Story By: Linda Quigley
The Tennessean (Nashville) - September 3, 1989
Women try to tear his designer clothes off. Men try to kick him in his gleaming, white teeth.
And he has to sit patiently for a couple of hours every 10 days while a stylist touches up the roots of his bleached blond hair.
So if life in the fast lane’s not all limos and roses, professional wrestler Ric Flair still finds it rewarding enough.
“The purpose for making a living in this country is making money and to be able to enjoy life,” he said. “I do just that. I make money. I spend money. I enjoy wearing the finest clothes, entertaining the most beautiful women in the world.”
Arrogant? You bet. “I make money with my personality. And I don’t hug grandmothers and kiss kids. I haven’t exactly been a role model for children.”
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m custom made from head to toe. I’m a limousine-riding, jet-flying son-of-a-gun.”
“If anybody in wrestling is making more money than me, it’s Hulk Hogan, but I’ll bet I make more from wrestling alone,” said Flair six-time world heavyweight champion of the National Wrestling Alliance. Hogan, who holds the world heavyweight title in the World Wrestling Federation, has boosted his income with a role in the movie No Holds Barred and a licensing agreement for Hulk Hogan action figures and other children’s playthings.
|Ric Flair battles Terry Funk (ProWrestlingCountdown.com)|
Flair, now in his late 30s and a professional wrestler since 1973, hints at an income in excess of a million dollars a year.
His ostentation is acceptable, even encouraged, in his profession – especially since the NWA was bought by multi-billionaire media magnate Ted Turner, whose own lifestyle is quite glamorous.
“It’s very hard to compare myself to him, since he has a personal net worth of $2 billion, but I see a lot of characteristics that are similar,” Flair said. “He’s a very aggressive guy. He doesn’t seem to take a back seat to anybody. We are both successful and we both make the most of each day.”
“And he’s very flamboyant, which I am too. But the tendency to be flamboyant is something you’re born with. I don’t think you can stand in front of the mirror and be flamboyant.”
You can, however, stand in front of the mirror and see flamboyance if you’re Flair, or you can see it on TV if you’re a fan.
There are four hours of NWA wrestling on WTBS each week, and the rival WWF, CWA and AWA wrestlers fill a few more hours each week in independent stations (locally on WZTV-Ch.17 and WCAP – Ch. 30), and on ESPN. Ringside or on television, the fans are loyal and wrestling is a growing business for the stations.
“I got where I am in this profession by being a very good wrestler. I got where I am because a lot of people follow the excitement. And I got where I am because I know that you can’t be in the public eye and not be real.”
That means his professional image and his personal image have to merge. He wears flashy, custom-designed robes to his matches – black velvet with shiny silver butterflies, or gold lamé that sparkles in the glare of the television lights. (They’re custom-made by an Atlanta woman, Olivia Walker, at a price of $8,000-$10,000 each. He says he currently owns 14.) With that kind of ringside image, in private life, “people don’t expect Ric Flair to arrive in a pick-up truck.”
“I spend a fortune on image enhancement,” he said. “When I go to a Charlotte Hornets basketball game and I’m wearing a $25,000 mink coat, people notice. I shop at the best men’s stores in the country.”
“A lot of guys in our business have tremendous physiques and they dress differently. I’m not knocking that. But I’m 6-foot-1 and weigh 240 pounds. My persona is not that of a muscleman. I sell myself as a wrestler and a businessman.”
That sales job may also contribute to some exaggeration about his lifestyle, not that he has any qualms about a bit of hype now and then himself.
Contrary to recent reports in the media, he does not have a house in Florida with 10 bedrooms, each with a waterbed. “It’s in (Myrtle Beach) South Carolina and it has six bedrooms and three waterbeds,” he said, setting the record straight. (There are two other homes, one in Charlotte, NC and one in Mexico Beach, FL.)
The space is not really excessive since Flair, despite his public image as a playboy surrounded by glamorous women, is married and the father of four. Kids, pets, toys and bikes take up a lot of room. And, of course, there are Flair’s own toys – a few cars, boats and his enormous wardrobe.
It’s not a lifestyle totally unfamiliar to Flair, for his is not a rags-to-riches story. He grew up in an affluent home, the son of a physician, in Minnesota. He was an all-state football player and wrestler in high school and was a collegiate wrestler for three years at the University of Minnesota.
He’s had the good fortune to be successful in his career from the outset, so he’s a stranger to the unemployment line. But he doesn’t take success for granted, he said.
“The money’s great and it’s good for the ego, and I feel great. But when I lose a step, I’ll know it. I’ll lose the title and I won’t win it back.”
When that happens, or when age or injuries slow him down, he’s looking at a future in restaurants and real estate. “I’m very close to opening a bar and restaurant and I’m involved in what I would call a major real estate deal.”
“I’m taking steps to get involved in promotions at WTBS. I’ve learned a lot being around Ted Turner and the people at Turner Broadcasting. He’s the kind of guy you look up to because he’s so positive about everything, and it’s hard to walk away from him with anything less than a positive attitude.”
Flair said he is taking a positive attitude with him into the ring for tomorrow night’s match in Nashville with Terry Funk. Flair is defending his world heavyweight title in the NWA. Several bouts are on the schedule, starting at 8 pm at the Municipal Auditorium. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and CentraTik outlets, or at the door. Prices are $12 for reserved seats and $10 for general admission, with special prices for children accompanied by parents.
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Thanks to Peggy Lathan for transcribing this 1989 newspaper article for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.