I picked Paradise by the Dashboard Light for this blog because Meat Loaf was one of the favourite bands of a friend I used to go to Stampede Wrestling with. There was a year or two in the late 70’s where you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Meat Loaf. My favourite part of Paradise by the Dashboard Light is where the girl asks ‘will you love me forever,’ and he says, “Let me sleep on it,” and finally he says, “I couldn’t take it any longer LORD I was crazed.” The way he screams out the word ‘Lord’ is awesome. (It’s at seven minute mark)
We never had a NHL team in Calgary when I was growing up in the 1970s but two athletes and two sports loomed large – Muhammad Ali and Bobby Orr were the athletes every kid loved and the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders and Stampede Wrestling were the sports.
I remember being heart broken when Bobby Orr’s knees made it almost impossible for him to skate, or any time Muhammad Ali lost, (I’m embarrassed to admit it but I actually wept when he lost to Ken Norton. I almost cried again when he lost a few years later to Leon Spinks) and I’d often go to Stampeders games, sometimes with my mom who was a big Stampeders fan, and sometimes with friends.
But what stands out more than anything else is Stampede Wrestling at the Pavilion, which is located at the Stampede grounds directly beside the Saddledome.
Stampede Wrestling became a part of my life.
It was broadcast every Saturday afternoon and it was must-see-TV for everybody I went to school with.
Also, my grandpa and me would watch it whenever I was visiting my grandparents, which I did at least every second weekend. Sometimes my grandpa and me would go watch it live when the wrestlers passed through Lethbridge, which is in southern Alberta.
But what stands out most about Stampede Wrestling is that my two buddies and me would go watch it live at the Pavilion every Friday night.
There was a period of about three years when I was in junior high school, from Grade’s 7 to 9, when I went to wrestling about 100 times.
We’d catch the bus to the Pavilion; pay for our ticket, and get a match card telling us who would be wrestling that night.
One of my favourite wrestlers was Big Daddy Ritter. He was a black dude and I don’t even know if he was a good wrestler but he could talk trash really good.
One time I got in a fight in our schoolyard and somebody in the crowd, I don’t remember who, was yelling at me to, “Do the Big Daddy, Do the Big Daddy.”
I think it was Grade 9 and it was late fall and the grass had turned brown, and I remember this other guy and me squaring off beside the white soccer goal posts.
When this spectator started yelling, “Do the Big Daddy, Do the Big Daddy,” I had no idea what he meant.
Did Big Daddy Ritter have a signature move? Was I supposed to lift my opponent over my head and body-slam him? Was I supposed to get him in the headlock and drive his head into the goal post? I had no idea what the ‘Big Daddy’ was.
Anyway, it didn’t matter, it was academic, because a few seconds later my opponent was sitting on top of me and punching me in the face.
– MR. HART TEACHES MY CLASS
Believe it or not, one of the substitute teachers in my Grade 8 homeroom class, which was also my social studies class, was a Stampede Wrestler.
Keith Hart, who is Bret Hart’s older brother, was our substitute teacher for two days.
I couldn’t believe it when I walked into the class and there he was. For years I’d watched him ply his trade in the ring and now he was right in front of me. Instead of wearing wrestling trunks, he was wearing a suit and tie.
He was really cool. He spent most of his time in our class being peppered with questions about Stampede Wrestling and all the wrestlers and answered them all honestly and graciously.
– ED WHALEN
Part of the reason Stampede Wrestling was popular was because they had an announcer named Ed Whalen. He was perfect for the job.
He signed off at the end of every night of Stampede Wrestling by saying, “In the meantime, and in between time, that was another edition of Stampede Wrestling.”
Whenever he spoke those words my buddies and me would stand behind the ring and wave at the camera like a bunch of idiots. Then we’d watch Stampede Wrestling on Saturday and watch ourselves waving at the camera. It was childish, but fun.
We did meet a group of girls that we hung out with at the Pavilion. There were usually four of five of them. Like us; they seemed to be able to stay out to all hours of the night without any consequences.
One night we all got together for what was called Midnight Madness at the Calgary Stampede.
Every year the Calgary Stampede starts on the first Friday of July.
The day before, on Thursday, they set up all the midway rides.
Midnight Madness was an event where you bought a bracelet for about $10 and when the clock struck midnight on Thursday night the bracelet gave you admission to all the rides.
What I remember most about Midnight Madness was riding the rides until the sun started coming up. It was strange watching the sun come up while riding rides like the Super Loop, the Sky Diver and the Rotor. I remember all of us waiting for the first bus in the morning and not getting home until about 7 a.m. I went straight to bed and slept for about 24 hours.
Another night at the Calgary Stampede, I think it was a year later, my wrestling buddies and me went to watch a concert on the Molson Stage, which is a stage set up on the Stampede grounds where they host free concerts.
The band that was playing was from Calgary and they were called Loverboy.
This was before they hit the big leagues, and we had never heard of them. From what I remember they seemed ok but what stood out most was what happened after Loverboy left the stage.
A tall thin girl with dark curly hair jumped on the stage.
She seemed somewhat inebriated, and was yelling, ‘Lov-er-boy, Lov-er-boy,’ while pumping her fist to each syllable, trying to get the crowd to follow her lead.
Somehow the scene quickly devolved to where the crowd was yelling, “Take-it-off, Take-it-off, Take-it-off.”
The girl seemed ready to comply with the crowd’s wishes.
She reached to the bottom of her top and pretended she was going to perform what the crowd was calling for, but then she would stop. Then she would start again, and then she would stop. Then she would start again, and then she would stop. She did this about ten times.
Police stood on the both sides of the stage ready to pounce if she went too far. Finally, she did go too far.
The police pounced, wrapped her in a police jacket and walked her off the stage to the jeers and boos of the crowd.
There seemed to be two places where this sort of obscenity was often inflicted on the minds of impressionable, young men – rock concerts and the racetrack - both venues of which I seemed to frequent quite often. (I always tried my best to avert my eyes but, for some reason, was powerless to do so.)
– FURTHER NOTES ON STAMPEDE WRESTLING
There was a wrestler named David Shultz who went by the name of “Dr. D.”
One of my friends at school, his dad was also one of our hockey coaches, called me Dr. D, and he still calls me Dr. D to this day. He says, “How’s it going Dr. D.” It’s sort of silly, but funny.
There was also another wrestler at Stampede Wrestling named Tor Kamata who would often say to Ed Whalen, “No Chancy Mr. Whalen.”
My friends and me would often answer questions by saying the same thing.
For instance, if somebody asked me for a piece of licorice and I didn’t want to give it to them, it would be my duty to imitate Tor Kamata’s deep, ragged voice, and with stretched out syllables, I would say, “No chancy Mr. Whalen.”
Very childish, but very effective.
Here’s Keith Hart (red trunks) fighting with his brother Bret at the Pavilion. Notice all the devious cheating by the Kiwis. (Stupid Referee)