Monday, February 22, 2016

Wooo, Mercy Daddy! An afternoon with the Boogie Man

by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As time has gone by, many of us have come to know Jimmy Valiant as simply, Boogie. He is truly a kind and dear man that has found a special place in many of our hearts. My memories are many and to be honest I probably cannot remember how many times I have seen him wrestle in my favorite place for wrestling, Charleston County Hall. Street fights with Ivan Koloff, cage matches against Paul Jones’s army, Siberian salt miners glove matches, Charlie Brown “from outta town” these are all fond memories and for a bright eyed kid during the eighties, they were really fun times.

It was always great to see how Jimmy got the crowd fired up for the main event as he circled the ring shaking hands and giving out the occasional kiss, of course watching Mr. Henry Marcus keep his distance was a funny addition to the moment. It was a magical time in wrestling and one that this fan truly misses. As Archie Bunker would say, “Those were the days.”

Thinking over those times reminds me of a great story I would like to share. It was 1989 maybe early 1990, but I had just moved to Charlotte after college. I was a young kid trying to find my way in life. I found myself in need of some car repairs and was at Sears located in the mall. The mechanic let me know it would be a while so I decided to walk around and kill some time. Again, at that time life was somewhat confusing and a little cloudy as to where my next steps were going to be. To have a moment of joy would have been a good thing, little did I know that moment was just around the corner.

As I am walking through the mall, not even window shopping, just looking down at the floor and hoping for a better day, I rounded the corner and my eyes were immediately shocked at what I saw, or should I say who I saw. There before me, sitting on a bench, was “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant. I could not believe it. There was one of my heroes, one of my all-time favorites and he was just sitting there. He was not dancing, he was not covered in blood, he was not fending off the attacks of Abdullah the Butcher, he was just sitting there. His long blond hair was flowing, his long beard was fully intact and to use the old cliché he was “larger than life.”

Here I was a kid really in need of a moment and of all things I could have imagined, this chance meeting was certainly the last thing I would have ever thought of. I contemplated my actions. I was saying to myself, “should I say something or should I just leave him alone?” I knew he was probably hounded all the time by fans looking for autographs and pictures and whatever the case. The last thing I wanted to do was bother him, but the last thing I wanted to do was have a true regret that I at least did not say hello. I was extremely shy at that stage in my life, almost to a crippling level. I really was in knots at this moment and almost talked myself into just walking right by and never saying a word.

I made the circle a couple of times, but was afraid that I was looking too obvious.  I certainly did not want to look like a geeky fan, so I took a deep breath and just went for it. I made the approach and simply said “Hello sir, I do not want to bother you, but I just wanted to say thanks for all the memories and fun matches you have given to me over these years.” I couldn’t believe it; I was talking to Jimmy Valiant. What came next was a real surprise, Jimmy said “hey brother have a seat and let’s talk for a few.” What? Did I just really hear that?

In a full state of disbelief that it was actually happening, I sat down to talk with one of my childhood heroes. We talked about County Hall, we talked about Township Auditorium in Columbia and all the places of my favorite Jimmy Valiant memories. However, it was one story that I shared with him that really got his attention. I told him of the time when I was in high school that we were given the green light to produce our very own wrestling show. There were several of us who were major fans and everybody, of course, had their favorite. We built our own ring, well my dad and uncle actually built it, but we had a ring, we each worked on costumes and we put together the show.

We met with the principal and explained everything and he granted us the permission to put on the show in our high school gym. We told everybody and that night we had 500 people show up. We had everyone from “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer to “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Of course, I was Jimmy Valiant. I had a blond wig, a long beard, the whole nine yards. We all had matches that night and to say it was like a kid being in a candy store, would be an understatement. We had a ball. Everyone got hurt, bruised, banged up and by end of the night we had broken the ring, but wow! What a fun night it was. I shared this with Jimmy and he held on to every word.

Little did I realize that over an hour had passed as we sat and talked. It seemed as if we had known each other for ever. He had told me he was waiting on his wife to finish shopping so he was in no hurry. We talked for a few more and then I looked up and there was “Big Mama” she looked just like she did on TV. It was awesome. Jimmy introduced us and he started telling her how I played him in our wrestling show at school. It was such a fun time for me that day and something I will never forget. Jimmy could have easily blown me off and paid this silly kid no mind, but he was kind, he was warm and friendly, because that is who he is. Over the years we have become friends because of the wrestling business, but it was that day in Charlotte that will be a memory that I will always hold dear.

As our time together ended and he was leaving with his family, he reached into his pocket and said “brother, I want you to have this.” He gave me his key ring. I could not believe this was happening. Not only did I get to spend nearly two hours with a hero of mine, but he was giving me a gift. I still have that key ring to this day. It is black and inscribed in the middle it says “Boogie #1.” It is one of a few things I have gotten over the years that I truly cherish because of the story that is behind it.
Today I am blessed to call Jimmy Valiant my friend. Even though now he is my friend and many, many years have passed, the fan in me remembers that very special day and every time I see him I think of how I met Jimmy Valiant at the mall in Charlotte, NC and he spent so much time with me and did not have to. Thanks Boogie, you made a lifelong fan that day and a friend forever.

Love ya brother.