RF Video Shoot Interview with Gary Hart

This was filmed in 2007

It runs for two hours and thirty-three minutes

The interview was conducted by Rob Feinstein

Hart said he became a fan when he went to visit his uncle in Southern Illinois and saw wrestling there. His favorite wrestler was Rip Hawk and Hart said that fifteen years later, he went on to become his manager. 

He said that he got into the business by accident. Hart was a competitive swimmer and saw someone named Billy Gills, who ended up breaking him into the business in 1960.
Hart said that training was brutal as a lot of guys in their 40’s and 50’s would come in and stretch them out during training. He did say that the psychology was the hardest part, specifically laying out the match. He said that by working with a lot of old-timers when he started, it helped him out a lot in that aspect.
When asked about his first matches, he says that he barely remembers and can only recall his second match when he went fifteen minutes with a guy named Tiger Malloy.
As far as which territories he wrestled in, Hart says he was in Chicago first then went on to Detroit, where he met George the Animal Steele, who wrestled under a mask as “The Student.” Hart says that was the first guy he managed that he helped get to a national level. He says that he was in the business for three years at the time and Steele was just starting out so Hart said he made Steele is “guinea pig.”
Hart is asked why he switched from a wrestler to a manager and he said that he was a “ham-and-egger” and could have made a decent career but thought he had an eye for talent and thought he would be a much better manager.
After leaving Detroit, he briefly wrestled in Amarillo but hated it as he was use to Chicago’s nightlife and called it a culture shock then went over to Dallas. Hart said that he grew up a street kid in Chicago and mentions that multiple times throughout the interview, implying that made him act the way he did when he felt that he was getting fucked over. 
Hart said that he was able to deal well with others and never afraid to get fired or have someone say no, which made him good in his role.
When asked, Hart said he gave himself the “Playboy” name. He started off as “Hurricane” first when he worked in Chicago then switched to “Playboy” when he went to Detroit.
He now talks about the Sheik and how he lived at his house and was a father-figure towards him. He said that the experience he gained from him was invaluable, even if he didn’t make much money with him. When asked, Hart said that the Sheik was very protective of his image and would not talk to anyone in public unless he had a relationship with them. He said that the Sheik matches against Mark Lewin would sell out and draw the money in the territory, along with Bobo Brazil.
Hart said that he didn’t patent his style after anyone and did not want to be the center of attention like Jimmy Hart, Jim Cornette, or Bobby Heenan but said that he knew by sitting in the corner they could focus on the talent and still see him there and hate him too. Hart also said that it is not a bad thing to be a manager like the guys he mentioned above.
He then discusses how he went to Amarillo. He was in Detroit when “The Student” left to wrestle in Pittsburgh and went on to become George Steele and wanted to go somewhere else so the Sheik made a call to Dory Funk Sr. and he went to Amarillo.
Hart said that Dory Funk Sr. was a rough but fair guy. He also calls him the first guy who paid him what he deserved. He then said that the trips were long and the buildings did not have any air conditioning.
When asked how he met Terry Funk, Hart said he was in a match with Dory Funk Jr. At the time, he would use the eye claw. He had Dory in the move and heard the crowd roaring as Terry Funk ran to the ring and tried to hop over the top rope but his foot got caught and he fell and Dory told Hart that was his brother, Terry.
He first met Fritz Von Erich in Detroit. Fritz was a heel in Detroit but when he came back, he was a fan favorite. Hart said that Fritz told him that one day he was going to run his own territory and would want him to work there. Later on, Fritz called him and said he was trying to win the book from Paul Boesch in Houston.
Hart said that he was the booker, match-maker, and TV producer for Fritz but they were never friends as the only thing they had in common was their love for wrestling. They worked well together but outside of the ring, their were completely different.
He tells a story of how he slapped Paul Boesch across the face after he was stiffed on a payout then told by Boesch that if he was an actual wrestler, then maybe he would have gotten paid better. Hart then had to speak with Fritz, who was pissed, then Hart snapped back at him about how he tried to screw over Boesch for the book and is now trying to yell at him for slapping Boesch and Hart said they could both go fuck themselves and left.
Hart is asked if he was really given the name “Gay” Gary Hart when in Amarillo and he said that he was but didn’t feel it was right to degrade homosexuals by acting flaymboyant.
He went back to Detroit after being in Dallas. Hart then talked about how Fritz was sending messages to Killer Karl and Billy Red Lyons for Hart to call him. Hart did and said that he called Fritz and worked out a deal for him to get more money and he went back. When asked, Hart said that Fritz had respect for him by not rolling over and taking a lesser deal and knew that Fritz respected him a lot as a talent.
