A few years ago, I told Bobby “The Brain” Heenan that he was my hero growing up. He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said, “Never grow up, Bob. Never grow up.” With the news of his passing on Sunday, a huge part of my childhood — and those of countless others, I’m sure — has gone away. Gone, but never forgotten.

Growing up in small-town Ontario, most guys my age wanted to be the next Wayne Gretzky. If any of them followed pro wrestling, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and the Ultimate Warrior were the ones they wanted to be like. Me, though? As a nerdy, unathletic kid, I looked up to Heenan. In a world of physical gods, I admired Heenan, who would rely on his intelligence and guile to succeed. Whose quick wit made him one of the most — if not the most — entertaining people on any wrestling show.

Bobby Heenan at the 2003 Cauliflower Alley Club banquet. Photo by Greg Oliver

I’d cheer for any member of his “Heenan Family.” I’d argue with my friends who used to call him “weasel” like all of the humanoids and the 9-to-5 ham-and-eggers. I’d be devastated whenever one of his charges fell to defeat — or, rather, were robbed by the biased officials who would obviously favour Hulk Hogan. In short, I was a complete “mark” for Heenan. At school, I started referring to myself, and asked my friends to refer to me, as Bobby “The Brain” Kapur … unsurprisingly, my buddies didn’t embrace this too readily, though a few of them were okay with calling me “BBK” for short, and my cousin’s husband still calls me “Brain” on occasion.

I was such a big fan, I once wrote a letter to WWF Magazine, extolling my admiration for Heenan — they included a line of mine in a “Letters to the Editor” column, though they inexplicably named me as “Phil Kapur.” Still, in my mind, it was important to me that the world knew that I was the biggest Heenan fan on the planet.

Cut to many years later, when I got the chance to meet Heenan on an assignment for SLAM! Wrestling. He was in town for an appearance with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mean” Gene Okerlund, with whom I had a scheduled interview. Heenan and his wife Cindy were in the restaurant, and as much as I loved talking with Mean Gene, I kept one eye on Heenan, hoping to get a quick word with him before he left — even though Dawn, the WWE representative who was overseeing the session, had told me that I was to limit any contact to Okerlund. Still, I knew I couldn’t miss my chance. After the interview was done, I made my way over to Heenan and introduced myself.

We talked for a little while, and he even gave me a quick sound-bite expressing his memories over Lord Alfred Hayes, who had died the day before. With Dawn shooting darts at me from her eyes for disobeying her standing order, I even went so far as to ask him to sign my copy of his autobiography and a magazine I’d brought with me. Shameless, I know. Thankfully, Heenan came to my defense, telling her that he was the one who asked me if he could say something about Hayes — which was bunk, of course, but what do you expect from a truly mischievous heel. We parted with the exchange I noted above.

Since then, I’d seen Heenan a few more times at conventions. Once, I was lucky enough to spend 15 minutes or so, sitting with him and Raven and listening to them exchange memories. After Heenan left, Raven and I spent several more minutes talking about how much we admired Heenan.

The last time I saw him was at a convention a couple of years ago, an experience that I’ve written about before. By this time, even though he couldn’t really speak, it wouldn’t prevent him from stirring things up. There was this little girl, about five or six years old, in line with her parents who wanted to meet The Brain. The girl was looking around at all of the other displays and tables, and not really paying attention, presumably because she didn’t know who Heenan was. He saw her, and when her back was to him, he suddenly slammed the table top really hard, using his Hall of Fame ring to make a loud bang in order to startle her. The girl shrieked and jumped, scared by the sound. She turned around to see Heenan playfully waving at her, causing her to giggle and finally laugh out loud at the prank. After posing with him for a picture, she turned around and gave him a big hug. It was a great moment to witness, watching him create a new fan out of somebody who probably had never seen him before. Somebody who will likely never forget that moment.

Somebody like me, who will grow up with fond memories of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.

Rest in peace, Bobby.