ABOUT THE AUTHOR: California-based Dr Mike Lano has been a newsstand wrestling magazine photojournalist since 1966 shooting around the world including multiple Japan, European and Mexico tours, and a syndicated radio host and newspaper columnist for years. He’s also freelanced for WWE’s magazines and books since the 80’s and he’s still at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was honored to have been part of the recent event at the historic Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd along the strip in the western portion of Hollywood. Roddy Piper’s showbiz (film, TV, stand-up comedy) friends put a lot of thought and detail into the event and the site was chosen because for the past few years, Roddy had spent a lot of time there, studying other comedians and trying to truly get into that aspect of showbiz.
Besides his few one-man shows, he’d done stand-up a bit after Mick Foley and Colt Cabana had gotten into it. Reportedly, he finally bought a second home for his family in the Los Angeles area rather than staying at his producer pal Mitch’s home and bopping back/forth on airplanes from the Portland, Oregon area to be available nearly instantly when called to read for acting rolls, etc.
It had caused a lot of exhaustion because Roddy was also making all his weekend fanfest dates, usually back on the East Coast. If he had a weak heart, all of this travel and stress plus the podcast mess could’ve contributed to his far-too-young-passing.
I think back on the special “Frats” meaning his fraternity brothers t-shirt he had made in limited quantity around 2002 and gave to some of us working for him at the time. I pulled mine out and saw the names he’d specifically put on the back like Davey Boy, Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, Brian Pillman, Louie Spicolli, Owen Hart, Bruiser Brody, JYD and others which is truly poignant right now.
To see RAW writers last night even kid around that they’d made a bronze life-size statue of Seth Rollins is sacrilege. Bruno and Andre are super deserving. Ultimate Warrior is another story. Hogan’s off the table because of his career-killing scandal. But who deserves one more than Piper? Because without him, that company wouldn’t have made it’s way through WrestleManias 1 and 2, wrestling pay-per-view wouldn’t be where it is and I doubt that company would be “billions of dollars” without Roderick George Toombs’ efforts, artwork, creativity and more.
I drove the 8 hours to make the trip and was asked to bring down my photos of Piper from 1975 to current. I had photographed his very first match in my home base Los Angeles/Lebell territory in January of 1976 just months after Chavo Guerrero arrived, followed soon by his legendary dad Gory. He debuted as a bland babyface and our area fans sadly had no clue who he was even though he had some history in Winnepeg, Montreal, Kansas City, and Houston to name a few places.
It was interesting to hear Piper’s son Colt and daughter Ariel (budding actress herself in Hollywood) say that Roddy’s bagpipe instructor when he was a kid reassure him that he didn’t have to practice as hard as others around him.
“He was already ranked as the 3rd or 4th best bagpiper on the planet for his age and he was really worried that he didn’t seem to have to practice for hours on end daily like the others who weren’t as good as he was had to do. His instructor told him it comes naturally to some, others have to work harder at it. So he was always great on his bagpipes.”
But when he came into our Mike Lebell territory, sent to just work a few dates for us (I was one of the long time ringside program photographers who also shot for nearly all the global newsstand magazines) by Houston co-booker Red Bastien and then head up to either Portland (Papa Don Owen) or San Francisco (Roy Shire) to work full-time; he didn’t even bring his pipes into the ring that night (his L.A. territory debut).
Piper just had a face/face “scientific” draw with the more famous at the time Tony Rocco (who I believe was already making New Japan and Houston/Paul Boesch dates of his own besides all his West Coast work in one of the openers.) Our 22 man battle royal was always the last match on the card, and Roddy was eliminated fairly early in that main event.
But within 3 days (at one of our satellite house show venues in San Diego) and most of you know this story, our genius booker (after our absolute best bookers Jules Strongbow with Charlie “Mr” Moto) Leo Garabaldi told Roddy to bring the bagpipes, take forever to take off his kilt and infuriate the crowd. He saw major young heel in kid Piper who had bleached blonde hair at the time, and was skinny with back acne. He was soon cutting hellacious promos and Mike Lebell was finally convinced after having told Leo to “leave him as a face.”
Piper would stay nearly three years and within one and a half years was not only main eventing at all our venues including our crown jewel: the Olympic Auditorium, 18th and Grand, Richmond RI9-5171 is the “number to call to get your tickets before we sell out,” but also for Shire at the Cow Palace along with his best friend at the time in the late, great Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne who worked briefly for Vince Sr in ’73, managed by Albano.
