Tag Archives: Bad News Brown

Kicking Ass & Chewing Bubblegum – Rowdy Roddy Piper (1954-2015)

Roddy0Yesterday I came home to the heartbreaking news that one of my childhood heroes had kicked the bucket. In fact, Roddy Piper was probably the last of my childhood heroes before I turned my back on anything that wasn’t music. Even saying the word ‘childhood’ seems a bit of a stretch – I was eleven years old when I first watched WWF (now WWE).

I remember being sat down, watching a swimming gala with a school friend who was telling me about WWF. Wrestlemania VI was taking place that week, and taking his advice I recorded it. I’m guessing it was shown live in the UK – overnight probably – as I recall there was issues with the satellite feed in the first couple of matches.

Roddy2From my first experience watching him, fighting against Bad News Brown, he was instantly my favourite. He was painted half in black, in a bold and dangerous move to prove that he wasn’t racist – something that could have easily backfired as he was essentially dressed in semi-blackface.

Roddy1But he had a big, goofy smile on his face throughout. And I think that’s what it was. Most wrestlers were stone cold (Steve Austin) serious, both in their pre-match patter and in the actual act of wrestling. But not Hot Rod – he acted as though it was all a big joke, as though he was sharing the knowledge that yes, wrestling might be fake but let’s have some fun with it while we’re here. The fact that he’s Canadian may also have helped – existing almost as an outsider in an industry mainly populated with Americans.

Roddy3From Wrestlemania VI onwards, I was obsessed with the ‘sport’ for a few years. Unfortunately, Piper seemed to take a sabbatical from actual wrestling after Wrestlemania VI – but he was still around, turning his hand to commentating and reprising his Piper’s Pit interview segment.

It wasn’t long until I found his appearance as Nada in John Carpenter’s They Live. Released in 1988, it truly is a hidden gem of 1980’s science-fiction. It still stands as one of my favourite John Carpenter films, and Piper’s makes a great performance alongside Keith David – another favourite, no matter what film or television show he shows up in.

Roddy4Of course, I went back and found as much Roddy Piper as I could in the WWF archives – fighting against Hulk Hogan in the first Wrestlemania, boxing against Mr. T at Wrestlemania II and generally being an obnoxious nuisance wherever he went. His deeply racist interview of Superfly Jimmy Snuka during one Piper’s Pit segment was typical of his antagonistic behaviour (and odd considering how the WWE have recently distanced themselves from Hulk Hogan, despite the multiple occasions when the organisation appeared to turn a blind eye to racism).

Roddy5I remember reading an interview with Piper when he said he regretted playing a heel (or villain) for so much of his wrestling career. I’m guessing the black / white approach to his match as Wrestlemania VI was his way at addressing that distasteful element of his past, a shot at redeeming his character. It seems strange that he was a heel for so long – considering how effortless he seemed to be as a hero / good guy. He was just a naturally ebullient character – a great attribute for a role model to young kids.

It’s always said that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, as the experience could disappoint, but I’d always held some vague hope that I’d get to meet him one day – at a Comic-Con style convention or something. He’s off kicking ass and chewing bubblegum someplace else now, and I bet he’s still got a big goofy smile on his face.

Thanks for the laughs.

Roddy6

Thanks for the laughs.

Rocks In The Attic #373: John Carpenter & Alan Howarth – ‘They Live (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

RITA#373This night not be my favourite John Carpenter soundtrack, but it’s definitely one of my favourite John Carpenter films. It’s the antithesis of all those happy-go-lucky, optimistic ‘80s films – where the subtext was that in America, everything was yours for the taking. In They Live, we find that America belongs to somebody else and the sleeping majority are majorly asleep.

I probably first saw the film in 1990. I had been rapidly consuming American films around that time, and I had already started watching John Carpenter’s back catalogue – pretty much starting at the beginning with Dark Star and Assault On Precinct 13, and moving on through Halloween, The Fog and Escape From New York.

In April of1990, on the advice of a school friend, I watched the live broadcast of Wrestlmania VI. I was in the right place at the right time – my family had just got Sky TV, and the flashy, new WWF wrestling was one of its big draws. My favourite wrestler, ever since I saw him pitched against Bad News Brown at Wrestlemania was Rowdy Roddy Piper. He didn’t seem as fake as all the others and he seemed genuinely pleased to use humour to defeat his opponents.

So when the next John Carpenter film on my list came along, and I found out that Roddy Piper was the star, it just seemed like a great combination – films and WWF, it couldn’t get any better. I didn’t have any reservations that Piper couldn’t act – because, well, they’re all actors at the end of the day aren’t they? – I just accepted him as Nada, the loner hero of the film. I’d seen a film – No Holds Barred, starring Hulk Hogan – around the same time, and while that film wasn’t anything to write home about, They Live had the mark of a great director.

It’s probably one of my favourite films of the 1980s. There are many popular classics of that decade – The Blues Brothers, E.T., Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, Back To The Future – but They Live wins points because it flew under the radar. To this day, I still meet people well versed in half a dozen of the more well known Carpenter films, but who have never seen They Live.

I have to get me some more of these fantastic John Carpenter soundtrack reissues. This particular one is a lovely transparent vinyl.

Hit: Coming To L.A.

Hidden Gem: Wake Up