Monday, August 29, 2011

Sad days for 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair

So here's my Ric Flair story. Back in 2004, when his autobiography came out, I wrote a column about it. (I've pasted it to the end of this post.) The column described a lot of the wild parties Flair wrote about in the book. The next morning, my phone rang, and it was Ric Flair. He was very nice. Our conversation went something like this:

"So, Tommy, I've got a little problem with your column. You put a lot about my partying in there."

"Well, Ric, you wrote a lot about it in your book. I took all that from the book."

"Yeah, I understand... but I'm in a little bit of hot water with my wife about it."

"OK... but I'm not sure why she should be mad. Everything I wrote about is in the book."

"Well... I didn't actually show her the book before we published it."

They got divorced not long after.

Aside from family, Ric Flair was one of the most important people in my life growing up -- if you had made me create a personal Mount Rushmore when I was 13, it would've been Flair, Hank Aaron, Sherlock Holmes and Peter Frampton. (Yeah, I didn't get too far with girls.) The Ric Flair I saw on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling was always the coolest guy in the room -- a playboy who talked trash but could always back it up.

But of course that's just TV.

Shane Ryan of Grantland.com wrote a devastating piece last week that details (mostly through courthouse records) Flair's personal and financial decline. We'd written most of it in the paper, one story at a time over the years, but seeing all of it together, it hit like a hammer. I had a hard time reading it.

Flair "retired" three years ago after one last great match with Shawn Michaels. But now he's on TNA wrestling, with a bunch of other used-to-bes and wish-they-weres. He's 62. He might miss the action. He probably needs the money.

Today the news is that he's making noise about suing Grantland... for information that the writer got from Flair's book.

Even with all that, I wish the guy the best. I've never met him, but he's brought me a lot of joy over the years. I hope he finds some of his own.

Here's my column from 2004:

I've just read Ric Flair's new book, "To Be the Man." It's now clear that North Carolina needs some new historical markers.
Here lies the spot where Ric Flair fell down drunk on his kitchen floor while fellow wrestler Terry Funk crawled around the back yard naked, trying to start a fight with a pit bull.
Or: At this hotel bar, Ric Flair wooed a woman by boasting that he had just posed for Playgirl. He hadn't. She married him anyway.
Or: This is the traffic court where Ric Flair discovered that he had committed 82 moving violations in four years.
The problem with most people who write books about themselves is that they haven't done enough to write about.
Ric Flair does not have this problem.
"To Be the Man" came out Tuesday and spent the day in the top 75 at amazon.com. It's written mostly for wrestling geeks (like me).
But there's another layer if you read the book as a Charlottean.
Ric Flair moved here in 1974, spending his first night in an $8 hotel. In the 30 years since, he made it big and so did our town.
Read the book and you realize that Flair's life is the perfect comeback to the gripes people have about Charlotte.
Charlotte, not a party town? You should've been with Flair the night Andre the Giant drank 106 beers.
Charlotte, strait-laced and bland? Our most famous resident has spent the last three decades wearing custom-made robes and slashing his own forehead with a razor blade.
Charlotte, careful with its money? Our guy has personally kept half the IRS in business, racking up $1 million in fines on his taxes.
If you've lived here long, you'll love the local color - Flair runs up a tab at Valentino's, buys his first fancy car at Arnold Palmer Cadillac, hires Bill Diehl as his lawyer.
(His current wife, Beth, gets off one of the best lines, describing their first meeting in Raleigh: "I thought Ric was a pimp. There were about seven women with him, and he didn't look like a normal person.")
He also takes steroids, chugs kamikazes like they're Gatorade, fools around until his first wife leaves him, sells shares in himself to pay off bills, and invites every woman in Baltimore between 18 and 28 to a party at his penthouse.
Dozens show up.
He spends a good portion of the book apologizing for all this - mainly to his wives and four kids. (He doesn't get into his most recent trouble - a lawsuit filed in March by two flight attendants. They say Flair and other wrestlers sexually assaulted and harassed them on a charter flight two years ago.)
But you get the feeling that even though he's sorry that he hurt people, he's not sorry enough to give up all those wild nights.
If you haven't followed wrestling for a while, it's the most real it has ever been.
Yes, the wrestlers still know who's going to win before they get in the ring. But wrestling has lifted its own curtain - everybody admits it's a show, fans know performers' real names, the inner workings of the business are laid out on the table.
Flair (real name: Richard Fliehr) puts a good bit of that in his book. If you want to know what he thinks about why World Championship Wrestling went down, it's here. If you want to know the wrestlers he respects and the ones he can't stand, it's here.
But whether Flair intended it or not, his book is about psychology - and not the kind that makes the fans boo or cheer.
It's about how a guy can do all the wrong things and somehow make you like him. It's about how a performer can get so deep into a character that even he can't tell the difference anymore.
And it's about how you can't sum up any person - much less any city - with a few quick words.
Yep, in many ways this is a pinstriped, tight-collared, Old Testament town.
But sometimes the pinstripes come off. The sequined robe comes on. And our inner Flair comes out.