I can’t think if anyone except touring attractions like Andre, Calhoun, Dusty who could main event in two circuits at the same time. And not just for one-night “pit stops” but on a regular, continuous basis. It broke kayfabe because Los Angeles syndicated Spanish International Network SIN Hispanic “Lucha Libre” and we had both this Wednesday night show taped at the Olympic with mostly Hispanic commentary but also the other primo weekly show mostly in English taped Saturdays at KCOP/TV 13 right off Fairfax near Hollywood Blvd (that ended in 1975 with Greg Valentine po’ing off KCOP brass by over-promoting the Olympic Auditorium major shows after having been warned to “cool it.”) I digress and sadly KCOP was history before Roddy could work these shows with former major actor Dick Lane doing the commentary often with our top ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr and Gene Lebell handling interviews.
Piper almost immediately seemed to go into our main events and again, a nearly 3 year feud with the Guerrero family. Done in stages to sell out the place: first with Chavo (losing his hair, putting on a mask and pretending like Piper still had all his hair), Gory, Mando and finally Hector (he lost his hair a second time to him). Soon after losing his hair in yet another hair vs hair match at the Olympic, Piper lost a loser leaves town match to Chavo. He’d return the following week as “The Masked Canadian” and not speaking at all. Lonnie Mayne, by then his heel tag partner, did the talking.
Back to our Syndicated 90 minute SIN show, it not only aired weekly in NY, Miami, Boston but also on the top Hispanic TV channel in San Francisco and the Bay Area. It ruined kayfabe and arguably and unintentionally began the destruction of Shire’s territory since fans would see them team in L.A. but baby face Mayne was battling Piper by this point, at Cow Palace main events and at some of their spot city towns like San Jose, Reno, Sacramento, etc.
I’m going to post the text from my planned speech. There were way too many speakers Monday after a lone bagpipe player played mournfully on the stage of the main room to begin the event, then a mix of WWE’s Piper video tribute and tons of home movie footage along with some of my photos of Piper all over the place from 1975 until he started in WWF for his permanent stay beginning in 1984.
As nice a job as WWE did with that short video tribute, it really just centered on his WWF ’84 and beyond work in WCW, etc. Like he hadn’t accomplished a ton of magic in Winnipeg, Montreal, Kansas City, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Mid Atlantic including Crockett booking the shows for Tunney at Maple Leaf Gardens and of course when he finessed even further in Georgia for Ole’s GCW. His heel promos as Meltzer said were outstanding in Charlotte but even more 5 star was his work as first national heel color commentator alongside Gordon Solie and all the must-see-TV he did in Georgia Championship Wrestling including the turn with his old friend Don Muraco.
Planned to say something like “and for you industry film and TV execs, it’s comforting to know that Roddy Piper had several projects completed at the time of his passing with Straight Outta Saskatoon garnering $56 million over the weekend (drumroll). Then would go into serious mode the rest of the speech about the WWE video that aired on RAW and was simply repeated on Smackdown only focusing on his 1984 Piper’s Pit, etc and beyond work and that was it with no mention since really other than them storming out a Piper special edition magazine that should’ve been proofed (again, he started in Los Angeles for us 1/16/76 and was NOT in Los Angeles at all in 1973 or at any time prior).
All the stuff he did from the time he debuted full time in or about 1984 (not the lone MSG ’78 appearance where my shot of Piper was on the MSG program cover) was ground-breaking, historic, superb. The Snuka Pit, coconut and feud. Really all the Pits. And there would’ve been War to Settle the Score, Rock n’ Wrestling Connection or WrestleMania 1. Roddy never said no to doing any PR for WrestleMania 1 or 2 and in a classic one, brought lovely wife Kitty with him back in ’85.
WWE fans (what they’ve named their “universe”), history fans of the biz, etc will keep Roddy Piper alive in their hearts by never forgetting him. Even when presented with garbled “history.” As Judo Gene Lebell – who also taught Piper and later his son Colt MMA moves and how to protect/defend oneself – said Monday night “you never die until you’re forgotten. Roddy Piper will never die because no one will ever forget him.” Decades from now at wrestling schools around the world, greenies will still be watching and hopefully studying tapes of him at work.” WWE may want to move on thinking they paid their homage, but many fans won’t allow it. They’ll continue to reflect on this shocking loss. Even TMZ and TMZ Live continue to report on it and show footage of him today as I write this, 8/19/15.