Now, Hart is asked about how he ended up managing The Spoiler. Hart said that he met him for the first time in Amarillo when he was on his way out. He was wrestling as Don Jardine at the time. When Hart returned to Dallas, Fritz asked him if he would like to manage Jardine and Hart said that he did and they put a mask on him and he became “The Spoiler.” Hart said that Jardine had been fucked over a lot before he went to work for Fritz and after being with Hart for a while, Jardine learned to trust him. Hart then adds while he has made a lot of wrestlers over his career, The Spoiler made him. When asked if The Spoiler could have been the World Champion, Hart said he could have but promoters were scared of him because The Spoiler would have no problem smacking them around if he was stiffed on payouts.
Now, Hart talks about touring Australia with The Spoiler for Jim Barnett. He recalls Ivan Koloff was there and only knew one Russian word and in Australia, the population was diverse and they would swear at him in Russian and didn’t say anything back. Despite that, he managed to get over.
Hart is asked about Ivan Koloff having a drinking problem and he tells a story of how he, Swede Hanson, and Rip Hawk all got shitfaced before getting on a plane to Sydney. They landed and sobered up a little bit then they decided to go out and get shitfaced again. Koloff came over to where Hart was staying and they heard a thud from his room, where Koloff passed out, and when he opened the door, Koloff was gone. He saw Koloff the next day at the stadium and said that he snuck out and met Hawk and Hanson again at a bar.
When asked, Hart said that the promotional wars were very dirty and that guys from other places would slash your tires in the parking lot as your show was going on.
Hart loves Bill Watts but says that his reputation as a bully was warranted. He tells a story about Ox Baker, who was a big, awkward guy that drew a lot of money. Hart says that as long as you can make people buy a ticket, you can surround them with talent to make them look better. After a few days of having bad matches, Watts told Baker that he was the worst worker he has ever met in his life. Baker asked Hart if he was that bad and Hart said no and that Watts couldn’t work either. A few days later when Watts ran him down again, Baker replied back he was a terrible worker and when Watts asked him how he knew that, Baker said that Gary Hart told him. Hart then said that Watts’ face turned bright red and he looked like he was going to snap but he stopped and laughed before leaving the locker.
Rob asks Hart about Jerry Jarrett and how he said he was a thief. Hart calls Jarrett a “bum” and a “piece of shit.” He then tells a story of how he was in the Carolinas working for the Crockett’s. Jim Barnett called Hart and wanted him for the final Australian tour. He promised the Crockett’s to help out the guys that worked for the Fuller’s, who were buying into the company. Brute Bernard and himself were the only ones that helped out and they left. Barnett called him and he went down to Atlanta. Watts was the booker but was having problems with Fred Ward, who Hart said looked down at wrestlers and treated them like shit, so Watts left and was replaced by Jarrett. And after Hart helped out his guys in Australia, Jarrett came in and told Hart if he did not do what he said, he was going to straighten him out. After that, Hart slapped him around a bit and as a result, he was fired.
Hart then went to Florida after being fired from Atlanta. He talks about Eddie Graham and how he would give shitty payouts. Hart tells a story after they drew a $50,000 house in 1974, the main event got 1% of the house. When asked if he agreed about Graham being the best guy at finishes in the business, Hart said that he knew how to manipulate wrestlers and he used a lot of ref bumps. Hart says he was a great man in wrestling but wasn’t the best. He did not know why he committed suicide and said Mike Graham was a wonderful person.
Now, Hart talks about Dusty Rhodes. He said that he never saw someone who could sell out arena’s like him and said that in Florida, he sold out 16 weeks in a row, running the same towns each week. He mentions how he was with The Spoiler in Dallas when they first discovered Dusty. He was reading a poetry book and wearing a pair of glasses. Hart said that Dusty had natural charisma and could draw people too him. He said that people bash Dusty but he made a lot of guys a lot of money as the booker for the NWA when they had nothing coming into the territory. Hart says that there would never be a Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, or Rock if not for Dusty, who created pandemonium in wrestling.
Hart is asked about the plane crash in 1974. He said he was sitting in the back next to Bobby Shane listening to his walkman when he plane crash. They were getting ready to fly into Sarasota and they got caught in a storm cloud and broke out and had to circle over the bay to land and as they started to circle, they flew into the ocean. Hart said that right before they crashed into the water, Austin Idol yelled to pop out his seatbelt and Hart did that just in time. He then said the next thing he knew, he was floating on top of the water and realized he had survived. He saw a light and started to swim and saw Austin Idol, who was panicking. Hart said he calmed in down a bit and pulled him to shore. He then heard Buddy Colt, the pilot, screaming and found him and was able to pull him back to shore. Hart said at that point, he was getting really weak and had lost his right eye, fractured his clavicle and sternum, broken vertebrae and wrist and received 180 stitches when it was all said and done. It was low tide and he was able to reach the ladder after crawling on Buddy’s back and saw someone and they called the police. He went to the dock and dropped a boat then sat under a tree and waited for the ambulance to come. Bobby Shane was killed in the crash.
