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Newsmaker: Mick Foley Wrestler turned writer takes on critics

Monday, February 05, 2001

By Dan Gigler, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

With the Texas Bikini Team and hundreds of juiced-up hot rods and Harley-Davidsons on display, this past weekend's World of Wheels Custom Car Show gave the David L. Lawrence Convention Center an air of testosterone that would make any studio wrestling star feel at home.

And, indeed, Mick Foley of the World Wrestling Federation did. Foley was on hand to sign autographs as a celebrity guest at the event.

Mick Foley

Ring names: Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love

Date of birth: May 14, 1965

Place of birth: Bloomington, Ind.

In the news: World Wrestling Federation star and best-selling author stopped in Pittsburgh Saturday for an appearance at the World of Wheels Custom Car Show.

Quote: "Calling pro wrestling violent and football family entertainment is an incredible double standard."

Education: Studied studio wrestling at Dominic DeNucci's professional wrestling school in Freedom, Beaver County, while attending the State University of New York-Cortland.

Family: Married to former model Colette Christie. Two children, son Dewey and daughter Noelle.


"It's the same thing, except I'm not getting beat up," he joked.

However, Foley, a longtime veteran of the mat with more aliases than a Mafioso (Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love), seemed more interested in pontificating than pile-driving while meeting with fans and the media.

The targets of his diatribes: those who criticize professional wrestling as violent and sexist.

"It's completely overblown," Foley said. "People have been told for so long that wrestling is so bad that they accept it as fact and don't judge for themselves."

Blasting an Indiana University study that rated WWF programs as some of the most violent and sexually suggestive on television, Foley contends that professional wrestling is no more violent than professional football and much less sexually suggestive than any soap opera.

The study listed relatively benign acts such as a woman rubbing the arm of a wrestler as sexual.

"The simulated sex and drug use on prime time shows makes our show look like Barney the dinosaur," Foley said.

"If you take a liberal interpretation of what is violent, I could tell you that the tale of Hansel and Gretel is a story of child neglect, child abandonment, kidnapping, murder and cannibalism."

A New York native, the 35-year old Foley learned his vocation at the professional wrestling school of Dominic DeNucci in Freedom, Beaver County, in the mid-1980s. He's wrestled at every level of the sport, captured the WWF championship belt and become one of the sport's most recognizable, popular and downright crazy figures.

Foley was known to take any hit, jump through tables and land on thumb tacks. He once had his ear ripped off in a match.

Currently his character is on hiatus while Foley recovers from the abuse his body has taken from years in the ring. The free time has let Foley pursue a more cerebral occupation, writing.

With an unkempt mop of black hair, scruffy beard and a face that's registered more hits than a Britney Spears Web site, Foley hardly fits the mold of the typical author.

Foley's discovery of his talent for the written word was something of an accident.

"I was given the chance to do an autobiography with a ghostwriter, and I didn't realize how little I actually had to write," Foley explained. "This sounds funny coming from a guy in the World Wrestling Federation, but to me, that was cheating. I thought that I could do a good job by myself, so I gave it a try."

His first book, "Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks," was a New York Times best seller and a surprise hit with book critics for its honest narrative, opinions and insight into the world of professional wrestling. He has also authored a children's book.

Foley is working on his second book, which will devote several chapters to addressing detractors of professional wrestling.

Writing the old-fashioned way, with a pen and notebook, he carries the working manuscript with him on the road, jotting down notes in the margin when inspired, and doesn't hesitate to read passages from it.

In one of the chapters he is working on, Foley is particularly critical of U. S. Sens Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who have criticized the content of wrestling broadcasts.

Foley concedes that not all of the WWF is appropriate for the eyes and ears of children.

"Some segments can be tasteless. Some segments can be violent," Foley said. "Parents have to watch with their young kids. If a kid is 14, he's probably heard worse things on the school bus, but the TV can't be a baby sitter for the young kids."

"However," Foley warns, "it's more dangerous for United States senators to tell us what we should and shouldn't watch."

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