I was also going to mention yet another incredible Piper-ism. The close, lifelong friendship/bonds he formed with others in the biz starting with the Hennig’s or at least initially Larry in Winnepeg (Curt later in Portland circa ’79). Sure there were tight bonds like Buddy Rogers, Billy Darnell, Johnny Valentine, Johnny Barend, Ernie Roth/The Wiz and Magnificent Maurice in the grand older territory days. But one didn’t come across that often. Many of the boys (and girls) were loners.
Piper made lifelong friends early in his career with Maurice and Paul Vachon in Montreal after the Winnipeg days, Tony Condelo his initial trainer, and promoter Al Tomko who recommended Piper allegedly to work some for Verne Gagne because of Tomko’s AWA ties. Piper was close to Kansas City promoter/later NWA prez Bob Geigel who he did jobs for before doing some in Houston and really making a lifelong connection with promoter Paul Boesch and booker Red Bastien.
Bastien in turn referred him to his own lifelong pal in former wrestler Leo Garabaldi who’d just taken over our book in Los Angeles. He was hoping Leo would give Piper some dates for a week or so as he was ultimately sending Piper to either Don Owen (Portland) and/or Roy Shire (San Francisco) for long-term work. Instead, Leo “was so impressed with the kid,” as he told me “that I literally stole him and told him he was going to work instead for us full time. That the other territories could wait.”
In Los Angeles, Piper again cultivated strong friendships with Gene Lebell of course and workers Keith Frankes (later becoming Adrian Adonis) who Piper managed and feuded with, then “Cowboy” Ron Bass (same) and of course his older total mentor Moondog Mayne.
Lonnie made sure his “protege” Piper finally made it to San Francisco and the two were best friends until Lonnie died in that horrible car crash, making trans between Los Angeles and San Francisco since again, Mayne and Piper were basically main event and top-tier guys for Shire and Lebell at the same time. Piper became pals with foes like Dean Ho and Jimmy Snuka in San Francisco and then as much as he’d bloomed in Los Angeles and San Fransisco, he really matured in Portland.
He was allowed a lot of latitude by promoter Don Owen who Piper at times nicknamed “Papa or Pop.” Where booker Leo Garabaldi and Gene Lebell had been initial father figures in L.A. according to Roddy, “Don Owen really was the guy when I got to Portland. I loved that man!” he told me. Piper also formed the same life-long friendships there with Mean Mike Miller, Rip Oliver, booker/pal Grappler Lynn Denton (RP did the intro for his new book BTW), Buddy Rose, Ed Wiskowski, Dave Sierra and others.
Flash to Mid Atlantic and the birth of the American “3 Muskateers” in Piper, Flair and Steamboat. Enough said. Those three were absolutely close and I was happy to get shots of them together again in San Jose and Santa Clara for the huge WrestleMania weekend last March. Piper had already met Don Muraco in L.A. in ’76 before they did anything together in either Georgia for Ole, or even Piper’s brief time in Florida where he formed a major bond with Kevin Sullivan too.
Towards the end of the video they showed with the Portland suburb, “house on the hill” home movies, Piper signing a song about his WWF buddies was played and many were crying big time if they weren’t crying already. He sang about Snuka, Kamala, Hillbilly Jim, JYD and others. That, “if you don’t jump off that top rope, you’ll never know what you can accomplish.” There was also footage and stills of him with each of his kids from when they were babies on. Just moving for any of us who knew him but didn’t really know the full family story because we’d never been to his famous “house up on the hill in Hillsborough, Oregon.”
Those were the points I wanted to make. That he was of course an incredible and devoted family guy as most already know. But also a tremendous, dedicated life-long friend making those friends in each circuit he worked. And that from the purported 1973 year to when he finally went to work full time for WWF which WWE’s video failed to show, Roddy Piper had amassed an incredible body of work already.
If he never even made it to WWF in ’84, he would’ve been a total legend for what he did in all those territories preceding WWF, and not even getting into his few Japan tours. WWE just didn’t make those important points known other than being kind of vague about an actual bond with Flair that nope, didn’t begin in WWF 1991 or 92 when they faced off nationally as hinted, but went all the way back to Mid Atlantic/Charlotte/Crockett early 80’s. And that while the WWE machine may have to move on, hopefully fans won’t forget about Piper.
