These stories are told in a short conversational style. I have no training as a writer ( I am a complete amateur), so the grammar is not the greatest; but these stories are word for word how I tell them, not how some professional would write them. The spelling shouldn't be too bad, but I'm not making any promises.
As mentioned on the Main Page, you can have your stories published here too. A few things to keep in mind:
That's right! A UHF station. KXWL or KXBL or KWXL or something like that. I can't even remember now if it was channel 46 or 48. The guy that started this station was a rich old coot that thought that because there wasn't a local television station (outside of PBS) for at least a hundred miles, all he had to do was to start a station and all that advertising money would be his for the taking, er, ah, I mean would stimulate the local economy. Yea, that's it. There were a couple of very small colleges fairly close. One in each of those towns that I mentioned before. He used the students for cheap labor and they used him for experience and an extra line on their resume. You how it works. People from small schools with poor to average grades got to start somewhere. Anyway, the guy hired me as a favor to his friend. I did odd jobs, took care of supplies, helped on camera shoots, and whatever else needed to be done. It paid good enough that me and two other guys that worked there could rent a trailer together. I hate having roommates.
After about six months, a couple of big, ugly guys started coming in a couple of times a week for closed door meetings with the man. After a month of that, the official announcement was made station KW whatever was now the official home of The World Ozark Wrestling Association or WOW. Oh great! Now, I watched wrestling on TV when I was a young teenager, but I never for one second believed it was real. In fact, I have never met anyone thought it was real. Except maybe a young girl named Gina and then only after an unusually bloody match (wrestlers got paid an extra $100 back in those days if they bled). She even showed me the autograph book with her bloody hand print. But like I said, it was fake and I didn't care. The only thing that bothered me was being told every five minutes by a certain family member that it's fake, saying I know, and then being told again that it is fake. Enough already! I wasn't lying when I said I knew it wasn't real. All those women sitting around all day watching those soap operas; do they think all that stuff is real about Erika and Opal and Luke and Laura. No way! It's all fake. They don't really hate each other or cheat on each other and they are not really married to each other. It's all a bunch of made up stuff on TV. So relax.
The way I see it, there is no difference between wrestling and soap operas. Wrestling just has a little less sex and a little more violence. They are both written the same way. They both always end in cliffhangers so that you will be sure to tune in next time. They both have a certain number of parallel story lines going on at the same time about different people feuding together. And once these story lines are over, these people just swap up and start feuding with someone else. Also, these parallel story lines are staggered, so that they all don't start and stop at the same time ( never give the viewer a good opportunity to quit watching you show altogether). Each story line also has a certain rhythm; they start out slow and low key and build up to a grand finale. Of course you will have this good guy/bad guy thing going on, and it's always a big event when a certain character changes sides. Also you have to have special ways of dealing with personnel problems such as when someone wants some personal time off or is quitting altogether to go to working for a competitor or is unexpectedly injured or even dies suddenly. If you watch either wrestling or soap operas long enough, you will see what I'm talking about here.
Well, that's enough ranting for now ( I hate complaining). Like I said, I watched it as a young teenager, but then I outgrew it and that was that; or so I thought. By the time I was working at the station, it was only a long past memory. Then Bang! Or should I say WOW! When the announcement was made, a dark shudder ran over nearly everybody that worked there. It was explained to us how that every Saturday morning at 10:00 we would have live studio wrestling in the main room. Which happened to be the same room that we used for our news broadcast and for our kid's clown show ( a complete rip-off of the Bozo show - I'm surprised we never got sued over that one). That means on the weekends, we had to tear down the set and put up a new one three times instead of just two. But the boss saw his cut of those four dollar ticket prices and that was that. On top of that, we had to have a camera setup down at the National Guard Armory in town on Saturday night for the real matches that they are setting the viewers up for during the Saturday morning telecast. We were to use short film clips from the Saturday night matches on the next Saturday morning broadcast. It was an endless circle. Thankfully, we didn't have to be involved in any of the other events when WOW would be in any of the other towns in the surrounding area. The only exception would be if it was planned that there would be a title change in one of those smaller towns; this rarely happened anyway. All I saw out of this was a lot of extra work and nothing else. Boy was I surprised.
