."

    It must have been funny to see the midgets, the world's heaviest twins and a host of other crazy wrestlers, including Sweet Daddy Siki and The Great Antonio walking along the side of the road after a bus breakdown. Fortunately the bear and the alligator never had to hitchhike.



    CHAPTER THREE

    DYNAMITE

    There was another wrestler who made a big impression on me and that was The Dynamite Kid, Tom Billington. I met him in 1978. I was 14. He was my first crush.

    Tom had such a strong Cockney accent that I could barely understand what he was saying, but he seemed nice. He was a discovery my brother Bruce had made while in England. Bruce was overseas wrestling for wrestling legends, Max, Brian and Shirley Crabtree. Shirley was also known as Big Daddy. He was a big star in Britain who was famous for doing a "belly splash," which was a lot like Billy and Benny's move off the turnbuckle. Otherwise, he couldn't wrestle very well. Ted Betley ? who later became famous for training my future husband, Davey Boy Smith ? had trained Dynamite. Davey was Dynamite's cousin. I remember Bruce calling my dad from England insisting,

    "You've got to see this guy, Tom Billington! He's unbelievable. I've never seen anyone like him in my life!"

    My dad was concerned about Tom's size. He was only 165 pounds. The smallest

    wrestler in my dad's territory in the '70s, except for my brothers, weighed a minimum of 250 pounds. Tom would have to be pretty damned good to be able to work with people 80 pounds heavier than he was. Bruce pushed for him. He really pushed.

    "Please Dad, just take a look at him!"

    So Tom flew back with Bruce. They were like brothers. They were best friends. Bruce saw so much potential in Tom ?Dynamite Kid' Billington.

    There was a lot of tension between my brothers Bret and Bruce after Dynamite came on the scene. Bret was wrestling as a heavyweight because he was tall ? six feet. Compared to Bruce's five-feet-eight. The height gave the perception that Bret was heavier than he was. When Bruce proposed that Tom wrestle as a cousin, Tommy Hart, Bret vetoed that he wasn't a Hart so he could not wrestle as a Hart.
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    CHAPTER FOUR

    ROOTS

    My mom's father, Harry Smith, was an Olympic long-distance runner who ran for the United States in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. His roommate on the boat going over to Stockholm was another legendary athlete, Jim Thorpe.

    Thorpe, a 24-year-old American Indian, won the two most demanding events in track and field: the pentathlon and decathlon. And he did it with ease.

    "You sir," said the Swedish King Gustav V at the medal ceremony, "are the greatest athlete in the world."

    To which Thorpe is said to have replied,

    "Thanks, King."

    My mom's mother, Elizabeth or Ellie Poulis, was Greek and her parents had immigrated to the United States to become hard-working poultry farmers. Ellie's mother would kill the chickens with her bare hands by wringing their necks because her husband couldn't bring himself to do it. This started one day when they were starving and he was stalling. She impatiently grabbed the chicken from his hands, scolding, "Here let me!" She plucked the chickens and got them ready for sale. Tough lady.

    Ellie grew up in New York City and was an excellent dancer. She danced with Arthur Murray when he was still Arthur Teichman. She was a saucy, attractive woman who would eventually fall in love with and marry Harry Smith. My brother Owen talked about going to New York to trace our roots and find out more about Harry and Ellie Smith, but never got a chance.

    We do know that Harry ran in the Boston Marathon and in the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans. He used to run all day. He was tall, about five foot eleven with terrific runner's legs and his deep blue eyes always twinkled with kindness. I'm told Owen looked a lot like him. They had very similar features. Owen had Harry's ?crescents,? as my mom calls them, under the eyes like crescent moons. I have them too. When we were kids we heard, "Oh boy, you guys don't get enough sleep."

    Like Owen and me, Harry had very blonde hair, though used to put grease in it, which Ellie hated. She wanted him to wear his hair in flowing blonde locks, not the greased-back look that made his hair dark and slick.

    Ellie had been dating a very wealthy, respected doctor who was in love with her. He said, "Ellie I want you to marry me." She had the confidence to say, "Well I don't know if I want to marry you." She had seen a handsome young Irishman named Harry Smith and fallen in love with him instead.

    When she told the doctor suitor of hers, he protested.

    "I'll prove he's not worthy of you! He's a playboy! I'll hire a private detective and we'll follow him."

    But after two days, the private detective was exhausted because all Harry did was run. They didn't have many cars in those days and Harry ran about 20 miles a day. The detective couldn't keep up with him.

    The private investigator came back and told Ellie's boyfriend that Harry was not a playboy, but in fact one of the nicest guys around. The detective followed him around New York City shaking hands with people and helping them out. He'd help old ladies with their groceries. He even helped lost animals. Everything about him seemed genuinely good. What could the doctor say? He admitted to Ellie that Harry was a good man and gave up.

    Harry Smith grew up in the Bronx, which at the time housed some of the upper-class people of New York. Harry was from a very good family, but they had some pretty lean years during and after the Depression.

    He discovered he was a runner while playing craps in the alley with some of his friends at the age of 12. A policeman spotted them and yelled, "Hey, you can't be doing that! Gambling is illegal!" The kids scattered like a flock of startled birds when the cop fired his gun in the air.

    The officer was fast and caught all the kids except Harry. He had never seen anything as fast as Harry in all of his days as a cop. He could not believe the speed of this boy. He spotted Harry a few days later and before he could bolt, the cop grabbed him by the collar and said, "I'm not trying to catch you because you were gambling. I'm trying to catch you to tell you that you should pursue running. You're gifted. I have never seen anyone run like you." It was that experience that inspired Harry to begin practicing. He went on to the Olympics and was a true hero in New York City.
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    After the Olympics he became the city treasurer. But Harry had a bipolar disorder like his brother Frank. They could be having a great day and then just one thing, one thing that no one else would notice, could send them spiraling down, unable to lift their heads for the rest of the day.

    I have noticed that trait in so many people in my family. I see it a lot in my brother Bret. He'll be having a great day with everything going his way. Then a relatively small thing will really disturb him and it may take days to bounce back. I've seen that happen with my mom, and I see it happen with me too. People think, "Oh, what is it now? What's bothering you this time? Do you ever quit complaining?"

    But it isn't because we want to complain. It's just that we look at things differently. We over-analyze everything. A psychiatrist once told me it's called cognitive hurt. That is, we focus on the negative things people say and do to us and it is hard to see the positive things. It is an illness.

    When Harry Smith's daughters were young adults, he tried to kill himself. He tried to hang himself in a room from a light socket, but someone came in and found him before he was dead. All he said was, "I can't even do that right." He was so upset about it. He really did want to die. I can understand that, due to my own experience in the ambulance on the way to the hospital after taking an overdose of pills.

    My dad says that Harry was one of the sweetest men you could ever meet. He was like the father my dad never had, and my dad was the son Harry never had.

    Harry and Ellie married and had five daughters: my mother, Helen Louise Smith, Patricia, nicknamed Patsy, Elizabeth, shortened to Betty, Joanie and Diana. Ellie was crazy about boys. She wanted a son so much and Harry did too. So when Smith was born to my dad and mom their first grandchild, a boy with blue eyes they adored him. They doted on their big, healthy half-Greek, half-Irish grandchild.

    Ellie was demanding and temperamental like her mother, the one who killed the chickens. Harry was the opposite. This worked for them for a long time, his sweetness and passiveness and her aggressive willingness to call a spade a spade. I see that with my own sister Ellie. In fact, I see it in most members of my family. No one pulls punches.

    My cousin Harry Forest, Aunt Patsy's son, is a lot like that too. Aunt Patsy's husband Jack Forest was a great, great, great-nephew of Nathan Bedford Forest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Nathan's contribution to the army was strategy in combat. He was one of the great leaders of the Civil War.

    Of course people primarily remember him for founding the Klan. According to my Aunt Patsy, his diaries and letters demonstrate that the Klan of today is not what he intended it to be. He had envisioned an order dedicated to upholding the highest principles of American heroism and justice. He was disappointed when the Klan veered off course into racist attacks on blacks and other minorities.

    My uncle Jack Forest was a highly decorated general who was one of General Schwarzkopf's superiors. I am close to his son, Thomas Harry Forest but his friends mostly call him Tom. He is the tenth of 11 children and the second last in his large family, as am I. Harry and I are soul mates. I haven't seen him in a long time, but know that when we next get together, we will pick up as though we haven't missed a day. He is another family member who I think suffers from depression and is very hard on himself. Extremely talented, bright and handsome, Harry is a male version of me and one of my best friends. I haven't spoken to him in a while because I'm ashamed of what's happened with my husband and my marriage.

    I think our grandfather Harry Smith was an obsessive/compulsive person. He would run and run and run, sometimes up to 30 miles a day. When he wasn't running, he was washing his hands and worrying himself sick, often about the state of the country. He was brilliant in math. He could add up a list of numbers as long as a grocery bill in his head. He was a genius. And in my opinion he suffered.

    I bet he was good natured like my brother Owen was. I know Owen falling from a harness 90 feet above a wrestling ring in Kansas City in 1999 was an accident. And even though my brother Bret has threatened to kill me and burn my house down for saying this, I still maintain that Owen was like a son to WWF boss Vince McMahon because that's how Owen was. Just like Harry Smith, Owen was so damn appealing and endearing. His humor and his work ethic and his talents carried the whole team.

    When my mom was in her late teens, some teenage driver knocked my grandfather down and left him lying on the road. He and his wife Ellie were so destitute they couldn't afford the proper surgery for his leg. The doctors said the best thing to do was amputate, but he wouldn't let them. Instead he let his leg atrophy and it was so damn painful for him, all he could do was lie around.

    He spent his life on a couch and became an alcoholic. He could hardly stand the pain and Ellie had little patience with him. It hurt her to even look at him. She became angry with everyone. Why did this happen to her? Why did the Depression happen? Why did they go from rags to riches to rags? She was so upset and critical of him that he couldn't handle it and stayed drunk all the time.

    Their five girls tried their best to act like nothing was wrong. They were among the five most beautiful, charming, intelligent, sexy girls in the whole city, but Harry's decline took its toll on all of them. During the Depression, my mom weighed less than 80 pounds, because there was little food. They ate from a big pot of never-ending stew that they kept warm on the stove 24 hours a day. They just kept adding water and vegetables and whatever meat they could get their hands on.

    Mom and her sisters were all thin and would share each other's clothes. They'd have one outfit for each girl and they'd mix and match. To this day my mom worries sick about money and always fears that she and my dad are going to go broke. They don't throw anything away. Everything is recycled, wrapping paper, ribbons, old tires, cars, everything. Like many others, my mother is a child of the Depression and that never goes away. All these crazy fears that she has, are now mine.
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    CHAPTER FIVE

    MY DAD

    I don't actually know what fears my dad ever had. He has never shown any, except maybe that his kids are going to lose it, lose it all.

    Just before World War II, my dad was named to two different Canadian amateur wrestling teams bound for international competitions. One trip to the British Empire Games was cancelled due to a lack of funding and the second to the Olympics was cancelled due to the outbreak of the war. Had that not happened, I believe my dad would have won a gold medal representing Canada.

    During the war, when he was on leave from the navy, my dad would slip in and out of the New York area to wrestle in small matches for cash. He had to be careful because he wanted to keep his amateur status in case he did get a chance to wrestle for Canada in the Olympics some day.

    He used to tell me stories about that time in his life. "I would work out in New York. I'd get on the exercise machines and wrestle. There were a bunch of these old crowbars down there waiting for the young punks like me to come and wrestle and they'd crank us up pretty good.

    "One of my bunkmates was a fellow named Max Summersville. He slept on the cot underneath me on the ship. I got to know him a little bit. He had seen me in Edmonton because I was playing a lot of sports up there ? basketball and soccer. I played pro football for a season with the Edmonton Eskimos at the time. I played cricket against John Bradman ? the greatest cricket player of all time. He was even knighted.

    "Anyway, Max Summersville and I had a two-week furlough and he wanted me to go with him to Washington, D.C. to visit his sister. So we hitchhiked from Cornwallis down through Boston and New York and Baltimore into D.C.

    "Joe Carter was the light heavyweight champion of the world and he had a restaurant there. I saw posters of a wrestling match in the window, so I went in to have a cup of coffee and thought I'd have something to eat. I passed by this big fat guy in his fifties with these big cauliflower ears. He looked up and said, ?Hey kid, have you ever wrestled?? I said I had won the Canadian wrestling championship. Then he said, ?I knew you wrestled by the size of your neck.?

    "He introduced himself as Toots Mondt and asked me some questions about what I was doing. So I told him I was from Edmonton. He said, ?Did you ever hear of a Jack Taylor up there?? I said, ?Yes, I watched Jack Taylor wrestle in 1932 in Edmonton. He wrestled Tiger Dooligan.? The old bastard smiled, ?You know, Jack Taylor? Jack gave me my first wrestling lesson in Greeley, Colorado in 1916.?

    ?I said I was in the Canadian Navy. He asked me to sit down for a bite to eat. We talked for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then he asked me to join his wrestling operation. He said, ?I could use you here in Washington, D.C. You could wrestle in Joe Turner's arena.? I said I couldn't right now because of the navy. So he said, ?When you get out of the navy, come and join me.? We kept in touch and when I got out, I met him in New York and he put me to work.?

    When my dad came into my mom's life in 1947, he was fresh from the war. He was 30 years old in New York City and a Canadian. She had just turned 17 and he thought she was "a pretty little devil.? He also thought her sisters, Patsy and Betty, weren't bad looking either.

    He regaled the girls with his war stories. He had witnessed some horrific events. One of the worst was watching a man decapitated on D-Day. The guy got drunk the night before and was terribly hung over. He belonged to the shore patrol. The next day they were making their rounds in the shore patrol car and he stuck his head out the window and started vomiting. He drove too close to the shore where there were lifeboats parked on the water, close to the edge of the street. There was a hook on one of the boats hanging off a long pole. It was sharp and sturdy, strong enough to hold a thousand pounds. It caught him around the neck as he drove past and pulled his head right off.

    Dad met Mom through a friend of his named Paul Boesh, who was a lifeguard at Long Beach. When Paul spotted my grandfather Harry and his family, he went over and introduced himself. My dad used to go to Coney Island to work out. But Paul convinced him to come to Long Beach one Sunday instead and that was where Paul introduced my dad to my mom.

    Tar from the ships had come in off the tide coating the bottom of her feet as she waded in the water. My dad gallantly offered to remove it for her. She said okay. So sitting side by side on a blanket, my dad gently scraped the tar off the bottom of her feet. I've always thought this was such an appropriate way for them to meet because he has devoted his life to watching over her in the 53 years since.

    My dad's family were farmers, transplanted from North Dakota. His grandfather, Donald Stuart, was a senator there. My dad was born in a little farmhouse on the southern edge of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1915. His full name is Stewart Edward Hart. His father was Edward and his mother, Elizabeth. He had two sisters, Sylvester and Edrie.

    When he was four years old his most treasured possession was a ball that he had made out of salvaged scraps of string or rags. Day after day he'd roll them together until it was the size of a small baseball. His father found him playing with it one day and snatched it away admonishing him that there was no time for toys on a farm.

    That's how his father was. That hard old man lived into his 90s. My dad went to Mayfair School for grade one when he was six years old, then moved with his family to a farm at Forgan. Squatters burned their farmhouse down, driving the family into a tent on the outskirts of the property.

