April 12, 2006
Reggie Love: Bizarre and so much more
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
The acting career of Reggie Love is a lot like he is -- a whole lot of Bizarre, and full of great stories and laughs.
Reggie, who was born Johnny Evans, was perhaps Hamilton's best-known hippie as one half of the famed Love Brothers team, with Hartford Love, aka Wes Hutchings. They preached love and delivered violence in the ring during the 1970s.
Evans broke into pro wrestling in the late 1960s, training at Al Spittles' gym in Hamilton. He and Hutchings teamed together under masks as the Hangmen before NWF promoter Johnny Powers the world tag titles out of Cleveland in 1969, the NWF U.S. belts in 1973, and the International titles on a couple of occasions in Toronto in 1974. The colourful duo wore their love beads, tie-dyed t-shirts and bellbottoms. In 1974, Wrestling Revue spread the gospel that the Love Brothers were actually half-brothers from a family of 11 children from Cardiff, Wales. Growing up they learned the "rugged Welsh-Cumberland style of holds and moves," claimed the mag.
Reggie Love would work until his back refused to co-operate any longer in the late 1970s. "My back got so bad I could hardly crawl out of bed," he recalled. Today, he's living a life of leisure with wife Carol outside Hamilton.
But again and again throughout his wrestling career, Reggie found himself invited out for film parts. He's done a ton of commercials, TV shows and films with the likes of Tony Curtis and Jack Palance.
And he's got the stories to prove it.
There's no point wasting time on an introduction. Let's get to a story.
The "Canadian classic" Blood & Guts came out in 1978, and shot on a tiny budget around Hamilton by future "something" director Paul Lynch (Prom Night and a whack of TV shows). Reggie was at Bull Johnson's gym one day, working out -- complete with a cigar -- and one of the people from the film asked him to read for a part.
"Would you like to read for a part?"
"'Sure, what the hell, I'll read for a part"
Reggie was instructed to read with a "wimp of a guy." Being relatively new to the film business, Reggie was unfamiliar with the need to stand real close while reading lines.
"The guy was talking to me, and I had to relay back to him. 'You've got to drop the bum, he's no good. Never was. Can't punch, can't hit, can't do anything. While you're at it, call the fire department.'
"The director says, 'That's not in there.'
"'Yes it is. His tie's on fire!' My cigar was touching his tie and it started to smoke!"
Reggie not only got the part, he was also hired to be a choreographer on the flick.
How about that dramatic "first time", Reggie?
"Years ago, when I was sitting in a golf course, and a guy came over to me and said, 'They're looking for good-looking, strong guys. They're doing commericals in Toronto.' I thought he was a queer or something so I said, 'Yeah, yeah, thanks a lot.' I brushed him off. About half a minute later, he said, 'Hey look.' ... [Looks at the TV.] There he was doing a Maclean's toothpaste [ad]. So anyway, he came over and took my name and address and phone number."
The next day, he got a call about appearing in a commerical for a beer. "I was a strongman, walking out of the water with a good-looking bimbo on my shoulder" and there was a tiny, wimpy guy in the sand.
Got a philosophy on acting, Reggie?
"My wife gets mad at me for this, but I think anybody can be an actor. I'll take you -- you're a little bit laid back, but I can guarantee you this, if I had a certain role for you, we'd just keep doing it until you got it right!"
The notorious rulebreaker even admitted that he fudged the truth on his acting resume.
"Skills and interest? I could do anything. I lied about my height and weight. I've got here 5-11-1/2, I wasn't, I was 5'11", and weight 180 -- I was about 200. What difference does that make?"
Then there is 1979's Title Shot, which starred Tony Curtis as Frank Renzetti.
"Terrible movie," admitted Love, who played the foreman of Curtis' bakery.
"Tony Curtis was my hero when I was a young kid. Everybody wanted to look like Tony. I even combed my hair like him," Reggie said.
The shoot still is etched in his memory.
"It was the coldest day in Toronto's history, I think. It was awful. It was behind where George Chuvalo used to work out, in Cabbagetown."
"Now here's what the premise was, that [Curtis] was also a fight promoter, but all his help was out on strike. I was the top guy in his bakery business. He didn't want to get out of the car because it was so cold, and he didn't want to wear underwear or anything, all dressed in black.
"I didn't know the bloody lines, when they said, 'Okay, Reggie, away you go,' I was upstairs at the gym learning my lines. I didn't learn them at home! I don't take blame for anything, so I said, 'Well, nobody gave me a script.' The assistant director got furious. I said, 'Don't blame me.' He said, 'No, I won't. I'm blaming the guy. Why he didn't do it ...' He threw the script down and stepped on it.
"He said, 'Well, you'll have to go in with Mr. Curtis to go over the lines.' I said, 'Okay.'
