Wrestling and death. All too frequently those of us who spent a fair amount of time in the industry find ourselves putting those two words together and saying that another one has gone before their time.
Unfortunately the time has come to do so again.
When I received the call Friday afternoon from longtime friend and associate Bruce Owens informing me that Luna Vachon had passed away, I was shocked but not surprised. For many years Luna had battled her so-called inner demons and was certainly on a path of self-destruction. But when I last saw her — at the 2009 Cauliflower Alley Club banquet in Las Vegas where she received an award for her achievements in the business she loved most — it seemed those demons had finally been brought under control. When we hugged hello it seemed there was a calmness present that I had not seen in a long time.
Our paths first crossed in 1989. It might have been 21 years ago on the calendar, but for me it seems like yesterday …
Luna was recovering from a leg injury she sustained in Japan. My business partner Craig Cohen and I were in the early stages of putting our “Wild Women of Wrestling” promotion together. The PWF (a promotion co-owned by Dusty Rhodes, Gordon Solie and Steve Keirn) was presenting a show at the James L. Knight Center in Miami. While I was at the show because I had helped out a little with the local promotion, Luna happened to be there because then live-in boyfriend Dick Slater was on the card. Craig was there too to talk to wrestler Penelope Paradise about joining up with us and after her match she introduced us to Luna. Knowing she had been around the business all her life, we wanted to get her thoughts about our all-girls promotion. By the end of the night Craig and I decided Luna should be our booker and thus started my often tumultuous relationship with the woman Kevin Sullivan aptly nicknamed “Lunatic.”
I must admit that when I heard of her passing, I started having some very guilty feelings concerning what I had written about her in my book. It’s not that I fabricated anything or stretched the truth in any way, it’s just that in looking back maybe there were some things I could’ve left out that painted her in a bad light.
At times I knew Luna better than most. She could be the “Angel” that the Fabulous Moolah once nicknamed her. Or she could be the raving lunatic that was often seen while she was in gimmick. There were many times when “Luna” would show up to someplace that was more appropriate for “Angel” to be. And then there were those rare occasions that I would get to spend time with Trudy, her given name, short for Gertrude.
It was during those times that I like to remember her most because it wasn’t the extreme personality of her gimmick that I got to know or the forced qualities of Angel that she often tried to push to compensate that acute behavior, but rather it was the real person she was inside. And the real person was a beautiful individual with a wonderful soul full of the same hope and dreams and frailties and faults that the rest of us have. There were days that we worked together that she would confide in me many things about her life; both the good and the bad. Not everything I knew about Luna made it to my book and much of what I know about her I will take to my grave.
Even though I often had to walk on eggshells when dealing with Luna, it did not impede our friendship and it never stopped me from trying to help her when I could. When I was able to secure a spot for her and the Blackhearts (Tom Nash and Dave Heath) in Herb Abrams’ UWF, she was grateful. In 1993 she loved the fact that Craig and I flew to Las Vegas to attend WrestleMania IX in a show of support for her WWF debut as Shawn Michaels’ valet.
Before that hug we shared in 2009, I had not seen or spoken to Luna in more than a dozen years and during that time I heard many stories about her personal battles and I was expecting to see the worst. But like I said there was an unusual calm within her — almost like the calm before a storm. And like all good friendships the passing of time meant absolutely nothing. The warmth of the embrace instantly turned the clock back to 1990 and we shared a laugh about the extra weight and the extra time on our faces.
This past April, I had emailed her stepfather, Paul Vachon, to see if she was going to make the trip to CAC. I wanted to sit with her and explain why I wrote what I did about her in my book. Even though I did not owe her an explanation, I thought she would want to hear it. When he told me that she was not going to attend, he never mentioned that she had lost her home in a fire around the Christmas holidays.
I had been meaning to place that call and never did.
While the cause of Luna’s death has yet to be revealed as of this writing, I suppose in the grand scheme of things it really does not matter how or why it has happened. What matters most is that another person has left us much too soon and those who she left behind, the ones who mattered to her most — her significant other, her children, her parents, her grandchildren, and the people who were fortunate enough to know and love the real person she was — all are feeling an emptiness that will not soon be filled.
While we’ll once again say that another one has gone before their time, I think it’s appropriate for me to close out my thoughts about Luna with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It is not length of life, but depth of life.”
Rest in Peace, Luna. You’ll be missed.
Howard Brody is the author of Swimming with Piranhas: Surviving the Politics of Professional Wrestling.