    They stayed in that tent through the harsh Saskatchewan winter of 1929. Temperatures dropped to 40 below zero. To stay warm they kept their cow inside the tent with them. Most of the time she provided the family with milk, but it was so cold on some mornings it was impossible to milk her because the teats on her udder were frozen. They cooked on stones gathered for a fire pit outside the front flap. When they were done eating, they'd bring the hot stones inside to heat the small area. The harsh conditions were too much for Elizabeth who suffered from diabetes and died that winter. The rest of the family persevered.

    When Dad was 11, he hunted for rabbits and squirrels with a slingshot in order to feed the family. His best friend was a pet hawk he'd raised from a chick. The hawk would retrieve the small animals he shot down. School was not an option. He had no shoes, just rags tied around his bare feet. Finally the Salvation Army stepped in. The Salvation Army has been a good friend to our family through the years. They fed and clothed my dad while he was growing up and he turned to them again for our clothing through some of the lean years when I was little.

    In 1946 my dad had heard a lot about Harry Smith, the former treasurer of New York City. After he started dating my mom, my dad would take Harry for rides and Harry would call my dad, "son." My dad would be driving in a big, big old car. Harry Smith wasn't used to cars as he had always walked or run everywhere, so they would be driving down the street and Harry would say, "Turn here son," just as they had passed the turn. Harry didn't understand you needed more notice in a car than on foot.

    My dad felt privileged to be in his company. He used to take Harry to the Atlantic Ocean. No matter how cold the water was Harry would dip his bad leg in the water. It felt so good that he would wade into the surf time and time again. Harry's leg was pretty well black and should have been amputated years before, but he refused the operation.

    Harry had a lot of respect for my dad too. He recognized that my dad would have been in the Olympics had it not been for World War II. My dad was modest about what a great amateur wrestler he was. He still is today at age 85.

    My dad and mom, Stu and Helen, married on New Year's Eve, 1948, during the worst blizzard of the century. Helen turned to her new husband and asked, "How long are we going to be in wrestling, Stu??

    "Only two years," he promised.
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    CHAPTER SIX

    GROWING UP HART

    I was seldom allowed to go to the arenas to watch wrestling. My dad was adamant that none of his daughters would get involved in the business. We weren't even allowed to go down into "the dungeon," the training ring in the basement of our house, until the "fresh" smell from the wrestlers had dissipated. I also didn't know anything about "predetermined matches," (a match where the outcome is decided ahead of time) or the terms "heel" (bad guy) and "baby face" (good guy). My dad got really mad at me once because I asked Owen in the car ride home from school, "What's a heel? What's a baby face?"

    My dad growled, "I don't want you two discussing that. Do you understand?" He had too much respect for wrestling. He wanted everyone to believe in it, not just wrestling fans and not just the people who paid to see it. He wanted his family to believe it too.

    I inherited my dad's passion for wrestling, as did my brother Bret. This led to the only fistfight I've ever had in my adult life ? me against my 230-pound brother, who was in peak condition.

    My mom and dad had 12 kids. Smith Stewart Hart was born November 28, 1948. Bruce Ambrose Edwardious was born January 13, 1951. Keith William was born August 21, 1952. Wayne Curtis Michael was born November 19, 1953. Dean Harry Anthony was born January 3, 1955. Elizabeth Patricia was born February 4, 1956. Georgia Louise was born May 21, 1957. Bret Sergeant was born July 2, 1958. Alison Joan (Joan for my mother's sister,) born December 7, 1959. Ross Lindsay, honoring one of my dad's Negro friends Luther Lindsay, was born January 3, 1961. I, Diana Joyce Hart, was born October 8, 1963. And Owen James Hart was born May 7, 1965.

    All the boys except Owen had single-syllable names. My mom wanted it to be that way. She thought it sounded better with Hart. My dad had liked the name Owen and my mom liked James because it was her father's second name. Ellie was named for her grandmother. Many of the girls' names came from my mom's favorite writers, Kathleen Norris and Edna Ferber the woman who authored So Big and Showboat. Smith was my mom's maiden name.

    Smith was the first grandchild and he was a big boy. He had blue eyes like the shoe buttons women wore at the beginning of the century. His nickname became Shoe-y. My mom's mother just adored him. Actually Mom's parents, Harry and Ellie, raised Smith. Mom was expecting Bruce and was in a car accident in Montana. A woman had escaped from a mental institution in a stolen car and was making her getaway when she ran through a stop sign. She hit my mother's car while Mom was getting driving lessons from my dad.

    Mom went right through the teak dashboard. She was in her seventh month of pregnancy and every bone in her face was broken. There was a flat of jars full of strawberry jam in the back seat. The flat hit my mom in the back of the head but she refused painkillers at the hospital because she didn't want to hurt her baby.

    To this day she is devoted to Bruce because she worried so much about him from that day, two months before he was even born. While she was in the hospital recovering, she had to have her jaw wired shut and her face reconstructed. They were concerned that she would lose Bruce.

    At the same time, my dad was trying to get his wrestling company going. So they all thought the best thing was to have Smith go live with Gaga (Ellie) and Harry. When the time came for my mom and dad to get their son back, my mom's mother didn't want to give Smith up. She said, "No, no, we're attached to him, we can't give him back." And she was serious about it.

    So there was a tug-of-war over Smith. I don't think Ellie ever forgave Mom for insisting she give him back. As I said before, she was a little bit saucy. It was either her way or the highway, and she would criticize you forever if you didn't go along.
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    CHAPTER SEVEN

    SMITH

    Smith is quite warped, but he's not a pervert.

    Like my parents he never likes to waste anything. Years ago he was cruising along in his Cadillac, the one he used to transport himself and his crew for my brother Dean's landscaping business, when he accidentally ran over a pheasant. Minutes later, he hopped back in the car shaking his head sadly. He turned to Owen and said, "No point in having the bird die a senseless death."

    He spent the next day in the kitchen chopping and cooking, getting this big feast ready. We all sat down to dinner and it was pheasant under glass. Well, after we dug in, Owen opened his big mouth and told us it was really road kill. We all put down our forks and Smith was really hurt.

    Smith's first child was illegitimate. I was 10 when Smith impregnated Marla Josephson a girl my dad called "an arena rat." He hid the pregnancy from my parents, until during her eighth month my dad saw Marla and Smith together. When my dad questioned Smith about it, he was defiant and answered, "Yeah she's carrying my baby. So what?"

    My mom and dad were shattered. Apparently Marla had been sleeping around, but Smith took full responsibility for the baby. When Toby was born, my mom and dad were so disappointed and disgusted they could never accept the baby girl, especially because there was always doubt as to whether Smith was her biological father.

    She is grown up now and she turned out just like her mom. None of us ever sees either of them. Smith brought Toby around when my brother Dean died and she made a brief appearance when Owen died. I'm not saying my dad isn't nice to them. He just doesn't think of her as his granddaughter and will always feel that she was born because Smith being was an ass and Marla was a tramp.

    Smith has had two other children out of wedlock, Matthew with a girl named Leanne Reiger and Chad with a girl named Zoe. When Matthew was born Smith was no longer seeing Leanne. He had moved on to a relationship with Zoe, after first dating her mother. He started sleeping with Zoe when she was just 15 years old.

    Smith lost custody of Chad when Zoe became a prostitute and gave the baby up to her great aunt, Kathie Pointen and her husband Vern. Smith launched a custody battle and Chad became a foster child with a prominent Calgary gynecologist. In fact, the gynecologist and his wife tried to adopt him, but the aunt fought it and won custody. So Chad now lives with Kathie and Vern.

    Smith is consumed with a lawsuit to regain custody of Chad, but so far he hasn't done too well in court. My brothers Keith and Bret were subpoenaed to testify and Keith said he felt that if Smith had custody he would leave Chad in the hands of my elderly parents. Chad is a handful due to attention deficit disorder.

    Bret was even harsher. He testified that he had never known Smith to hold down a job and that he had witnessed Smith force-feeding Matthew. Both brothers said they wouldn't consider letting Smith baby-sit their own kids.

    In fairness, Smith has done a lot of things to bury himself and cast aspersions on his reputation. He's lost his license due to several unpaid traffic tickets, but hasn't made any attempt to pay them off because of his anti-government-authority stance. He drives my dad's car anyway. And my dad always says, "I don't know what I'll do if the police catch him. If something happened to him and he had an accident and he doesn't have a license, what will I do?"

    I just hope someone in heaven is watching over Smith, maybe our deceased brothers Dean or Owen. Right now, the court is trying to reduce the four hours per week that Smith spends with Chad to four hours every six months.

    Zoe is dead. Her life as a prostitute killed her. Smith worked hard to try to get her off drugs. The police are not sure whether it was suicide, an accident or murder. She may have overdosed on drugs or someone may have injected her.

    Smith lives with my mom and dad up in their big mansion on the hill on Calgary's west side. They have given him the entire top floor. He doesn't bother with housekeeping, but then neither does anyone else in the house. His place is wall-to-wall dust, cat fur, books and chaos.

    When Matthew visits, he runs around the house dirty-faced and shoeless, like a wild animal. My dad is in his eighties and he is the only one who ever seems to be able to get Matthew to sit and eat. Maybe Smith is crazy, I don't know.

    My dad says Smith was the best wrestler of all his sons and a particularly good villain. He had all the right facial expressions. I think it comes from being so cynical. He didn't used to be that way.

    On one of Bret's first wrestling tours, Smith wanted to go to the beach in Puerto Rico and suntan. There, he spotted his future wife, Maria Rosetta. She was a bikini model.

    I remember Bret telling me that Smith was mesmerized. He could not take his eyes off of her. He told Bret he was going to marry her and that she was the girl for him. It turned out she didn't speak a word of English.

    Maria, her sister Rosa, and her mother were very poor. When Smith first dated her, she would wash her clothes on a washboard in the ocean with a rock. For drinking water, Maria would go down to the well and fill a ceramic jug, then carry it back to her home on her head. Years later Maria still had bumps on her head from carrying the huge jugs. Smith quickly learned enough Spanish to communicate. They fell in love and she moved to Calgary.

    When I first met Maria I thought we would become good pals because we were both the same age, but Smith pulled the wool over her eyes and that got in the way of any friendship that could have developed.

    No one in our family spoke Spanish and Smith communicated with her in a butchered version of the language. When he first brought Maria to visit, he wanted to marry her so desperately; he represented himself as owning our house, our business and all of our property. Because he was such a wrestling sensation in Puerto Rico, she believed him. They married when she was 17 and still a virgin.
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    At first, Maria seemed puzzled that we were all living in her home. She thought that we were all a bunch of freeloaders living off Smith's generosity. Finally, she became annoyed. She began to lock herself in her bedroom. When was her husband's family going to leave? Smith would bring heaping plates of food and leave them outside her door. She'd respond by smashing the dishes on the stairs.

    My dad didn't mind her antisocial behavior but when she threw the food away he got angry. "That was a gaddamn good dinner and she broke the dish too!"

    Her behavior became more and more erratic. She and Smith would take two-hour showers together. They would sing duets and laugh and fool around. I remember pounding on the door begging them to get out so I could get ready for school. Maria would always respond with a "fok off."

    When I would report this to my dad, he would barge into the bathroom, flick the lights off and on and order them to "finish up." This would lead to a major fight.

    "This is my house! Go to hell! Why is your father ordering us out of our own bathroom?"

    I think I preferred hearing them fight to listening to their make-up sessions, which always culminated in a noisy, passionate reunion in their bedroom on the floor above mine.

    My dad and mom begged Smith to get Maria psychiatric help, but he refused. Sometimes she would strip off all her clothes and climb up on the balcony railing off our second-floor landing and wave at the airplanes. One time when it was 40 below outside and the snow was hip deep; she walked over to our neighbors' and tried to rescue them from an imagined fire.

    The last summer she lived with us, in 1987, she made an unprovoked attack on Alison and Ellie's mother-in-law, Katie Neidhart. Alison was having tea with Katie. Katie offered Maria a candy bar. Maria didn't respond. Then suddenly she turned from the stove where she had been cooking rice and pounced on Alison.

    Alison was holding her newborn baby girl, Brooke, so she couldn't properly defend herself when Maria began tearing Alison's hair out in clumps. It was as if Maria were fighting for her life. Katie tried to pull Maria off Alison, but Maria, screaming like a wildcat, kept clawing and scratching. Finally, Katie got her in a bear hug.

    Desperate to escape, Alison bit down on the hand closest to her. Unfortunately, it was Katie's. The pain was so intense Katie couldn't even cry out to let Alison know she was biting the wrong person. Meanwhile, my parents were in their bedroom watching television. There are 18 stairs, a long hallway and a solid oak door between the kitchen and their room. My dad was 72 at the time and hard of hearing, but my mom thought she heard something.

    "Do you hear that, Buffy?" she asked my dad.

    "I think I did, Tiger." he replied. "I better go see."

    When he opened their bedroom door, one of Maria's wails cut through the house. He sprinted to the kitchen and separated Maria from Katie and his battered daughter. My dad confronted Smith that night.

    "You're gaddamned lucky Maria didn't crack baby Brooke's head open on the tile floor!"

    My dad ordered Smith to take Maria to the hospital, but again he refused. That night our family had a meeting. Enough was enough. Since Smith and Maria would not take any steps to deal with Maria's mental illness, she would have to return to Puerto Rico. We basically voted her out of the country. Within a week she was gone.

    She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and last year she died of pneumonia. It is debatable whether she went crazy because this was common in her father's side of the family, or whether she lost her mind from so many hits of the bad acid she took in Calgary in 1984.

    Maria and a wrestler named Mike Hammer and a hired hand named Kevin Trembley dropped acid from the same batch just before a wrestling trip to Regina and they went nuts. That night, Mike Hammer went out and hired a prostitute to whip him, burn his back with lit cigarettes and walk all over him wearing spiked heels.

    He was so whipped and burned that he couldn't sit down properly in the van on the way to Regina. Instead he knelt on the floor with his elbows on the seat. This was far less painful than missing the match and having to trying to explain why to my dad. The acid made Mike's eyes so weird, they shivered. Mike's future claim to fame was that he gave Chris Benoit, WWF's "Rabid Wolverine," his initial instruction in wrestling.

    The day after dropping this same acid, Kevin tried to hang himself in the horse stalls from one of the beams in the back of the arena in Regina. Before they cut him down he had already messed himself. He was close to dead, but my brother Wayne and my brother-in-law Ben Bassarab, found him and resuscitated him.

    According to Smith, Ellie's husband Jim Neidhart, my other bastard brother-in-law, made several passes at Maria, which she ignored. Maria had become quite dependent on pot. She was a hot-blooded Spanish girl so Smith gave her plenty because he thought it would calm her down.

    Smith is a staunch pot supporter. He doesn't think it should be illegal. I do, because I think it alters your mind and destroys your brain cells like crazy. I never found it did much for me, except make me paranoid.

    When Maria lost her mind she became quite a minus. Like so many drug addicts she was not the same person and you could never get her back. She would sit and rock back and forth, crying one second, laughing hysterically the next. Then she'd threaten to kill you and cry again, all within 20 minutes. She gained over 30 pounds and shaved her head.