"Here I am going in with my hero. He's as bald as bladder. What the hell? This can't be the same guy! But it is. He wears a nice white rug, see. We went over a few lines together, twice, three times."
"'Well, Reggie, I think we've got that, don't you?'
"'Yeah, I think so too.' I didn't know bugger all.
"When we got outside, I couldn't -- I can do it verbatim now -- I called him Spaghetti, Colletti, you name it. 'Stop!' 'Cut!' Finally, we got it over with. We're walking away, and I feel this arm on the side of me. It's Tony Curtis. He said, 'I felt some electricity there, didn't you, Reggie?' I said, 'Me too, Tony. And I'm starting to talk like you!' He got a big kick out of that one."
Since this is a Reggie Love story, it doesn't end where - or how - you think it will.
The shooting continued in the cold.
"I screwed that one up again. I said, 'Well, I can't help it. It's so cold, my teeth are chattering. I'm shivering here.' So Tony Curtis, who has the window down in the car -- he won't get out -- he said, 'Well, get Reggie a blanket. The man's cold!' That's how he talks. So the guy says, 'Yeah, go and get it.' So I said to the girl, 'Gimme the book, will ya?' She said, 'You don't know your lines, do you?' I said, 'No, so give it to me!' So we finally got it over with."
The film itself was flawed from start to finish. "Weak dialogue and a muddy plot undermine this crime drama about the Mafia's attempt to not only fix a championship fight, but to have the defending champion killed off in the ring," wrote Eleanor Mannikka in All Movie Guide.
Spoiler alert: Reggie is happy to poke holes in the climax. "It was stupid. If the guy didn't take a dive in the main event, the heavyweight, then he was going to get shot by somebody up in the rafters of Maple Leaf Gardens. Now isn't that great? Now, how does he get out of there after he shoots him? Swings down I guess."
Reggie's filmography includes a host of well-known Canadian TV shows; remember, though, "well-known" doesn't necessarily mean "high quality."
How about these gems: The Nature of Things, Seeing Things, SCTV ("I don't know what I did there"), and Night Heat ("I fell off the boat on my shoulder. Seven years later, I didn't get a dime. I had to get my shoulder operated on, and my knee.")
And no Canadian actor worth his salt can have a complete career without having appeared on the inexplicably popular show The Littlest Hobo. "It was a classic alright. I'll tell you about that. They had me doing all the running and some skinny guy there, who was supposed to be my partner, not doing anything. I finally said, 'Let him have a turn. I'm through running.' I had to run a half a mile at once or something."
Evil Stalks This House was a TV movie from 1981, that starred Jack Palance. (It's also known as Tales of the Haunted.) Reggie was named Adams in it, and got the part because he'd been seen on the sketch show, Bizarre.
"I had a big, big part in [Evil Stalks This House]. As a matter of fact, I drown in a pit trap in a barn. They couldn't get my voice that good, so when it was all over, I had to do a voiceover. The writer came and, as we we walking, he said, 'I haven't seen you. You were rated number one in this movie.' I didn't know they did that. I said 'That's good.' I carried on the crap like I knew everything.
"He said, 'You're Canadian, so I haven't seen many of your movies. How many have you done?'
Finally, let's get to Bizarre. Now we're to the real Reggie Love, his true calling, perhaps.
For those that don't know, Bizarre was sketch show that starred John Byner, that ran from 1980 to 1985. Filmed in Toronto, it featured many comedy stars of the day -- Dave Broadfoot, Saul Rubinek, Billy Van, Jennifer Dale, Dave Thomas, Jayne Eastwood, Luba Goy, Pat Morita -- and the future, like Mike Myers. The major breakout star from from Bizarre was accident-prone stuntman Super Dave Osborne (Bob Einstein). Don't forget the great midget actor Billy Barty, either, who always seemed to get the best of Byner.
And Reggie was on Bizarre countless times.
One particular sketch Reggie remembered was a real stretch -- he played a wrestler. But the twist was that he was also a film reviewer, paired with a masked tag team reviewer and Byner. "We wind up talking about the different movies. It made sense. Then he gets in it, and before you know it, the big guy calls me a fat something or other. I call him a fruit, and we get into a big fight. John Byner gets yanked into it, and he beats the two of us up. It was funny as hell."
Byner liked Reggie's work, and after an incident with another actor where he got hurt, Byner insisted on having Reggie as a regular tough guy foil. "He was comfortable with me. He knew that when I threw a punch, I wasn't going to hit him. The other guy did."
Bizarre is still raking in the dough today for Evans. He recently got a cheque for $15.60, and prior to that, he'd gotten a cheque for just $2. And that's just Bizarre enough for Reggie Love to be true.
Greg Oliver founded SLAM! Wrestling with John Powell way back in
1996, and has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. His recently-published book, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (with Steven Johnson) is the second in a series, following The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them both from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.