After that, he went to Atlanta and became the booker. He paired up Bob Orton & Dick Slater and paired up Mark Lewin vs. Adbullah the Butcher and brought in guys from all over due to his connections and said because he was not a domineering guy and wanted to get guys to trust him that he had the right idea. However, he got fired after Eddie Graham, Buddy Fuller, and Fred Ward all wanted him out and Barnett had to let him go, because those were his partners.
Hart then took the book from Red Bastein and was in World Class from 1976-1982. When asked if he trained the Von Erich boys, he said that he trained David, Kevin, and Kerry. He also said that he was the one who pushed him.
He is then asked if David was the most talented of his brothers and Hart said it is tough to say. He said that Kevin was good looking and high flying and David was the better technical wrestler. Hart then said that Kerry had some qualities of his brothers but was the typical dumb jock, which Hart said he doesn’t mean any disrespect and that he loved Kerry.
Hart talks some more about the Von Erich boys and said that despite the fact people think they only got over because their father pushed them, most people did not want to work with them because they were the promoter’s kids and it ended up being a detriment. He said a lot of guys did not want to come in to put over Fritz’s sons. Hart said that he picked in the right guys to bring in for them to face.
When asked if Fritz gets a bad reputation for how he treated his sons, Hart said that he does. He tells a story from 1966, when the boys were very young and in the locker room. They called him “Uncle Gary” as they did not have any uncles and they would tell Hart that they were going to grow up and wrestle him one day. He said that his dad never wanted them to be in wrestling as they were all playing sports throughout high school in college.
When asked about which Von Erich picked up training the easiest, he said that David did in the technical aspect and that Kevin did as far as carrying himself in the ring. Hart said that the boys were respectful and that they never, ever used the fact that their dad was the promoter to talk down to the rest of the locker room. Hart says that they were nice, respectful kids.
Hart is asked about the drug problems that the Von Erich’s had. He said it was overblown but that there main problem was prescription drugs and they kept having doctors give them prescriptions. Hart said he did approach Fritz but he was in complete denial. Hart himself said that he constantly smoked marijuana but would do so at home. Hart said when he was there, he never saw the Von Erich’s no-show any dates.
On the subject of drug use, Hart said that when he produced TV his rule was that if you came in high, you did not work. He said that the Von Erich’s knew if he saw them high, he would send them home.
He now talks about the evolution of the television show. He then said that Mickey Grant had six cameras and wanted to film at the Sportatorium. Hart said that Fritz struggled to understand how television would better the product and puts over Grant for his ideas, such as camera close-ups, then finishes by saying how he believes the TV shows revolutionized the business.
On the subject of the Fabulous Freebirds, Hart said that he brought them in as faces with the plan to turn them heel. It was Christmas and Kerry Von Erich was facing Ric Flair in a cage match. Hart said at the time, he would use troubleshooting referee’s and the Von Erich’s would get screwed over. He then let the fans vote on who would be the referee and they chose Michael Hayes. During the match, Hayes and Von Erich had an argument and as Hayes left, Von Erich went over in an attempt to patch things up but Flair attacked Kerry from behind with a bat and Kerry went into Michael then as Kerry went near the door, Terry Gordy slammed the cage off of his head and the feud was born.
Hart is asked about The Great Kabuki and said that he was a humble guy. Hart said he was looking for a Japanese guy for a long time and found him and really put over his matches with Jimmy Valiant.
When asked about the downfall of the promotion, Hart said when Gino Hernandez died and David Von Erich accidentally overdosed then Chris Adams went to prison for headbutting a pilot, the promotion could not recover as they were presented as family entertainment at the time.
Hart said that Gino Hernandez was like a son to him but he was a tortured soul. He said that he did overdose (there are still questions today regarding his death) and that he had a tremendous cocaine habit.
He ended up leaving Dallas as he was getting underpaid and said that they drew $250,000 on Christmas weekend and Fritz fucked him over on payoffs and he left. He said that Fritz tried to get him to return and said that he declined, saying he was happy in the Carolinas with the guys he was managing. Fritz then called again and asked him if he wanted to come in and help turn Chris Adams heel. He said that he agreed and spent a few days with Adams and said he did great business there.