62 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was not "a lot" of partying in the column at all.

It's sad to see the current state of Ric Flair on TNA.

He just looks like a crazy guy that needs help.

Opportunities sometimes only come once in a lifetime, Ric's same and went, now he is 62 still wrestling to survive it seems.

kyle said...

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Space Mountain might be the OLDEST ride in the park, but it has the LONGEST lines! Wooooo!!!!

Anonymous said...

http://www.mrdestructo.com/2011/05/bill-simmons-and-grantland.html

Anonymous said...

what a worthless piece - i hope he rots. at the eagles concert a few years back, i was assaulted by the drunk - should have filed charges against him

john nuyen said...

My dad used to be his main go to man for buying new/used cars here in Charlotte back in the 70's and 80's. He used to come over to dad's and do the partying but frag it he was a local hero (yankee folks don't really understand this but they try) I remember every two or three weeks The horsemen (all incarnations during those times) would show up at shonneys on independence in matthews (not there anymore it was across from Kmart and Krogers) It was Flair at the head of the table arn on one side, Tully and company (by company I mean the big stars in NWA and such)flanking them. I got to meet them several times then And remember meeting the coolest tag team ever The rock n Roll express and remember them sitting across the midnight express and seeing the russians beside them. I told my dad i'd help the RnR express beat those damn Russians & help the RnR get their tag team belts...Lol good times Sorry to see Flair is down and out but as my old man tells me, Mind you p's and save what ya can. It worked out great for Ricky Steamboat and his brothers Also Arn Anderson as well it seems.

Anonymous said...

I arrived in Charlotte about the same year as Rick and we're both still here. We're about the same age, but my life has been the polar opposite of his. I went the traditional Charlotte route, getting a degree from UNCC and working in IT for two well established corporations in town.

I worked out at his gym at Southpark, have seen his huge party boat on Lake Wylie, and even chatted with him on a flight to Seattle. Like so many celebrities, Ric is the consummate showman, but lacking in good judgement in his personal life. I've always liked him and wish him luck.

Anonymous said...

never liked him, thought normal rules of society didnt apply to him. He is a real redneck, like Eastbound and Down.

Anonymous said...

Easy Women, Drugs, and Booze has lead to the ruin of many good men. In the end, you're left with estranged wives and children and financial problems.

Anonymous said...

You Can never be First. But you can always be Next. Nature Boy Rick Flair Whooo!

Anonymous said...

High flyin', limousine ridin', kiss-stealin' son-of-a gun!!! WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Wish you the best Nature Boy!

Anonymous said...

Tommy:

Please write the screenplay.

A bio-pic of Ric would make "The Wrestler" look like a slow movie on the Lifetime Channel.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:02 --

Who could play Ric?

Anonymous said...

Seriously, do we need to continue to waste time and energy on people like this? The rest of us would have been locked up a very long time ago. Sad, yes. Necessary to keep publishing and rehashing it? No. It is all his own doing. Move on, Tommy. Perhaps there are better people out there that you could spotlight. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty sad when Charlotte's biggest celebrity is this douchebag.

Anonymous said...

Ha - i have a few Nature Boy stories.. My favorite is when he ran into one of my friends at South End Brewery back in like '94. My friend looks just like him - and Ric stared at him for about 30 seconds trying to decide if he had a son he didn't know about! hahahaha - we got a lot of free drinks that night!

Anonymous said...

Much like Aerosmith and ZZ Top, the Ric Flair that I knew and loved died in a plane crash in or around 1986.

WashuOtaku said...

For such a likeable guy, he sure makes some bad choices in life.

Anonymous said...

All the people hating on Ric. He's always been approachable and friendly to people. He might have hsi personal issues but he doesn't deserve to get bashed. He was an entertainer and a pretty good one. People always hate when someone works there way up from whatever situation they came from. He did it what he knew how to do. I wish him all the luck and happiness. I appreciate his great one liners and the simplicity of him and his industry before Charlotte was a big city. Love ya Ric!

Anonymous said...

Rick "Flair" (btw, he has none) is like the Britney Spears of fake wrestlin': Honey, you'd better learn a new skill because the old stuff jus' ain't gonna last ya forever!