You can’t just seem to say, “hey, we did our tribute, he’s gone. Let’s move on to whatever PPV or Network thing is upcoming or Divas, Tough Enough. Real human beings should hopefully continue to think about Piper and all he did for the biz. Keeping his memory alive, again keeps him alive. And we haven’t even gotten into his film work (starting with They Live & Hell Comes To Frogtown obviously) or all his TV stuff (the aborted weekly Highwaymen show which would’ve been great with Jesse Ventura. Well, at least that pilot looked great) for so many shows like Married with Children and the more recent Piper episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that seems to replay almost weekly. Or Lauper’s great Goonies music video. Or Heaven forbid-the Hulk Hogan cartoon show (I don’t mean the current sex tape and racism one but the actual mid 80’s Saturday morning cartoon show.) Or Piper on the Pee Wee Herman 1985 CBS prime time special, Joan Rivers Fox Late Night show, etc.
Roddy Piper had a major body of work outside of the wrestling industry. So to see amongst the first to arrive last Monday, his co-stars from They Live was great. Going to ask that the family put that home movie with Piper singing to acoustic guitar and harmonica online somewhere. What a treat that was!
MONDAY NIGHT, 8 PM
The organizers asked me to arrive early and put my photos of RP up from 1975 to current, all over the entrance way and answer any questions from those arriving, right from the front door on (where 3 hired bagpipe players played Piper music with a ton of fans and uninvited media having to just stay outside.) I’d photographed the WWE Hall of Fame Red Carpet and of course Roddy and Kitty came right up to me when they arrived allowing us to get great shots. Roddy’s best friend, producer Mitch A was right behind them as he’s been the last nearly 35 years.
We were told only Roddy’s actress daughter Ariel would probably be the only family member to make it but Kitty, eldest child Ariel, son Colt (“Dad told me, Mitch and several others that we were his only friend when in fact he had many who were devoted to him”), and even the youngest daughter Falon Danika flew down! The only one who couldn’t make it out of their 4 kids was middle daughter Anastacia Shea who was reportedly stuck back east going to school.
The Toombs family was the last to speak and each took a turn. Colt said his middle name was Baird after his grandfather, and that he’d name his first born “George” after Roderick’s given middle name. Colt brought his new fiancé with him and she said a few words.
I’d remained close to Roddy from his 1976 days (having to drive him a few times from the Olympic Auditorium to either LAX or Burbank Airports post L.A. house shows) and besides Mitch A, Colt was usually by his side. So it’s been a great experience watching Colt and the other kids grow up and change each time I’d see them.
The Toombs arrived early and were ushered not through the main door where I was welcoming attendees entering, but through a private back entrance. I broke away and spoke to them and they said this night, just last Monday 8/17, would be far less stressful for them than the actual service itself back near their Hillsborough, OR long time home on Tuesday 8/11 with the WWE, Chyna, etc attending. Colt remembered that when he was first thinking many years ago about also becoming a wrestler and then perhaps an MMA athlete, Roddy called me to ask me to send each month any/all of the Japanese wrestling and MMA newsstand magazines like Shukan/Baseball Pro, KamiPro, etc that I also worked for as a writer and photographer so Colt could study them.
Colt said he was training and I believe he said now wrestling for some major Oregon indies (not for Rikishi’s Knox-Pro group, as I certainly asked and where I thought he’d trained for pro when he wasn’t training with Gene Lebell). Told Piper’s wife Kitty how devastated we all were to lose Roddy.
Before the memorial started right at the 8PM start time, we could still hear the bagpipe troupe playing outside the main entrance door to the fans and paparazzi out there unable to come inside. The lead player came up on stage and played in front of a life-size Roddy cardboard statue with the lights dimmed.
The long-form Piper video with all the home movies played next, then comic/memorial co-organizer Steve Simeone spoke and introduced as first lead speaker, Roddy’s best friend, longtime producer/screenwriter Mitch A.
Mitch talked about first meeting Roddy backstage at a WWF show around 1984 at the Olympic Auditorium. Mitch was blown away that Roddy asked if he’d drive him to the airport from the Olympic parking lot once the show was over. Several fans where there that night and confirmed the date Mitch was talking about because it was the only time Roddy faced Snuka at the Olympic or SoCal overall during that time period. Mitch said Piper said he’d run out with him, get into the car and speed away. Or try to. That they ran to the car with hundreds of upset fans there but were boxed in the way Mitch had parked and that soon the fans were jumping up and down and banging on the windows of his new car.
