November 18, 2008
Blackjack Mulligan’s story is hit and miss
By ANDY MCNAMARA -- SLAM! Wrestling
The story of Blackjack Mulligan is as big and brash as the man himself. Born Robert Deroy Windham, this proud Texan finally gets a chance to tell the world of his illustrious career and to set the record straight on a number of issues with his just-published autobiography.
WANTED: For True Lies and Alibis - The Blackjack Mulligan Story is a quick and entertaining 263-page read. Unfortunately the editing and layout of the book also makes it a distracting and confusing experience.
The main complaints have to be that there are no paragraph separations or indents and that Mulligan jumps between time periods with reckless abandon. Sub-chapters are inserted randomly and while Blackjack’s digressions are interesting, they also make it quite difficult for the reader to stay on track. Wrestling and family photos look as though they have been sloppily photocopied onto the page, rather than having a glossy professional finish. The editing is rather weak as well, and the overall product presents itself as a hurried jotting down of notes instead of a published piece.
With all of that being said, this story, written with Steve Buchanan, projects a certain charm as the text is written as if one is listening to ol’ Blackjack himself on the back porch of his Texas ranch (or Florida home). Mulligan shoots from the hip when describing his feelings about others in the business, and on his own place in the annals of wrestling history.
Here's an example: "Read this carefully. Superstar Billy Graham and Hogan were not the number one draws in that era. Mulligan, Flair, Steamboat, Masked Superstar, Wahoo McDaniel, The Sheik, and John Studd hold those records, buddy!"
One of the stranger/surprising items is Blackjack’s strong dislike for Andre the Giant. Mulligan could not stand Andre’s personality, but even more so, claims that the giant made a homosexual advance on him! Another odd occurrence is how Superstar Billy Graham is ripped apart throughout the book, and then is quoted in a lengthy passage praising Mulligan as a type of father figure to him. As Blackjack points out, he is not on anyone’s payroll so he can provide his true feelings (both positive and negative) on anyone he chooses to, which is a refreshing change from some of the WWE publications.
Probably the most gripping tales of Mulligan’s life come from outside the squared circle and away from the North American wrestling scene. Being born to a 16-year-old mother, and having his father die during his infancy, Blackjack describes his wild youth in the heart of Texas. His time spent in the Marines is fascinating, especially the tour of duty during the early days of the Vietnam War.
Few people may realize that Mulligan was an avid scuba diver for decades until a recent incident in the water almost cost him his life: "I was checking out the shipwreck when I look up and lo and behold, it was the biggest Great White (Shark) I had ever seen ... Brother he was VERY focused on me ... He was getting ready to Strike ... As I floated there decompressing ... he swam away and I got to the surface in one piece."
A strong theme carried throughout is that Blackjack is a devout family man and absolutely adores his supportive wife and children. Mulligan is the father of two well-known wrestlers, Barry and Kendall Windham. Although he had many wild nights out on the road, Mulligan never speaks of infidelity, which must have been quite the challenge during his extensive travels with Ric Flair! His adventures with The Nature Boy definitely provide some of the most entertaining moments in this entire biography.
On the wrestling front, Blackjack’s experiences go beyond the typical oldtimer stories of lacing up the boots throughout North America and Japan. His numerous visits to South Africa paint a unique picture of a different era both in and out of the ring. Blackjack’s hilarious safari trips along with his heated, and very personal, successful battles against the racist South African heavyweight champion definitely make this Headlock Ranch Publishing Company product worth a look.
Blackjack Mulligan’s book is certainly not in the same upper echelon as those written by the likes of Mick Foley or the Dynamite Kid -- few are. However, his blunt honesty and glimpse into the inner workings of the old territory days makes Blackjack’s memoirs much different from the typical wrestling story.
WANTED: For True Lies and Alibis - The Blackjack Mulligan Story is not available in bookstores. The self-published book is available from the SLAM! Wrestling store, as well as at www.blackjackmulligan.net.
Andy McNamara is a SLAM! Wrestling writer, and play-by-play broadcaster for Toronto Maple Leafs inter-county league baseball, along with university basketball and volleyball on Rogers Television in Toronto. He is also the Host of Oakville Blades hockey on TV Cogeco. Contact Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org.