Best Racial Gimmicks of Wrestling

A few weeks ago on Monday, July 23, the WWE celebrated its one thousandth anniversary of their hit weekly series Monday Night Raw. As one of the longest running cable TV shows in the United States, this anniversary extravaganza proved to be a reunion for the greats of pro wrestling, past and present.

One curious guest however, was the pimp hatted, gheri curled, cane wielding geezer by the name of Slick. The audience response from the WWE universe seemed rather noncommittal in regards to this particular individual. As an ordained minister, he was there to officiate the story line wedding between superstars, Daniel Bryan and AJ. Yet the primary question on the minds of young foam fingered fans seemed to be, “who is this sketchy old black guy?”

Anyone who’s watched wrestling during the 80’s knows that Kenneth “Slick” Johnson (otherwise known as “The Slickster” or “The Doctor of Style”) was actually one of the most colorful ringside managers in the history of rasslin. That’s not even a race joke. Dude was colorful. He wore flashy suits, told the television cameras that he was “lean, mean with pockets full of green,” and made an amazing music video for a song called “Jive Soul Bro,” which was featured on the oft sought Pile Driver: The Wrestling Album 2. 

It was the video for “Jive Soul Bro” that played on the giant Titantron, as Slick made his ring entrance that Monday. Equal parts racist and fun, the video features the Slickster (with a mouthful of fried chicken) promising to out dance Michael Jackson. He also performs a drum roll. With some drumsticks.

Of course it’s the Slickster’s love of yard bird that’s most often recalled from his career, and although chicken is a damn sensitive issue right now, Johnson seemed to have no qualms informing the audience that, “you know the Slickster has been promised a whole lotta yard bird in exchange for my services tonight!”

With performances like this, accusations of racist caricature in the world of wrestling are nothing new. Just take this debut promo for Akeem the African Dream, in which Slick leads a primitive tribal dance ceremony around a flaming trash can in the middle of some ghetto alley. Kind of un-pc, even by wrestling’s low standards today.

And yet, while these sleazy mongoloid wrestling gimmicks may re-enforce racist attitudes, does it actually harm anyone? Sociologist types would likely argue that it does. They say that foreign or ethnically based characters are always the heel/villains who cheat to win.

Ok. So fucking what?

Personally, when I was a kid, I always rooted for the foreign bad guys because I thought they were more interesting than their bland, baby-face counterparts. And if the majority of people chant “USA” and cheer on the dude in the stars & stripes underwear, then that’s fine too. Isn’t it natural to hate and fear whoever is different from ourselves? Isn’t this just another way of celebrating cultural difference?

With that in mind, here is just a small handful of my favorite pro wrestlers who antagonized audiences with their race or ethnic identity.

Kamala

Often known as the Ugandan Head Hunter, this guy was a straight up carnie attraction. A face painted, 380 pound cannibal, his name was selected straight out of a National Geographic Magazine. In reality, James Harris is a soft spoken truck driver from Mississippi. He’ll definitely tell you about how racist he feels the wrestling industry was to him, but that’s mostly in relation to money. As far as the offensive gimmick goes, he still loves putting on his jungle loincloth from time to time. Here he is choking me out in a picture we took a few years ago.

Nikolai Volkoff

Josip Nikolai Peruzovic grew up in the Soviet Republic of Croatia, then a part of Yugoslavia.  He was a member of the Yugoslavian weight lifting team, until he defected to Canada in 1967. An ex communist with an axe to grind, the smelly Russian character he became known for was all his own idea. His singing of the Soviet national anthem before matches really pissed people off, and served as his own personal stab at the Stalinist beast. Now a code enforcement officer in Baltimore County, Maryland, he ran unsuccessfully in the 2006 Maryland Republican primary for State Delegate of his district.

Yokozuna

Though Rodney Agatupu Anoa’i was actually of Samoan origin, he was billed throughout the 90’s as a sumo wrestler from the land of the rising sun. Weighing nearly six hundred pounds, he definitely looked the part. Just like Hollywood, wrestling is all about type casting, and people of polynesian descent have often portrayed the hated Japs. Yoko never went to the ring without the company of his manager Mr. Fuji, a dead ringer for the Bond villain, Oddjob.