Roddy brainstormed according to Mitch, “OK, I’ll get out and run back inside. You try to get this car out of here and then park right next to the exit door over there this time, honk and I’ll come running out again.” Roddy slammed open the passenger’s side door, kind of pushing fans out of the way and ran right back into the classic but old Olympic Auditorium. Mitch was finally able to get a fan’s car parked behind him with the hood up, blocking him out and they then followed the plan. But again, he’d never seen fans so rabid, going after someone when they were finally able to “part the seas and speed out of there and away.”
That began a 35 year friendship he said.
Whenever I shot Roddy backstage after WWF, WCW, WWE shows, at CAC, etc, I asked him “Rod, who the heck is this bearded guy with you in all my photos of you?!?”
Roddy told me who he was, how much he helped him find work and also helped him in general with life. Mitch was like a guardian angle best friend, the voice of reason who along wit Kitty probably helped him live as long as he did. Not that he wasn’t taken way too quickly from all of us at only age 61 which is criminal.
Roddy’s kids later on in the evening said that “our Mom helped keep our dad alive we truly believe. She was the only person he truly feared and he’d always defer to her. He wasn’t the easiest to live with. Sometimes he’d do something which could bug us, but at the same time he was the most loving and supportive dad ever. And the most fun. He had some mock life philosophies he said to us like only do one illegal thing at a time, and more. And we know he really, really loved Mom and us.”
Roddy was well known to have said publicly and privately to many of us what a rough childhood he had, which he said caused him to leave home at a too early age. Which was why “having a wife, kids, family meant that much more” to him. But you guys know that already.
The first cohost for Piper’s most recent Podcast, comic Bret Ernst, swore he wouldn’t break down but did so several times, choking up and tearing. He spoke, as did all the comics, of not just the great, dedicated family man they soon discovered in Rod, but how gentle, caring, aware of others he was. That you wouldn’t expect someone who’d smashed a coconut over Snuka’s head to be so sensitive. He and the M.C. riffed on some of the wrestlers Roddy would mention on the show and made some lame joke about Kamala having to roll around his farm in Mississippi (which only a few in the crowd got who are aware Kamala/James sadly lost two limbs to diabetes). Thankfully few got that and it was the only bomb of the night.
Stars from Roddy Piper’s most famous film, “They Live” were there but only Keith David got up to speak. He talked about what a professional Piper was, and that Roddy never even winced or touched him during the lengthy filmed fight sequences.
Gene Lebell told some tall tales, claiming Roddy had a finisher he used on Hogan and Andre called the “Blueberry Pancake Maneuver” which wasn’t really so, but was more a funny tale. He did look up at the sky and was serious at the end, saying he’d never forget Roddy. He talked about taking Roddy out on his mini motorcycles and dirt bikes.
As did Chavo Guerrero Jr who said he always knew Roddy as “Uncle Roddy” from the old Los Angeles 70’s territory days of ’76-’78. He said he initially hated Roddy simply for the worked promos and skits Piper would say regarding the Guerrero family. He talked about Piper walking out a cow and calling it “Mrs Guerrero” when he was feuding with his grandfather Gory after the first run of the Roddy/Chavo stretch of main events at the Olympic Auditorium. That Gory thought young Roddy was such a great heel, he advertised him for weeks in his own Juarez promotion, just across from Texas’ El Paso border for a show where Roddy would face his sons.
“But Roddy got a bad case quickly of Montezuma’s Revenge from drinking too much of the water and was in so much pain he thought he wouldn’t be able to wrestle for my grandfather’s big show. My grandmother was like a Native American doctor with all sorts of cures for ailments and she somehow got Roddy feeling good enough to wrestle just hours before the show started. They certainly didn’t want him not working the show, just doing some mic work and nothing else. In the middle of the match and Roddy was working pretty hard, it began raining strongly. The pillows we had on the seats for the fans soaked up all that water and became like 8-10 pound rocks which they began throwing into the ring and nailing Roddy in the back, front and face with. I also remember Gene back in L.A. taking Roddy and my dad and uncles out to the mountains to do some dirt biking. Whoever could drive up this super steep hill would get an award. My dad was the first one to be able to get up to the top without his cycle crapping out. Then Roddy was able to do it finally, but he ended up getting stuck in the barbed wire that was up there at the top as sort of like a sand trap. Gene had to rescue him out of that and Roddy wanted the trophy. Everyone was getting ready to leave but we looked around and no Roddy. Gene went back up to the top and Roddy had tried riding his bike back up there and got stuck in all that barbed wire at the very top again.”
