AS I SEE IT - 5/03/2000
by: Bob Magee
On May 24, 2000 at the Quality Inn Evendale Ballroom in Cincinnati, Ohio, wrestling fans will have an opportunity to honor a man I've spoken about frequently in this column, a man who was an example of courage to everyone who ever worked in or was ever a fan of the wrestling business, Brian Hildebrand. Fans will be able to pay this honor to Brian at the Mark Curtis Fantasy Camp, a part of the Pillman 2000 event.
As I said in my memorial column to my friend back last September, I will always remember Brian Hildebrand as a man who lived and loved the wrestling business, who got to live his dream of making a living in wrestling as referee Mark Curtis for World Championship Wrestling. I remember a man who lived to his last day with more courage than anyone I've ever had the privilege to know.
For those of you who don't know, Brian fought stomach cancer for nearly two years, after being diagnosed in October 1997. He refused to allow cancer to stop his incredible spirit and his wonderful sense of humor. He seemed amazed and somewhat embarrassed at all the attention his battle with cancer received.
I had the privilege of knowing Brian for six years, since just before Smoky Mountain Wrestling's Fanweek 1993. Brian is responsible for two of the most special experiences of my life, Fanweek 1993 and 1994. For those who aren't familiar with them, SMW Fanweek was held every summer from 1993-1995. It was made up of a traveling road show, combined with barbecues, Q&As, and marathon videotape parties.
Brian Hildebrand was the reason those yearly celebrations were possible, because of his non-stop organizational work during the weeks leading up to the events; and during the moment to moment problems that occur when one is trying to please 55 human beings and Jim Cornette, AND work as referee 'Mark Curtis' all at the same time.
Brian always did this with such unfailing patience, good humor, never forgetting to still be a fan of the very business he worked in. Thats the reason why he always used the word 'Mark' in his ring name.
My favorite Fanweek story involves the time in August 1994 at Fanweek that I had to go with Brian to Knoxville's West Town Mall to get Jim Cornette a new tennis racquet. It seemed a local fan had taken it upon himself to steal Jim's racquet at a SMW house show the night before. Brian and I went to a sporting goods store and got the racquet. The clerk fell all over himself meeting 'Mark Curtis'. I stood and watched. As the clerk rang up the purchase, he asked me 'Can I help you, sir'. I replied 'I'm just here with Mr. Curtis'.
We walked away into the Mall to grab lunch, and Brian asked me (referring to my keeping kayfabe) 'How in hell did you just do that?' My reply: 'Because you and Jimmy taught us to remember that your folks down here 'still believe'.' It can be said that Brian Hildebrand did that for his entire career in the wrestling industry.
It's the reason that he was honored with a surprise award at the Eddie Gilbert Memorial Banquet in Philadelphia in 1998. Brian had called me days before the Banquet, wondering why Jim Cornette and event promoter Dennis Coraluzzo were calling him numerous times to make sure he was coming. Brian knew both Cornette and Coraluzzo realized he would never miss an opportunity to honor Eddie, who was one of his heroes; so he knew something was a little odd.
Brian said 'Bob, what in hell is up here?' I replied, not wanting to ruin the surprise, but knowing he'd smell me fudging a mile away... 'Well, if you actually got Dennis to return a phone call... if you got Corny calling that many times in a week... I'd bring a suit... and be prepared to say something'. The tribute that Jim Cornette did for him that night at that Gilbert Banquet was pure Cornette, totally irreverent, but also with the deep feeling that came from knowing Brian.
The kind of person Brian has been was also the reason that WCW honored him with a a night dedicated to him in Knoxville in 1998, with a classic match of Chris Jericho/Eddie Guerrero against Dean Malenko/ Chris Benoit... and with Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen presenting Brian with a championship belt, then getting Brian involved in the finish. The Knoxville show was an event reported all over the wrestling world.
It's the reason that the "Curtis Comes Home" show was done last year in Rostraver, PA, with all three major promotions and independent stars giving their day to honor Brian and help him pay the considerable medical expenses that came with his battle against cancer.
Brian kept himself going through such sheer will and determination that he refereed a match for Southern States Wrestling only days before his death. In a related note, on Saturday, May 13th, SSW is also doing a tribute show for Brian, called "A Tribute to Mark Curtis", to be held at the Kingsport, TN Civic Auditorium. Proceeds from this event will benefit Children's Miracle Network and Pam Hildebrand. You can get information on this show at the Southern States Wrestling website at http://sswwrestling.hypermart.net
After Brian Hildebrand's death on September 8, 1999; Brian's friend Dean Malenko wanted to pay homage to his fallen friend in whatever way he could.
Dean Malenko called Heartland Wrestling Association promoter and longtime Hildebrand family friend Les Thatcher and their special project got under way. Thatcher and his Heartland Wrestling Association have promoted the Brian Pillman Memorial Show since 1998. Pillman 2000 has been reported about on many locations, including this website. Dean thus knew that Les Thatcher had the organizational ability and the heart to make it make it happen and, give wrestling fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
With the possible exception of events like the SMW Fanweeks of 1993-1995 that Brian himself played a large role in organizing, this may well be the first time an event of this caliber has ever taken place. If you are planning to attend the Mark Curtis Memorial Fantasy Camp, you can go to http://www.brianhildebrand.com/campers.htm to find out what your dream day will be like.
The Fantasy Camp will be held Wednesday, May 24th, 2000 at the Quality Inn Ballroom in Evendale. The camp will be limited to 60 fans and will run from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm and will be followed by a hot buffet (as well as a question and answer period) for campers and celebrity instructors. Attending as instructors will be some of wrestling's top names including Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, D-Lo Brown, The Road Dogg, Terry Taylor, Eddy Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Cody Michaels, Les Thatcher, and a few more to be named.
The day will entail learning some of the basics for the pro mat sport with your favorite stars plus each fan will receive a limited edition T-shirt, a videotape of he or she cutting a wrestling interview with the star of their choice, an 8x10 group photo, along with lunch and the evening buffet. Tickets are $550.00 for the day payable in advance by cashiers check, money order, Visa, or Mastercard. The Quality Inn Evendale can be reached at (513) 771-5252. Mention "Pillman 2000" and receive a $45 a night rate for up to 4 people.
Along with the website I've often mentioned that Jeanette Gagan-Oliver did for Brian (with Pam's cooperation), Matt Cyber has worked together with Pam Hildebrand to develop a website as a memorial to Brian at http://www.brianhildebrand.com. The website is currently being used to publicize the Fantasy Camp, and for one other important reason:
Last year, at the time of the "Curtis Comes Home" tribute show done for Brian, many of you who couldn't make the show e-mailed me and asked if there were ways to contribute to help Pam pay Brian's medical expenses. Such a fund has now been established, with detailed information available on the Hildebrand website.
But the basics are as follows...
For those of you who would like to send letters or to make a donation to the Brian Hildebrand Memorial Fund, you may send a cashier's check or a money order (in U.S. funds) made payable to:
1351 Gentry Road
Talbott, Tennessee 37877
Brian was such a very special person that he inspired all of us who were friends, family, fans, or co-workers to be better people. Given that he was such a funny, dedicated, committed individual...he always will be an inspiration for those of us who knew him to live each day of our lives to their fullest... and to follow our dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem.
Please take the time to do whatever you can, even if it's just writing Pam a note, or sending a money order or cashier's check. It will let you feel proud to be a wrestling fan....but not as proud as those who can say that we knew this man; and that we know his wife Pam, who has made sure that Brian's memory will live on...
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)