    Maria and Smith had a baby named Tanya. Tanya was born after Maria started to lose her mind. When she was pregnant, Maria ran back to Puerto Rico. We didn't see Tanya until she was about a year-and-a-half old. When she returned, Smith raised her largely with the help of my mom and dad.

    Tanya's real name is Satanya after the devil. Satanya Ecstasy Hart. At the time Maria and Smith had lost their faith in God because of the way their lives had turned out.

    Smith's life philosophy shows in the way he treats cars. He'd pick us up from school or he'd drive us out to the beach and he would floor it all the way. He wrapped one of my dad's limousines around a telephone pole and managed to walk away. He has always taken his frustrations out on his cars.

    In Smith's eyes, a good-quality car will hold up to the abuse. But if it's a car of lousy quality, then it deserves to be driven "like the piece of **** it is." The same thing with people. If they can put up with Smith's treatment, they survive. And if they can't, they die a slow or painful death. To Smith, it makes no difference whether it's a car, a telephone, an old pair of pants or a person.
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    CHAPTER EIGHT

    OWEN'S RIBS

    I see a lot of Owen in Smith. They have the same laugh lines, the same voice, the same cheeks and the same salty humor. I wonder how Owen's widow Martha, could not want her kids to see Smith when he and Owen are so much alike.

    When Owen was tag-teaming with Davey and it was his turn to wait in the corner while Davey wrestled with say, the Smoking Guns, Billy and Bart, Owen would be shouting all kinds of foul things just to get Davey laughing.

    He'd scream, "Scratch his box! Scratch his snatch!" Things like that. Well Davey would start chuckling and so would the Guns. They'd all be ordering Owen to stop it.

    Owen was always up to something, either messing up his hair or spiking it up as high as he could. Sometimes he'd comb it straight down flat against his forehead before a TV taping. He was a great joker and a real showman.

    In 1993, Christina Neal from the British magazine Gladiators, became a really good friend of mine. She started out as rock star journalist, writing profiles of bands like Oasis and The Verve. Then she became quite a wrestling fan and decided to do an article on Owen.

    Owen set it up by phone from the States. He arranged to meet her at his hotel when he toured England. She came into his room at the appointed time and he emerged from the bathroom wearing a tee-shirt and trunks that bulged obscenely at the front. He had rolled up a big bath towel and shoved down his shorts.

    It looked ridiculous, but he acted very nonchalant. Smiling and shaking hands he asked, "Okay what did you want to talk about?"

    She thought, "Oh, my God, is he for real?" because she didn't know him.

    Owen had a gift for keeping a straight face, so he sat down cross-legged on the end of the bed and proceeded to answer her questions. When the interview was over he let her in on the apparent joke. She thought he was hilarious and they became good pals.

    Smith got up to similar antics when he was in Germany in the late ?70s. All the wrestlers had to come down to the ring in parade fashion before the matches started so that the fans could see who was wrestling on the card that night. The wrestlers would come out one at a time to get introduced in their gear, then they?d wait in the ring until the last person arrived then leave the ring in the same order they had arrived.

    Each night during this tournament, Smith would come out in a different outfit. One night, he did a mechanical robot walk, another night he came out with a towel stuffed down the front of his trunks. And one night he got bored and came up with a scheme that nearly got him kicked out of Germany.

    The tournament was held in a big tent on the fairgrounds in Hanover and it was several weeks long. The pay was bad, but the upside was the experience gained and the opportunity to meet other wrestlers, which could lead to more work in other countries.

    Smith had been growing a mustache, a bushy one. The last night of the tournament, he shaped it to look like Hitler's. He parted his hair over by his ear, and slicked it down with Vaseline and rubbed it with black shoe polish. He waited until mere moments before the marching music so nobody would stop him. Once in the ring, he raised his hand in a Heil Hitler salute and the entire arena, which had been buzzing with excitement over the impending match, went totally silent. Only the wrestlers were cracking up. The promoter was furious.

    Owen's impressions were awesome. He could imitate my dad perfectly. Even Owen's best friends didn't recognize it was him on the phone if he didn't want them to.

    In 1986, Owen was on the road with Mr. Hughes, a huge African American wrestler. Owen was in the hotel room when Mr. Hughes was unpacking his stuff. He noticed Hughes had lots of stolen hotel towels and ashtrays and soap in his suitcase. Later, when Owen was back in his own room he called Hughes.

    "This is the hotel manager. It has come to our attention you are stealing things from our hotel."

    "Uh no, I don't know what you mean," replied Mr. Hughes.

    "Don't play coy with me sir." Owen scolded. "I happen to be aware you've taken towels, washcloths and even an ashtray! I am calling Mr. McMahon. I want you people out of my hotel. Now! Out! All of you!"

    "Sir, sir..." Mr. Hughes stuttered. "I was planning to put it all back. I need the towels for work tonight. I wasn't planning to steal anything."

    "You bunch of thieves," Owen ranted. "Pack your things, or I'm calling the police. I'm ordering you all out."

    Mr. Hughes was really upset. He didn't want Vince to get word that he was causing all this trouble, but he had to get ready for the match that night. So he promised to meet the manager in his office first thing in the morning. Owen, playing the manager, reluctantly agreed.

    The next morning as the wrestlers were getting ready to board buses and taxis for the airport, Owen had a good laugh as he watched poor Mr. Hughes slink into the manager's office with two cups of coffee in hand. The manager must have wondered what in the heck Mr. Hughes was talking about.

    Davey wrestled together with Owen as a tag team for 15 years, spending countless days on the road together. Most of the TV footage of Owen includes Davey with him horsing around. Owen would always encourage Davey to walk ahead, muscles bulging in a strongman pose, and then as Davey neared the ring, Owen would race in front and strike a pose of his own. They were inseparable.

    In fact, the last conversation Owen and Davey had was in April 1999 a month before Owen died. Owen visited Davey at the Rockyview Hospital in Calgary. Even though Davey was affiliated with the WWF's rival, WCW, and Owen was a WWF star, they were determined to wrestle together again. Owen said he was working it out with Vince.

    When they traveled together, Owen loved to pull the ribs on Davey because he would get so mad and yet would be unable to stop laughing. One time they boarded a flight back to Calgary after a show in Atlanta. Owen and Bret upgraded to first class, but Davey was late and got stuck in coach. That was really uncomfortable for such a big guy.

    Owen and Bret got comfortable and Davey walked by. Owen whispered to Davey not to worry. He would help him move up front. But just before the plane took off, Owen called the male flight attendant over and confided in him that there was a passenger in coach who was a big wrestling fan.

    "He follows us around. He really believes he's a wrestler and is always trying to act like he is one of us." Owen told the attendant that this guy would probably try to sneak into first class.

    "I don't mind him coming up and saying hi, but can you make sure he takes his seat back in coach after a few minutes??

    The flight attendant said, "Sure, just give me a signal."
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    A little later Owen visited Davey at the back of the plane and told him he had it all set up for him to move up to first class. So Davey moved all his stuff to an empty seat in front of Owen and Bret. They chatted a while then Davey settled back for a nap. Owen gave the flight attendant the signal.

    "Sir?" said the flight attendant as he leaned over Davey and shook him awake, "I think it's time for you to go and take your seat."

    Davey opened one eye. "What are you talking about? I'm s'posed to be ?ere. I'm a wrestler. These are my brothers-in-law." He jerked his thumb back toward Owen and Bret.

    The flight attendant looked over Davey's head to Owen who shook his head and circled his ear with a his forefinger indicating that Davey was crazy.

    The flight attendant turned back to Davey, "Yes, okay sir, good enough. But you still need to take your seat."

    Embarrassed, Davey stood up and gathered his things. As he passed them, Owen burst out laughing.

    "**** you Owen! And you too Bret. **** the both of you." Davey blustered and stormed off down the aisle.

    Ribs were pulled on Owen too, even ones that weren't too funny. Owen first got into wrestling in 1988. He never drank or took pills or any kind of drugs. He was on the road with Bret and Jim doing a coast-to-coast WWF tour. Owen was wrestling as the Blue Blazer. Bret and Jim were riding high as The Hart Foundation.

    Owen was very conservative and careful with his money. He couldn't fathom going out to a bar and spending $50 to get drunk, then having to deal with a hangover the next day. But one match in Chicago was held on Jim's birthday, so Owen relented because he wanted to fit in with the guys who he respected so much. That night he accompanied Jim, Davey, Dynamite and Bret to a blues club.

    Unfortunately for Owen, his compatriots had a hidden agenda. They had planned to get him wasted as part of his wrestling initiation.

    When Owen wasn't looking they dropped halcion in his beer. Of course it didn't take very much to get him totally bombed. First, he began slurring his words. Then he fell down. He was stymied. What the heck was going on? He'd only had one beer. Owen said he didn't remember much after that. But the guys made fun of him for days, telling him he?d passed out and had to be carried out from the bar.

    Owen got Bret back in 1995. He and Bret used to wrestle each other in the ?Brother vs. Brother? feud set up for the WWF main event. Bret was the baby face and Owen?the jealous little brother ? was the heel. One night Owen snuck into the ring before the show started and concealed a handful of sardines in the turnbuckle. Then in preparation for a quick exit after the show, he packed his bag and left it beside the door.

    When his match with Bret was nearing the finish, Owen passed by the turnbuckle and secretly scooped up the sardines. Then he slammed Bret and put him in a camel clutch, as they had previously agreed. This placed Bret flat on his stomach with Owen squatting on the small of Bret's back. Owen grabbed Bret under the chin and pulled his head. But this time he stuck his fingers inside Bret's mouth as if to pull his cheeks apart.

    Bret wondered what Owen was doing when an odd salty taste filled his mouth. Then Owen clamped Bret's mouth shut with both hands. Bret continued to try to be professional and sell the hold while puzzling over what was in his mouth. His eyes widened as he realized it wasn't just the taste of Owen's sweaty fingers on his tongue, it was a mouthful of raw fish!

    Owen refused to let go. Bret bucked like a bronco throwing Owen to the mat. Spitting and choking, he put Owen in a particularly rough Sharpshooter, his signature move. Owen tapped out, jumped up and ran through the curtain past Davey and a group of agents who were all wiping tears from their eyes after watching what Owen had done. Bret was hot on Owen's heels screaming at him about his unprofessional behavior, which made everyone laugh even harder.

    Even Dad wasn't exempt from Owen's phone shenanigans. Twelve years ago when Dad was in his 70s and still a strong athlete, he, Bret and Jade, Bret's daughter, were at Wrestlemania. They were watching the show from a suite when the phone rang. Bret picked it up. It was for my dad.

    The guy on the other line said he was Reg Parks, a retired wrestler and long-time friend of my dad's. Reg was into jogging and light weight training. Puzzled over why he would need to speak to my dad right then, Bret handed him the phone.

    Bret watched as Dad nodded and chuckled into the phone. ?Hiya, Reg. Ah yeah, I'm here with Bret watching the show. What can I do for you?"

    Suddenly my dad frowned and said, "What's that Reg? What are you saying?"

    My dad got madder and madder until he was yelling into the phone. ?I'm a what? Oh really!" Then he stood up.

    "If you really think you can take me, Reg, we should just go down in the lobby right gaddamned now and we'll just see!"

    Then the caller said something and my dad slammed the phone down on the cradle and sat down.

    "That little bastard Owen got me again," he muttered.
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    CHAPTER NINE

    GROWING UP HART: II

    My mom calls my dad Buff, for Buffy, and he calls her Tiger or Tigerbell. Other than that, I have never heard him use a pet name. He would use them to be sarcastic of course: honey, ****bird or farto, if you wouldn't eat your cereal and the school bus was honking. Between running the wrestling and doing all the cooking and cleaning for 14 people, he had no time to be delicate. If we were stalling, it was, "Get on the gaddamn bus, ****bird." If anyone at the table ever said, "Do you have a sore tummy?" it wasn't out of concern. It was an accusation and caused instant heat at the house. If my dad ever said it to anyone, they got little snickers from everybody at the table. My dad would admonish anyone who left food on a plate.

    ?Make that disappear while I watch.?

    If you heckled, you'd get a thunk on the head with a metal serving spoon. "That goes for you too." One of the worst things he could call you was a ?softie toffee.?

    "Eat up ****bird. Do you want some softie toffee to rot your gaddamn teeth out?"

    We had to eat our oatmeal, weevils and all. My dad figured they added protein to our diet. Sometimes those bugs would still be alive and kicking, even after the cereal had been boiled for 15 minutes. We would watch them swim around in our milk, if there was enough milk. It never seemed to hurt us. What's worse, that or eating a dead cow?

    Though we lived inside the city limits, my dad owned 25 undeveloped hillside acres so he often bought farm animals. My dad loved our cow named Daphne, which the City of Calgary ended up accidentally killing. They picked her up with a backhoe when they where digging a roadway called Sarcee Trail, which was to pass in front of our house. They never mentioned the accident and as far as we knew, Daphne went missing. We called everywhere, but the humane society had no reports of stray cows.

    Daphne had been dead for about a month when a neighbor reported seeing her body lying at the end of the road the city was building. My dad was saddened by her death. She was a lovely cow, she really was. And he was so impressed that she gave milk only having calved once.

    Bruce and Smith used to compete milking her. Smith hated to lose so during one competition he top up his pail with water to make it to look like he got more than Bruce. But compared with the rich, thick, frothy cream that Bruce handed to my dad, it was pretty obvious what Smith had done. My dad put the fear of God in Smith for that one. He snatched Smith up off the ground by his Adam's apple and warned him not to try that again, gaddamnit.

    We also had goats. Cicero was a goat who used to pee everywhere, even on its own whiskers. One time Cicero wet on Daphne's head and she got so mad she turned around and kicked him so hard he flew up in the air and bounced off the carriage house door. We had a rooster and hen given to us by a Mexican wrestler, Jess Ortega who wrestled under the name Mighty Ursus. We named them Mighty Ursus and Edna.

    Mighty liked to crow at the crack of dawn which woke Smith up and annoyed him to no end so he decided he would try to break Mighty of the habit. One morning he snuck up on Mighty just as he was about to crow and startled him. This scared the crow right out of the bird and he strutted around for the rest of the day trying to cough it out.

    In 1973 when my brother Owen was eight years old, we had a cat we found as a stray out at the beach. We named her Mom Cat, because she had so many litters. She was a great little hunter and, while playing with Owen one day, she caught a gopher in the yard. The mayor of Calgary, Rod Sykes, was over for a visit. While my dad and he were having a chat in the yard, Owen came up and tugged on my dad's sleeve. He was concerned that the cat was going to take the gopher into the house.

    "Dad, Mom's got a gopher and it's still alive and she's got it in her mouth!"

    The mayor's eyes widened in horror when my dad told Owen not to worry, she'd probably just eat it on the porch. We eventually donated the bigger animals to the Calgary Zoo, including our big horn sheep and our horses, Ricky and King.

    Animals always figured highly in our upbringing. Even today, people take stray cats up to Stu Hart's. They know they will get the best home possible, including the best of everything, from milk, to food, to discipline.

    We had a Siamese cat named Heathcliff, who helped Owen a lot with his wrestling. Owen developed quite a relationship with the cat and practiced wrestling holds on it. It was his guinea pig and Owen knew if he could do pile drivers and knee drops on Heathcliff without hurting him, then of course he could do them on a person. That's one way Owen got to be so good.