He calls the program with Kevin Von Erich and Adams one of the stiffest programs ever. He said they had great matches together. After that ended, Gino Hernandez returned to team with Adams against Kevin & Kerry for another long feud that drew a lot of money.

Hart said that he loved working with the Freebirds. He says that Michael Hayes was a capable guy in the ring and doesnt get enough credit. He didnt mind working with Abdullah but said that he had a problem with losing.

When asked about Bruiser Brody, he said that Brody never trusted anyone due to being lied to by multiple promoters and think they got along because Hart was honest with them. He then talks about being able to work with guys who were known as being difficult because he was honest and would use them to the best of their abilities. When asked about Brody’s reputation of being difficult as told by Bobby Heenan and Nick Bockwinkle, Hart said that they would all flip out and get pissed if they were shorted on payoffs or asked to make someone else look good at their expense too but the difference is that Brody would beat the shit out of you.

He shoots down the story of KerryVon Erich allegedly throwing a saw blade at a cat, stating Kerry would never do that as he loved animals.

Hart said that he was not the type of manager for the WWF as they someone with a personality of Lou Albano or Bobby Heenan. Hart then said that the talent he managed knew that he would go to the office to get them what they wanted and if it failed, they would both go elsewhere. Hart admits to being very difficult and said there was hell to pay if he did not get his way, also making him a bad fit for the WWF. He said once he managed The Spoiler in Dallas, he had nothing but success.

He is asked about his last WCW run. At the time, Hart was in Dallas and said he was frustrated with Ken Mantell, who was the booker, because he did not like his ideas so he left. Once the Crockett’s sold to Turner, Al Perez left and they asked him if he could create another Great Kabuki character. They had Keiji Mutoh in mind and Hart said he wanted him to be different than Kabuki and said he wanted to make him the opposite and they made him the Great Muta.

