Monday, August 01, 2016

The Gateway Interview - Baby Doll
Fans of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling were introduced to a beautiful and talented performer in February of 1985, when Baby Doll debuted for Jim Crockett Promotions. Selected as Tully Blanchard’s “Perfect 10,” Baby Doll wasted no time in assisting Blanchard in two major feuds in 1985, with the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A. In 1986, Baby Doll joined forces with Dusty, and worked with the “good guys” to battle villains such as the Four Horsemen and the Midnight Express. During this time period, it was not uncommon for Baby Doll to shed her valet and managerial role and don the wrestling tights, and help battle these “bad guys” in the ring as part of six man tag team matches! Alas, all “good” things must come to an end, and Baby Doll turned her back on Rhodes on August 9, 1986, assisting Ric Flair in his regaining the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The Mid-Atlantic Gateway had the great pleasure to speak with Baby Doll recently, and we chatted about her upcoming induction into the Hall of Heroes Class of 2016, her amazing run with Jim Crockett Promotions and her latest comings and goings!

David Chappell: Welcome to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Baby Doll, and congratulations on your inclusion into the Hall of Heroes!

Baby Doll: I'm looking forward to it! It's a return to Fanfest. Greg Price was nice enough to offer me the Hall of Heroes Legends honors at the banquet. That's a big deal right there. Plus, look at who I'm getting inducted with, and get to see everybody, and a lot of people I haven't seen in a couple of years. Of course, there's Charlie Brown, my number one fan. It's as much a big deal for the fans as it is for us.

Chappell: I agree, for sure. Now that the Charlotte area is really your home area, and getting inducted into the Hall of Heroes in Charlotte, you combine those two together, what kind of feeling does that give you?

Baby Doll: What's really cool too, is we're right at the 30th anniversary of whenever I put a foot on the ropes for Flair and Dusty, whenever the title changed back to Flair. We're right at the 30 year anniversary of that, which that's so cool in as much of itself, you know?

Chappell: August 9, 1986…hard to believe almost 30 years has passed! And for you to go into the Hall of Heroes right at that 30 year anniversary, that is off the charts cool!

Baby Doll: I know. You've got Dusty being inducted, and Jimmy Valiant, and the Road Warriors, and then the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Boys. It's a big deal. It really is. It's an honor. Especially ... I've traveled everywhere, I've lived several places, and the Charlotte area is home. There's nowhere else that we would want to be.

Chappell: When you came into the Crockett territory in early 1985, things were setting up to become red-hot over the next couple of years. You were a big part of that. What stands out for you over those couple of years when things were booming so big in Charlotte?

Baby Doll: The enthusiasm of the fans. So much no matter where we went; whether it was Virginia or Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charlotte, Atlanta, even down in Florida; just how much the fans were part of it. As much as a show as Flair was, the fans were part of the show too. That is what I think made it so unique is that so many people remember that time in their life of those Saturday afternoons sitting on the couch with grandma and grandpa and then they get to see us.

Chappell: Back then, wrestling every Saturday was must see TV!

Baby Doll: Ricky Morton still does a lot of shows. Jimmy Valiant does a lot of shows. The WWE network has been a blessing to a lot of us to keep that memory alive. It was before computers and it was right when people, I want to say quit being dumb, but it was the last time the fans were really not smart. They didn't want to be smart. Everybody believed, and we made them believe. There was no doubt in their mind of what we were doing and that was so unique about it. I got to work with the best of the best. With Dusty and Tully, and the Russians and the Rock 'n Roll Express and Sting came; Luger and the birth of the Four Horsemen. In wrestling history there's never been another time like it.

Chappell: What a time frame. When they put the Saturday night 6:05 shows on the WWE network I went back and started from the first episode they had and just followed it through and you all really stand the test of time. It's as good today as it was back then. It's amazing.