After a couple of weeks of doing setup work for these guys, I noticed one of the two big ugly guys that ran this operation kept looking at me. Sometimes he would watch me for a while and then go talk to his partner. Now, I had heard rumors about the lifestyles of a lot of wrestlers and being a whole lot younger and skinnier back then really didn't put my mind at ease. Finally after a couple of weeks, Cousin Leroy ( as he was called) made me an offer. They had just hired a tag team from Tennessee and they needed someone to be their manager. They wanted someone young and obnoxious to do most of the talking during the interviews; because even though these two new guys were pretty impressive, they just weren't that bright. They were a couple of bleached blonde pretty boys that wore a lot of bright colors and acted like they were full of themselves. But they needed a little extra push to get people to hate them. And that was me. I was to be loud and whiny and easily excitable. I was supposed to be the nephew of some famous wrestler from the fifties who was now supporting me with all that money we had made. In other words, I was to act like a spoiled brat (everybody hates those). The only thing was that we weren't allowed to say who this famous wrestler was. We were only going to give hints out about once every three to four weeks just to keep to mystery going and the ratings up. Also, my main job was to interfere in the matches so that my team could win. It case you didn't know the rules: bad guys never beat good guys unless they cheat.
I tried to tell these guys that I was not a wrestler or an actor and that I had absolutely no experience in all this. I tried my best to get out of it. But they didn't want to hear it. They told me that they would train me for all I needed to know, buy me a number of good suits, and pay me very well. I suppose it was when they started talking money that I finally gave in. I don't want to sound greedy or anything like that, but living with my two roommates was really getting on my nerves. They promised to more than double my salary at the station (which was easy to do), and that I wouldn't even have to quit my day job. To make a long story short, I became Thornton Worthen III - Professional Wrestler Manager/Spoiled Brat Rich Kid. By the way, I had never been rich either, so that is something else I had to learn. But that was my gimmick. Now all I needed was a prop. All the big managers had one. You now, something to use to hit people with, like a briefcase or mobile phone or guitar or whatever. I mentioned to them that I still had my cane from the time that I messed my ankle up and they loved the idea. So now the story was that I injured my ankle during a skiing accident on the Swiss Alps and I had to have the cane to get around. And when the referee wasn't looking I was to trip the good guy wrestler so that my boys could win the match.
Of course I had to have the crash course in wrestling secrets. I always knew about certain ways of falling so that you don't get hurt and stomping your foot when you hit someone so that it makes a loud noise and that you had to learn all these different moves and holds and all that junk. But there is a lot more to it than that. There are secret hand signals (and foot signals) that they use to communicate to each other in the ring. Also, whenever you see them tie up together in the ring with headlocks and other holds, they are really discussing and confirming with each other about how the next few minutes of the match is going to go. And these discussions are made with special code words and the referee is usually in on these discussions. Oh yeah, before I forget, they all use exaggerated facial expressions and use big, easy-to-understand hand signals and other forms of body language. This is for the people way out in audience; so they can understand what is going on without being able to hear the words. Of course, nowadays when you have these large packed stadiums and TV cameras, it looks pretty hokey when you can zoom in on their face when they are acting like they are surprised or whatever. Large crowds and TV cameras just don't mix that well.
But then, there are the darker secrets of the wrestling world. Well I say secrets, but they really don't seem to be secrets anymore. A lot of things have come out of the dark in the last five years. I'm sure you heard about the steroid use, but we really didn't have much of that. Oh, we had a couple of guys trying to beef up, but that was about it. In fact, our ratings might we higher if we did have a few bodybuilders. But, oh well. No, but it did seem like about a third of these guys were drunks. I mean some real alchies. Especially the older ones. Another third of them seem to be Coke heads. Most of these guys were the workaholics. You know, the ones that worked for us three nights a week and would also be working for another organization a hundred and fifty miles away for another three nights a week. And those three nights wouldn't be in a row either. All these guys did was drive and wrestle. They never did sleep and they never did seem to have enough money either. I don't even know if I even want to talk about the queer situation. There was an unusually high percentage of homosexuals in this business. It seemed like a third. It could have been even higher. Of course, most of them were in the closet and if they didn't harass the straight guys, they were left alone. Now with me talking about all these thirds, you would think it was a three way split, but it's not. There was a lot of overlapping in all this and there were a decent, regular guys that just happened to like their jobs and liked putting on a show and were hoping to make it big someday.