    When Heathcliff got irritated about something we did to him, or if we brought a cigarette smoker into the house, he would retaliate by wetting in the toaster. My dad loved his big commercial electric toaster. It looked like a wall safe. It had six slots and made a really loud ticking sound. When my dad smelled what Heathcliff had done in his toaster, he got so mad he grabbed the cat's head and shoved it in the toilet. He flushed, yelling, "You bastard!" He'd done it to some of us kids before, but never a cat.

    When I was a baby, former world heavyweight boxer Jack Sharkey was in town. My dad had invited him to appear as a celebrity attraction at the wrestling. En route to the airport, Jack and his wife stopped by the house for a visit. Jack was dapper in his knee-length yellow cashmere coat, but he was a real blowhard. My dad had suffered silently the entire weekend through Jack's recounting over and over all his wonderful accomplishments in and out of the boxing ring.

    At the time my dad was breeding dogs. He owned the best dog of its breed, a grand champion boxer named BF of Rosscarack. BF was a huge animal and he had the run of the house. That night, BF was lying at my dad's side listening to Jack as he launched into yet another story about his athletic prowess in the ring.

    BF stood up, yawned and studied Jack for a moment. Then he moved over toward the ex-champ, lifted his leg and urinated all over him. Jack reacted as if he'd been electrocuted. He jumped up in shock, shaking with fury. He kicked at BF fiercely in an attempt to castrate the dog on the spot with his boot. But BF was too fast for him.

    "You people have no respect for a great athlete and world champion like me. You Canadians are all the same, so jealous of genuine heroes. I promise you I will never set foot in this hell hole again!"

    "Ah, Jack."

    My dad was on his feet helping Jack shuck off his urine-soaked coat. "I'm so sorry about that. Don't know what got into BF. Git, boy!" My dad gave the dog an affectionate nudge with his knee.

    In the end, Jack was forced to board the plane sans cashmere coat, which was wrapped in plastic and tucked in his suitcase. My dad gave him money to dry-clean the coat, but Jack never spoke to him again.

    My sister Alison was a picky eater. She would cry or whine or wretch if she didn't want to eat any more sauerkraut which always seemed to be in abundance. Alison would clamp her teeth together, and my dad would force her mouth open with a fork or spoon, digging it right up into her gums under her lip.

    "What's the matter? Do you have a sore tummy?" He was imitating my mom, because when my mom was there, she always came to our defense. "Oh Stu, don't do that, don't make them. If they don't want to eat, don't make them."

    This would frustrate my dad. Not eating what was put in front of you was one of the few things that made him furious. He'd shout, "Gaddamn it, eat up!"

    We knew through my mom that he had had to eat worm-infested rabbits and gophers when he was our age in order to survive. Like Scarlett O'Hara he was determined that neither he nor his children would ever go hungry.

    My dad continued to feed Alison, even into her teens. She would cry and my dad would say, "Eat up dahling..." really sarcastically. This would make everyone crack up. She would take forever. She'd chew it, pretend to swallow then secretly spit it out and give it to the dogs. Someone would catch her and tell my dad and he'd force her to fill up her dish again. "Don't be wasting the gaddamned food!"

    We never visited the dentist. There was no need. My dad's strict policies limited candy and sweets. He insisted that we brush our teeth faithfully even when we were out of Pepsodent and had to resort to soap. We all had strong, healthy teeth.
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    Another thing my dad would never tolerate was sickness. That came into play when my brother Dean first became ill and eventually died. We were all in extreme denial throughout. "He couldn't be sick. We're the Harts. We don't get sick. Even when we're sick, we're not supposed to be sick."

    One morning, poor Alison was really nauseous. She was 10 years old, but still a tiny little thing. She was so sick that while digging her clothes out of the big industrial clothes dryer in the basement, she fell right inside and passed out. My dad came down searching for her. He told her to get her gaddamned head out of the dryer and get the upstairs and he made her go to school.

    When she got there she had to deal with her miserable teacher, who was particularly hard on her. She was a witch. She used to pull Alison's hair if she asked a question that had already been asked. Sometimes she'd make Alison sit in the corner in front of the whole class. She'd drag her by the hair and put her there.

    Owen's grade one teacher, Miss Rubenstein, wanted to make Owen repeat the grade. My mom was just sick about it. She would not let Miss Rubenstein keep Owen back. She was adamant.

    "If you keep him back, he will think he's a failure and he'll never regain his confidence." My mom was right. Owen became a good student and went on to university.

    Georgia did well in most subjects, but Ellie had real trouble in math. She got 4% in math one year with Mr. Falk, the math teacher at Ernest Manning. We all did best in social studies and English, thanks to my mom. She'd check our work and make sure that our grammar and punctuation were correct. She always came to the rescue if she found a dangling participle or a problem with conjunctions.

    She found it excruciating to watch the wrestlers interviewed. Sometimes she'd pause before the television set for a brief moment while they threatened to tear each other to pieces. She'd shake her head in disgust. ?Ugh! Listen to that grammar!"

    My mom hated bad grammar. She could barely stand talking to Mrs. Carr, one of Ross' teachers at Vincent Massey High School, due to her atrocious grammar. Ross thought Mrs. Carr was impossible. He was a good student except in her class. It seemed no matter what he did she would get on his case. When Ross was 27 and working as a substitute teacher, he got a call from Vincent Massey to work. He was late, so he hurried into the school. As he passed by Mrs. Carr she barked, "Ross! Stop running in the halls! And get rid of that baseball cap!"

    The one kid among us who legitimately had a lot of trouble in school was Bret. He was handled very badly by his teachers. Some threw books at him and called him stupid and told him he would never amount to anything. Now he writes a weekly newspaper column, which includes his own cartoon drawings.

    Mr. Marks taught art to both Bret and me. He was warm and encouraging and recognized talent in both of us. A few years ago when Ernest Manning High School was being renovated, Mr. Marks refused to let them sand the wall where Bret had carved his name.

    Maybe some teachers picked on us because we were so poor. I remember not having any socks. My mom and dad didn't have any socks either. One year for Christmas, all the boys got was a hockey puck, socks, a mandarin orange and homemade chocolate cookies. The girls got paper dolls in lieu of the pucks.

    Lunch at our house consisted of stacks of enormous corn beef sandwiches, dripping with mustard and mayonnaise on rye bread. I can still see the cats gingerly licking the meat and blood residue off the blade housed in the huge industrial meat slicer. I remember opening the fridge and seeing a huge cow tongue sitting on the shelf. We had a large cuckoo clock hanging on the wall beside the fridge covered in a fuzzy film of cooking grease. On the counter by the window there was a large wooden chopping block made of hardwood. It was at least 100 years old years old and eight inches thick. It was scarred like an old tomcat. Behind it sat an industrial-size milk machine.

    Numerous sounds would fill the kitchen at lunchtime, dishes clattering, phones ringing, dogs barking, children yacking and frolicking, horns honking outside and someone yelling "Hurry up! I gotta get back to school!" Oh, how I envied the children who brought tidy little paper bag lunches to school.

    When I look at old pictures of my mom, I see a prettier version of Rita Hayworth. She had long chestnut hair and an hourglass figure. Even now there is no hint of the 12 children she bore. She used to wear pretty Doris Day-type gingham dresses and sandals on her feet. She still has an upper-class Long Island accent.

    She spent most of her day working on the books for Stampede Wrestling in one of the upstairs bedrooms converted into an office. When my parents met, she was a private secretary for the superintendent of the New York City School Board.

    My dad used to say she was ?the best gaddamn office manager in the whole city." She handled all the finances for our house and business, while his job was to promote the wrestling and take care of the kids. That included all the cooking and cleaning. I remember my mom's desk blotter. She never wanted anyone writing on it. Once, Smith drew a swastika on it and she got so mad. My dad got mad too.

    "Smith, did you draw that gaddamned swastika on your mother's desk blotter?" Smith shook his head innocently, though of course he did it.

    My mom used a real fountain pen, a Schaeffer White Dot. Nobody ever touched her pen. You didn't even use it to write down a phone number. Each week she had to get the weekly wrestling advertisements ready. She'd type them out, add the photos by cutting out pictures of the wrestlers' heads, add the headlines and the stars in the right spots, underline what was most important, center everything and finally tape it to a piece of paper. It was like preparing camera-ready copy for newspapers without any of the usual editing equipment. Then she had to schedule the separate lineups for each town. My dad would drive the ads to the Greyhound bus for his different partners in each location. They had to keep an eye on everybody. The Lions Clubs and the Boy Scouts always did a good job, but my parents would often work with somebody that they thought they could rely on and that person would take off with the money. That happened a lot. We never knew who we could trust.

    My brother Dean was always pulling ribs and sometimes when my dad went to take out the garbage or start the car, Dean would call upstairs in my dad's gruff voice.

    "Dear?"

    "Yes Stu?" she would answer in a sugary tone.

    "Where are those gaddamned posters for Greyhound?" he'd demand.

    This would really upset her, "How dare you talk to me that way!"

    Then she'd slam the bedroom door as hard as she could, sending plaster sprinkling down on my dad as he came back into the house. He'd shake his head, "Why did she do that?"

    But all he'd get was the muffled retort, "Go to hell!" He'd turn to all 12 of us, sitting innocently at the dining room table. "What got your gaddamn mother all keyed up?"

    I have the utmost respect for my mom and dad. I got enough attention. I got encouragement. I mean maybe they were more concerned with keeping me fed than whether I had good self-esteem, but I do remember them telling Owen and me we had so much to offer and we were the best in the world.

    "Don't sell yourself short. You are so smart. You should be modeling. You should be in the Olympics."

    Beginning when I was seven years old, I practiced in the gym with Owen. We taught each other nip-ups and somersaults and flips. It was just the two of us putting each other through these little workouts that we had designed. "Okay, we've got to do 100 squats now." Owen and I did everything together.
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    When we started school we were two dirty-faced, unkempt-looking kids. A six-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl dressed in Salvation Army clothing, with uncombed hair. Sometimes we were climbing from rags to riches and sometimes falling from riches to rags. Riches brought Cadillacs, clothes and new toys. But more often than not we were poor and the kids at school constantly heaped scorn on us.

    Owen was an awesome marble player and always accumulated a bagful. At lunchtime while we waited for my dad or Dean or Bret to pick us up, we'd shoot marbles in the powdery playground dirt.

    One day, three grade 10 boys?Ken, Scott and Martin?approached us. They were privileged kids who looked down on us. Scott, the ringleader, called out, "Hey, it's the Hart farts."

    Martin joined in. "Little bastards. Their brother Bret is in my homeroom. The teacher says he's retarded."

    Then Ken began a singsong chant, "Tar-doe. Tar-doe. Tar-doe."

    Martin laughed, "The other day, she threw a book at him and told him he'd never amount to nothing."

    Ken was close enough now to kick some dirt at us. "Lowlifes. Have you seen their ****mobile?"

    Only Scott hung back. "I dunno, Bret is kinda tough."

    Ken spit on the ground beside me. "Bull****! Wrestling is fake. Everybody knows that, even the rummies who spend their weekends at the Pavilion." He narrowed his eyes at us. "Hey, Hart farts!"

    Martin leaned in close to Owen." Hart farts, nice clothes. Where'd you get them? Green Acres? What're you waiting for? The ****mobile?"

    Owen swallowed hard, but ignored the taunts and kept focused on the marbles. I felt my eyes stinging, but pretended to concentrate on the circle in the ground Owen had made with his index finger.

    Ken leaned in and grabbed up the whole sack. "Gimme your marbles."

    He kicked dirt at Owen and tossed the marbles in the air. Owen stood up, wiping the dirt from his eyes.

    Ken patted him on the head. "Hey a cat's eye! Thanks, Hart fart."

    Although Owen only came to his waist, he stood toe-to-toe with Ken and growled menacingly. "Give it back."

    Ken laughed and shoved Owen roughly and started making his way past him.

    Head down like an enraged bull; Owen leg-dived and threw Ken into a headlock. The other two jumped on Owen using him as a kicking bag. Owen managed to land a kick and Ken stumbled. He held Owen's head back with one hand, debating what to do. He snarled, and then began slapping him with his free hand.

    Though none of his blows were landing, Owen continued to flail away at Ken. Martin and Scott were laughing. I was on my feet and kicking at Ken's shins.

    "Let go!" I shouted.

    "Gimme back my marbles!" Owen screamed.

    Ken shoved Owen so hard he tumbled to the ground, taking me with him. The three boys ran off laughing, tossing our marbles into the field as they left.

    When Bret arrived at the school to pick us up, he could tell something was wrong with Owen. He was usually not so subdued. We were conditioned not to whine or tell on people, but Bret got it out of him.

    The next morning just before noon hour, Bret's 1965 gold Brougham Cadillac came to an abrupt halt in the school ground parking lot. He waited outside his Caddy as we tentatively readied our marbles in the dirt. Ken and his buddies were headed our way and Owen made eye contact with Bret indicating they were the bullies.

    As soon as Ken came within 10 feet of us, Bret started toward them. His tee-shirt sleeves were tight over his impressive biceps as they pumped through the air. He was on them as quick as a cat. He held all three tight in his grip. With one arm he caught Ken's neck in the crook of his elbow while he twisted Ken's arm up behind him at a painful angle.

    All three fussed and swore at him. "Ow! Let me go!" Ken demanded.

    Bret smiled." I hear you like to play marbles."

    "Let me go." Ken sounded a little less sure of himself. Frightened, his buddies backed off.

    Bret twisted Ken's arm up a little higher. "I think you have something to say to my little brother and sister here."

    Now Ken was almost crying. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

    Owen piped up, "You should say sorry to Bret too, for calling our car a ****mobile."

    Bret's face grew dark. "What?"

    Owen nodded. "He called your car a ****mobile."

    Bret goosed-stepped Ken over to the Cadillac and pushed Ken down in front of the bug-covered headlights.

    "Kiss it," was all he said.

    Ken was almost passing out from the pain. "No way."

    Bret twisted Ken's arm so high it looked like it would break. His voice was quiet. "I'm not asking again."

    "C'mon. No!" Ken pleaded.

    Bret made a quick, sharp move and I heard a terrible cracking noise accompanied by Ken's scream. Then I watched a slow smile spread across Bret's face and I heard Ken kiss the grill.

    It was particularly hard for us at school. The teachers were usually unsupportive and the kids teased us constantly. Every day we heard, "My dad says your dad is a fake." Owen would answer, "Yeah well that's because your dad is too much of a chicken to ever wrestle my dad."

    Then they'd say, "Your dad doesn't even buy you decent clothes," because we always had holes in our knees and elbows. But when you only had one pair of pants, what could you do?

    Some kids would mock us about our dad's cars. "What kind of dad buys a limousine but doesn't buy his kids clothes?"

    Owen would reply, "That's because my dad can afford a limousine. What does your dad drive, a Datsun?"

    This kind of exchange always turned into a fight. Owen was brilliant at saying something that really got to them and the kid would try to grab him. He and I always backed each other up. I remember one time I was trying to help Owen and I got kicked right in the groin. Later, my brother Dean got a lot of these *******s back. If he knew they had been a jerk to one of us he'd bide his time. Then when they were looking for a vehicle he'd screw them so bad. He would sell them one of his cars he knew was on its last legs, or he'd take out new parts and replace them with worn parts.