Baby Doll: I remember whenever cable first started coming out, my house didn't have cable. The whole part of that city didn't have cable and I remember every month calling to talk to the cable company to see if my neighborhood had been put on the grid because I wanted to get the wrestling on cable. It was 5:05 in Lubbock, and at 5:05 I was watching wrestling and my mom and dad just didn't understand because they were like, "Well you watch wrestling all the time." And it's like, "Yeah I watch wrestling all the time," because when that came on that was like a whole new world ... I got to see everybody then. That was a whole new spectrum for us.

Chappell: I think the world stopped at 6:05 Eastern time on Saturdays for many of us back then…

Baby Doll: There for a while…

Chappell: Those two hours were magical!

Baby Doll: I didn't work; I didn't do nothin'. If I could, I was home watching TV, that's for sure.

Chappell: Now, one thing that I think is really important in your story is in that time frame, the role for women in wrestling was pretty limited and it seemed like you burst on the scene and went into a role that was absolutely out there with the men. I just wonder your thoughts on that aspect of your wrestling career. Do you consider yourself a trailblazer? Because I think a lot of people do, including myself.

Baby Doll: At the time, it was a lifestyle. If you're a wrestler, we're just different from everyone else. When a wrestler walks in the room you just know that there's something different about them. I think that's being a true breed of all of us. And the guys today which, I mean, it's just different. Back then we were like true mavericks. There was no one else like that; no one else had the lifestyle that we did. It wasn't like you moved…you lived somewhere for 6 to 9 months and then you got up and you moved and you went somewhere else and got yourself over. We're true performers. Back then it was something that was different, and I was fortunate to be part of it at that time.

Chappell: But your role was truly unique.

Eddie Cheslock Photo
Baby Doll: It was just…how do you be something that no one else has done? The only thing that I can really remember is Sunshine had worked with the Freebirds a little bit in Dallas. I remember my dad commenting about watching her face. If anyone watched the match and watched her, you could tell everything that was going on in the match just by how she sold it in her face. I remember that and that's how I kind of copied it.

Chappell: Your facial expressions at ringside added so much to so many matches back then.

Baby Doll: But I was so different because I was so athletic and being almost six foot tall, if I wore heels, I was the same size as the guys. Having to hold my own, and try to be pretty and a girl and jumping three and a half, four foot up high into a ring every night. Fighting your way back to the dressing room with eighteen, twenty thousand people sometimes…and they really, really, really, didn't like you and security wasn't always the best all the time.

Chappell: And they didn’t cut you any slack because you were a woman…

Baby Doll: And you try to be girly and pretty at the same time, it was a challenge. Now I look back it was something to have heat when you walk into a building with twenty thousand people in Charlotte. The girls today have got different heat now because they've got the whole social media thing. Not only do you have the fans you're working on, you've got millions of people that know who you are and probably don't like you because you're successful. They've got a whole different lifestyle that I never even had to deal with.

Chappell: They women today certainly have their own set of problems that's unique to this era.

Baby Doll: And I look at my daughter, she just graduated college. There for a while she was going to school full time; she had a full college schedule. She was working full time as a manager in a restaurant and she was working every weekend. At least twice, sometimes three times a weekend for her, and I was thinking that lifestyle is totally different. Then I look back at whenever I first worked, I had fifteen days off my first year. It's a different time…I was blessed because then it was a career, it's your job, it was something you did and it was nothing to go drive four hundred miles one way and work a show and drive another three hundred and sleep and get up and do another show. To work five days in the same outfit and then have to go to Georgia Championship TV at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday and not look like you hadn't gotten but two hours of sleep.

Chappell: That's what I think a lot of people that haven't been in it can’t understand. It's almost incomprehensible that you all could do all that and still perform at that tremendous level, and nobody knows the difference. You've got those insane miles to drive to get there and those time deadlines to meet, and it never came off like that. When people watched it, it was always a great show.

Baby Doll: And we did it all before GPS.

Chappell: That’s right, go figure!