Anyway, I've been getting sidetracked way too much here and this story is running a little long. So I'm going to start making a long story short. The time I spent working for these guys was the worst period of time in my life. And that includes the teenage years which really stunk. I got to where I didn't mind the work itself too bad. With a little practice and some pointers from Cousin Leroy, I got pretty good at those little talks I had to give every Saturday morning. What got spooky for me was the fans. These people took this stuff seriously. Over the course of a year, we got jumped by someone in the audience six times and we had two all out riots. Both of the riots happened in the same small town and we all decided to boycott that town all together. But all these open attacks weren't the worst part. What really got to me were the whispers, the stare, the way parents would pull their kids behind them when they saw me out in public. I would go into a store to buy something and people would just point and stare. I would hear stuff like, "if he's so rich, what's he doin' here at the dollar store," and "How come he's not using his cane?" A couple of times, I'd be on the road and I would stop at a quick shop to get a little something to eat or whatever, and I would be told be the store owners that, "we don't serve your kind here." All these times that stuff like this was happening, I was dying to tell them that it is all just a show, that is was just entertainment. But that would probably make it worse. Plus, on top of that, there was clause in my contract (and everybody else's contract) that we would never at any time or in any way say that wrestling was not real in public or in private. So I was stuck with it.
I know I'm skipping a lot of the details here, but things really started getting out of hand. I would have rednecks trying to follow me home at nights after the matches. It wasn't easy to loose these guys when I was the stranger in those parts and they had lived there all their lives. But somehow I managed to outrun them. I kind of think they really didn't want to catch me, that they were really just wanting to chase me. The last thing I wanted to hear was some inbreeder saying I had a purtty mouth. I was just about fed up. Then at a weekly staff meeting, Cousin Leroy and Cousin Elmer decided it was time to expand my job and make me the head of a stable or an army of bad guys that would cause a lot of trouble; you know, jumping other people and stupid stuff like that. Of course that would make me even that much more unpopular. I was really starting to get fed up. Then I walk out into the parking lot and find out that my tires had been slashed for the third time. That was it. I was fed up. I decided right then and there that I was getting out of the business for good. I started to secretly check around for a new job, but nobody around there was interested in me, especially if I had to be dealing with the public. So I started checking the want ads of newspapers from further away and making more long distance phone calls. In the meanwhile, I kept sneaking in more and more comments on the Saturday morning show on how I couldn't stand living down here with all these stupid rednecks and hicks and how I didn't know if I could stand it much longer.
I was really starting to lose patience. I was really wanting to just walk out and just disappear. But my head kept telling me to wait until I had a place to go to. Then it happened, my big break. Well it wasn't that big. I was offered a job driving a delivery truck back in my hometown of Jonesboro. Actually, I would be delivering from Jonesboro to Paragould to Piggott to Corning and then back home everyday. That was a lot of driving, but it paid pretty decent and I could afford a place of my own, all alone. The only catch was that the job wouldn't start for another three months. That gave me a chance to come up with some creative way of quitting my jobs. Actually, I couldn't think of any way to quit the job at the station. I kind of liked it and they treated me all right. So I thought I would just be honest with them. I was thinking about maybe some kind of loser leave town match for the wrestling job though. When I showed up for work Monday morning there was a crowd in the parking lot and the doors were locked. KW (whatever it was) was closed for good with no warning. It turns out the boss man wasn't making enough money selling advertisements and the people who were advertising weren't making anymore money than they did before started advertising; so they were losing money. They all got together and canceled all their deals with the station. Well that was I job I didn't have to quit. But one to go.
I had some serious doubts that WOW could stay in business without the TV station helping it out. Since I had three months, I thought that I would just hang around for a couple of months just to see how long it could last. And just as I expected, the crowd attendance started dropping drastically. This meant the the wrestlers were paid less. This meant that the more popular wrestlers that could work somewhere else - did. With the better wrestlers leaving the crowds got even smaller. This was a never ending spiral that did end in only a month and a half. I was free as a bird. I got out of quitting two jobs and even got a little severance pay from the station (after a group of ex-employees sue them on behalf of all of us - but that was later on). I packed my bags, buried my cane in the back yard and held a funeral service for Thornton Worthen III and hit the road and never looked back.
