“Buddy Jack” Roberts, who has died at the age of 65, is one of those few wrestlers that my wife met and got to know before I ever did. But once you were in Buddy’s good books, you stayed there.
He would call, out of the blue, to say hi, in his throat cancer-ravaged rasp.
I feel fortunate to have been on that list.
And I feel fortunate to have captured so much of his career in my story from 2010 on him: Buddy Roberts recalls the wild times as a Freebird and a Hollywood Blond. (Go read it and come back; I can wait.)
A big thank you for that friendship goes to the late Sir Oliver Humperdink, who also shared with me the info on Buddy’s partner in the Hollywood Blonds, Jerry Brown many years later when they ran into each other by happenstance.
My first interview with Buddy was in 2002, as I was working on The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Yes, he was Canadian, just Dale Hey from Vancouver, BC. It certainly wasn’t ever played up as a part of his career — supposedly he was from Hollywood, or later, a southern, hell-raisin’ redneck. And Buddy was always quick to credit Ivan Koloff for his friendship and support through the years, his oldest friend from the business (and another Canadian), and the Rougeau Family in Montreal for giving him his break.
Buddy’s days as a Hollywood Blond really got short shrift as the fame of the Fabulous Freebirds increased, especially given the time period of the mid-’80s and cable television.
But consider that the Hollywood Blonds in the early 1970s had success in locales as different as Montreal and Los Angeles and Florida. And for years.
And as good as they were, Roberts was always quick to admit that he learned a ton as Dale Valentine, the protege of the legendary Johnny Valentine. It was “quite an honour for me, to be with a legend like Johnny Valentine” he told me. (This is before Greg Valentine was ever revealed to be Johnny’s son.)
But really, in the end, it comes down to the Freebirds.
As it should.
They were one of the greatest tag teams in history. When promoter Bill Watts added Buddy to the already-existing young team of Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes, it created magic. Hayes could strut and talk, Gordy was the strength, and Roberts was the workhorse veteran.
My wife, Meredith Renwick, was working with “The Missing Link” Dewey Robertson on his autobiography, and flew down to Texas for a big reunion of World Class Championship Wrestling wrestlers with Dewey.
When the fan fest was done, there were Dewey and Buddy hanging out again, like old times, poolside. Both were in pretty decent shape for the incredible abuse their bodies had taken.
“Buddy was very friendly and glad to see that Dewey had gotten his life back together enough that he could attend the fan fest,” Meredith remembered. “They sat and talked as though it had only been a few days rather than years since they’d last seen each other. They reminisced about their early stints in the Mid-South promotion — more than a decade before the Freebirds or the Missing Link had come into being — and relived their epic hour-and-a-half match that ended in a draw with the Blonds against Dennis Stamp and Dewey.”
As for me, I got to finally meet and hang out with Buddy at a Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas in 2003. I can distinctly remember sitting beside him at a slot machine, listening to him tell stories, but, perhaps more impressively, ask about me and my life. This was not a man who was all caught up in himself.
He had already faced down throat cancer, and came through rough — but alive.
I met him again a few years later in Iowa, when he was in attendance for an induction weekend for the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame.
He was happy to talk about his wife and son, and admitted that physically he wasn’t able to do much.
I think the last time I saw him in person was at the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, WrestleMania weekend, in Chicago in 2006. Since it was in his hometown, he was there with his long-time buddy, Michael Hayes.
One of the last, best memories I have of him is knowing that I had a very small part in getting the Hollywood Blonds, Brown and Roberts, with their manager, Humperdink, reunited for the 2010 NWA Legends Fan Fest in Charlotte, just before Hump passed.
Now, as they say, Buddy is reunited with some colleagues who have gone before. With Hump and Johnny Valentine there, and, of course, Freebirds like Gordy and Angel of Death (Dave Sheldon), for some reason it makes me think of the line from a song:
“In Heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here.”
But I do have it on a good source that there is Jack Daniels up there.
- July 22, 2010: Buddy Roberts recalls the wild times as a Freebird and a Hollywood Blond
- Fabulous Freebirds related stories