Baby Doll: (Laughs) No Google maps, like you said. We had the state maps and the big road atlas. Oh my Lord. We had the OAG; we had the airline guys who could bounce our flights around. It was so much fun that I don't think we realized how exhausted we were until it was over with and then it was like, "Oh my gosh. How did this end?" It was just crazy. Everybody got along really well for the most part even with all the traveling. Everybody was making money and fans loved us and hated us. It was just a different time and I was very, very fortunate to be a part of it.

Chappell: Well, I think that anybody that watched it and saw it as well had that same feeling. It was just a special time. You mentioned it, and I got to looking at the list of people that are going into the Hall of Heroes 2016 with you in the wresting business and it's like a reunion of that '85 and '86 house of fire time with you. I was hoping you could give me a couple of recollections on the other people that are being inducted with you that you worked with so closely or at least were there with. First off, you have the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering going in with you. Oh, what a rush!

Baby Doll: That was really cool. I'd been one of the few girls that had actually worked with them. We did the six man tags, and they teamed up with me and did a couple of matches with the Midnight Express, to go against them and Cornette. Hawk was always turned up to twelve, there was no other way to look at Hawk. Then Animal was a little more quiet but he was so scary, and he's even scary today! Now his son is playing football and we always talk about how well his son's doing. It's really cool to be able to call them my friends.

Chappell: And Paul Ellering added another dimension to an already fantastic team.

Baby Doll: His daughter is wrestling, and my daughter is wrestling. Who would've thought?

Chappell: That's amazing! Then of course you will have Magnum T.A. presenting Dusty Rhodes for induction. I know you've got a lot of thoughts on those two.

Baby Doll: Yeah, my dream team! I mean, wow! There was no one better back then. Especially with Magnum and Dusty, they were two great all-American guys and I still think the world of them. Magnum beat the crap out of Tully and we made a lot of money out of that. Dusty was the brains behind Crockett there for a really long time. With them, Dusty made me a star and Magnum certainly had, maybe the best match in the history of wrestling against Tully. I don't think that anyone will argue that cage match with Magnum and Tully was the best match in the history of wrestling.

Chappell: It was incredible, and it’s hard to think of a more memorable match. I think to bring home that point, a couple years ago at Fanfest Magnum and Tully did a Q and A about the “I Quit” match with a cage behind them. People will always remember that one. They may forget some stuff, but that's one of those that's forever etched in stone for any wrestling fan.

Baby Doll: It played out so well and it was so believable. The intensity of it! There was no way that you were not going to think that those guys had a lot of animosity toward each other. That they actually really didn't like each other. Who would know thirty years later that their lives would be still so entwined?

Chappell: Oh, that's exactly right, and I think that your part of that “I Quit” match can’t be minimized. You out there at ringside, and the sheer agony and ecstasy you projected during the ebbs and flows of that match was just amazing.

Baby Doll: Well if you think of it, it wouldn't have been the same if they weren't fighting over me and fighting over the belt and fighting over the whole thing. If it was just two guys fighting, it wouldn't have had the intensity of adding me in there.

Chappell: You were the wildcard, the X factor so to speak.

Baby Doll: Right! What if I was gonna switch sides, what I was gonna do, what chaos was I gonna do? Was it gonna be decided, just Magnum and Tully, or how was I gonna get involved? And who would ever think to throw the chair over the top of the cage? You know, the first time I threw the chair at the cage it didn't go over. It bounced out. And I was in sheer panic because I had assured them that I would have no problem, I would be able to it. I didn't think I would have on a shoulder-less dress and high heels on. That is a feat, when you think of it.

Chappell: No question about it…

Baby Doll: The whole match…if anything was out of place it wouldn't have worked the way it did. Everything worked. There was Tully and myself, and then you had Tully and Magnum and then you had Magnum and myself, and it was a triangle cube that had all the different aspects of it. And then you actually had the animosity where Tully and Magnum just didn't get along. They were two, big, stud guys working in the same promotion, trying to get the top spot, trying to get favors with Dusty and the whole thing. And neither one was going to outdo the other one, and it proved a point.