The Iron Sheik

What can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said? Aside from having a mustache that’s famous in and of itself, the Sheik was so reviled in his day for his anti-Americanism that he’s now become a downright American icon. In his old age, the Iranian Olympic grappler who perfected the camel clutch has re-invented himself as a jolly, chode shaped person with a mouth that rivals Charlie Sheen.

If you still need your Sheik fix you can follow him, too. Tweets include, “mitt romney grasshopper dick,” “respect the intelligent Jew,” and “Hulk Hogan Birthday, I hope he get raped by a dead dog.”

Oh and speaking of Hulk Hogan, dude is a nigga.

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Post-racial, gay Obama chicken, ya’ll

Not to beat a dead chicken, but in the course of writing about Chick-fil-A, I happened to stumble across this article in The New York Times.

I’m seriously curious. What the hell is the matter with some Arab owned carry out place referring to itself as Obama Fried Chicken?

Seeing as the place exists in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the native home of the fat, sassy Rev. Al Sharpton, I suppose it’s only natural that it should be deemed “offensive to African Americans.”  Yet on the other hand, Obama is the “post-racial” president. In a post-racial society like ours, why should the name of our president (who single-handedly eliminated the notion of race), be offensive to anyone, in particular a community of “African Americans”, who according to post-racial standards, needn’t be limited by that identity?

Well, because it’s a racial stereotype, picketers will say, that black people eat fried chicken.

Ok. In my own experience growing up around black people, I’d say this is often true. And I am craving some Popeye’s as I write this, so I guess my blackness is showing. But all that aside, is it really so unreasonable to assume that Barack Obama has eaten fried chicken before? He seems to like it a lot…

And what about the Reverend Al? If this racial stereotype really bothers him so much, why does he perpetuate it by eating so much fried chicken? Additionally, isn’t it fair to assume that at some point in time, these two leaders of the post-black public dined on a wing or two together? As the magical 8 ball indicates, signs point to yes.

Furthermore, isn’t Obama also “the first gay president?” Couldn’t that make his chicken a rainbow friendly alternative to the fascism of Chick-fil-A as the popularity of his bird continues to flourish?

Already there are Obama Fried Chicken locations in Manhattan and Beijing. There’s even a deli/grocery in the Baltimore ghetto called Welcome Second Obama..whatever that means.

With all these Obama themed restaurants popping up all around the post racial globe, I’m kind of surprised that the White House couldn’t have issued a nicer statement.  But then again on the other hand, I’m kind of surprised that the White House felt compelled to issue any statement at all.

I know it’s been a tense couple of weeks but it’s just chicken, folks. Let’s chill the fuck out.

Shit Ultimate Warrior Says

When it comes to the student demonstrators, “anarchists”, and others in the Occupy Wallstreet Movement, there are a lot of unkind things I’m tempted to say.  But why say them when pro wrestling legend, The Ultimate Warrior can say them, for me?

Recently in an interview captured on The Young Turks Network, James Brian Hellwig (aka The Warrior) told reporters “I would never take a one sided defense for corporate America, but I find it a little ironic that most of these kids own iPads, iPhones, all these material things that are a big part of the consumerism that goes on in this country.”

Sounds fair, so far as I’m concerned.  Although Cenk Uygur disagrees. According to this smart-mouth Turk, since The Warrior is a  former wrestler, he must be wrong. Cenk says that the “core message” of the Occupy movement is the purchasing of politicians by corporations–not corporations themselves. A good rebuttal, but ultimately not effective enough. Not when one considers The Warrior’s additional point that a lot of these young occupiers don’t even know what they are protesting in the first place. To this effect, all Cenk had to say was, once again, “the guy is a wrestler, he gets hit with chairs.”

Having heard both sides, I’m gonna have to award the argument to The Warrior. I’ll concede that he’s one roided, ragey dude (and not particularly well spoken at that), but for me, his tirade hits home a little more than Cenk’s rather simplistic defense of the movement. I might also be siding with The Warrior here, because I don’t particularly like the Turkish people I’ve met. In fact, I often find myself thinking that Turkey is nothing but a third world Muslim shit hole masquerading as a European nation. That’s not The Warrior speaking. That’s all me.

