CANOE Network SLAM!Sports

 
SLAM! Sports SLAM! Wrestling
  Oct. 25, 1986



News & Rumours
Bios
Obits
Canadian Hall of Fame
WrestleMania 30
WrestleMania 30 photos
Video
Movie Database
Minority Mat Report
Columnists
Features
Results Archive
PPV Reviews
SLAM! Wrestling store
On Facebook
On Twitter
Send Feedback




Photo Galleries

Raw in Miami


Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame inductions


WWE Battleground


ROH in Detroit


Smackdown & Main Event in Ottawa


Raw in Montreal


WWE in Kingston







SCOREBOARD
PHOTO GALLERY
VIDEO GALLERY
COMMENT




READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Rowdy Roddy runs rampant
By JEAN SONMOR -- Toronto Sun
Rowdy Roddy Piper   Champagne and poached salmon in a private suite atop Harbour Castle Hilton sounds like a great way to do business -- conduct an interview -- talk to a star.

But when the star is the mad wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper, the interview threatens to be an encounter. And champagne, no matter how dry, how French, is no more than a courage booster.

I'd tried to stage the event in the imposing atrium dining room at the McGill Club for Women, hoping that the five-storey ceiling and the bevies of high-powered women might subdue the man into an ordinary conversation. I'd heard too many stories of his impromptu antics. I dreaded meeting the master of the surprise attack on his home turf.

But such is the curse of a huge celebrity that he can't stick his nose out of the hotel room. Even in a private club, he insisted, he'd be watched and talked about. And besides, let's face it, the "old street kid" as he calls himself, is happier at home, even if home, for the moment, is a hotel suite.

But I needn't have worried: Rowdy Roddy was an exuberant raconteur, a huge presence in the room, but he was an chivalrous and gentlemanly as any man I've met for a decade.

That was clear almost immediately, as he whapped open the door, banging it against the wall in his enthusiasm. Sun photographer Mike Cassese and I seemed to have caught him already fully launched into a description of his day. Yes, of course, the telephone.

He finished the call, immediately picking up the same theme with us. He interrupted himself mid-sentence to announce the champagne was on it's way.

The room was throbbing with energy -- all of it his. It was as though we'd stepped onto a faster moving planet.

The supporting cast didn't have much to do. He sat down heavily, stretching out his bad left leg to save the knee, and started into his Toronto schtick.

Yes, the rumor's true he did live here as a kid. But not in Parkdale, in more uptown Don Mills. In fact he was expelled from North York's Donview Heights Junior High School for carrying a switch blade. The same habit got him kicked out of his middle-class home. He signed on for a brief stint at Victoria Park High School, joined the football and wrestling teams but "didn't do nothin' scholastically," he says. "I oughta visit those schools someday, nothin' commercial, just for my heart."

The Lansdowne Gym was one of his favorite hang-outs. But his memory really kicks into gear when he starts reminiscing about the youth hostel at the old Central Y where he lived as close to the ground as anyone gets. "It cost you a quarter and you got two sandwiches, milk and cookies and a bed. You had to check your weapons and drugs at the door and they gave them back to you -- if you were that way inclined -- at the door. In the morning they'd get you up at 6 o'clock with loud, loud music, give you a towel for a shower, two eggs, a piece of bacon and then had to get out. Go out and hustle another quarter so you could stay the next night."

For three years from 12 to 15, he says, he hitchhiked Canada flopping in youth hostels wherever he could find them. The Yonge Street Mall was a Mecca for street kids in the early 70s and Roddy -- whatever his real last name is -- was one of the troubled kids who used it as a base. One of his quick money fixes was to roll the "homosexuals and the wealthy guys who hung around the Brown Derby. It's not something I'm real proud of, but I did it."

He talks chillingly about his struggles in a "prominent family" headed by a CN policeman father, a man who "never told a lie in his life." They lived all over northern Canada from The Pas, Manitoba, to Churchill, to Saskatoon.

"We literally lived in a red shack by the railroad track and they moved us every year because they didn't want the policeman to become too familiar with the public. Yeah, too familiar." His laugh is huge and raucous.

By the time the family moved to Toronto the father had worked his way up and Roderick ("It's Gaelic for conqueror you know") was moving into puberty -- and crime in that order.