DDP also gave a great speech (his and Chavo’s appeared to be the crowd’s favorites) contrasting his finally starting in the biz as an actual wrestler in his 30’s whereas Roddy was said to have started as a young teen at 15. That when he was running his bar in Florida, he watched Piper’s Pit start the whole rock and wrestling connection thing with MTV, and then he recounted, “I should’ve been a part of this. I should’ve been doing this rock and wrestling connection. One of my employees said ‘yeah, right’ and asked what had been my wrestling name when I thought I could be a wrestler. I said “Handsome Dallas Page” and she laughed at me. But I’d prove her wrong years later. But I grew up and just idolized Roddy and Dusty, etc at that time.”
He told this at Cauliflower Alley and other functions over the years, so guessing it really is true. Later on when they were both in WCW and supposed to take a powder from the ring and away from the nWo after nailing them, that earlier in the dressing room going over things, Roddy happened to say “so you go through the people?” DDP said yes and asked if Roddy would do that with him once they zoomed out of the ring that evening for the Nitro go-home angle. DDP said he’d never would’ve asked Roddy to do it had he known that Roddy had reportedly been stabbed at least 3 times by fans during the territory days ala Blackjack Mulligan’s major leg stab in Baltimore circa 1972.
I think DDP inferred that Roddy finally demurred saying when DDP confirmed back that that indeed was how he often entered, exited on Nitro (which the Shield brought back and which Roman Reigns still does), Roddy replied “God bless you on that!” Roddy was smart enough to know (DDP said he wasn’t really at that time) that even when you’re a face, what you’d think might be the slowest, heaviest fans when they have an opportunity to pat you on the back or touch you, can become Usain Bolt and smack the crap out of you unintentionally. “They mean well but can hurt someone.”
Comic Steve Simeone returned to the stage said he thought Roddy felt a kinship with the club because it was the adoptive home of so many comic orphans. That Roddy became like a dad or big brother to them and was part of their family. He and Ernst said when Roddy was sitting in the back taking in their sets and trying to learn himself how to be a stand-up that they’d go, “Holy shit, Rowdy Roddy Piper is here watching me! And we’d freak out a bit until he’d finally calm us down. He had appeared at pay-per-views in front of 60-70-80,000 or more, but when he began doing standup there with them, there might be only a handful in the audience which is how many started out anyway doing open mikes. Roddy had no ego, he started trying to learn stand-up right at the ground floor, the basement.”
Someone relatively new over the past few years in Roddy’s life was Rocket Fizz soda maker Rob Powells who just put out a fantastic collectors item that’s also delicious cold in “Rowdy Roddy Piper All Out Of BubbleGum”…Soda! It’s got classic artwork of a They Live Roddy Piper with sunglasses on set against a background of classic plaid tartan Scottish patterns, “made with only pure can sugar” and sold on the website. Rob made sure everyone exited got a bottle to try and take home with them. Very cool, as was Rob’s emotional speech. So many not from our wrestling world, broke down in talking about what a sensitive and terrific friend Rod would become to them; which helped illuminate that Roddy indeed was a great, great guy. Certainly a purported headache to Vince at times, but still a one of a kind human being that was incredibly talented and packed a lot of life into 61 short years.
The last segment of speakers was of course Roddy’s wife and 3 of their 4 kids with daughter Ariel leading the way and poking some fun at her brother Colt saying basically in jest that he was Roddy’s “favorite.” They of course all were and Roddy had nicknames for each of them including Kitty. Colt went and flew nearly everywhere with Roddy and was the one to break down on stage the most.
That was the most powerful, emotion-packed moment of the night. Colt lightened it saying Roddy even had a nickname for his bride-to-be and that he felt she really fit in as part of the family. That he was looking forward to the next life challenge of being a grandfather and that of course he’d be a great one. I can vouch for all the many times Roddy flew Colt down from Portland Airport to L.A. and Burbank Airports to help support Colt in wanting to become an MMA athlete and train with Gene Lebell, Gorkar and others.