Then there are other things The Warrior says.  Like the time he told the Young Republicans at the University of Connecticut that “queering doesn’t make the world work.”

Later on his website, he put this in more politically correct terms by explaining that the human race would die out if everyone was a homosexual. I don’t think The Warrior considered insemination in this case, but removing that from the equation, it’s sort of hard to argue with what he said. I do, however, think it’s good to have some gays around, if only to limit the amount of reckless breeding going on out there. I would amend this quote by saying, “queering doesn’t make the world work, but some queering is necessary.”

Of course, when it comes to his wrestling promos, there is a lot of other shit that The Ultimate Warrior says which is ultimately indecipherable.

Back in his prime, I’m not sure he  understood what he was saying in front of the camera, either. In this bit here, he’s perfectly clear about the fact that he “never did understand” and “never tried to understand” anything at all, basically.

Not to mention, this pre-9/11 gem, in which The Warrior alludes to pilots “who have already made the sacrifice” and threatens to crash Hulk Hogan’s plane.

Ultimately, no matter what The Warrior claimed to be “injecting” in his veins from those “Warrior Gods” he spoke of, at least we know that nicotine wasn’t a part of the mix.

Rufio’s Def Poetry Jam

All children of the ’90s who watched the movie Hook remember Rufio. A flava-ful Asian kid with a skunky red-tipped mowhawk, he looked awkward enough to make me cringe, even though I was only in grade school.  As leader of Neverland’s Lost Boys, Rufio spoke in ebonics, wore mid riff exposing shirts, flirted with Robin Williams in a way that would make members of NAMBLA blush, and is most often remembered for yelling the word “bangerang” (pronounced bang-er-ang).  Like many brown people, he was also good at swinging from vines.

What many don’t know about Rufio, however, is that he is also an adept in the art of floetry. With a mostly underwhelming film career under his belt, it seems only natural that 36 year old Filipino wigger Dante Basco would make the jump from the world of acting to slam poetry.  Since doing so, Basco has appeared on Def Poetry Jam, where he performed an emotionally charged poem about an encounter with a stripper.  In his characteristically high pitched voice, Basco lamented that he was unable to effectively beat and choke the exotic dancer, per her request.

And when he’s not gently beating on strippers or doing performance poems about the experience, Basco actually hosts his own slam poetry event called “Da Poetry Lounge” every Tuesday evening in Los Angeles. My friend Joe, an LA resident, who first told me of the Lounge’s existence, describes it as “a high school gym with a stage and microphone.” Joe also mentioned that the open mic performers left a lot to be desired, though in my opinion, that could be said of any venue where dashiki wearing gurus of the spoken word are present.

As someone who tells stories to audiences regularly, I cannot stand watching people do slam poetry. Whenever some slow talking would be Erykah Badu or Russell Simmons starts spitting verse at me, I feel like attacking that person with a cheese grater. I don’t like the obsessive rhyming, the painfully dramatic pauses, the incorporation of r&b song lyrics (always sung off key acopello by the poet or poetess) , or the word “revolution,” as it tends to occur in most of these race or identity themed monologues. In short, there is nothing “bangerang” about the national slam scene.

And yet, while Rufio/Basco is no less irritating than any other slam poet I’ve encountered, I must say, I can’t stop watching him “drop poems” from his living room on YouTube. Maybe that’s because for some reason, all of his slam poems seem to be weirdly sex themed. Like this one for instance, where he pays homage to his ex-girlfriend’s pussy and its “gravitational pull.”

Or this one, wherein he ruminates on the dangers of internet porn.

Or finally, this little number in which he relates the history of his entire sex life, concluding with a revolution err “revelation” that the “dynamic between man and woman is creation.”

In any case, I guess it’s good to know that Rufio gets laid. This poetry slamming thing does appear to be the perfect calling for him. And if it doesn’t work out, he can always keep selling his t-shirts.

Swastikool

In high school, when I was a punk rocker, I liked this song by the Dead Kennedys called “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” In it, singer Jello Biafra warned against punks who’d adopted a Nazi type of look, stating that, “you aint hardcore if you spike your hair when a jock still lives inside your head.”

In particular, Jello took issue with the swastika, that equilateral cross of infamy which had always been present in punk since the days of Siouxsie Sioux and The Sex Pistols. In another lyric from that song, he chided members of the punk public, asking, “So you still think swastikas look cool?” and insisted that in a real 4th Reich, these fashion conscious fascists would be the “first to go.”

Having had quite a few years to mill this over, I eventually reached the following conclusion. It’s actually more of an objective fact. You don’t even need to be an Aryan Nazi jock in order to agree.

The truth is, Jello, that swastikas DO look cool.

So cool, as a matter of fact, that in 1910, a female hockey team called the Edmonton Swastikas made the symbol into their official uniform logo.

So cool, that Hitler and the Nazis used it to create one heck of a flag (and some rather fetching arm bands as well). So cool, that today in Germany, you can be arrested just for displaying one. And ultimately, so cool that anti-fascists all over America love to wear them, just to show you how un-cool they are.

I mean, lets be real. Isn’t it funny how these alleged anti-Nazis go out of their way to walk around wearing the largest anti-swastikas they can find? Isn’t it possible that they might be overstating their case, just a bit? Maybe if they feel so strongly about this peculiar 20-sided polygon, they should just drop the no symbol from in front of it and rock the swastika. It honestly looks a lot cooler without that dumb circle and line running through it.

Well maybe on this shirt it doesn’t. But usually, it does.

After all, maybe I’m missing the point here, but where is the threat in someone displaying a swastika today? Is it really as inherently dangerous as groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center would have us believe? Furthermore, how many of these alleged swazi-haters have actually stood toe to toe with an actual Nazi? My guess is, not very many. Chances are, if you live in America, you haven’t even met one. Not unless, like my deceased grandfather, you were imprisoned in a Nazi POW camp, or like my grandmother, you watched all of the stuff in your house get smashed to pieces on Crystal Night.

I mean, sure, they’re around. The last one I saw was this shirtless, old guy with a chest full of white power ink, playing an arcade machine at the beach. But was this old dude actually posing any physical danger to anyone? What makes his swastika tatts any more threatening than the hammer and sickle? Or some snotty kid’s Che Guevara t-shirt?  Is anyone concerned about a Stalinist uprising on account of these symbols and their popularity?

The point is that banning the swastika doesn’t really do anything for the so-called “advancement” of human kind. It doesn’t change anything that already happened, and it also won’t stop genocide as it continues to occur throughout the world. I don’t think that we need to do some hippie-fied “reclaiming” of the swastika as a symbol of Hinduism/Buddhism/Jainism. The bad connotation of the symbol in western culture really adds to its appeal for me.

Just do yourself a favor the next time you happen to see one and admit that it looks nice.

These Witches Give Me Nightmares

According to this article in Stylist UK, Sigourney Weaver would like to be queen of everything for a day. Presiding over the citizens of the world from a greenhouse, Queen Sigourney’s main objectives would be to save the oceans, banish bigotry, and rule alone (because, according to her, women are better at “team building”). In addition to these decrees, Queen Sigourney wants her adoring public to know that she is actually very nice. She even goes so far as to refer to herself as “a pussycat!”

Well, that’s all fine and good, but I can’t be fooled. While I’m willing to acknowledge that Sigourney Weaver has a pussy, I tend to think of her as more of a witch.

How could I think this? Just look at her picture and then compare it to her photo from the 1997 Snow White movie. It’s clear that the creepy crone in the latter image is living just beneath the skin. Maybe it’s just me, but neither of these pictures seem to plead “save the sea turtles.” I’ve always gotten more of an “I want to eat your children,” kind of vibe from her.

This dread of witches dates back to when I was a kid. Ever since I saw the movie The Witches, and read the novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, Witches (or lets say creepy looking older women), have always both fascinated and scared the shit out of me.

In my adult life, having dated a woman who was a lot older than myself, I suppose this could be interpreted as some kind of psychological issue I have. All the same; whenever I see certain kinds of older women, that is, ones who look really psychotic or demented, I am filled with equal parts terror and awe.

So, with this in mind, here are four such women whom I’ve often suspected of witchery.

