July 17, 2013
Bill Anderson remembers fallen friends in new book
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
You might think that a book about friends from the wrestling business that have died would be a little maudlin, but for "Big" Bill Anderson, it's not; instead, it's all above keeping the names of fallen colleagues alive.
The self-published Big Bill Anderson Remembers ... His Fallen Friends of Wrestling recently was released.
"The main reason I wrote this book Big Bill Anderson Remembers ... His Fallen Friends of Wrestling was because of my incredible respect to my fellow professional wrestlers that have passed away," said Anderson. "I never want their names forgotten. They touched so many hearts while they were alive, especially mine. I felt this was the best way that I could keep their memory alive."
Choosing who was in the book was pretty onerous, scaling down a vast list of names to a select few.
"I was not honestly sure how many people I could fit into the book, but the ones that were chosen, really jumped out at me," he said, figuring there were 35 or so people that genuinely affected his wrestling career; which ran from 1974 to the early 2000s and included training a number of wrestlers, including Sting, the Ultimate Warrior, Cheerleader Melissa Anderson, and Louie Spicolli.
"Freddie Blassie and John Tolos were my inspiration to become a wrestler. That dream started in 1971, with the big angle done on live L.A. TV, where Tolos threw the Monsel's powder into Blassie's eye. That was the defining moment, that I knew that wrestling was my destiny.
"Others impacted my life in various ways. I wanted to include many more in the first book, but I was running over the page limit I had set."
That first book, "Big" Bill Anderson Remembers...The School of Wrestling!, came out in 2011, and covers the names that Anderson helped train.
He's learned more about the self-publishing process in between.
"Self-publishing can sometimes be tough, but in the end, you the individual have no one to answer to but yourself," he said. "What is hard is making sure you have the right template. Also, worrying that all your hard work is saving properly until you upload it to your publisher. It is a long process sizing photos, greyscaling them and choosing the right photos and sacrificing others because of space constraints."
Like with The School of Wrestling!, he recognized that stuff had to be cut, painful as it might be. "Costs have to be kept down to a minimal. The more pages, the more it costs to print. I have found through my first two books that between 175 to 180 pages works best. I also, personally like the 8.5 x 11 in. book size. I think it makes for an easier read. Another great benefit of this process is that I can order as many books as I need at one time."
Also painful was revisiting some of the more important relationships from his life.
"Writing about George 'Crybaby' Cannon was really tough. I am not embarrassed in the least to tell you that I shed many tears reflecting back on my relationship with George," confessed Anderson. "As he was dying of cancer, he and I would write letters to each other -- something we did before computers! His penmanship was a bit shaky, and he would constantly apologize for that. My thinking at the time was that this man has literally days left on this Earth, and he is worried what his friend is thinking. It still brings tears to my eyes, even now."
Anderson believes that Ladd's devotion might surprise people, and that his book has other treats along those lines.
"I think some fans might not realize how much a man like Ernie Ladd had turned to religion in the latter part of his life; or that referee Joey Marella would have rather been a pitcher for the L.A. Dodgers than a referee; or that fitness guru Jack LaLanne, was a former professional wrestler; or that one of the meanest heels in wrestling, in the ring, Professor Toru Tanaka, was the kindest, nicest man anyone could ever meet outside the ring."
Superstar Billy Graham wrote a very moving foreword for the book. [Read it here.]
Recognizing that it's just him out there pushing the book, Anderson is content with the reaction.
"The response has been good so far. Not overwhelming, but consistent sales through my website at bigbillanderson.com and also my Facebook page," he said. "I go into any project like this with no expectations set. I realize that no matter what the content, some people would rather read what a Ric Flair or a Hulk Hogan have to say. The book was written to offer a bit of closure for me. Not that I ever want to forget these men and women. Nor do I want anyone else to either. It is simply my way of showing respect to these fine people."
It's a non-wrestling book, tentatively called Big Bill Anderson's Death Tours -- A Photographic Journey Into the Darker Side of Hollywood and Other Locations.
"This book will have several hundred photos of locations like Spahn Ranch, where Charles Manson lived at the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders," said Anderson. He also visits homes where stars lived and died like Superman's George Reeves, Rock Hudson, Carole Landis, Nick Adams, Natalie Wood and Joan Crawford, as well as locations where films like It's A Wonderful Life, Die Hard, The Dorothy Stratten Story and many more were filmed. Plus, there are photos from gravesites, from Marilyn Monroe to Rudolf Valentino to Bob Crane
"It is like a sight-seeing book for the off the beaten path sightseers in Los Angeles especially," he said. "But I am very passionate about this next book. I have taken my 24 year old son, Audie, along with me on all my research ventures thus far."