    Dean had a long memory.
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    CHAPTER TEN

    CATS, MINT JELLY & SUNDAY DINNERS

    To this day, my dad says Owen and I showed the most promise of all his kids. If he were to have favorites, it would be the two of us. We were his little blond palominos.

    We would run around the big mansion on the hill where we lived, naked. Both of us had pretty, long blonde hair. Owen's was especially white. In the summer we had dark suntans and we were free and happy.

    Ellie and Georgia doted on Owen and me. We were like their little baby dolls. They changed us, gave us affection, fed us and pushed us around in our baby carriages.

    Saturday nights were the only opportunity my parents had to spend time outside the family. They didn't have much money, but they were often invited to charitable events such as The United Way Gala. My dad would dress up in his dark gray cashmere suit and my mom had a wonderful sense of style. She would arrive on his arm looking like Jackie Onassis.

    Ellie and Georgia at 16 and 15, would be left to baby-sit. Bret always objected to their being in charge. Georgia was only a year older than Bret and he didn't want her telling him what to do. Besides he was bigger. At 14, he had just gone through his first growth spurt. He was around five foot ten and strong as an ox. On top of that, he wrestled with his seven brothers all the time.

    As soon as my parents were out the door, Ellie and Georgia would begin ordering everyone around.

    "Okay, Georgia is going to make toasted egg sandwiches, then we are all going to watch Peyton Place and then everyone has to be in bed by nine o'clock!"

    "No, I hate Peyton Place!" Bret would argue. Georgia would remind Bret that Mom and Dad had put them in charge and the fight would begin. It would often escalate to physical blows. I remember watching Bret holding Georgia in a tight headlock and knuckling her on the head repeatedly as hard as he could. Ellie would have Bret's hair in her fist, trying to pull him off Georgia. On several instances he grabbed Georgia by the hair and yanked her down all 18 stairs that led to the kitchen. You could hear her body banging against each step as she screamed bloody murder.

    As soon as my parents returned home, Bret would disappear and Ellie and Georgia would carefully chronicle the events of the night and show my parents all their injuries. My dad would become incensed. His sons were taught never to hit girls. Bret was the only brother who repeatedly had to be told, "Keep your gaddamn hands off your sisters."

    Dad would order a search of the house and Ellie and Georgia would inevitably find where Bret was hiding.

    "Here he is!"

    He had some pretty clever hiding spaces, like the top shelf of the closet in the boys' bathroom, or behind the five vacuums in the huge broom closet.

    My dad would snatch him by his chin, lift him off his feet and cuff him in the head. My dad was good with his cuffs to the head. They made one hell of a whacking sound and scared onlookers and the person being punished. They stung too, but didn't do any real damage.

    "If I hear about you laying a hand on your sisters again, I'll knock your gaddamned head off."

    Owen and I were the last two kids that my mom and dad could have. They were heartbroken that they couldn't have any more. The doctors told them they had to be responsible parents because my mom was in her 40s and had already had 12. The doctors couldn't be sure she would survive another pregnancy. If she didn't, my dad would be left with 12 kids to raise without a mom. So they did their best to keep us young as long as they could.

    My mom and dad gave Owen and me a bottle every night until we were five. She mixed our milk with a little bit of vanilla and sugar and heated it. Owen had his little blue furry blanket. I remember my mom saying asking in her Long Island accent, "You want your furry blanket, Owen?" She was smitten with him.

    My dad didn't get into the silly stuff like that. He did tuck Owen and me in every night. He'd kiss us on our heads and say, "Seepy bye." He would brush my hair out with his comb, which hurt like hell, but he tried to be gentle.

    He was affectionate, but he would rarely give you a kiss or anything. Dad was more comfortable with hugs. He can see the beauty in things and animals and furniture and houses and trees and a nice dinner. When you were crying you could bury your head in his shoulder and cry, and he would pat you on the head and somehow it would be all right.

    My dad displayed his artistic side redesigning his house. His favorite thing to work on was the kitchen. He converted it into a commercial kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and a brick tiled floor. The walls were covered in beautiful yellow tiles from Italy with a fleur-de-lis design. It's such a pretty kitchen, so useful and so masculine.

    We lived in a beautiful house. The Hart House, originally known as Crandall House, was built in 1905 by William Hextall for Edward Crandall. There were three buildings: the servants' quarters, the carriage house and the mansion. Crandall moved to Calgary from Ontario and set up the Crandall Press Brick and Sandstone Company. His bricks were used to construct most of the big houses in Calgary in the early part of the century. The Crandall House was built on a hill overlooking the city and the Bow River. He chose the location because he speculated that the downtown Calgary core would spread west toward the mountains.

    In the 1920s and during World War I, the Red Cross used the building as a hospital. After the war, Judge Patterson bought the house and then sold it to my dad in 1951. When the judge and his wife moved, they left my dad their cat as my dad was desperate to get rid of all the mice before my mom moved up from New York. He had bought the house before she had a chance to see it. He paid $25,000 for it.

    I'm sure the house is haunted due to all the soldiers who died there when it was a hospital. At night, the chandeliers will sometimes rock and doors will slam. Each one of us has seen some strange happenings. Ellie has watched curtains blowing although the windows were closed and a lot of us have had the same dreams at night. Now, since Owen and Dean have died, I can feel their presence.
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    When my dad saw this house he fell in love with it. He added 24-karat gold borders around the ceilings. He chose the 100-year-old Persian carpets and the chandeliers and the china in the dining room. He wanted a Florentine turquoise china pattern with a place setting for each of us, but my mom would not let him get it. She said it was a horrible investment.

    "I don't want you buying 144 dishes, Stu!"

    He went ahead and placed an order with Birks anyway. The sales lady knew my mom and informed her of the order, which my mom had cancelled instantly. This was the late '70s. Wrestling was doing a lot better and my dad wanted to capitalize on the small fortune that he was making, buying the best of everything. From 1957 to 1981, he bought over 30 mint-condition Cadillacs.

    In the '70s, he acquired a limousine and he'd transport us to and from school with the glass partition down so he could eavesdrop. But often one of the boys, usually Bret, would roll it up to talk about something he didn't want Dad to hear, driving my dad nuts. My brothers would torment the hell out of him sometimes.

    My dad hated gum. If he smelled it in the car, he'd demand to know who was chewing the gaddamned gum or the Thrills or Tooty-Fruity! Then, if that partition came up, he'd pull the car over and throw open the door. Everyone would dive-bomb over each other trying to get away from his grip. He'd catch someone by the scruff of the neck and shake him or her.

    "Do you understand, gaddamnit? I don't want you to do that ever again. Do you understand?" Though it was just a stern warning, it would put the fear of God into us. My mom never, ever spanked us. She never even laid a finger on us. My dad admits that he did, but my mom never did.

    Mom and Dad always took in strangers and animals. Right now they have four dogs and 10 cats. The house itself is worth a million dollars. The land it sits on is probably worth more. And some of the furniture and antiques are priceless. Unfortunately, there is a lot of cat pee around.

    If you know what cat pee smells like, it?s easily noticeable when entering my dad's house. If one of the animals has been sick or unable to get out, you might have to step over the dog mess on the hand-knotted antique Persian carpets in the foyer. Although my parents are no longer able to keep house they do not want strangers there cleaning, so everything is falling into disrepair.

    People have moved in and my parents are too polite to ask them to leave. Bob Johnson was a prime example. He was an itinerant wrestling fan and moved in 1989 ostensibly to help my mom out with the office work. He was still there eight years later.

    Bob claimed he was Icelandic. He had thinning silver hair and false teeth and blue eyes. He was built like a pear so he had a big back yard with a little head. His hands and feet were tiny too and he was allergic to cats. He slept on a Salvation Army cot in the basement next to the furnace.

    He was a sick, perverted person. He kept child pornography magazines and horrible, disgusting triple-X-rated video cases lying around. He was obsessed with pornography. They were all out in plain view and if anyone complained he was defiant.

    "This is my room where Stu and Helen Hart said I could stay. If I want to have my literature out, I will."

    When my own two children, Harry and Baby Georgia, and my sister Alison's daughter, Brooke, were four and six years old, they went down to his room and threw all of his stuff out. They were disgusted with it. They put socks over their hands because they didn't want to touch the filthy books and magazines. Then they poured sticky green mint jelly, which had been a Christmas present to my mom and dad, all over his bed. Finally, they sprinkled saltine cracker crumbs on top of the jelly.

    Everyone was so proud of them. But Bob raised hell about it. He sobbed to my dad that someone?he didn't know who?had poured mint jelly all over his bed and he wanted justice.

    But my dad didn't react. "Well better clean it up, Bob," was all he said.

    I remember Harry and Brooke and Georgia were wide eyed, like the three bad little kittens, but everyone supported them. We had warned my parents a million times that Bob Johnson was leaving his pornography around the basement and they did nothing to stop it. They never stood up to a guest in their home. They were determined to be gracious hosts at any cost.

    The basement also houses a running machine. This big treadmill looks like something you'd put a racehorse on to get it in shape. My sister Ellie's husband, Jim Neidhart, ran on it when he was with the Oakland Raiders. It's a big, noisy, cumbersome machine, but God, can it get you in shape. It's on a two-foot-wide conveyor belt. The tread is made of twine and jute and sandpaper so your feet can get traction. There are ball bearings in every single roller. It was shipped up to my dad's basement in the '80s and everyone trained on it.

    I loved it. My greatest physical achievement was running on that thing for 90 minutes straight. I still have the record. I would get on there and think about things and run and run. There wasn't a hill I couldn't tackle after that. I built such strong hamstrings from it too. I try every so often to run on it now. Your throat burns so bad you feel like you swallowed a Christmas tree.

    Next to the treadmill is the incinerator room and beside it, the shower that has so much force it feels like it's ripping your skin off. The spray is so forceful and fine it's like sharp quills piercing you. It is the same shower that we all used when we were little. We had an assembly-line approach. There was just time to get in, get rinsed off and get out. We kids would line up in our birthday suits. Nobody was really thrilled to be standing there naked waiting their turn, but there was no embarrassment.
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    A bubble bath was practically unheard of. The only way we would get bubbles would be to use dishwashing liquid in the tub, but it was expensive so we seldom had it. We always had dishwashing powder because it was cheaper. The odd time we would have lemon Sunlight liquid, but God it was hard on your skin. After using it we'd come out of there with skin like parchment paper. To pull out the tangles from our hair, we'd use Fleecy or Downy whenever we had it. It was really nice but it hurt like hell if you got it in your eyes. We used Cascade or Sunlight bar soap or Castile. That was our shampoo too.

    The basement stairs leading to the shower are made of iron. They look like those grates you see on the sidewalks with the solid iron footprints. These stairs are heavy duty and quite steep. My dad made them steep because he refused to let them curve. He wanted them to run straight up and down. As a result, they are brutal. I've got so many dents in my shins to prove it. They're deep too. Most stair steps are a standard height. These are double that. Many times hurrying to get my clothes out of the dryer, I'd skin my shins running up and down those goddamn stairs.

    Sunday dinners have been a regular part of our lives ever since I can remember. Even as grown-ups living elsewhere, we always make sure to arrive at our parents' house for our dad's Sunday dinner no matter what, no matter who you're fighting with. It's an unwritten law. You must attend Sunday dinners.

    By the time everyone got married the dinners had degenerated into hostile get-togethers. Everyone was always at each other's throats. If you have ever witnessed what happens with chickens when one gets injured, you'll have a good idea of what happens at our Sunday dinners. If a chicken has a cut or injury, the other chickens peck at that injury, one by one, until it becomes a huge wound and the injured chicken bleeds to death.

    If I was the one getting picked on at Sunday dinner, it might begin with Davey sniping. "Di 'ad a hard day, she broke a nail unwrapping 'er clothes from 'er shoppin' spree." This would bring gales of laugher at my expense.

    "Whatever Baby wants, Baby gets," my sister Georgia would chime in. Alison would be busy showing off by listing all the latest books she'd read. "And just what have you read lately Diana, besides People Magazine that is?"

    On the rare occasion Owen's wife Martha happened by, she would contradict everything anyone said. I remember remarking how pretty I thought Christie Brinkley was. Martha shook her head and rolled her eyes, "Ugh, that woman is as homely as a mud fence."

    Week after week we would get into the same altercations. Smith would load up dishes for his kids, giving them more than they could possibly eat so there would not be enough left for the rest of us. Then he would force-feed his kids at the table while everyone tried to look the other way.

    Bruce would talk non-stop about trying to get Stampede Wrestling off the ground again. After Dean and my nephew Matt died, my mom started drinking more and more at these family get-togethers. She would sometimes rise to her feet, fist raised and rail at the ceiling, "Dean and Matt we miss you!"

    Martha and the kids didn't join us too often, but when they did, if things got the least bit chaotic they were gone. As soon as it started to get crazy, Owen would just get up and leave, "Yeah well, I've got to get going." Maybe he figured he went through enough fighting when he was growing up so he wasn't going to go through it anymore.

    The rest of us would jump all over him. "What's the matter, Owen? Are you losing your connection with the family? Why? Because of Martha?"

    My mom would always act surprised. "Dahling where are you going?" She would be sad to see him leaving, but she wouldn't have spent any time with him. Meanwhile, my dad would engage him in a conversation the minute he stood up to leave.

    "Have you had any luck talking to Vince about taking Jim back? I would like to talk to him about getting Jim working for him again." And Owen would nod, "Yeah, okay."

    Despite all this, my dad is still proud of his Sunday dinners. Saturdays are his Sunday dinner shopping days. He goes to Safeway and shops the aisles and leans over the shopping cart carefully inspecting each item. He buys enough food for 40 people, cooks it, serves it and cleans it up every week.

    As a kid, I'd love going to Safeway with my dad. He'd usually buy me Sesame Snaps or if I were especially lucky I'd get to go to the Old Smoothie and buy a big ice cream. Dairy Queen was also a rare treat. We'd get big vanilla chocolate-dipped cones. This was reserved for only a few times a year, after church. There was no rhyme or reason to our church-going. We'd go to St. Mary's Cathedral, the big Catholic Church downtown, but only if someone happened to suggest it.

    Of course, fitness and muscle-building figured heavily in our upbringing. My dad had nickel weights, beautiful weights. He had ?Hart? engraved in big letters on every single one of them. A lot of wrestlers who used the dungeon thought it was a novelty to steal my dad's weights as souvenirs. Thus his collection has diminished quite a bit.

    My dad even built his own equipment. His pulley cables were hooked up on two walls across from each other with thick ropes. His neck-building machine had wrestling rope threaded through two holes in the wall, the top rope was attached to a 20-pound weight and the bottom rope was attached to a helmet made of cross straps. It looked like the shell of a football helmet. The idea is to put on the helmet and rock your head back and forth.

    Dad built his own leg press. You would lie on your back, place your feet on the bottom of a board covered in weights and push your legs upward. My dad had these big wooden blocks put between the floor and the board to hold the board above ground so you could squeeze yourself into position.

    One time Owen wanted to move the blocks so he would have more room to position himself. He was 12. My sister Georgia and her boyfriend Howard Zerr were downstairs watching Owen do a few reps. He loved to perform. He got the middle finger of his right hand caught under the blocks in it and just about chopped it off. It was terrible. He came upstairs crying but not sobbing and my dad took him to the hospital. Nobody made a big fuss. That wouldn't have gone over very well.

