I was standing in the lobby of a theatre this week, about to go and see a one man show by another old vaudevillian, Jim Dale, when twitter told me the very sad news that Dusty Rhodes had died. For those of you not familiar with the world of pro-wrestling that I sometimes talk about here, this will mean little, but the rest of you will know what a huge loss this is.
One of the greatest stars of the 70's and 80's, and an important figure afterwards, he didn't have the jacked-up look of a modern wrestler, but instead, portrayed the big, rambunctious, blue collar badass everyman. The kind of dude who'd be the life of the party, but also be first in line to hand out an ass-whuppin' if things went sideways.
"I have wined and dined with kings and queens, and slept in an alley eatin' pork and beans"
Earlier this year, my friends William Regal and Robbie Brookside took great delight in telling me that Dusty had been watching some of my stuff on youtube, and loved it. Brookside said that they'd shown him the reverse tablecloth trick, and he'd looked at him sideways and said (and please start your Dusty impressions now) "Where's the gimmick man? Where's the gimmick?"
There's a very special feeling to hearing that someone whose work you love, enjoys yours back, and just as it happened with Regal and Brookside, when it happened again with Dusty I was a bit bowled over. Along with the aforementioned Brits, he was instrumental in the success of the brilliant NXT show, and I started talking about the possibility of going over to Florida where it's filmed to hang out, and see a show. And part of the fun of that idea, undeniably, was the chance to meet Dusty.
It's a testament to how loved and respected he was in the wrestling world that on the day of his death, dozens of wrestlers - big, testosterone packed behemoths, tweeted about the last time they stopped by his office for a hug. How wonderful.
It makes me very sad that I'll never get to meet him, but I'll keep on using his beautiful words, I'll keep on doing my awful Dusty impression, and I'll be grateful that my friends that were his friends made that connection.