"I pushed drugs. I robbed places. I was a no good s.o.b. I was a horrible liar," says Piper, now furrowing his brow. "I don't know why. Maybe I was trying to live up to my father on the other side."

The dates get a little mixed up in this story so he may not have been quite as precocious as he remembers when he says he was an 11-year-old "very troubled child walking about shooting holes in people's windows and collecting money, robbing place. I was in deep trouble; my middle sister had messed me up real good. And just like a typical kid I prayed to God to show me a sign."

The sign, an early-morning encounter with an open Bible, came on the day he demanded it and made so much impact that he still counts it as the moment that "changed everything. I've been a Christian ever since."

The switchblades in school were the end of the line for his policeman father: Roddy had to find a new address. The family couldn't cope. It's a rift that has never healed.

He started his pro wrestling career at 16 in Winnipeg, fighting twice a day, seven days a week. In his spare time he put up posters and built the ring. He was paid $300 a week, barely enough to keep body, soul and dogfood together in the Chevy Vega he called home. He lived with a "brindel-colored pit bull terrier."

Right now at 32, 6-foot-2 1/2 and 242 pounds he's just "peaking", he insists -- even though he was trouble walking across the room without limping or groaning.

He was hopping around with Ringo, the room-service man, laying the table and pouring the champagne so it was a little hard to ignore his labored movement. Peaking? Is this what they call peaking?

"Lady, do you know what I do for a living?" he hollers over his shoulder. "Now where were we? I'm getting punchy, I keep losing my train of thought."

He isn't kidding: Two dozen times he asked to be reminded what he was talking about. "Oh yeah, my wife can tell you that. If you'd seen me five, six, seven years ago ... there's a definite stutter of speech, a definite loss of memory, but it's (wrestling's) better than making pizza. That doesn't pay a dime."

Ask him why he doesn't quit and in a roundabout way you get two answers. He talks about his ranch and herd of horses in Portland, Oregon. "I've got overhead. How am I going to keep my family in the style they've become accustomed to?"

The other answer sounds a little more convincing. "I've worked 16 years for this, hard labor, am I going to quit now when I'm peaking?"

But, no doubt about it, peaking doesn't make him happy.

"To tell you the truth, I've never been more miserable in my entire life," he says. "I'm so lonesome."

"Ah, C'mon, Rowdy Roddy."

"Listen lady, you don't need to sit here with some jerk with 'I've got an attitude' on his T-shirt, bullshit you. And, I don't mean to offend but whatever you write in your paper tomorrow will make such a little difference to the gate (of Sunday's wrestling match) I don't need to lie.

"My family, my wife Kitty, and my two daughters Ariel (18 months) and Stasia (4), need me at home. My daughter gets on the phone and crises. I fly my wife down and cries when she comes and cries when she goes. I have all this celebrity, all this bullshit, and it means absolutely nothing. Sincerely. Because you are a prisoner of yourself.

"I'm making more money than possibly 90% of any athletes in any other sports, but now they tell me I have to get a home in New York and they've got me looking at million dollar homes in Stanford, Conn.

"And the pressure of being away from my wife. She needs my company; she needs me in bed at night; and she needs me to console her in the afternoon when things go wrong. I'm away 250 days a year."

So stop. Put some sanity in your life.

"No. I can't. This is the time to go for it.

"But actually, I have got a movie coming out at the end of November, Body Slam. It's sort of a half-assed biography, but it's a really well-made production.

"That's what I'm trying to do: Make a break with the wrestling on top and slip into this other world of ... actually acting."

Then he folds up his tent. Tells himself he's talking too much, tells me he's boring, and circles back to tell some well-rehearsed funny stories. By now I'm eating. He's saving his double order of salmon for later, hoping eating late will help him sleep.

But just so I'll feel better, so I'll think he's eating too, he starts chucking pieces of lettuce over his shoulder.

Suddenly, Rowdy Roddy is on again

PHOTO: Roddy Piper as photographed by Mike Cassese, Toronto Sun during this interview.

More on Roddy Piper




Know someone who might be interested in this page? Just type in their e-mail address to send them the URL.

Destination email address:


Your email address: