Howard Brody’s second book, Swimming with Piranhas: Surviving the Politics of Pro Wrestling, is a candid look at professional wrestling and covers a 25 year period in which he dealt with both the famous and infamous of a fascinating industry. Some of the people he talks about in no particular order are: Vince and Linda McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman, Dusty Rhodes, Tod Gordon, Hulk Hogan, Hiro Matsuda, Jim Cornette, Jim Ross, Dixie Carter, Ric Flair, Antonio Inoki, Gordon Solie, Bob Roop, Herb Abrams, Kevin and Nancy Sullivan, Luna Vachon, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr. and his wife Marti, Bruiser Brody, Sir Oliver Humperdink, Dennis Coralluzzo, Dan Severn, Steve Corino, Sabu and the list goes on and on and on.
SLAM! Wrestling is pleased to be able to share some of Swimming with Piranhas with our readers — in the coming weeks. Some of the stories from Howard are in the book, while others got chopped in the process of going from 270,000 words to 100,000.
These snippets are a little preview of what you will find in Swimming with Piranhas. Two of the items below got visited by the red ink monster — the story of a chance meeting on an airplane, and a favorite road tale.
Well, one day while I was one the phone with Gordon Solie, a guy named Dan Fisher came in to the showroom. He and his partner were PIs based out of Pompano Beach. While the partner thought wrestling was stupid, Fisher turned out to be a fan who really loved watching it. He was typical of the closet wrestling fan of the day, who would never admit to it in public, but put another fan in the room with him and it was yap central. As it turned out his family was from New Hampshire, and while he was 10 years older than me, he began talking about the old WWWF days of Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski, Haystacks Calhoun, Chief Jay Strongbow and Gorilla Monsoon. To put it bluntly, he was a big time mark. But that was okay. I was a mark too, and in many ways I’m still a mark. And I don’t mean to use the term in a derogatory manner either.
Within time Dan and I became friends and so when Craig Cohen — who would go on to become my business partner with the Wild Women of Wrestling — and I planned our next weekend road trip to Tampa, we took Dan along. On this particular trip we were going to see a show at the Florida State Fairgrounds for a match between Jerry Lawler and Kerry von Erich promoted by Florida Championship Wrestling, the company owned by Gordon, Steve Keirn and Mike Graham.
Instead of the typical two night sleepover, we decided to leave Saturday morning and return Sunday morning. Dan decided he would drive his new decked out Econoline van and the whole way up it was wrestling talk 101. Also along for the trip was Dana Taylor, who back in the day did a lot of ring announcing for the old Florida office.
A lot of the ride was spent telling funny wrestling stories about others who were not there to refute the sordid tales. Everyone got picked on a little bit and sooner or later it came around to me as I became the brunt of most of the jokes: I was the common friend, the conduit for Dan to bond with the others. I don’t remember what prompted the ribbing, but somehow we got on the topic of the Iron Sheik and how we loved the promos he did in broken English.
“Gene mean,” he would say to the legendary WWF announcer Gene Okerlund, “you intellijhent Jhew. You tell pe’ple no say U.S.A., U.S.A. You tell pe’ple E-rahn nuhmber vun! Ayatollah nuhmber vun! U.S.A, hock, phooey!”
Out of nowhere, Dana said something to the effect that what I really liked about the Iron Sheik wasn’t his promos, but rather his curly-toed boots. To be blunt, he said I liked squatting on them. Well, unfortunately that’s all it took to turn the rib-o-meter all the way up! It became the weekend’s running joke and I had to listen to those three cackling idiots tell it over and over and over. Of all the things to concoct, why did I have to become romantically involved with Khosrow Vaziri’s wrestling boot and be the recipient of some weird Iranian style taboo lovin’?!
Looking back, that little rib was really quite harmless and since it meant that everyone else got along, well, that was cool with me!
Now, let’s fast forward to 1994. Late in the year I had hooked up with a couple of Indian nationals who were living in South Florida and they had become my partners in the NWA Florida promotion. One of the partners, Peter Patel, flew with me to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to set up some shows and from there we were to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel to do the same. Because there was no direct travel between the UAE and Israel, that meant we had to fly all the way back to London to switch planes.
Because we were delayed leaving Dubai, Peter and I missed our plane in London, and to get to Tel Aviv that night we had to fly first class through Germany. While security was lax in Dubai, it was tight in Frankfurt. It reminded me of the military presence I had seen the year before in Israel. Police carried submachine guns, and the security checkpoint was the most thorough I had ever seen. In addition to checking everything in your bag, from toiletries to dirty underwear, they separated the passengers by sex and had a security officer pat them down. They also made anyone with any type of electronic device turn it on to show it was in working order.
The flight from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv was actually pretty nice. As it turned out Peter sat behind me as they didn’t have two seats together in first class. I ended up sitting next to a very nice man who was reading Howard Stern’s Private Parts. I had actually just finished reading the book myself and when I asked him how he liked it, he said that he thought it was interesting. We introduced ourselves and I learned his name was Ivan. I never bothered to ask for a last name. I gave him my business card and explained that my partner and I were going to Israel on business as I found out he was going there for personal reasons. For most of the flight we chitchatted about odds and ends and when the flight attendant handed out custom declaration forms on our final approach, I felt like an idiot. While filling out my form, I glanced over and saw that the name on Ivan’s form was “Ivan Reitman.”
“Excuse me,” I said, peering over my glasses. “Are you the Ivan Reitman?”
“Yeah,” he chuckled.
I apologized for not recognizing him and told him he had produced and/or directed some of my favorite movies — National Lampoon’s Animal House, Stripes and Ghostbusters just to name a few. I think he quite enjoyed the fact that I had no idea who he was while we were talking as it let him be himself without having to deal with a fan. As it turns out, in 1997 Reitman would go on to produce the film version of the book he was reading.
So much for chance meetings on airplanes.