Hart said that Al Perez was the greatest athlete he had ever managed. Rob tells Hart that they did a shoot with Al a few years ago then asks how he ended up disappearing from the business. Hart said that he lobbied for him to work with Ric Flair and the first night they were supposed to wrestle, Kevin Sullivan came to him and said Perez was going to shoot on Flair and take the belt. Hart then asked Perez if this was true and he said it was, because he thought he was the better wrestle and could shoot on him and take the belt, thus getting a bigger contract. Hart said he could not do this with him as he knew the Crocketts and told Sullivan it was indeed true and they came up with the idea that since Hart was not there in Perez’s corner, they could not have the match and after that, Perez was done. Hart said he hated to see that but he had a responsibility to the office and promotion and was the one who went to the office and pitched the idea.

When asked if he saw the tension behind the scenes between Flair and Rhodes, Hart said it was overblown and they had nothing to be upset about as they were making a ton of money.

He said when Dusty left WCW, there was no one else with experience to run the company and that is why it struggled.

Hart said he came up with the J-Tex corporation and it ended up clicking. He wanted to have a corporation-type of stable.

When asked about Sting, Hart said that he was a “selfish, egotistical bastard” and thought that wrestling owed him something and had no respect for the guys that helped put him over. He then says if you have seen one Sting match, you have seen them all. Hart said they developed the super hero persona that children and women loved and when he went to the crow Sting, the fans never wanted to see that.

Hart said that he liked Lex Luger a little more than Sting but called him a loner and that he also did not have respect for the business.

Rob tells Hart about Flair being instrumental in killing the Funk/Flair program. Hart disagreed and said that it was the committee who wanted to get back to the “Four Horseman,” which Hart called “older than his grandmother’s tits” and no one wanted to see that again.

When asked about putting the bag over Flair’s head on TBS, he said the phones lit up at TBS and he took most of the heat and said it was his idea .

Hart said that he was not involved in the booking during 1989, saying it was the committee. He only helped structure the matches of his guys.

He is asked about some of the other people that were there. Hart said that Heyman tried to overshadow the wrestlers he managed but thought he was okay. Regarding Buzz Sawyer, he said that he was terrific but when he was on drugs, he was impossible to deal with.

On how he left WCW, he had an incident at a show in Baltimore with some fans and Hart ended up slapping them. Gary Jester, the promoter of the building, kicked the guys out then they threatened to sue. Hart said that Jim Herd wanted him to go to court and admit that it was “fake” but Hart said that he was not going to do that and told Herd to “kiss his ass” and “go to hell” then quit and went back to Texas.

After WCW, Hart said that he stayed home with his family and said that while he loved wrestling, he hated the travel and said the locker rooms started to feel like prisons and while driving on the highway, he would see homes that had their lights on inside and wondered why he was not with his family. He then said while the people would just see that small glimpse of them on TV, they had no idea what they had to do in order to get to that point. He felt that he was missing his children as they grew up and wanted to be with them instead of calling his family from a hotel room.

Hart is asked how he wound up in MLW with Court Bauer. He was called if he wanted to be a part of the 15th anniversary of the “I Quit” match. From there, he became friends with Bauer and encouraged him to send his resume to the WWE. Hart said he helped teach Bauer how to conduct himself in the office setting and said he was the last guy he helped in the business. He then talks about independent promotions today and said he need to focus on a smaller amount of guys instead of the “bigger is better” mentality, noting that it is a more affordable way to run a company.

He talks about guys today in the independent scene who all look alike and use the same highspots and calls it boring. He then talks about the WWE and likes John Cena and Randy Orton and others who are very good but today there are fewer elite guys.

When asked about his favorite guys to manage, Hart listed off several like The Spoiler, Al Perez, and Gino Hernandez. He never hated anyone he managed and makes a point of saying how you do not want to go the extra mile for a guy that you hate. Rob asks him about the Ultimate Warrior, who Hart managed when he was called the Dingo Warrior, and Hart said that he was a wonderful guy who was always nice and respectful towards him.

