Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Interview with Kid Leopard


Last summer, when I first approached Kid Leopard about being the subject of an interview, he happily consented, but worried that he might be too "blunt and impolitic," two qualities I just so happen to like in conversation. I encouraged him to let it all out. Since when is wrestling supposed to be about being genteel and subtle? Just a few months before, I had started writing text for the BG East catalog, along with fellow kinkster Bard, joining ranks with award-winning author Greg Herren, who has written for BGE for years now, and an illustrious crew of others, including Kid himself. As the head of a thriving company that has been at the vanguard of homoerotic wrestling entertainment for decades, Kid Leopard has been a lightning rod for criticism and accolades alike. He is also a man about whom many visitors to this blog are curious. He's a man of many facets:  an ex-pro wrestler, an entrepreneur, a coach, an actor, a theatrical director, a choreographer, an educator, a photographer, a political activist, a philanthropist, a survivor--tireless in all the facets of his life--which he sums up under the heading "artist."


Joe:  What fueled your earliest wrestling fantasies?

Kid:  My earliest memories of erotic arousal were of watching tightly clad football players on TV. They were quickly and forever supplanted by professional wrestlers. Wow! Eye candy for a budding sadist! The sight of a handsome, well-built babyface crying out in submission or completely flattened in the middle of the ring and then easily pinned by the heel was enough for my eager young dick to erupt without contact--a trick I've been able to replicate all of my life.  

Joe:  [Laughs.] So wrestling was on television at home?

Kid:  My Sicilian grandparents were great wrestling fans who cheered on the babyfaces, especially the Italos like Bruno Sammartino and Domenic DeNucci, and hurled Italo-English epithets like "brutta bestia sonamabitch" at heels like Tony Altimore and Lou Albano, who gave Sicilians a bad name. Being part Native on my other side they always gave special dispensation to Indian gimmicks, heel or face. So Saturday afternoon wrestling shows with my "Nonni" became a ritual where I would endeavor, not always successfully, to hide my aching boner. More than once my Nonna said to me, "Stefano, non si tocchi!" or "Don't touch yourself!" My Nonno pretended to ignore it.

Joe:  Can you give me a brief history of your involvement in wrestling ... pre-BG East?

Kid:  My junior high and high school did not have wrestling teams, though we had wrestling as part of the physical education curriculum. I usually dreaded it as I was pretty small, not particularly strong, and usually overmatched. But on one particular occasion I brought down a titan, by fluke, and suddenly my world changed. [Laughs.] I even became class president, at least partially as a result of that singular action.


Joe:  And then?

Kid:  There was a Y across from my high school where a group met a few times a week to wrestle. I would watch from a window or peer in from a doorway, but it was months before I finally accepted the invitation to join in. I knew it wouldn't be pro, but I was shocked at how much energy it required and how sore it left me. I was wiry and fast because I had been dancing for several years, so I was coordinated, adequately flexible ... and I had strong lean legs. Little did I know then that just a few years later some of the first black-and-white BG wrestling images would be produced at this same Y.  

Joe:  That's cool.

Kid:  My Y experience served me well when I tried out for and got a place on my college team. My college career was short lived, however. I was cast in a production of Clifford Odet's Awake and Sing! and I was elected Vice President of my class. The guy who was President was also on the team, on scholarship. We both ended up quitting the team because we just didn't have the time, given our other interests and involvements. The coach wasn't really happy--and we had to do wrestling KP duty as penance ... swabbing the mats, collecting the sweaty gear after a practice, et cetera. Yes, I know, some might ask, "That's punishment?" [Laughs.]

Joe:  [Laughs.]  From what I hear, theater is as good a background for pro wrestling as college wrestling.

Kid:  I did stay involved in wrestling in college through fraternity intramurals, much to the chagrin of the coach, who tried to ban us both from participating. There were two of us from my frat house in the same weight class, a very cute guy with a mop of hair, and he and I competed three years in a row. He kicked my ass when it came time for us to hit the mats, and he was always either first or second. During his senior year, and my junior, he and I were in the finals. Same-house finals were rare and always the object of great heat and curiosity. It was my first experience of being the "main event" on a wrestling "show," and I loved it, even though I lost.