    My dad's squat racks were made from PVC piping and the sides of the shelves were made of rusty cast iron soldered to the pipes. It was all very raw looking. There is a 17-by-17-foot wrestling mat in the basement, covering the floor of an entire room called the dungeon. Falling on that wrestling mat is like falling on sand. We used to wind ourselves when we didn't land just so. The bottom half of the walls in the dungeon are covered in pine wainscoting.

    We played so many games in the dungeon. I remember the resounding thud the pine paneling would make when someone ran into it playing British bulldog down there. The game involved running from one end of the gym to the other trying to duck the big, heavy leather medicine ball coming your way. Someone would always get hit. It was a good lesson in learning how to fall. Ross would throw it at us to try to knock us right off of our feet as if he were bowling. So we learned to jump pretty high.

    We had three of these big, heavy leather medicine balls. My favorite game with them was when we'd stand in a circle, eyes closed, and throw the medicine ball at each other. With your eyes shut you didn't know who was throwing it, but you had to be prepared to catch it because dropping it meant being expelled from the game.

    Other times we'd use it like a football, throwing it back and forth. We called this game Stampede Wrestling, because those are the letters we'd call out to keep count of who made the most catches. We'd get into a big triangle and throw the ball to the person across from us. It had to be a fair throw, but if you missed it you would get S, then T and so on. Whoever got the words Stampede Wrestling spelled out first was out of the game.

    We used to have contests to see who could do the most squats in a row and who could skip rope for the longest period of time without stopping. We would try to get the contestant to laugh so they'd lose control.

    The board game Risk was Bret's favorite. He would goad us into killing Ross's men just to watch how mad he got. We would all kill poor Ross's men and he would blow up, kick the whole game over and run out of the room crying. I feel bad about it now. But it was typical of Bret. It was about ruling the world.
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    CHAPTER ELEVEN

    DEAN

    Gradually, I found the ceiling was getting too low for cartwheels. At five-feet-eight and 110 pounds, I was a 16-year-old beanstalk who'd just got her period. I wore my hair in braids and looked like one of the girls from The Sound of Music. This growth spurt gave me stretch marks everywhere: on my calves, kneecaps, hips, seat and chest. No stretch marks on my stomach though. That happened when I was pregnant.

    As a teenager, my chest hurt and I lost my edge. I gave up on all my dreams of being an athlete. I thought, "Well, what's the point?" Where would I ever go with this anyway? I was just so pathetic at times. My brother Dean recognized this and, just like in the song, To Sir With Love, he took me ?from crayons to perfume.?

    I would lounge in the hallway with my chin in my hands, spying on my older sisters Ellie and Georgia as they applied their makeup. They really plastered it on. Heavy dark liner and bleached blonde hair. Cher was a major influence. They also had a daily exercise routine. They had a little chart on their bulletin board that demonstrated the correct technique for twists, pushups, sit-ups and squats. It was a good 10-minute workout. In most homes it was the guys who practiced isometrics, not the girls. They were way ahead of their time.

    They were fashion conscious too and managed to pull themselves together quite nicely, no thanks to my mom. She never voiced an opinion on how we should dress or groom, although she was very particular about how she looked. She would simply pull us each aside and say, Take this five dollars and go out and buy yourself a wardrobe."

    Naturally, you couldn't get much for five dollars, but my mom seemed to have no concept of the price of clothes. If my sisters complained that five dollars was inadequate, my mom would tell them, "Five dollars can do you very well. Maybe the two of you can put your money together and buy one outfit. Hat to shoes. Combine your five dollars to make it ten dollars, and surely it will cover makeup and bus fare and something to eat." She was completely clueless about how far money would stretch.

    My dad knew. He'd slip Ellie and Georgia a little more money. And when things started getting better, my dad always gave more. There were times he'd give Ellie and Georgia $100 so they could buy crushed velvet cords in all colors: purple, gold, turquoise, blue and burgundy. They'd come home with cashmere sweaters and really nice belts. The best deals came from The Bay bargain basement or the Army and Navy store.

    My brother Dean would drop by the house between trips to Hawaii and girlfriends and spend time with me. He'd show me how to put on makeup and advise me on what to wear. He was lovely to me. Dean was eight years older than I. He shared a birthday with my brother Ross. They were five years apart. They even looked alike, but you could not find two more different people. Dean was open and notorious for his ribbing. Ross is serious and secretive. He still harbors big secrets.

    Dean was so handsome with his gigantic, beautiful brown eyes that were always twinkling. His hair was a luxurious curly chestnut and he had teeth as white as freshly cracked coconut. Of all my brothers, he was the gutsiest. This is what endeared him most to my father. Dean had more nerve than anybody I know. He was fairly compact, which added to his personality. Five-feet-eight, excellent legs and big hands, good for working on cars or fixing the stove. His nickname was Biz because he was always so busy. Even when he was dying he wasn't lazy.

    Dean was barely out of school when he organized the very first rock concert in Calgary's McMahon football stadium. He brought Charlie Rich to Calgary. Charlie Rich was hot. He had two hit songs on the radio at the time, ?Did You Happen To See The Most Beautiful Girl In The World?? and ?Behind Closed Doors.? He was known in the country music circle as the Silver Fox. Rich had a beautiful, rich voice and he was a good-looking man.

    Dean was 18 years old. He did all the promotions himself. He designed and ordered the fliers, and recruited Owen, Alison, Ross, Ellie, Bruce, Georgia and me to put them on windshields all over Calgary. We'd go out late when the bars were full of people on a Friday or a Saturday night and run through the parking lots placing these fliers under car wipers.

    Dean also ran concerts out at Clearwater Beach, which belonged to my dad. The beach was about 100 acres of beautiful foothills property on the Elbow River. I remember sitting right on the platform where the three-man Canadian band, Chilliwack, was playing. I sat right behind the drummer and listened to them sing ?California Girl? and ?Monkey on Your Back.?

    Things got more hectic out there with Dean because throwing concert after concert the city health inspectors tried to close the place down. There was broken glass in the sand and inadequate bathroom facilities. Wrestling would close down after Stampede Week and we relied on whatever income the beach brought in until the matches started up again in the fall.

    Every year we had six weeks of pretty lean times. My mom and dad made money at the beach by charging five dollars a car. Families would cram as many people as they could into their cars. No charge if you walked in. It was located out by what is now called Elbow Valley Acreages, where my brother Owen was building his house and where Martha his widow lives now. I think Owen wanted to build out there because he had such good memories of the beach.

    My mom and dad would do well at Dean's bookings. Dean and Bruce branched into hiring bands to play at graduation parties. They would charge admission to see the band and they would run the concession all night long. This was another thorn in the side of city health inspectors ? the submarine sandwiches. I remember making hundreds of them the night before each high-school grad. They were good sandwiches too. We used real butter and mayonnaise. My mom would package each sandwich in Saran Wrap along with potato chips and a cookie. We went to so much trouble for these people and I doubt they ever appreciated it or cared. We put more money into making the sandwiches than we made.

    One night Dean and Bruce accidentally booked grad parties at the beach for the same night and the two high schools got into a fight. That night, a fire burned everything to the ground. It wiped my dad out. All the buildings went up in flames because the change rooms and patio barbecues were all covered with canvas. The concession was torched. The locker rooms were gone, including the toilets. People were screaming and fleeing.

    It turned out that some high-school kids, angry because their rivals were celebrating at the same location, had poured gasoline on everything?trees, buildings, even in the water?and then lit matches.

    The health board refused to let my dad re-open. My mom was freaking out. She was hysterical. "We?re going to go broke!" she screamed. "How are we going to survive?"

    My mom was really worried about money. As it was, she only had $100 for the entire month to get by. Every night, Owen and I would hear how we were going to lose everything.
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    Dean was a genius and very charming. He was especially smooth with older women, much older women. They would lend him cars. He drove a fifty-thousand-dollar Jaguar for a while. People also loaned Dean money, and he used it to buy what is now Eau Claire, an exclusive part of downtown Calgary along the Bow River. He owned the Riverside Auto Body Shop there. Calgarians would park their cars on his lot and walk downtown to go to work while Dean had their cars cleaned or serviced.

    He also had a landscaping company, Kleen and Green Landscaping. He'd put the biggest ad in the yellow pages and people would think, ?Oh, it?s the biggest ad, it must be the most professional.? They'd call Dean to come out to their homes and give an estimate and no matter what the job was, Dean would say, ?Yup, we can do that. Yeah, that won?t be a problem.?

    Then he'd hire kids like me and my friend Alison Hall, who were both 14 and didn't know anything about rototilling or air raking or power raking. I could pull weeds and mow lawns, but that was about it. We had different jobs every day. ?Guys,? he would say, ?we've got a fence to paint today.? And we'd paint the fence although we had never painted a fence in our lives.

    In a way, it made me a more capable person. Mind you, a lot of customers complained about the quality of the work. A week after we were there, their grass might be burned because we had applied the fertilizer improperly. Or we might have planted shade flowers in the blazing sun. We got a lot of callbacks.

    Sandy Scott was a Stampede Wrestling heel; he played a Scottish referee who always cheated. His gimmick was to play a corrupt referee who has been paid off by another heel named John Foley. During the day Sandy worked as a receptionist at Riverside Auto Park. He was very pleasant. It was funny because he was so polite on the phone and then on Friday nights you'd see him grabbing my brother Bruce by the hair, tossing him around and disqualifying him and fining him a thousand dollars for not playing by the rules.

    Then Monday morning he'd be back on the phones, ?Hello, Riverside Auto Body or Kleen and Green, how may I help you?? You know, nice and polite. Dean would send Sandy Scott out to take care of our irate customers. Sandy would pour on his Scottish charm and manage to calm down the unhappy housewives. We were honorable and always went back to correct our mistakes.

    Dean was not only enterprising but he was also a heartthrob. He dated a lot of girls who were the cream of the crop at his high school. On the other end of the spectrum were my sisters Georgia and Ellie. They were being picked on and bullied at the junior high school, Vincent Massey. Ellie was in grade nine, Georgia in grade eight and Bret was in grade seven. Georgia had cheap, big black-framed glasses that were terribly unattractive. Later she turned heads, but back then she and Ellie were on the heavy side.

    Ellie?s best friend at Vincent Massey Gwen Cooper had no arms. She, she was a Thalidomide baby. Ellie was always helping her out. The kids at school would tease Gwen and call her ?the vegetable.? Gwen had funny-colored skin and she wrote everything with her toes, which made matters worse for her. But she was no Simon Birch. She used to boss Ellie around and treat her like dirt. ?Get this for me. Get that for me.?

    Ellie and Georgia got no fair treatment at Massey. For Bret, it was even tougher. Some days it would be 30 below and he would only have shorts to wear to school because that was the best thing my dad could get at the Army surplus store or Salvation Army. This really made him stand out.

    The only bras Ellie and Georgia owned were the black ones that they got from one of my mom's friends Isabelle Grayston, who used to be Ralph Klein's secretary. At that time Ralph was the mayor of Calgary. Now he is the Premier of Alberta.

    Isabelle was very nice to all of us. She and her mother Kitty made their own clothes and gave them to us new or as hand-me-downs. Ellie's first bra was this great big ?well big for her because Ellie was just young ? black bra. On top of which, she wore dresses with darts.

    Their teachers were aware of how badly they were treated by some of the other students, but did nothing. Some of the teachers at Vincent Massey never lifted a finger to stop it. They looked the other way when kids were tried to jam Georgia into her locker or pull her glasses off her face and break them. And they pretended not to notice when kids beat Ellie up.

    One day Ellie and Georgia were standing in the schoolyard after school when they were attacked by some of these rotten kids. My brothers Dean and Wayne from Ernest Manning Senior High were driving by at the time. The boys brought the car to a screeching halt. Then Dean and Wayne got out and cleaned house. They beat the hell out of all these kids. The next day, Georgia and Ellie were called into the office and warned that their family had better not darken the schoolyard again.

    The only good thing that came out of that incident was that Pat Seigers, a popular girl who wasn't a part of the teasing, took one look at Dean and fell hopelessly in love. She was in Georgia's grade and she was pretty and full of confidence. She came from a nice little home in Westgate with little lunches and normal walks home from school. Nobody ever picked on her. The next day she wanted to be friends with Ellie and Georgia and eventually did date Dean.

    Maybe if she had married Dean like they had planned, Dean would be alive today because she would have taken care of him. But Dean left her for another girl, Sue Berger, who was popular but heavily into drugs. Dean got her off drugs and took her under his wing and promoted her like she was a movie star. She was the very first Calgary Sun Sunshine Girl of the Year (the tabloid's most popular page-three pin up girl.) Dean always dated the most popular foxes.

    In 1977, Dean was downtown waiting for his ride and got hit by a transit bus. The bus hit him in the back from behind. There was always speculation that it was the bus accident that caused Dean to die of kidney failure. Dean got a pitiful settlement from the City of Calgary for the bus accident. Ironically, Ed Pipella, the lawyer who represented Dean, also happens to be the lawyer Martha hired to sue Vince McMahon and the WWF in the wrongful death suit over Owen.
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    CHAPTER TWELVE

    DEAN & HAWAII

    Dean decided to move to Hawaii in the late ?70s. He was fascinated with the TV show Hawaii Five-0 and slightly resembled the show's star, Jack Lord. Once there, he recruited these big Samoans to come up to Calgary and train to wrestle. He would put them on our Stampede Wrestling TV show and then put our show on the Hawaiian TV stations so that the Samoans would gain celebrity status in Hawaii. It was an excellent idea. In fact, Vince McMahon does that now. He'll run tours in England, Germany, Singapore, India, the Middle East, South Africa, Japan and Hong Kong, capitalizing on wrestlers in his lineup with local appeal.

    Dean knew he would be a king over there because there were a lot of Samoans who would be treated like royalty if they were seen on TV, especially since the show was coming from another part of the world.

    Many young Samoans were involved in marijuana dealing. Their parents would come to Dean and say, "We want our son to focus on something else." They trusted Dean. They treated him like one of their own, like he was a fellow Hawaiian. He went very far on his looks and personality because initially he didn't have much money.

    One of the first guys Dean brought to Calgary was part of a syndicate and his name was Sui. He was a big, hard working, honest guy. But he bought and sold marijuana for a living. Dean brought him to Calgary in the wintertime and the freezing Hawaiian thought he'd moved to the tundra.

    When he returned to Hawaii, he actually saved Dean's life. Dean was body surfing on the water and got caught in a vertical whirlpool. Sui grabbed him with one hand and pulled him out. He was that strong. Sui was the first wrestler that Dean used as a vehicle to show what he could do for other Samoans and Hawaiians.

    My parents were close with a Hawaiian couple named, Neff and Ola Maiava. When my mom was pregnant with me, Ola was expecting too. My mom said Ola made her own maternity clothes?crisp, cotton gingham dresses?and Ola generously shared them with her. When Ola and Neff's son was born, my parents were honored as his godparents and when I was born, Ola and Neff became mine.

    Dean was working closely with Neff's relatives, Peter and Leah Maiava, who happened to be the grandparents of Dwayne Johnson, an ex-college football player turned wrestler. Most people know him better as Rocky Maiava or The Rock. In Dwayne's book, ?The Rock Says,? he dedicates a whole chapter to Owen and talks about how Dean set up the ring and venues for his grandparents and sometimes refereed for them. Dwayne also writes about how accessible and friendly Dean was.

