By MIKE WYMAN – For Slam Wrestling
MONTREAL – In pop music, it is often claimed that producing the second album is a lot tougher than coming up with the first one. After all, you get a quarter-century or so to deliver the first one but only about eight months to pump out the follow-up.
Bertrand Hébert and Pat Laprade, who launched their second volume, a French-language biography entitled Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, can attest that it sometimes works that way in the publishing world too.
Their initial offering, an exhaustive overview of the history of professional wrestling in Quebec took half a decade to put together and failed to tempt French-language publishers, appearing in English under the title Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs before being released as À la semaine prochaine, si Dieu le veut! and doing very respectably in the marketplace.
Tuesday evening the Quebec wrestling chroniclers marked the release of their most recent collaboration at an east-end Montreal sports bar/restaurant. Ranger Boy and Franky the Mobster were in attendance as were numerous fans and a number of men who featured in Mad Dog’s black and white TV days, many of whom shared their memories of Vachon for this project. Paul Leduc and Gino Brito turned out. So did Frenchy Martin, Gilles “The Fish” Poisson and Neil “The Hangman” Guay.
“The last project was a passion project,” said Hébert. “We worked on it for five years before finding a publisher and getting the book done in English first and then the French version.”
“Mad Dog was like, okay, we got the contract in December of 2013 and we delivered the finished project in November of 2014. We had about a year to do it. The other book, there were stretches of three months when we didn’t touch it. This one we really had to put our heart into it and do it now. That was different, and at the same time, exhilarating.”
The authors spoke to between 50 and 100 people while compiling the book. Some were fellow wrestlers who never left the Quebec market. Others were a little more widely known.
“Pat Patterson, Hulk Hogan, the Rougeau family — Raymond, Joanne, Jacques Sr., Gino Brito, they all wanted to talk to us. We were so blessed and lucky that those guys said, ‘Well those guys treat our sport seriously and they want people to remember us for what we are,’ so everybody was in,” Hebert recalled.
“Angelo Mosca told us, for instance, that Maurice was the guy who took him from being a part-time, off-season wrestler to a full-timer. That’s just one of the guys who told us how instrumental Maurice was to their careers.”
“It’s been a hell of a ride. We’ve learned so many things about Maurice, both on the professional and personal side,” said Laprade.
“It was really a heck of a year, researching everything, archives, interviewing people, his widow, two of his brothers, so many people in the business from Roddy Piper to Pat Patterson to Hulk Hogan to Rene Goulet. Everybody had such nice words to say about Maurice.
“When a guy like Roddy Piper tells you that he considers Maurice as a father, it means a lot. It tells you what kind of man he was for all of these great wrestlers.”We wanted to make sure that all aspects of his life and his career were going to be covered. It was very important for us to give a portrayal of who the Mad Dog was but also who Maurice was as well,” he continued.
The most difficult part of putting the book together, for Laprade, was the time he spent with Vachon’s widow in Nebraska, but it paid dividends.
“Kathie was such an awesome woman, giving me full access to all Maurice’s archives. I spent three days in Omaha, more than ten hours of interviews. She was just great,” he continued.
“There was a lot of personal stuff that she was willing to discuss with me and there are some surprising things that people are going to learn about Maurice that came from those interviews.”
MIKE WYMAN is a Montreal writer, and is on the Mad Dog Vachon beat for SLAM! Wrestling it seems.