Being a part of the Middle East Division had a few requirements. First of all, we all had to have dark hair and dark eyes even to be considered for the job. We had to blend in, you know. Next, we had to be aware of local customs and know how to not offend people or break their religious rules or laws. All it took was one person to mess up; and at best, we would be run out of the country and have a lot of explaining to do the boys back in Washington, and at worst, lined up and shot. Actually, I don't know which is really worse. You probably know some of the rules already: no porn, no pork, no booze (in some countries), no foreign music, no heathen religions. You could secretly be a Christian or anything else for that matter, but you just couldn't show it. We did have a few ways around that though. We had special Moby Dick novels. If you are familiar with the book, you know it was written in the early 1800's and half the time the characters speak in old English. Not the easiest book to read. Well, every fourth chapter was a chapter or so out of the New Testament. It took four Moby Dick novels to get the whole New Testament (I think) and I had heard they were working on a Dickens version of the Old Testament, but I don't think that ever work out; at least, that I know of. The Catholic guys among had a secret way of doing the sign of the cross. They would do it in slow motion and would pretend to be scratching the whole time. You never saw an itchier bunch of people in your life.
It also had a few perks. We got to use AK-47's. The preferred weapon of your enemy, it makes a distinctive sound when fired. In fact, since we were not officially there and deep undercover, we couldn't have anything made in the USA or any allies thereof. All of our clothes, supplies, everything had to be authentic. Those Moby Dick Bibles I told you about: printed in Zaire. We also had to let our beards grow out so we could blend in better. This was hard for me for two reasons. First, according to my Marine Corps training, Marines shave daily. It said so in the book. Those exact words in black and white. None of this long government jargon. Just: "Marines shave daily." And second, being part Indian, the beard don't grow to good. It's kind of sparse and scraggly. You might be wondering why I consider these perks. Well it's probably because it was so bad over there that the only thing that gave us any comfort was the idea of us playing "Secret Agent Man". Sometimes when we were sure no one was around, we would sing that song to each other. Not out loud of course, we would more like just mouth it at each other. I don't know, I guess you had to be there.
Oh! And in case you are wondering; yes we did have to learn the local languages. Being a part of the MED, we were fairly good at Arabic. Not great, just fair. The locals that we worked with knew that we weren't Arabic. They assumed that we were mercenaries, which I guess was sort of the truth, in a way. But, like I said, we kind of knew Arabic; but the problem was: Afghanistan wasn't exactly Arabic. It's partly Arabic, partly Persian, partly Mongolian, and partly something else that I done forgot. Don't worry, you never heard of it either. It was all a weird mixture of different languages, dialects, and accents. On top of all that, we had to learn Russian too. We all had these little dark green translation books in our pockets that we used just to get by. We had to learn the basic military commands and tourist phrases such as: kill the invading infidel and runaway and where is the latrine. You know, the essentials. It's been over fifteen years now and about all I remember is: Ve tzulli e nyetkraseeva (Russian for: you're fat and ugly) and my last name is pronounced Hadaba or Mortifee depending on what part of the country I was in at the time. By the way, none of that is spelt right. That's the hooked on phonics version of it. Most of the Afghanis that I met didn't know how to spell. It turns out that Afghanistan is considered to be the hillbilly region of the Muslin world. A lot of the other Arabic countries really wasn't too worried about Afghanistan anyway. But that's another story altogether. I'm getting distracted here.
Let me get back to what this story is all about. We all got there in late summer and spent up all the good weather settling in, fighting the war, and learning the language and the lay of the land. Then we spent the coldest winter you could ever imagine in tents. I learned to hate tents that year. Still do. Then came spring. Nice warm weather. Flowers are blooming. Remember now that we haven't seen a magazine in nearly a year and pin-ups weren't allowed. We had almost forgotten what women looked like. The fighting had calmed down for a few weeks and we got to spent a little time in the villages. Them war widows were looking pretty good, if you know what I mean. In fact, they were looking real good! It wasn't long before a number of us found some women, that absolutely had no families at all. All their people was either dead or missing. Now just sleeping around or shacking up was strictly against the rules here. I mean, it's not like the Philippines, you know. So we started taking wives that spring. I met a perfect young widow named Fatjo. The "J" has a "Y" sound. Her name was not Fat Joe or Fat Hoe or anything like that. We were married in a simple civil ceremony and we became Mr. and Mrs. Danielle Yosef Hadaba.