    Peter Maiava had tribal tattoos appropriate for a high chief. Only the highest-ranked warriors could wear the green tattoos up their legs as he did. His wife, Leah, was a very tough Hawaiian. She was almost as big as Peter and they would often have words. She wouldn't back down from him and he wouldn't back down from her, but they had an obvious love for each other and made for a quite an unusual couple. They were almost mirror images of each other. They ran their wrestling at the Blaze Dale Arena in Honolulu.

    My very first trip to Hawaii was in 1980 during spring break. I had been working in the jewelry department at Woolco, diligently saving my money. Owen went with me. I was 16 and he was only 14 when we met up with our brothers Bruce, Keith and Dean. Our brothers were wrestling and because they were foreigners, they were considered the villains. The local Samoans were the heroes, of course.

    In one particular match the boys were wrestling Peter Maiava. When Keith and Bruce entered the ring with their black cowboy hats, the fans went wild. They played up their roles by cheating and acting bad. There was a huge Samoan guy in the crowd named Fast Eddie, a gangster. He picked up a bottle and went to clobber Keith on the back of the head with it. Although he was just a kid, Owen didn't hesitate. He grabbed Fast Eddie with a forearm around the neck to stop him.

    Fast Eddie turned around in a fury and nailed Owen right in the eye with his brass knuckles. Owen got stitches all around his eye. My dad had been good to a lot of the Hawaiian gangsters' kids. Many of them had come up to Calgary to learn to fight and when they found out what Fast Eddie had done to Owen, well, nobody ever heard from Fast Eddie again.
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    I remember Dwayne Johnson's grandparents lived in a big hotel apartment building called the Chateau Blu and Dean lived there too. He became really good friends with the owner, Tommy Wong. There were a lot of unusual happenings there. It was there I met Hans Schroeder, this huge Viking wrestler.

    Hans was a big German with unsuccessfully bleached hair. It was yellowy-orange and crispy in texture. He had a big nose, large, watery, bulging blue eyes and dry lips. He looked hard, as though he lived a life of partying and drugs. I don't know how tough he really was, but because of what he later did to his wife later, I know he was a big bully.

    I never gave him much thought. But back then, I just thought he was a big wrestler and he was marrying this girl named Jane. Jane was your typical biker girl, quite raunchy. Bleached blonde hair, a lot of it, about shoulder length. Big pores in the skin from drinking a lot, black eyeliner, overly suntanned skin, kind of chubby, but full breasted. She must have figured she looked pretty good, because she didn't hesitate to prance around in a bikini.

    There was also little magician living at the Chateau Blu who made his living doing small shows at the hotels. He'd do tricks with a ball or a deck of cards or a coin for Owen and me. He was a nice guy.

    The night Hans and Jane got married, the magician came down to Dean's crowded room on the 17th floor where we were all staying. He said, "I know a trick, a magic trick, and it will show if there is true love between two people." It was just a silly little trick, like swearing by your horoscope in the paper. But that was the kind of logic that Hans Schroeder used.

    The magician held this pendulum watch on a long gold chain, over Jane's stomach. Then he instructed Hans to hold his hands over her belly. If the watch swung north/south it meant she loved him and they would be happy forever. But if it swung east/west it meant the marriage was doomed and she didn't love him. Well, the watch moved east/west and Hans just went berserk. He grabbed the magician by the collar and dragged him out over the balcony and dangled him by his feet. Jane was crying and begging Hans to put the poor guy down. She was from the American Deep South and had a thick accent.

    ?Hans, honey, pull ?em up. Y'all are gonna drop him."

    I saw Dean take his glasses off, which always meant there was going to be a fight. Meanwhile Hans was demanding to know if this was just a trick or if it was real. The magician knew that if he admitted it was a trick Hans would kill him. If he said it was real Hans would kill Jane. So he tried to convince Hans to let him try the trick again. But Hans would have none of it. Finally, Dean persuaded Hans to bring the magician up and we all left, except my brother Keith's future wife, Leslie, who got so scared she hid in the bedroom closet.

    The closet had one of those slatted doors so she could see what was going on and she sat in there for about five hours watching Hans and Jane beat the hell out of each other. It was mostly Hans beating the hell out of Jane. He threw her hard into the pullout bed and smashed her face into the steel frame. Her nose was squashed flat as if he had whacked it with a small ax. She wound up with a permanent divot on the bridge of her nose, about half an inch thick. The next day, her eyes were black and blue and bloodshot and there were lumps all over her face. Her toes were broken while trying to defend herself and as a result she couldn't even walk.

    When I saw Jane by the pool the next morning, I felt bad for her. And I didn't understand. I thought, "Oh, maybe she's just a rough biker type who likes fighting." But now I realize she didn't deserve that at all, nobody deserves that. Poor Jane, in an attempt to be hopeful, turned to me. ?Well, my momma always told me that the best marriages are the ones that start out fightin', so Hans and I should be married forever now."

    Another thing Hans did which really bothered me was to stick his whole head in Tommy Wong's fish tank and snap fish in his mouth, then swallow them. Or he would catch them with his hands and squeeze them until their eyes popped out.

    I don't know what it was that caused Dean's kidney failure, but one time he was almost beaten to death in Hawaii by mobsters. Ronnie Ching spent time in jail for murder and drugs and while he was there, he stored a lot of his things including rubber bullets at an apartment in the Chateau Blu. It was all on a hidden floor that the elevator slid past unless you had a key. When I went to visit Dean a second time, he got me to help move these boxes for Ronnie. We had no idea what was in them but our fingerprints got all over them.

    The Honolulu city prosecutor Charles Marsland felt his son had been murdered by Ronnie in 1975, but couldn't prove it. He was out to get Ronnie. It was 1981 and the chief of police called a wrestler named King Curtis Ikea, who had played college football with him. He told King Curtis, "Get hold of Dean's father and tell him to get his son off the island because I'm taking no prisoners."

    The police found the boxes we'd moved and they traced the fingerprints back to Dean and brought him in for questioning. Ronnie Ching was convinced the police coerced Dean into giving them information on him. In his mind's eye he was sure the police had threatened Dean, "Dean, if you don't give us something on Ronnie Ching, we'll hold you responsible because your prints are on these boxes." Nothing like that happened, but it was Ronnie's perception. It looked even fishier because on King Curtis Ikea's advice, Dean suddenly left town. In March 1981, Ronnie was indicted on 11 counts. The police said those boxes contained 11 handguns, a silencer, a shotgun and a third of a pound of military C4 plastic explosive.

    Dean waited until things cooled off, then returned to Hawaii. Ronnie got wind of this and he and his people found Dean and beat him until he was almost dead.
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    CHAPTER THIRTEEN

    SHAVED ICE

    Not long after that, Dean came home for good. He was so sick. His kidneys were shutting down. Dean used to open up my dad's big oven (it was big enough to cook 20 chickens,) turn the heat up to 500 degrees and just sit in front of it chewing shaved ice.

    He was freezing and thirsty, but he couldn't drink anything, even water, because his kidneys couldn't flush it out. So he'd eat the shaved ice. Then he'd get so cold from eating the shaved ice. And he was so thin. He'd sit in front of that oven with his heels tucked right underneath his seat, right up underneath him. He'd just sit there eating shaved ice.

    He must have wondered, though he never talked about it, why none of us ever gave him a kidney. There were 13 potential donors including my parents, not even counting the nieces and nephews or his own kids. None of us was even tested. I still can't explain why nobody gave Dean the kidney he needed. There was a lot of talk about it, but no action. There was no deadline. The doctors never called anybody. We were so caught up in our own worlds we didn't recognize that Dean had a limited amount of time.

    One day, as he was readying for a shower in the boys' bathroom on the second floor of the house, his heart just gave out. Alison's daughter Brooke popped her head in to use the toilet and saw him lying naked on the floor. She ran down the stairs crying, "Dean's dead!"

    Georgia and my dad hurried upstairs and pulled Dean into the adjoining office, trying to shake him awake and get him dressed at the same time. Alison called 911.

    I was at Bret's house. I had gone over there trying to bury the hatchet with his wife Julie. She hadn't accepted my calls for a year because she thought I told people Bret only married her because she was pregnant with their first child, Jade. She had been pregnant at the time, but I believe they would have gotten married anyway.

    It was a Tuesday morning. The phone rang. Julie answered and after listening for a moment, she got a grave look on her face. She hung up and told me to call home. Alison answered and gave me the bad news. Dean was dead. He was pronounced dead en route to the hospital. (In Calgary, when the paramedics arrive they work on you until you are loaded into the ambulance, even if you've been dead a while, because if they pronounce you dead at home they have to leave the body there until the medical examiner arrives.)

    I was in disbelief and in denial. How could this be? I had just seen him two days before.

    "How are you doing, Dean?" I had asked.

    "Barely functioning," he had answered. But I hadn't taken him seriously. I thought it was just his dry sense of humor.

    Then he died and we were all in shock.

    Owen was wrestling in Germany when Dean died. I got the message to him through Jockam Herrmann. He was a German immigrant who came to Calgary and became a referee for my dad. Jockam had worked for the police force in Hamburg. He was with the vice squad there and moved to Canada when the work became so dangerous he was afraid he would be killed. He brought his wife and son Dennis, who now wrestles, over to Calgary. My dad sponsored them. They bought a farm out in High River, a town thirty 30minutes south of Calgary.

    Owen and his new wife Martha were touring around Europe and Martha's mother was staying at their house on Siricco Drive in Calgary, taking care of their cat and watering the plants and stuff.

    Jockam got hold of Owen and told him to call home. I gave Owen the sad news. He was calling from a pay phone and I could hear him adding change every few minutes. He was crying and crying and repeating, "No, No, No." It must have been just awful for him to be so far away. Then we got cut off and he had to call back again because he ran out of change. He just didn't know what to do.

    Martha must have convinced him to stay in Germany, as he did not come home for the funeral. Instead, Martha's mother and sister came and brought a card and read it at the funeral. Quite frankly, Martha's sister Virginia was fine. I always thought she was pretty nice, not too complicated, not looking to have a fight with anyone, just kind of blindly loyal to her younger sister who's a bitch to her all the time. Martha's mother, Joan Patterson, read some sappy card about our sorrow, signed, ?love Owen and Martha.? But she pronounced Martha's name "Marta."

    At the wake she began throwing back the liquor, one glass of red wine after another after another, and she was delivering them just as fast to my mom. I got really uncomfortable with this and so did my sister Alison.

    We were thinking, "What the hell is she doing? We don't want our mom bombed." I went to say something, but Bret moved between me and my mom and said, "Don't say anything. It's not the place, it's not the time."

    "Well, Bret," I said, "Mom has got diabetes and it's not good for her to be getting drunk and, you know, we might need her too. She is our mother, and Dad might need her. He just lost his son. Dad doesn't go get bombed."

    I was so upset about it. I never could really understand addictions. But more than anything, I was really pissed off with Martha's mom for encouraging my mom to get so drunk.

    We went out across the highway to the acreage that my dad owns, across from our house. It's this beautiful parcel of land on the ridge in Edworthy Park where we used to play when we were little. We thought it would be symbolic to have Dean's ashes thrown there on this cool November evening. It turned out that throwing ashes was like throwing that fine sand you see in ashtrays. It was the first and only time I've ever grabbed hold of ashes. When we threw them they sort of swirled around in the air in a mystical way.
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    Smith read a very heart-wrenching speech about Dean, saying goodbye to our most beautiful brother. Ross' eulogy was more upbeat, chronicling the funny parts of Dean's life. It even brought us to the point where we were laughing and cracking up about Dean's pranks and his love of horseback riding and mechanics.

    Then Wayne sang "Hallelujah."

    Everyone but Bruce's wife Andrea joined hands and made a circle. Wayne was quite religious and still reads the Bible faithfully. He's a good person and he has a good heart. He just never really had the relationship with my dad that he had with my mom.

    My dad could never really tolerate that Wayne smoked and wore his hair long. My dad attributed this to peer pressure and that is something he cannot tolerate.

    Wayne and my dad had a terrible row when Wayne was in high school. I think it affected their relationship forever. Wayne wanted to run for president of the school. Elections were always held before the school year was over so that when the new year started in the fall, they had their president already in office.

    But Wayne was a rebel; the teachers really disliked him and his attitude. One teacher lowered Wayne's math mark so he wouldn't have the 65% average needed to run. Wayne's disqualification caused such a protest around the school that the students decided to have a sit-in. The school called my dad and said, ?Your son is causing problems,? and would you please come down and get him.

    While my dad was talking to the principal on the phone, he caught the television news out of the corner of his eye and saw Wayne in the back of a green half ton shouting through a megaphone. He had long hair and love beads and a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. Enraged, my dad stormed down to the school. He grabbed Wayne in front of his peers and told him to get the hell home and straighten out.

    Wayne figured he had been embarrassed for life by his own father and I think that incident poked a hole in his love for my dad. I see a lot of similarities between Wayne and my other brothers. It's just that Wayne went out a little farther than the rest of us. He was a little more daring and tried a lot more things than any of us were willing to do.

    So we threw the ashes. Dean's old girlfriend Pat Seigers was there, heartbroken. I always thought somehow that she and Dean would get back together and she'd marry him and she would become one of the Harts. A sister to the Hart girls. She had been Ellie's best friend, but they hadn't seen each other in a couple of years. She was so well liked by our whole family it's a shame they didn't marry.

    Keith said Leslie was never the same after the Hans beating Jane incident, because she sat there and watched the whole thing and heard the screaming and the crying and the shouting and the accusations. She was traumatized and had nightmares for years. However Keith and Leslie did eventually get married.

    Keith claims that that incident caused a lot of turmoil in their marriage and eventually led to their divorce. She never got over it. She could not accept wrestlers after that and Keith being from a wrestling family and loving it didn't help.

    Keith and Leslie had some luck. They won $100,000 in the Western Express Lottery on New Year's Eve a few years after they married. A lot of family members resented them for that. They were jealous. In 1994, when Keith ran for provincial politics, he put quite a bit of that money into his campaign and that became another point of friction between Leslie and him.

    She was in there pretty strong for the beginning of the campaign when it looked like he might have a chance. I think if he had won maybe she would have stayed with him as a politician's wife, not a wrestler's wife anymore. But by the time he lost the election, Keith said she felt that politicians and wrestlers were cut from the same cloth. They were all dishonest and she had no regard for any of them.

    Keith's job as a firefighter was noble enough, but he wouldn't quit wrestling. According to Keith she became agoraphobic and would clean the house for days refusing to take off her rubber gloves or touch anything. But that's not what I saw. Leslie looks a little like Pamela Anderson before all the surgery. She entered university to become a geologist but ended up with a business degree. She's always behaved lovingly toward me and never caused any trouble in the family. Because of her quiet demeanor I think she was overlooked by all of us.