Chappell: Yeah, it really was a powder keg and it exploded for everybody on the “I Quit” stage. Everybody will forever remember that titanic struggle, and you were a huge part of that.

The other fellow that's going in the Hall of Heroes with you in a few days is Jimmy Valiant. At the same period of time we’ve been talking about, the Boogie Man was doing some great stuff for Crockett as well.

Baby Doll: Jimmy Valiant! The first time I met Jimmy Valiant, he came into promos on a Wednesday morning. We had to be up early Wednesday morning to be at Crockett studios so that we could do the promos all afternoon until we had to leave at the last minute to go up there to Raleigh. When Valiant showed up he had on these magenta, it was the most obscure, wild color, deep purple pants and they were cowboy flared; they had the big bell bottoms. And then he had on a pair of lime green and white Austin-Hall boots. With extreme pointy toes, the whole nine yards. I was thinking, "Oh my God. Who is this guy? Who in the world would even dress like this, especially on a Wednesday morning?" And then I got to thinking, "How long has he had those clothes on? Did he randomly pick this out? Was this on purpose or was it random?" It was all of that. Jimmy Valiant was one of the nicest guys you would ever meet. Always so gracious. I always looked forward to doing a show with him, always looked forward to that.

Chappell: He's an amazing character, no question about it.

The Hall of Heroes induction dinner and ceremony on Friday night August 5th at Fanfest, with Jimmy and the other people we’ve been talking is going to be so special, but that’s not your only involvement at Fanfest this year. You're going to be around on Saturday for some can't miss photo ops and autographs, and Tully, Magnum and Arn Anderson are involved in those. What an amazing Saturday that ought to be for folks.

Baby Doll: Exactly. I'm trying to not do so many shows and every once in a while you get the opportunity to do a really good show and then you look at the company that you're going to keep for that weekend. Who wouldn't want to take pictures with Tully and Magnum and the whole group? You'll just be part of that history and let people relive the really good memories that they've got of all of us, and I really like being a part of that.

Chappell: When in the world are the four of you all going to be in the same place at the same time? It just doesn't happen so…

Baby Doll: Yep, take advantage of it. Especially as time marches on, we get older and a lot of us have different lifestyles. I know that Magnum still rides his bike and I ride a motorcycle with my boyfriend. We just get older and you never know, this could be the last time that we're all together. It's kind of an unfortunate way of looking at it, but sometimes you have to look at it that way and enjoy the time we have.

Chappell: That's right, don't miss out on such a unique opportunity.

Baby Doll: We always somehow lose someone right after Fanfest. We lost Akbar right after Fanfest. Might be it's too much excitement for some of us. It's just life and unfortunately with the lifestyles that we've had, look at all of the boys that we have lost. It's a good time, and Fanfest is definitely a weekend out of the year where so many fans from all over the world come in along with the wrestlers. Like what I said before, I don't think it's a big secret, it's as big a deal for the wrestlers and the stars of the show as it is for the fans. We really, really enjoy coming in.

Chappell: It shows. That's what's impressed me over the years at Fanfest. Clearly, you all really do enjoy it and that's not lost on the fans either. That just makes for a great environment for everybody.

Baby Doll: Right. It’s a great atmosphere. You can be out shopping or out by that lake and they've got all the restaurants and bars right there and it's very open and it's nice talking to other fans from other parts of the world too. I've known a lot of people make a lot of friends from this. A lot of wrestling fans are kind of closed off and sometimes a little bit introverted but then they come out to do Fanfest and they start meeting people. They start getting their little circle of friends, and that little circle of friends gets a little bit bigger, and pretty soon they've got a whole club out there. That's a lot of fun for me to see that come out of people.

