To The Brain (Bobby Heenan): Rest in peace, Weasel
September 18, 2017
By: Doug Lackey of Wrestleview.com
t was a Monday Night in my family’s small 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom house in Ohio. With my mother at work as a nurse at the hospital, my father was home while my sister, brother and I were in bed. I was 7 years old and attending first grade at the time, so sleep was paramount. I’m not quite sure what time it was, but I ended up being stirred awake from voices emanating from somewhere in the house. I slowly opened my bedroom door and creeped down the hall not to wake my brother and sister. The living room, dining room and kitchen lights were off but a faint light rose out of the doorway leading to the basement.
As I slowly made my way down each step, hoping not to cause one of the wooden boards to creak, I saw the television was on and my father was sitting in the recliner in front of it. As I made my down the final step, my father erupted in laughter, bellowing and echoing off of the wood-paneled walls; it nearly startled me off of the step and face first onto the paper-thin carpeted floor. I couldn’t tell what was making him laugh so hard but it had to be what he watching. I gently walked forward, hoping not to get too close to his chair and be noticed. Curiosity had overtaken my fear of a spanking.
I always loved hearing my father laugh. It was a boisterous, thunderous laugh and whenever I would laugh with him. Even if I didn’t know what he was laughing about, I just loved hearing it at that age.
As I got closer, I could visibly make out what was on the television screen. It was two men sitting behind a desk of some kind with a big golden ‘W’ on the wall behind them. Both of them were dressed in tuxedoes, one the normal black and white, the other in sparkling red sequins. As I crept closer, the man in the red tuxedo began to speak. When he finished, my father erupted again in uproarious laughter. His laughter startled me so much; I grabbed the back of his recliner so that I wouldn’t end up on the floor again. He turned around and saw me.
I feared for my life. I couldn’t tell if he was angry, the light glared off of his glasses so I couldn’t see his eyes. However, the smile had not left his face. He reached down towards me and lifted me onto his lap. The two men started talking again and my father was giggling behind me. The shiny red man spoke again, my father laughed, but this time I laughed with him.
“See, Doug? That’s Bobby the Brain. He’s a funny guy,” my father said as I sat on his lap studying the screen in front of us.
After another minute, a panel moved from behind the two tuxedoed men showing what looked to be a dimly-lit arena, a boxing ring, and some other figures standing inside it. I didn’t know what was happening and behind me, after a long sigh, it didn’t seem like my father cared what was happening. I sat there with him until commercials interrupted our time together, he would then take me upstairs and tuck me back into bed.
Later that week, on a Saturday morning, after my cartoons were over and I was about to go to my room to play with my toys, my father called my brother and I into the living room. He asked us to sit down in front of him and watch the television. It was the same two men I remember seeing from earlier in the week, except this time it looked like they were in an arena instead of behind a desk like they were before. It was at this moment that my father introduced my brother and I to professional wrestling. He explained how the men in the ring weren’t really hitting each other and that we should pay more attention to what is being said than what we were seeing. As we grew older, professional wrestling became my family’s ‘male bonding time’. We would sit down, watch the theatrics in the ring and laugh at the shiny red man’s jokes.
To this day, whenever anyone asks me who my favorite wrestler/performer is, I always answer without hesitation Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. It was his quick wit and impeccably-timed jokes that drew me into the sheer stupidity of sports entertainment that was professional wrestling. It was not just his work as an announcer, but also as a manager that drew me in deeper.
As a manager, it wasn’t his personality behind a microphone that grabbed me, but his antics at ringside. I’ll never forget a feud that his tag team The Islanders had with The British Bulldogs. The British Bulldogs would always come to the ring with their pet bulldog, Matilda. During one match against Heenan’s Islanders, Heenan walked over to Matilda and basically kidnapped her from The Bulldogs. In the episodes that would follow, Heenan would be flanked by his Islanders holding a leash with an empty collar at the end. It seemed so ridiculous to me, yet so hilarious.
While I’m sure you have read countless ‘In Memorium’ articles about Heenan as ‘The Greatest Manager of All Time’, that’s not how I will remember him. Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan is what brought me into the world of professional wrestling. His performances and quick wit taught me to never take this form of theater too seriously, to just sit back and be entertained by the complete lunacy of it all.
Hearing of his passing was sad, but maybe only for a handful of minutes. It was soon after that fleeting sadness that I realized he would be in heaven, sitting next to Gorilla Monsoon and calling Tito Santana’s off-the-ropes flying forearm the ‘Flying Burrito’. He would be looking at “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and asking him if it was true that his parents ran away from him when he was a child. And he would be looking at Randy Savage, asking him how many Slim Jims he had to sell for his ridiculous cowboy hats.
Rest in peace, Weasel.
Doug Lackey on Twitter: @dougwrestleview