Anonymous said...

Ric Flair created the best "personality" in pro wrestling history. There was no one funnier than the Nature Boy.

Anonymous said...

"..And you listen here Mean By-God Gene...I have spent more money in spilt liquor at the North Raleigh Hilton than you will ever...make...in...your...entire...life.

WOOOOOOOO!

BolynMcClung said...

THERE WAS A TIME….

Once upon a time Rick Flair could have run for President. He knew he would’ve lost so he moved to Arkansas and changed his name to Bill Clinton. The rest is history.

Bolyn McClung
Pineville

Anonymous said...

He can still run for President... He has all the makings, secret scandals, and background for it.

Anonymous said...

SAD, SAD story.
Even sadder human being.

Anonymous said...

It may be sad days, but he brought it all on himself. And to blame writers for his problems is just childish.

Accept responsibility for your actions, Ric, and just deal with it like a grownup. Stop blaming your problems on others.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the man, never saw him act, and have no opinion of him, good or bad.

However, I have no idea why anyone would watch that absurd spectacle of two grown men pretending to wrestle and acting like idiots.

If you want to watch the sport of wrestling, go to a college or high school match where the athletes are really trying to pin each other to the mat, and there really are rules and sportsmanship.

Anonymous said...

Ric Flair is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

I love Ric Flair, always have and always will. He's ours.

If you didn't learn anything from watching him wrestle, you learned never to count him out.

- Charlotte Native

Anonymous said...

He used to live in my neighborhood. He was not very well liked and was a pretty nasty guy. The kids were pretty nasty too.

Anonymous said...

Flairs tombstone will read:

He made the world a little less boring...

Anonymous said...

"He used to live in my neighborhood. He was not very well liked and was a pretty nasty guy. The kids were pretty nasty too."

So what do the neighbors think of you?

Anonymous said...

Good god.....did he get divorced again??? Tommy wrote that ric and beth got divorced shortly after the 2004 article.I knew ric got divorced about 3 years ago and the blond with a tan but rough looking face got the house in piper glen.I know her name wasn't beth.Could tommy have his dates wrong?Poor ric...i saw him last year at lincolnton high school wrestling for 50 bucks with a bunch of other old wrestlers.They actually still use white medical tape around their fingers to hide pieces of a razor to cut their forehead with to make them bleed.Very sad to still be doing this at 62!! Ric's a good guy but his story should be a warning to younger folks who are making good money now to save,save,save!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should reconsider socialism.

Anonymous said...

Quit your hatin' on Rick. Charlotte natives like me grew up watching him on TV. My grandmother was the oldest living wrestling fan at 91 when I took her to see him wrestle at the old Charlotte Coliseum on Independence. Ric was her favorite, so I walked around the Coliseum hoping to find him. And find him I did, by himself looking through one of the curtains. I introduced myself and asked him if he could come say hello to my Granny as she was his oldest living fan and she was in the wheelchair in the front. He said yes he would. So, as he walked by her going into the ring I thought oh he didn't do it. But, as he left the ring to the cheers of the fans after winning the match, he came right to my Granny and gave her a big hug. It made me cry. He may have personal problems, but everybody does! Ric, you're a great human being. Don't let the haters get to ya. People actually FROM Charlotte get you. People who moved here 5 minutes ago may not. And who cares about them.

Anonymous said...

Are we REALLY surprised? Really?!

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember when the Crockets ran "professional nestling" in CLT?

Flair is a sad case. I have a friend who lost several $100's of thousand to him. He just moves on with no remorse.

He beat up a friend's wife at 2001 disco, remember that place.

He should be in jail for serial stupid.

Anonymous said...

About 6 months ago I was dining with friends at Del Frisco's. We were leaving when I remembered I left my specs on the table. I said goodnight and ran back in to get my specs. I ran upstairs to the bathroom before I left and found Ric and 2 ladies at the bar. I gave a WOOOO, and he returned the WOOOO and offered to buy me a drink. 3 hours and a bottle later we parted friends. I would like to say thanks for the evening Ric. It was a true pleasure to get to know you. A true gentleman.

par said...

No sympathy. Only him to blame. Going out in flames.

Richard Fox said...

I remember those days of watching Ric Flair and Greg The Hammer Valentine, his long time partner. Man did we love to hate the Nature Boy, but in the end he really was the best the sport ever had to offer. I also remember listening to Frampton and a few other records in a house off of 341 in Brunswick, Ga. with a a dark haired Nature Wanna Be, WHOOOOOOOOOO to you Tommy T.
R. Fox

Anonymous said...

