AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
This week, much in contrast to the last, some thoughts on the human side of three people in the wrestling business who are class acts, decent people, and friends I hold in high regard.
First, Colin Bowman from WCW Magazine.... I'm assuming everyone reading this column is aware that the Great American Bash was Colin Bowman's last weekend with WCW, as the promotion has, to use the words of 1wrestling.com, "chosen to take the magazine in-house".
In my opinion, and that of many others, this is yet another one of WCW's less-than-brilliant management decisions in their continuing downward spiral.
Colin is a very real person, as all the road stories that anyone who has known him is well aware. Yet I can tell all those who read this column that Colin is a damned good person as well.
He's shown incredibly kindness to a mutual friend at a time when that person needed it the very most three years ago. That kindness helped that person through a personal crisis that has been conquered and worked through much for the better. He's helped out others with other things, that while simple, gave people once in a lifetime thrills.
All of these were things that Colin didn't have to do. He did them.
Professionally, Colin's photography in WCW Magazine has always been excellent work. One wonders about the quality of what will follow in the coming months.
Eric Bischoff and Harvey Schiller should know that this kindness and professionalism are far more important than any business decisions that WCW might choose to make...for reasons known only to themselves.
Nonetheless, in the world of WCW, professionalism, kindness, and decency isn't enough. Office politics, Mr. Schiller and Mr. Bischoff, doesn't make good business. You'll no doubt find that fact out soon enough.
So, Colin... good luck and Godspeed in whatever challenges you find next. WCW will be far the worse without you representing their product.
Next, Brian Hildebrand.
A friend of mine in wrestling once said that there were only two people in the business that didn't have an enemy: Owen Hart and Brian Hildebrand. Sadly, today we now have only one of them with us.
Brian is currently battling inoperable stomach cancer. As readers may be aware, Hildebrand was out of action for several months in 1997, after an operation to remove a cancerous tumor, as well as much of his stomach, all of his spleen, and part of his intestine. He returned to working in the spring of 1998 at a Southern States Wrestling show and the NWA-sponsored Eddie Gilbert Memorial, before resuming his refereeing duties in WCW.
But in 1998, the stomach cancer returned. Doctors were initially searching for what they believed to be a bowel obstruction, which became necessary after Brian lost 15 pounds due to the inability to digest food. Sadly, it was far more than a bowel obstruction. It was inoperable cancer.
I've known Brian Hildebrand for six years, since SMW Fanweek 1993. Brian's 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 these 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.
My favorite Fanweek story involves the time in 1994 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, Brian, so have you, for your entire career in the industry.
It's the reason that WCW honored him with a a night dedicated to him in Knoxville some months back, 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. Brian's show was an event reported all over the wrestling world.
Please continue to keep Brian in all your prayers. I can tell you, as can all of his friends, that we've never met anyone in our lives with more courage and more grace than Brian Hildebrand. We all know that there are few people like him around. This world can't afford to lose him.
Last but definitely not ever least, someone who gets mentioned semi-frequently in this column...Even though she's not big on being mentioned so much online, I think she'll forgive me for this one.
Last night, a number of us did a surprise 40th birthday party for NWA staffperson and former PWBTS writer Kathy Fitzpatrick at a local restaurant in New Jersey. Those attending included two promoters who don't particularly care for one another, but who were more than willing to share table space to surprise and honor our friend.
For those who are fans reading this, she's one of those people who does the countless thankless things that make a show that you get to sit down and see actually HAPPEN...for promotions like Joel Goodhart's Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, ECW, and Dennis Coraluzzo's NWA-New Jersey. Kathy's worked the door...worked video cameras... coordinated and done transportation to bring in fly-ins to shows... arranged for sponsors for local shows...put up posters... and 100 other things I'm sure I've forgotten to mention... all the way to playing a key part in the NWA-NJ Eddie Gilbert Memorials and the NWA 50th Anniversary events in Cherry Hill last year.
More importantly for me personally, she's my friend of 10 years and "little sister I never had"... a person who's introduced me to people and experiences within this business that have given my life great enjoyment....and who's done the everyday stuff that friends do with each other.
Certain other well-documented (in this column) experiences have occurred as a result of this friendship as well, and required that I do the far tougher things that REAL friends do for one another. I don't now, nor will I ever apologize for doing those things...whether three years ago, or yesterday. If anything, I'd have been a better friend if I'd done more.
God bless, Kath...we love you...and thanks for more than words can ever say...
As I've shared my experiences with these three truly special people with you readers; please remember what I say sometimes in this column: Treasure those special in your own lives...each and every day... because we (and they) aren't promised tomorrow.
Until next time...
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org