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COMMENT





Sun woman finds Hogan a huggable Hulk
By MICHELE MANDEL - Toronto Sun
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Here I was, recently retired from the wrestling beat, when they made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

It's like this, they said. The Hulk Hogan, the wrestling idol of millions, was giving the Toronto Sun an exclusive interview about his upcoming movie.

And the Hulkster was all mine.

Of course, they smiled, if you don't want to. . .

Not want to see if this good guy was for real? Funny guys. I came out of retirement faster than the Hulk can say eat your vitamins.

Hulk Hogan is hero to millions of little kids and aging grandmas, a big bulk of a man who tells the kids to drink their milk and say their prayers, a good guy who always triumphs over evil.

Or so the script goes in the wrestling world.

But in real life?

Hogan, all 6-feet-7, 300-lbs. of him, was waiting yesterday in the director's lounge at Maple Leaf Gardens, dressed in tight jeans, blue T-shirt and cowboy boots, a huge silver "Hulk" belt buckle around his middle, a blue bandana on his head.

He's so tanned, so blond. And to quote a little boy who also met the Hulkster yesterday: "Holy cow! He's so big."

And, dare I gush, so sweet. A down-to-earth, honest-to-goodness good guy.

Out of his canary yellow costume, his TV growl is gone, replaced by a deep, relaxed voice. But everything else remains the same between the character Hulk Hogan and the real-life man once known as Terry Bollea.

He believes he's here for a reason, with a mission to teach kids to believe in themselves and in God. And it's a responsibility he doesn't take lightly.

"I'm something the kids can believe in and look up to," he says. "Unlike most of our new breed of so-called heroes, who end up airing their dirty laundry in public with their sex or drug or steroid problems, I live my image 24 hours a day.


Michele Mandel and the Hulkster
- photo by Craig Robertson
"I'm for real. They have something pretty solid. I'm not going to leave here and go snort cocaine. And that means a lot to them."

He's used everything from TV to video to reach them. Movies were the next logical progression.

In No Holds Barred, Hogan says he shows his "vulnerable side" as he plays Rip, a wrestling superhero whose family loyalty forces him to battle Zeus, one of the most dangerous men in the world.

Hogan says he's been offered dozens of movie roles after appearing as Thunderlips in Rocky III, but they all called for him to kill people.

And that was against his morals.

"Instead of selling out and playing another hero with two machineguns and thousands of dead people at his feet, I made a squeaky-clean, PG-13, action-adventure-entertainment movie.

"I didn't have to prostitute the name of Hulk Hogan or what I believe in for the almighty dollar."

Acting was not a great stretch for the wrestler. Hogan is the first to admit these days that wrestling is more theatrics than reality.

He can't understand the critics who think it's violent. "It's good vs. bad, black vs. white," he says. "I know two-year-olds who understand that the good guys are going to win and the bad guys are going to lose. If they can't understand that..."

But the falls are for real, as are the teeth marks in his arm and the torn muscles. It's a gruelling business and Hogan is pushing 36, with a wife and year-old daughter at home, as he travels the wrestling circuit 300 days a year.

If No Holds Barred succeeds, Hogan will likely trade the squared circle for the silver screen.

"Sometimes, with all the travelling, it makes it hard to get in the ring," he admits.

He's talked for an hour longer than the promised 30 minutes and, reluctantly, he says he'd better shower and get into costume for the night's match against Randy (Macho Man) Savage.

But first, just a few more autographs for the waiting kids. A shared joke, another photo, until he's finally dragged away by his handler.

"We love you, Hulk," one of the kids screams. He gives him a thumbs up sign and a smile.

And who says there are no heroes anymore?

RELATED LINKS

  • More on No Holds Barred
  • More on Hulk Hogan
  • The SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database


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