If he was managing today, Hart said he could manage guys like HHH, Batista, and Orton. He talks about people ragging on HHH for marrying Vince’s daughter but said he is a tremendous performer. Hart said Batista is limited but reminds him of Road Warrior Hawk.

Hart talks about Vader, who he said had a problem dealing with people and was generally unhappy. Hart thinks he could have helped him and a guy like Sid Vicious as they were constantly having people in their ears talking them up and telling them what to do.

Rob asks him about the Missing Link and if he had a problem with him. Hart said that he did. When he was in World Class, Ken Mantell came back to the company. Hart was the matchmaker and while he was in the dressing room, Link came from behind and hit him in the back of the head. Hart thought nothing of it because he said wrestlers did all sorts of crazy shit. Link then hit him in the temple and knocked him off of the bench. Hart said that Link went over to pick him up but Hart reached in his pocket for his straight-edge razor, which he carried for protection, and started to cut Link, who Hart said ended up running away screaming like a bitch. Hart believes that Mantell put Link up to the attack.

He talks about wrestlers today and how the promoters control guys as there is nowhere else to go to make money and you can either stay with the WWE or go home.

When asked if he is surprised that Flair is still on TV today, Hart said that is sad. He follows that up by saying there is a life after wrestling and you do not have to continue to be your character and talks about how some guys can only identify themselves as their character. He feels bad for people like that. He does credit Flair for not cheating the fans out in his matches but still hates to see him out there and thinks it is time to hang it up when you reach your late 40’s.

Hart says that the guys to write the “dirt sheets” try to represent themselves as legitimate reporters but said that not one of them has called him to ask about the Von Erich’s or even himself. He mentions how someone was sandbagging Muta, stating he needed a job, and kept on writing that. He calls them “gossip columnists” and not legitimate news people.

When asked about playing ribs, Hart said he did not like them and said they are disruptive and embarrassing.

He says that independent workers today do not know how to work a match from beginning to end as they do not know how to make the crowd part of the match. He says that you cant go on the top rope and say look at me and expect the crowd to care. Hart said the art of involving the crowd into the match is lost and that is why wrestling is suffering.

Hart says that he does not blame Chris Benoit’s death on steroids but the media jumped on it, like they do with other things, and calls them the “biggest bunch of whores” ever invented. He says they can care less about what kind of slander they bring. He said blaming Vince for Benoit is like blaming him for the death’s of the Von Erich’s, Gino Hernandez, and Chris Adams.

He says that he has no regrets at all about his career and talks about how he grew up on the streets of Chicago with little education and got involved in wrestling and got to travel the world and make a lot of money.

Hart closes by thanking the fans, stating that if not for them, they would not be able to do what they did. Hart then said he enjoyed the interview.

Final Thoughts: I liked this interview a lot. Sure, Hart came across a bit arrogant but so have a lot of others that had far less talent or have accomplished a lot less. Throughout the interview, he provided a ton of insight abut what he did and displayed a lot of knowledge about the business, making excellent points throughout. Hart also gave off a relaxed vibe her and not once seemed bitter and as he mentioned, he left the business because he wanted to stay home with his family, not because he could not find a way out. He did a lot of wonderful things in his career, especially in World Class.

The part that really stood out for me was when he recalled what happened in the plane crash. It was amazing what he was able to do and it was chilling to hear the events that occurred. To save lives in a situation like that is amazing and I give him all of the credit in the world to be able to stay calm and think the way he did.

Hart was not afraid to hold back and that was refreshing too. He admits that he was not into getting fucked up or pulling pranks so do not expect to hear a lot of that here. Hart came across as a no-nonsense type of guy in a big way. He also showed a lot of affection towards the Von Erich boys and really seemed to genuinely care for them. I do recommend this interview, especially if you are a fan of World Class, but be warned, the beginning is about territories in Chicago and Detroit from the early 1960’s that most people are not that familiar with.