Saturday, August 01, 2015

Blackjack and Ric Reflect on the "Hat & Robe"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

We recently posted a complete summary of the 1978 angle between Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan famously known as The Legend of the Hat and the Robe.

In a conversation for a follow-up story after the article was originally published back in 2004,  Blackjack Mulligan and I got to chatting about the Hat and Robe angle and he discussed some of things going on behind the scenes during that time.  The following are excerpts from that conversation.


Dick Bourne: Who came up with the idea for the actual angle to tear up a hat and tear up a robe? Was that George Scott or did you and Ric come up with that?

Blackjack Mulligan: Well, it was George's idea to turn me, but we all came up with ideas on how to do it. I had this hat maker down in Austin, they were called Texas Hatters, they made my hats and my hat bands. They made Willie Nelson’s hats, too, and Willie had given me this hat, and Ric had heard about it. And so it was just sort of this spontaneous thing where we figured, what really do people get the most mad about when two lovers split? Your stuff, right? And Ric and I were a lot closer than a lot of couples were, believe me, we shared a lot of things, well, I won’t go into all that! (Laughs)

Bourne: So the hat was a shoot? The one that Ric tore up on TV, was that one that Willie had actually given you?

Mulligan: Oh, yes, and it broke my heart to see that hat torn up.

Bourne: I can imagine! And Ric having that $7,500 robe that Olivia Walker made completely destroyed.

Mulligan: He hated it, he nearly cried! But it was going to be so big.

Bourne: It sure made the whole thing work.

Mulligan: Problem was, I had heat when I went back to get another hat made, people had not only heard about this in Mid-Atlantic, they had heard about it all over the world, man! (laughs). I still had a home down in Austin, and my wife would go into that hat store, Texas Hatters, and the guy said “Hey, that hat I made for Willie, I understand it got tore up down there.” They had actually heard about it at Texas Hatters. But all of that was so real. We had this van that we and our wives shared it, too. And my wife was getting ready to take the kids to church in this van. And I panicked! And I ran out there, because, my God, from the night before, there were pantyhose and crap laying all over the place and paraphernalia lying everywhere, and I started throwing all this stuff in a bag.

Blackjack stands outside the van he and Ric
owned together. He's wearing the hat Willie Nelson
gave him that would soon be destroyed in the angle.
Bourne: This was part of the angle...

Mulligan: Yes! It was a shoot! And so I’m cleaning out this closet - - we each had a closet in the van, - - and I look in Flair’s closet, and said “Wow, this is some weird stuff, Flair really is over the edge!”

Bourne: (laughs)

Mulligan: And of course, at the same time, I’m raking up all my crap, too. (laughs)

Bourne: But I guess that went into another bag, huh?

Mulligan: Well, it’s my story, so I’m not telling you about my stuff. (laughing) So it was so natural, here was his closet and all this stuff in there, it just worked. I mean, this was real. We were breaking up for real.

Bourne: How so?

Mulligan: We lived two houses down from each other, there was one house in between us. There should have been twenty of them in between us, but that’s another story. So this is all coming down. George Scott has all of this pre-planned, pre-programmed, he is going with this guy: Flair is it. He's going to be the top guy. It had all been planned for so long, I was the main guy, and now it was Flair’s time to move to the top spot, and I was kind of wearing down a little bit, and George says, "I’m going to turn you babyface." And I said “That’s impossible!” And he said “I’m going to do it like it’s never been done, I’m going to cool you for awhile, I’m going to put you with Tim Woods.” And believe me, that would cool anybody off. (laughs) Timmy and I were working every night.

Bourne: And Tim Woods won the U.S. belt from you, and Flair worked that into his promos when he got the belt from Woods, that you were getting soft.

Mulligan: Right, the whole thing with Timmy Woods was starting to turn me. And George got ready, and said “You guys are going to have to move now.” And we were like, oh no! But Flair goes and buys a new mansion, you know, across town. And I went and bought a place in Matthews, about five acres there. Now it’s probably worth a fortune. But we actually had to sell our houses and buy new houses.

Bourne: So they didn’t want you living near each other?

Mulligan: That’s right, it had become so real. Scott said, "You guys can’t live on the same street in Charlotte!" (laughing) And he was right!

Ric Flair mentioned the Hat and Robe Angle as one of his most memorable angles at WRAL television. Here is a brief excerpt from the interview that Flair did with David Chappell on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, prior to the publication of Flair's book.

Ric Flair: We did a lot of great stuff at WRAL. The angle with Blackjack Mulligan was huge…where I took his Cowboy hat that Waylon and Willie had given him, and tore it up and stomped on it. And a little later on, I was wresting somebody and Mulligan comes out wearing my robe, and he tore up my robe in front of me…

David Chappell: That was an unforgettable Mid-Atlantic moment, Ric!

Ric Flair: And then I put a bounty out on Mulligan. I left for Japan, and when I came back, we were selling out everywhere! (laughing) And of course back then, everything played off the weekly TV show in your market. And that got the fans out to their local arena. So those TV angles like the Hat and Robe were really, really important then. There was hardly any cable TV and certainly no satellite dishes in those days. And Pay Per View events were years off.

Read "The Legend of the Hat and the Robe" on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.