Great hero you have Tommy. Not more than a year ago, the Nature Boy, emphasis on BOY, asked my 40 year old wife and mother of 3, who was dining with friends for a table dance at a restaurant. Classy guy that Ric is.

Anonymous said...

Bet that was the biggest tip she got in 15 years!!!!!

Wooooooo!!!'nnn

Anonymous said...

Rick, "the Entertainer", my grandson loves you. You have entertained us for a long time, I wish you God's blessing. You have lived a interesting life and you seemed to be happy. Do not regret anything. Haters stop hating and live your lives because some of you sound very, very sad. Rick will be back, will you? Be blessed Rick!!!

A no hater

Anonymous said...

I'm actually maggerds. I like Rick wooooooooooo, make a movie dude; that'll help ya.

Lynne Stevenson said...

No matter what the situation, Mr. Flair always brought a badly needed sense of elan and grace to the professional wrestling ring that few have dared to come close to copying. My son met Mr. Flair in person and he was just as nice and gracious as he could be to him.

I, too, grew up watching Mr. Flair and company on tv and feel as if he is a long lost family member. I hate seeing all of this negativity about Mr. Flair spewed about in the press. Years of surgeries, partying, and etc have taken their toll on him.

God bless you, Mr. Flair, as you go into that twilight known as retirement. As a former 13 year old fan, you made my Saturdays a lot more interesting and fun...

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
Quit your hatin' on Rick. Charlotte natives like me grew up watching him on TV."

Sounds like some skinny weak 90lb water boy lie. Flair would bitch slap some diareah of the mouth punk like you.

Anonymous said...

This is why Charlotte is a national joke. We put front page news articles about 60 year old professional wrestlers and people get all weepy and nostalgic about it.

Anonymous said...

This is a waste of an article, why don't we waste time writing about panhandlers they are just as sober.

Anonymous said...

"Space Mountain might be the OLDEST ride in the park, but it has the LONGEST lines! Wooooo!!!!".......Yea, for a 12yr old.

Anonymous said...

Now you see what happens when you give to the Republican't party?

sean j said...

I have ran into Rick Flair several times in Charlotte and he is a personal friend of a friend, everytime time I have seen or met him he is always approachable a nice...and as far as his personal life goes...its none of our business! who hasnt made mistakes? and who doesnt have issues and problems in their lives?????? get real people! if you dont really know him on a personal level then you dont know anything.

Anonymous said...

He's stolen money from two friends of mine. He's a shady businessman. Deserves all he gets.

Anonymous said...

Why would a 500 lb loser not so latently libel Nature Boy by allowing losers to take potshots when hes down on his luck? Easy prey?

Would they say this to his face and risk a busted head with loss of teeth?

Once the socialist ungodly massive WH spender who bankrupted the nation is ousted in 2012 maybe NB and a million other busineses will return to full action.

Anonymous said...

He is a joke. And even more of a joke is the way Sports Talk WFNZ is in love with this guy. Thank goodness for 730 ESPN Radio. Rick Flare is about as much a "Sports" figure as Tom Sorenstam is a "Sports" writer.

What a loser this guy is.

Anonymous said...

For the life of me I can't find any sympathy for people that made millions and subsequently blew millions.

Anonymous said...

Wow, WAY off on the current wife... Beth was 3 wives ago..the current one is JACKIE, the one he just divorced is TIFFANY.. BETH was before Tiffany. For a so-called fan, the information is less than accurate and not favorable or flattering towards the public.

Signed: A friend

Anonymous said...

i met ric at a restaurant in stonecrest several years ago. we spoke for several minutes and he was kind and gracious. best wishes ric!

tommy tomlinson said...

Anon 3:28, that column at the end that mentions Beth is from 2004... I'm sure you're right on the current situation -- that's just a reprint from seven years ago.

t.

Anonymous said...

He was on stage at the Kid Rock concert last weekend completely trashed. WOOOOOO

jholmes44194419 said...

Rick is doing fine. I see him all over town, eating well and drinking well. Leave him alone!

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Anonymous said...

People love him or hate him, it seems. Ric Flair is not a lukewarm kind of guy. We all have good and bad; the degree of variation is all, really.
Always an entertainer, always giving 100% to his profession, and absolutely never boring. "To Be The Man" is one of the more honest auto-bios you will ever read, and I get the feeling that he truly loves what he does. I'm sure he has a few regrets, but I doubt he would trade the life he has lead for a different one.
As for me, I fall on the "love him" side. I also suspect that his being some people's "bad guy" gives him a smile.