Wrestling Documentary Gets The Red Carpet Treatment

Wrestling Documentary Gets The Red Carpet Treatment
Story by CAC Photographer, Dr Mike Lano 

350 Days(Legends, Champions, Survivors) is the name of a new pro wrestling documentary film directed by Fulvio Cecere. It refers back to the territory days on through the 1980’s where “350 days” were typically the number of recognized days worked by a typical wrestler out of any given grueling year. The film had a totally unique “one night only” world premiere concept. On Thursday, July 12th, it debuted in over 400 theaters nationwide.  Plus two big Red Carpet events. One in New York City and one at Hollywood’s famous Grauman’s/TLC Chinese Theater. Evan Ginzberg and I worked hard at promoting all theater screenings for weeks as well as inviting celebs for both NYC and L.A. Full disclosure: the director began requesting my photos for use in the film from day one and although he filmed me as one of the talking heads talking ribs and road stories right at a CAC three years ago; he had to cut my scenes to make room for more of the wrestlers, the actual stars of 350 Days, who people truly want to hear from. Fulvio promises my scenes however will all be restored in his Director’s Cut edition.

In the 350 Days film itself, there was an eclectic bunch of wrestlers interviewed and from many different territorial generations including opening host JJ Dillon, Bret Hart, Judo Gene Lebell, Angelo Mosca, Ted Debiase, Superstar Graham, Farmer Pete, Wendy Richter, Ox Baker, Jimmy Snuka, Lanny Poffo, Bill Eadie, Bushwacker Luke, Larry Sharpe, Abby, Wolfman Farkas, Paul Orndorf, Tito Santana, Killer Walt Kowalski, Greg Valentine and his first major tag partner in the late Don Fargo(working as Donnie and Johnny Fargo in the NWF) and many others like West Coast great and regular CAC’er in Ric Draisin who discussed his many injuries as did Lex Luger. Many will remember Ric’s years of service to the Lebell/Hollywood Wrestling Office from 1970 on as he faced Blassie, Tolos, Billy Graham, Killer Kowalski, Shibuya and the late/great Massa Saito, Gordman and Goliath, Masked Pro Doug Gilbert, Abby, Cowboy Frankie Layne and many other stars. Nicolai Volkoff brought up one of the most emotional aspects of the film in helping Fred Blassie reconnect with a daughter he’d not seen in some 50 years and how Fred cried when he finally got to reconnect with her. Total legends Don Leo Jonathon and Stan Hansen talked about how they made it.

They boys(and Wendi)talked, often filmed at their homes; about the artistry of the business itself, how they got into it, life on the road, injuries and inherent difficulties within the biz, PED’s in the industry, arena rats but some also talked of the friendships and fun they had on the road with most admitting they wouldn’t have changed a thing if they had it all to do over, even amidst divorces and breakups. Richter talked outdoors, near his prize pony, about how her parents disapporoved and how tough her road as a women’s wrestler was, but how much fun she had plus proud she was of her in-ring contributions. There were great music bed choices underneath, and the opening is fantastic with “on the road” traveling music playing while one only can guess “these hands” belong to noneother than Hammer Greg Val.  When Ox Baker talked up his own cook book that he sold at a vendor table at his first Vegas CAC, he tried to put over that he was one of the great culinary artists in wrestling. Those of us who actually were in a car with him recall how he’d push sandwiches on the boys he’d made in advance, act like he was giving them out for free but then at trips’end, he’d try to collect on money owed for the sandwiches. I never saw anyone give him any money except green, young boys who fell for that. Director Fulvio however pointed out that when he made his cookbook, although he’d yanked the recipes out of magazines, he had the heart to title or name each one after one of the boys who’d passed away. So one has to love “the Ox” and feel his love for wrestling and all the characters he faced in it from Lou Thesz and Billy Robinson to Dick the Bruiser, Ernie Ladd, The Sheik, Pampero Firpo. Fulvio’s one of the few in this “Shoot Tape” era who’s been able to get Bret Hart to openly discuss his own PED use but well before the WWF title was put on him. For me, Bret was the heart and soul of this film wit his always impassioned honesty, love and respect for wrestling and most importantly, his family therein. Superstar Graham led the charge in relaying his many injuries, surgeries and health scares. Abby on how to entertain a crowd.

During the closing credits was an unfortunate graphic noting how many of those legends interviewed had passed away during the five years of shooting and editing to make the film happen. Greats like George Steele, Baker, Snuka, Fargo, Farkas(who had famous 70’s runs in Detroit, L.A., WWWF besides all his Canadian work).

Walking the red carpet at Grauman’s/TLC Chinese Theater included Taya Valkyrie(Impact, Lucha Underground, AAA) who brought Impact locker room interviewer McKenzie(who told me that she does a ton of work, including on-screen graphics behind the scenes), Eli Drake, Chris Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Scorpio Sky(SoCal Uncensored in both NJPW & ROH), MMA legends Judo Gene Lebell and Josh Barnett, Al Burke, and film/tv starDavid Arquette with Championship Wrestling From Hollywood show promoter and longtime CACer in David Marquez. CAC’s own Rock Riddle, major Hollywood Producer/Director Mitch Ackerman who brought other industry major players and many others. Arquette even got into what many thought was a “shoot” angle while he was being interviewed by many of us on the Red Carpet. His foe days later for David’s first ring foray in years(Championship Wrestling From Hollywood’s RJ I believe his work name is) came up twice, slapped and got into it with David until ‘security’ whisked the latter away. Great heat for their upcoming Sunday national TV taping show. Arquette has really learned some of wrestling’s nuances from recent re-training, and really sold the slaps well. That skit alone totally fooled the non-wrestling media including TMZ(who said “we had no clue”) and made the trip worth it for many like “SoCal Uncensored.”

I invited Taya Valkyre, Ackerman(who Roddy Piper had long roomed with as his best celebrity friend), original 80’s GLOW stars Cheryl “Lightning/Lil Mo” Rusa, Royal Hawaiin and Hollywood Jeannie Bason plus five other GLOW greats came on their own including Matilda the Hun;  besides David Marquez, Brody King, Frankie Kazarian(sadly without his wrestler wife Tracy), Lebell who brought wife Midge and journalist son-in-law Daniel Gene(named after him), Josh Barnett who all showed up amidst the glitter of Grauman’s and we thank them. While wrongly mislabeled for his WCW world title reign stunt, David Arquette proved a likeable and great friend to the wrestling industry he told me he’s loved since he was a kid growing up watching it. This actor/producer/director can play any part, serious or comedic, and with more extended training; he’s shown he has some in-ring chops. And can take chops with his work days later at Dave Marquez’ Championship Wrestling From Hollywood NWA tapings.

So what exactly is a Red Carpet? It’s defined as often a celebratory party marking a project’s debut or film’s opening night. Many of 350’s stars also “walked” the red carpets at both NY(Valentine, Poffo, etc) of the documentary as well as other celebs, directors, producers just like ‘carpet’ events at major award shows like the upcoming TV Emmy awards. The stars stop and turn for photos while standing on it and often give brief quotes for either taped or live media coverage.

Red Carpets reportedly originated from Renaissance times, where royalty and saints would walk on a blessed red rug waiving at citizens, often mounting a horse like Wendi Richter’s and riding away to their castle or church once the RC had concluded. And in the last century, it’s evolved simply into the big opening night party where celebs stop and chat while being interviewed before heading into a theater for the actual premiere of a TV show or movie.

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