    She filed for divorce in 1995 and Keith says she got the house, $2,500 a month alimony, plus $1,800 for child support and custody of 13-year-old Stewart, 7-year-old Conor and 4-year old Brock. She and Keith are still wrangling over child support issues today so their divorce isn't final but Keith moved across the street and they remain friendly for their boys' sake.
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    CHAPTER FOURTEEN

    HORRIBLE HAPPENINGS

    In 1978, when I was in grade ten I had my first crush and it was on The Dynamite Kid. I thought he was so much better than any boy at my school. He wrestled hurt. He wrestled with bad knees. Whether there were 15 or 1,500 people in the crowd, he wrestled his heart out every match. I had no interest in anybody my age because they didn't measure up to Dynamite.

    But that all changed in 1981 when I met the Dynamite Kid's cousin Davey Boy Smith. He wasn't much older than I and seemed to have all the qualities Dynamite had. I decided he was the person that I wanted to be with.

    My friend Alison and I used to go over to the apartment building where the Dynamite Kid lived and eat lunch in the stairway. We could smell cigarette smoke coming from his apartment and I was sort of horrified. I really did live a sheltered life. I could not believe that phenomenal athlete that he was, could be a chain-smoker. I grew up detesting cigarette smoking, as did everyone in our family except my brother Wayne.

    Dynamite, or Tom as we called him, turned out to be a sadistic, masochistic bastard. He started using steroids big time because he was always trying to stay big and his skin eventually became infested with boils. One time as I watched, he sliced boils right off his arms with a razor. He couldn't be bothered squeezing them and he didn't want to look at them.

    Tom's dad, Bill Billington and Davey's mom, Joyce Smith were brother and sister. Both Tom's parents were alcoholics. Tom's mother, Edna, was constantly beaten by her father so she married Bill to escape her family. But Bill's mother Nellie used to say her daughter-in-law jumped from the frying pan into the fire because Bill was even rougher with her. He learned to beat his wife from his father Joe. Tom and Davey's grandfather Joe Billington frequently thumped their grandmother Nellie.

    Joyce and Bill had an older brother named Eric Billington who eventually became a professional boxer. Eric used to stick up for Nellie and got into several fistfights with his father while trying to protect her. He and Joe would nearly kill each other. Finally Eric moved all the way from England to Edmonton just to get away from it.

    Joe eventually died of lung cancer. He sucked back 90 hand-rolled cigarettes every day, one after another after another.

    The family tried to make some money in a lawsuit by saying he died because he fell down the stairs getting some money for one of his grandchildren to go to the ice cream truck outside. They claimed the fall caused cancer in his hip. But it was soon uncovered that he had been a chain smoker since he was ten years old. In addition, he worked in a coal mine and spent the rest of his time in a pub.

    It's no wonder that Tom, the spawn of this severely dysfunctional family eventually became such an evil man. When his ex-wife Michelle told me about the following incident involving his best friend's daughter, I was disgusted, offended and scared.

    After Tom married Michelle, the sister of Bret's wife Julie, they hung out with John Foley, a wrestler who used to work for my dad. John was a Liverpudlian. Fans would jeer at him and shout that he must be from "Cesspool, England." When John finished wrestling he became a manager. He was always a "heel," a tough guy.

    John had thick red hair, a broken nose, cauliflower ears and watery blue eyes. Tom considered John his best friend. Their kinship began as a result of being the only two British blokes in the middle of all these Canadians. My brother Bruce changed John's name to John Rex, but when the television show Dallas became such a hit, Tom suggested he shorten it to JR and he did.

    To become more detestable in the ring, JR wore an army helmet, dyed his moustache black and shaped it like Hitler's. Part of JR's gimmick was to ask, "Would you like to come to a party? Ha! You're not invited anyway!"

    When they got into the suds, John used to sing his favorite song, "My Sonny Boy," to Tom. Tom was so fond of John he began insisting people call him Sonny.
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    JR Foley was always first in line for his paycheck Friday mornings at our house. He would wait patiently for hours on one of my mom's Chippendale dining chairs as Mom and Dad finished up the payroll. One morning after JR had waited for what seemed an eternity, I watched my brother Owen emerge from the kitchen bearing a crystal bowl full of pebble shaped cat treats called Sea Nips. "Ellie made 'em," he said, chewing vigorously on a concealed carrot.

    JR grabbed a handful. "Don't mind if I do."

    Before moving to Canada, John had lost a son in a car accident and used that as an excuse to drink. His second marriage was to a sweet little lady named Vera Lynn who still resides in Calgary. She was an accountant for Woolworth's and, because she was honest and good with numbers, she used to do the income tax returns for a lot of wrestlers. But John drank away everything they had.

    John and Vera Lynn had a daughter Michelle who was in a car accident when she was about 20. When this happened, John thought his prayers were answered. Certainly a big insurance settlement would be in the cards. But she wasn't as seriously injured as he had hoped. He dragged her over to Tom's begging for his assistance.

    "Tommy, I need yer 'elp." He was drunk and sobbing. "I need yer 'elp," he blubbered. "My Michelle was in a car accident and we thought we was gonna get some money from the car accident for 'er injuries, but they says that the x-rays don't show anythin'. They says there's nothing wrong with 'er."

    So John Foley asked Tom to break his daughter's legs, and Tom did. With poor Michelle's permission, they trussed her up to the bed just like Kathy Bates did to James Caan in the Stephen King movie, "Misery." They gagged her with a towel, so she'd have something to bite on. Then Tom whacked at her kneecaps with a mallet. John was crying and Tom's wife Michelle was crying, and John's daughter Michelle Foley was crying and Tom broke her legs right at the kneecaps. The insurance company awarded her twenty thousand dollars, but she could never walk right after that. I hear she is quite heavy now and her knees are turned in almost like those Barbie dolls with the bendable knees. John Foley ended up dying of cancer. This story came out after Tom's wife Michelle Billington was rid of Tom. She was too afraid to go to the police at the time. Tom used to beat her up. He used to click a gun in her ear and whisper, "It's gonna be loaded one of these times."

    Michelle Billington and her sister Julie have had to reinvent themselves. They are the products of a really horrible childhood. They lived in foster homes because the whole family was split up when their mom and dad were found unfit to parent.

    Julie and Michelle Smadu were from Weyburn, Saskatchewan. A French-Canadian family raised Julie. When she grew up, she got a job working security at the wrestling matches. That's where she met Bret. They fell in love and moved into a little house in Ramsey, a run-down area behind the Stampede grounds. Michelle and Tom lived in a four-plex nearby which they shared with my brother Wayne and his girlfriend Sandra.

    Michelle got very thin because she was always worried about Tom. After Davey and I were married, she would call us up in the middle of the night and say, "Tom's got a gun and I'm afraid he's gonna use it this time. Can you come over here?"

    Davey and I would drive over there and wonder, "What's going to happen? Is one of us going end up dead? We've just left our kids alone. They are sound asleep 45 minutes away at our house in Springbank. Now we are on our way to save Michelle from Tom who's drunk and got a loaded gun. What are we doing here? Maybe we should call the police."

    But we'd rush over there, and Tom would greet us with a smile, "Hey Dave, how are you? Nothin's wrong. Michelle's just nuts again."

    When Michelle decided to leave Tom for the first time, it was due to an incident that took place just before Christmas 1985. Tom and Davey were a tag team in the WWF and Tom was getting into the coke. Who got him into the coke? Hermish Austin, along with Ben Bassarab. They were selling Tom coke, and he was getting pretty hooked on it. Combined with all the steroids he was on, he was a time bomb waiting to explode.

    Michelle and Sandra, my brother Wayne's girlfriend, were best friends. Tom threw a cocaine party for them and spiked their drinks with sedatives and they were rendered unconscious. Tom then proceeded to have his fun with Michelle. A little later she began to come to and she told me she witnessed Tom raping Sandra who was still completely senseless.

    Michelle waited until Christmas. She spent a lot of their money on really nice Christmas presents. She gave everyone she liked cashmere scarves and $50 earrings. Then without a word, she loaded her children in the car and drove to Regina. Michelle never told anybody except Julie why she was leaving Tom. So tongues started wagging when she left.

    "What's the matter with her? He's got all that money and she has nice clothes and she came from Weyburn, which is "Nowhere, Saskatchewan.' The poor guy, he's one of the hardest working wrestlers you could ever meet."

    Bret and Julie threw their full support behind Michelle every time she left him and gave her the nerve to finally hand Tom a one-way ticket back to England after he declared bankruptcy. She told him to get the hell out and she kept the kids. She got the house and heartache, but he left and he's never been back. Now Michelle's a teacher and she's gotten on with her life. She has remarried a younger man and is the mother of twins. I'm really happy for her. She's one example of how somebody can turn her life around.

    Tom on the other hand is a bitter, broken man resigned to a life of oblivion. According to London's News Of The World, January 2, 1994, Tom blames Davey for "leaving him in the lurch when he was forced to quit the ring after breaking his back." The article goes on to say that Tom "now sleeps on the floor of a one-bedroom flat which has no carpets and is riddled with dry rot." The last I heard, Tom is in a wheelchair and is so incapacitated he urinates in a tin can that he keeps by his side.
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    CHAPTER FIFTEEN

    BRUCE AND ANDREA

    About the time Tom and Michelle got together, my brother Bruce met his future wife Andrea, the woman who eventually left him for my husband Davey. Andrea was in the seventh grade and he was her substitute teacher. She was 14 years old. He was 37. The school kept her back a year because she so seldom attended and her marks were horrible. She used to hang around the wrestlers at the Pavilion on Friday nights. She was what they call a "ring rat. Like a groupie who hangs out at rock concerts, ring rats are low-class people who dream about sleeping with wrestlers and ultimately marrying one.

    At that time, Bruce was doing quite well with the wrestling. He was one of the top stars. He was also the booker. It was like being the director, or the principal, or the navigator. He decided who was going against whom and who would win and who would lose. Bruce also developed the angles. He would plant the angle and water it. Then it would grow into a drama and that's how he built his talent. It's what Vince McMahon does so well ? create talent. He has an eye for which guys fit the different roles best. Some guys can transform naturally from baby face to heel, and others don't want to or can't.

    In the 1980s, Bruce had the power to make himself a star. And he did. He was making a lot of money for my dad and he put himself against very good people, like the Dynamite Kid. Dynamite made Bruce look invincible. He flew around the ring for Bruce. They had good chemistry too. Bruce made Tom look like he was the worst heel ever and Tom made Bruce look like a sympathetic hero.

    Fans felt sorry for Bruce, but they always counted on him and rooted for him. He had naturally curly blonde hair. Not tight Afro curls, but big soft waves. He was always suntanned and that accentuated his deep blue eyes. So of course, the girls loved him and they hated Dynamite. It was a very good match.

    Bruce was always getting cheated by the referee, Alexander (Sandy) Scott. The angle was to make it look like Sandy was being paid off by Foley's Army to purposely screw the Harts, especially Bruce. Bruce would have Dynamite covered for the pin and Sandy would go to the corner and pretend to inspect the turnbuckles or bend down to tie his shoe. He was always conveniently distracted in tag team matches when Bruce had the opponent covered. This drove the fans crazy.

    I remember Bruce and Keith in a tag team against Dynamite Kid and the Cuban Assassin. Bruce had Dynamite covered and the referee turned his back on this to make sure Cuban Assassin was holding the tag team rope. If Bruce or any of the Harts tried to fight back, Sandy would order them back into their corner. Just after this, we got a bomb threat from some fan. He said he was going to kill Sandy Scott and bomb the Victoria Pavilion because he hated him so much. We tightened up our security that night.

    This angle really bothered my dad because he would be watching from ringside and fans would be screaming at him to go in and help poor Bruce. My dad would get so agitated because he knew he couldn't do anything about it. His interference would mess up the end of the match even though it would be Bruce getting screwed. That set up the next week for a different kind of match against the same guy.

    The wrestling formula had Bruce work every Friday night with the same guy for two months, building to a big finale. The first week was a regular match, the next week was a no-disqualification match and the next week a 60-minute time limit. Then maybe there would be a Lumberjack Match in which nobody would be allowed to escape the ring because of wrestlers guarding the ring apron and rolling the escapee back in until he was pinned. The matches would culminate in a special event like a cage match in which the wrestlers would go up against each other in a cage with a special referee.

    Cage matches were rare, maybe once a year, but Stampede Wrestling's ultimate was the ladder match. We only had one every few years. There would be a sack of money or a belt hanging from the ceiling, and the wrestler had to climb the ladder to fetch it. Stampede Wrestling had the North American Heavyweight belt. It would be attached to a chain or a rope and hung down from above the ring. The objective was to clobber the other guy, then climb up the highest ladder we could find and grab the prize. The wrestlers would pulverize each other to be the first one up that ladder and when the ladders tipped, they fell into the crowd, not back into the ring. That's how high the ladders were.

    One time they used a rope instead of a ladder and Keith grabbed a set of dangling keys and won a car. It was a Trans-Am like the one in Smokey And The Bandit. It was a 1978 model, brown with a gold eagle on the hood. Keith was with the fire department so he was an excellent climber.

    With Vince McMahon's help, Bret was groomed to be the same person Bruce had been, where the girls were crying for him because they felt he'd been screwed. It was a page out of Bruce's book.

    But in the 1970s Bruce was the heartthrob, the baby face. In England they call them a ?blue eye." A heel is a "black eye" or a "brown eye." Bruce looked more like my dad, only shorter. His music was "Heartache Tonight" by the Eagles. He'd come down to the ring and get beaten and cut by five or six wrestlers and a cheating referee, then manage to rally.

    Bruce was teaching school and appearing on TV every week. He was a celebrity in Calgary. The Calgary Flames had just recently been established. We didn't have a baseball team or a soccer team and wrestling was more than surviving, it was thriving. The Pavilion was packed every week and the show had great ratings.

    Bruce was a hero to tens of thousands of people in Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC and Montana, and the Harts were really loved. It was a really great time. But behind the scenes, Bruce's heart was broken over his breakup with a girl named Sue Cowie. She was so pretty. She looked a little like Faith Hill, except her eyes were blue. She had flowing blonde hair and big white teeth.

    Sue Cowie was the lifeguard out at my dad's beach and she loved being in the tall lifeguard chair and whistling. She'd stick her fingers in her mouth and belt out this piercing whistle followed by, "You, on the dock, quit pushing out there!"

    Sue Cowie and Bruce dated for a long time. She was bubbly, good in gymnastics and smart. Bruce helped her with her essays in school because she was still in grade 12, six years younger than he. They'd go on trips to Hawaii. Bruce was crazy about her and they were very much alike. They both had hot tempers, loved to be tanned, and liked taking good care of themselves.

    When Bruce and Sue eventually split up, Bruce was absolutely devastated. My mom and my sister Ellie thought he was going to end his life. They were really worried about him. My mom sent Bruce to her doctor, Dr. Otto Spika, who had delivered Bret, Alison and Ross. He didn't do cesareans and I was my mom's first cesarean, her eleventh child, followed by Owen. After she had Ross they told her, no more. She waited almost three years before she had me. Ross was born in the beginning of 1961. I was born at the end of '63 and Owen was born in May of '65.

    Anyway, Bruce went to see Dr. Spika, and he was very unsympathetic. Back in the 70s, mental problems were regularly dismissed as being "all in your mind."

    Dr. Spika was a German who didn't believe in any of these mental illnesses. He told Bruce, "You need a kick in the bottom. Go out and live in the forest for a month and eat only brown bread and peanut butter. That's what you need." Bruce left there feeling even worse than he had before.

    It took him a long time to get over Sue Cowie.
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