"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.