Chappell: It's amazing once people get out there and get with folks that really appreciate professional wrestling like they did; I think everybody becomes an extrovert, which is part of the dynamic of a Fanfest. What's going on with Baby Doll currently that folks may want to know about?

Baby Doll: Oh my gosh, living up north of Charlotte in the Hickory, Boone area…

Chappell: Beautiful area…

Baby Doll: Super boyfriend who has a cabin up on the side of a mountain and he's made me a great big garden. We've got a Harley that we ride. Just a really special time in my life and very fortunate to have someone that looks out after me and loves me as much as I love him. We're just a big 'ol goofy couple, I enjoy spending time with him.

My oldest daughter is a punk rock star down in the Fayetteville area with the Nevernauts. She just graduated college. My youngest is wrestling every chance she gets going all up and down the east coast. Samantha Starr is making quite a name for herself. She's working full time and wrestling as many shows as she can get, just trying to get noticed at the right place at the right time. I'm having a really good time, I'm very fortunate.

Chappell: That's awesome to hear that things really are going really well for you. I think you told me yesterday that you were having an autograph signing later today with the Gateway’s buddy, George South. So you're still getting out there too on your own.

Baby Doll: A little bit. We're riding the bike…we're riding the Harley to Wilkesboro here just in a little while and going to see George. We saw George just a couple of weeks ago, my daughter was wrestling over in Mooresboro. We went over there and George had his table set up, so it was a great to see George and I got to surprise my girl. Every once in a while, I'll show up at a show here, especially to see my daughter. We went down to Greensboro to see my oldest play at a show there too. We're all over the place on the weekends. I'd rather stay home and dig in the dirt in my garden, but I still go out and do shows.
Chappell: It sounds like you are in a really good place now, and that’s wonderful. Care to give a shout out to the fans that are thinking about coming to Fanfest, or if they are definitely coming, what they can expect when they get to interact with you for a while?

Baby Doll: Well, I would say that the Fanfest in Charlotte, by far, out of all the Fanfests I've done has been the most fan friendly and the most fan accessible. Especially on a Saturday afternoon when they've got all the vendors opened up and all those photo ops. There are very generous photo op packages. Greg Price really does go out of his way to bring in a variety of wrestling stars and personalities.

Chappell: He really does… 

Baby Doll: From Thursday to Sunday it really is action packed. There's something to do all the time, from Q and A sessions that really are personable. You're in the big banquet hall, but the wrestlers sit there and answer every single question and are very personable to everyone. The wrestling show on Saturday night is spectacular in and of itself. They really have a cool wrestling show on Saturday night. Then they have the follow up wrestling show on Sunday afternoon with some of the local guys. Then Friday night you've got the Hall of Heroes, which I've heard has been sold out for a little while now. You've got everyone being inducted with that. If you're a wrestling fan, or just kind of a wrestling fan and you just want to see something different, this is definitely the place to be. Especially because it is so fan accessible and a fan friendly event.

Chappell: Absolutely. It's a wonderful event, and we look forward to seeing you and getting all these folks that were tearing it up back in the mid '80's back together again.

Baby Doll: It's been a couple of years since I've been there too, so it will be fun to see everybody. I really haven't been in the past couple of years, but was invited to be inducted into the Hall of Heroes this year. I look forward to it; it's going to be a very special time.

Chappell: Speaking of special, you hold a special place in the hearts of so many wrestling fans. Thank you for giving the Gateway your time today and for all that you did back in the Crockett glory days, and your inclusion in the Hall of Heroes is so well deserved. See you in Charlotte very soon!

Baby Doll: Thank you! We look forward to seeing you guys next weekend.

Baby Doll will be inducted into the Hall of Heroes Class of 2016 at the Hall of Heroes Dinner Banquet in Charlotte, NC on August 5. It is part of the 4-day Fanfest at the University Place Hilton in Charlotte NC. For more information, visit


Baby Doll is also a "tag team partner" of the Crockett Foundation. Tag in and help out!