Now this was the spring of 1981 and we were told that we were going to be there for the long haul. And the way the war was going it looked like that was going to be several years. So I figured with that and a possible "reconstruction" period, this marriage would last; and I would eventually be able to take her back to America, once public knowledge of American involvement in the war became justifiable and my tour of duty with the MED was over. But that was years away. In the meanwhile, I was enjoying my honeymoon. She was great. She would do anything I asked or wanted. You just can't find that in America. Now don't take this the wrong way, but she was enjoying this more than I was. She was absolutely thrilled for me to be her husband. She worshipped the ground I walked on. It really wasn't anything special about me, other than I was a typical American guy. I got one message for you American women that's always griping about your husbands. Just shut up! You don't know how good you got it until you've seen the rest of the world where women are treated like dirt: good for nothing but making babies and cleaning house; where they are told what to do and if it ain't done just right or not fast enough, they get smacked around. So don't come complaining to me about how your husband is too tired (after working all that overtime so he can buy you all that crap you want) to pay complete attention to what you have to say. At least you have permission to speak. Anyway, enough griping for now. The point of all this is: I treated her like a human being and she treated me like an Earthbound god. Everything was going according to plan...... Until that fall.
Some Bozo (from Michigan, I think - we always called him Detroit) got a case of Vodka off some Russian soldiers and stashed it somewhere. He got to drinking one Friday morning (Muslim Sabbath day) and never quit. By that afternoon, he was completely soused. He was going through the middle of town singing Yankee Doodle Dandy at the top of his lungs, hollering "Jesus Christ" at the top of his lungs (Yankees like saying that) and doing the sign of the cross (and he wasn't even Catholic). On the last crossover thing they do (as you can tell, I'm not Catholic either), he would swing his arm out and accidentally backhand the person next to him on purpose. Then he would apologize and then laugh his fool head off. Also, as the women were leaving Mosque, he would grab himself between the legs and make lewd comments in the local language the best he could. Then he would try to lift up their veils and try to sneak a peek. This is what he were told by one of our guys who ran from town to tell us what was going on. Several of us were meeting with the Major at that time and all he said was "Go get him now and if you have to kill him to prove our loyalty to the natives, then do it!" By the time we got close enough to see what was going on, it was too late. They had already stoned him, set him on fire (not necessarily in that order), and was dragging him around town. An angry mob had formed and was yelling and chanting something; I don't know what, but I could make out one word - American!
We ran back to the Major like scared rabbits. He gave the order -
BUG TIME! That was the evacuation order. Get your gear now, this
war is over for us. Well, seven of us were married now. what about our
wives. He said grant them a traditional Muslim divorce. Say, "I divorce
thee" three times and that is all it takes. "You have fifteen minutes!"
Dang it! Well, what's a guy to do? I went home and started throwing everything
I had to have into my backpack. The whole time, Fatjo was just staring
at me. Then I stood up straight and said, "I divorce thee, I divorce thee,
I... " That's when she came running at me trying to cover my mouth before
I made it legal. She hit me so hard in the mouth (with her open hand, not
her fist) that it busted my bottom lip. When she realized what she had
done, she ran to the other side of the tent and cowered down, screaming,
"I'm sorry, please don't beat me!" All I did was say, "I divorce thee",
and left. The most pitiful sound I ever heard came out of that tent as
I double timed it out of there. When we all got together at the trucks
that we were making our getaway in, I noticed two other guys with busted
lips. Anyway, our cover was blown, we left the country never to return,
and the war went on for years. In fact, the last I heard, they are still
fighting it out over there. I'm not one hundred percent sure that the Major
was right about how to get a divorce in Afghanistan, but even if I am still
legally married to that woman over there, I'm not guilty of bigamy; because,
you have more than one wife in America and she is not in America. So I'm
okay, right? The same goes for those two women in North Yemen, doesn't