Roddy’s legit best friend who wasn’t blood kin, Mitch A also added, “other than Madison Square Garden, I don’t think there’s a more appropriate place to have his memorial than at the Comedy Store.”
Attending but not speaking and seated together were MMA great, former UFC champ Josh Barnett who’s now the best color commentator in wrestling, doing New Japan’s weekly shows for AXS cable channel. Lisa-Marie Varon (Victoria, Tara) who was thankful for Piper’s help and support over the years for women’s wrestling. Austin Aries who told Chris Daniels he has another European tour coming up that I believe Chris might be working for on another tour, John Morrison/Mundo from Lucha Underground plus reported the main LU CEO, longtime promoter Dave Marquez of Hollywood Championship Wrestling, UFC Hall of Fame legend Bas Rutten, Rock Riddle, his son and girl pal who’s an L.A. Lebell wrestling historian.
Mando Guerrero who Piper feuded with and has great stories, couldn’t be fit into the program Monday night either. Rick Bassman who’s promoted MMA and pro wrestling (his UPW school/promotion was once a WWF farm system feeder the way the late Victor Quinones’ Puerto Rico IWC was besides SMW, etc) and other Comedy Store, Improv room comics, Hollywood industry people and others were also there.
Chyna was said to have been “stuck in Vegas and couldn’t make it in time” while there were rumors acting great Mickey Rourke might be there (he wasn’t). Also unable to make it last minute were major comedy names Joe Rogan (who also does a great job with UFC commentary and weigh-ins) and longtime stand up legend turned director in Bobcat Goldthwait. Rowdy Ronda Rousey sent regards. Will Sasso was there but didn’t get on stage to speak.
Before I forget, one of the world’s great Piper fans drove in with his tons of Piper memorabilia including a shirt I’d never seen that he said was sold in Atlanta during the GCW days of Piper posing with Gordon Solie circa 1981. He had one of those life-size Coliseum Home Video cardboard Piper figures that was up on stage behind all the speakers the entire evening. Roddy’s Toombs family said they “wanted to thank the worldwide public who observed a moment of silence, at the same day and time as Roddy’s private funeral last Tuesday, August 11th at 10:30 am PST.”
The Memorial program overall was fantastic and a fitting send-off to our friend. It had a great portrait/side shot of Roddy that I’d never seen before in black and white on the cover with the dates of his life April 17th, 1954 – July 31st, 2015. Presented with love from Steve Simeone, Mitch A, Noelle Kim (who also was one of the lead tireless people who really helped organize this over many days without much rest) and Anthony Eikner.
Noelle really was the superstar on planning out this event, doing the seating, etc. Attached to the program and also for pinning to shirts were yet more Scottish tiny bows and they gave out perfect little pebbles with Piper’s signature on them stenciled in gold (to commemorate his line about not throwing rocks at someone who had a gun). Lots of attention to detail everywhere at the Memorial just like at the funeral.
Roddy often ended his emails to many of us with his tag line of “Ever Forward.” Ever Forward back, Roddy. You have no idea how many lives you impacted and in a positive way during your short time on this planet. None of us will ever forget you and we’re not simply moving on with any “business as usual” just because it’s convenient for the main company to, for lack of a better word, “move forward” and diminish in the process the grieving of others which takes more time than a Monday RAW with a re-air on Smackdown.
Sorry to have injected some personal feelings in here but they seemed warranted after covering the guy’s career and being a friend to him the past 40 years. Again, keep Roddy Piper in your hearts and mind where he belongs and will always live on.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: To clarify, August 11th was the actual funeral up in the Portland, Oregon area arranged by the Toombs family. The August 17th event was his Hollywood Memorial event at his favorite hangout and place to learn stand-up comedy at the famous Comedy Store (Owned by Mitzi and son Pauly Shore) on the Sunset Blvd famous Strip. The August 17th organizers were Roddy’s best friend of some 35 years and movie/TV producer extraordinaire Mitch Ackerman, Noelle Kim who’s worked with and for Mitch and Judo Gene Lebell for years and Comedy Store veteran and longtime pal Steve Simeone plus Anthony Eikner. RocketFizz is the name of the company putting out the cool They Live bubblegum soda.