Though she was known in her day as somewhat of a Hollywood starlet, Piper Laurie aged into roles that were much more witchy in nature. In Carrie, her portrayal as a religious maniac dwelling in an ordinary suburb was very convincing, and still prevents me from opening the door to any church lady, ever. Whenever I leave the bathroom, I’m certain she’s standing outside of it, ready to stab me in the back with a kitchen knife. She also succeeded in making me scared of closets.

Years before that rhinestone covered rag doll, Gaga was mugging for attention with the gays by insisting she was “born this way,” Diamanda Galas was the one true hag of the fags. Not only does she look like Morticia Addams with a crack habit, but the avant-garde opera singer has a demonically possessed voice as well. With a three and a half octave vocal range, Galas can conjure some sounds that probably exist only in the depths of Hell. Even the people who don’t like her music would likely agree. Though she is famous for her AIDS activism, she’s also said that she hates liberals, and dissed the Live Aid concert by telling Axl Rose to suck her ass. That might make her the best witch on this list.

Like Galas, Jarboe is a witchy songwriter. Most remembered for her work during the 80’s with the bleak post-punk outfit Swans, she has since recorded solo material in which she does a good deal of snarling and growling. Her singing voice is equally haunting. Kind of like the last thing you hear before you off yourself. I once knew a guy who, after eating a lot of acid and attending a show of hers in Seattle, tried to do just that. (He is dead now, though not on account of the Jarboe incident.) Sometimes, when I’m trying to sleep, one of her songs will show up on my iTunes playlist shuffle, and I’ll get up out of bed just to switch the track. I should probably just remove her from the playlist. Here she is below, sporting an S&M diaper/chastity belt thing she had designed just for herself.

Lastly. I am including Susan Sarandon too. Not much to say about that, since at this point, her true nature is widely known. I merely submit the following for official photo documentation.

Spinell: A Maniac Remembered

Recently, the Cannes Film Festival debuted the trailer for the remake of William Lustig’s notorious 1980 slasher flick, Maniac. Directed by Frank Khalfoun, this new version takes place in Los Angeles instead of New York, and stars midget actor Elijah Wood in the role of scalp-collecting lady killer, Frank Zito.

Already there is a lot of buzz from people who think that this will be an effective, stylized remake, as well great deal of whining from people who believe that the only reason Hollywood remakes exist is to ruin their adolescent nostalgia. Seeing as I don’t  fall into either camp on this issue (I don’t think the remake looks great, but I’m still looking forward to seeing it), theres no point in my griping about a film I’ve yet to watch. Rather, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the original maniac, Joe Spinell. There aren’t many occasions to celebrate this chunky I-talian American actor and I think he deserves his due.

Born Joseph J. Spagnuolo in Manhattan’s Little Italy, this sweaty man was one imposing guinea. Towering at 5’11, he was not the kind of guy you wanted to chase you around the subway station in a ski mask. He was a big, ugly greaseball with awkward shaggy hair. The sort of anti-social character you’d expect to see leering at you in a Times Square porno theater. When he strangled a hooker, cut off her scalp, and then placed it on a mannequin head, it was very believable. Similarly, when he had temper tantrums and cried out for his mommy, that seemed equally convincing.

Maybe that’s because, to some extent this role was close to home for the brutish baby man, Spinell. Though he was married for two years to porn actress Jean Jennings, he spent the majority of his life living with his mother in Queens. Everything about this guy, from his presence in the 42nd street grind house world to his close relationship with his ma, really seemed to resemble his Maniac character. He still seemed like a sketchy psycho in earlier bit parts for Taxi Driver and Rocky. Even when he bled to death from hemophilia on mom’s couch in 1989, it eerily reflected a certain scene from the movie.

So, in summation, while the Hobbit, Elijah has certainly proven via Sin City that he can “hop around” and be crazy, there is only one guy out there who could take a name like Frank Zito and give it (literal) weight.

And that’s my favorite New York creeper, Joe Spinell.

On a side note, its also worth mentioning that during Cannes, five unattractive French women who call themselves “The Beard,” stood outside in the rain to protest a lack of female directors in the festival. Apparently, these bearded ladies weren’t familiar with Maniac and its unfavorable history among gorilla err guerrilla feminist groups. They completely missed an additional opportunity to bitch.