Joe:  So did this experience push you into becoming a pro wrestler?

Kid:  Shortly after college I was engaged to stage the wrestling scene for As You Like It. I used it as an excuse to contact Walter "Killer" Kowalski, who ran an Institute of Professional Wrestling. When I told him I was a lightweight, he said, "That's okay! I've got broads, I've got midgets, you can train with them!" He was an unusual character, a gentle giant vegetarian with international conspiracy theories. We became good friends, and I learned a lot from him. He was very old school in that he believed bigger is better in the pro biz, Andre the Giant being the ideal, and so he didn't put me, being a lightweight, on shows as a wrestler, but instead I reffed and ring-announced for his shows and for his TV program Bedlam from Boston. He was interviewed by David Letterman about the show, which aired on Sunday morning after a religious program. Walter told Letterman, "Yeah, the reverend raises them up to the heavens, and then I bring them right back down to earth!" It was through Walter that I met the British promoters who opened their doors to me.

Walter "Killer" Kowalski (1926-2008)  Photo by Kid Leopard

Announcing at Bedlam from Boston

Kid:  My experiences wrestling in the UK were a mixed bag. After being a fan of Brit pro for so long, my expectations were so inordinately high that it was virtually impossible for the reality to live up to the fantasy. My very first match, I filled in for Kid Chocolate, a Jamaican whose wife was giving birth. They gave me boots that were too small and leopard trunks that were too big ... and "Kid Leopard" was born. I got squashed by a ring vet called Tally Ho Kaye, a mean fuck, who entered wearing jodhpurs and slapping a riding crop in his hand. Unbeknownst to me, it was customary for a rookie not only to get pummeled but to bring down a "touch of the claret." So this heel, who then was probably around my age now, kept snagging me in a side-headlock and popping me on the side of the nose with his middle knuckle. I thought to myself, "Jesus, this guy's being a total asshole." But then I saw all the "lads" watching from the doorway, which rarely happens at shows, and I figured something was up. So I held my breath and scrunched my face, and finally a dribble of blood trickled down my nose, and he was content and finished me off.

Joe:  I've read about these initiations in wrestling.

Kid:  On another show, shortly after that one, my gym bag was nailed to the dressing room floor. Another time it disappeared altogether, cameras included, while I had nothing on except my underwear ... only to miraculously reappear just before I went into full panic mode. Such pranks were a rite of passage in Brit pro.

Steve Logan

Joe:  Today it's kind of hard to picture "Kid Leopard" as a jobber.

Kid:  My first official gimmick was as an Indian, "The Renegade," usually a babyface, rarely a heel, win/loss about equal. Had some great matches with Steve Logan Jr, whom Kid Vicious and I visited not too long ago at the dojo he runs in Birmingham. But it was with Bryan Walsh as "The US Express" that we had a nice tour as heels, working with Danny Boy Collins, Pete Bainbridge, Johnny Saint, Kid McCoy, Geoff Kerry, Steve Speed, and Steve Regal.

Joe:  Regal?

Kid:  Yes, that Steve Regal, before he was dubbed a "Lord" by Vince McMahon. Bryan stayed in Europe for a few years and had a long run in the UK and Germany. I did it during summer break from teaching and was happy to leave it at that.

Joe:  What was that like?

Kid:  There was a lot of petty politics on the Brit scene back then, which was controlled by basically three promoters:  the infamous Crabtree brothers, whose office was in Leeds, in the house owned by the de Relwyszkows. George de Relwyszkow won a gold medal at the first modern Olympics and then started the pro business in the UK. Max was the brains and ran the office, Brian drove the lads in the van and ring-announced, and Shirley (Big Daddy) was the name in the ring. Brian Dixon out of Croydon, near London, and Orig Williams out of Wales were the other two big promoters. The promoters were keen to have Yanks on their shows, but the lads, who felt we were taking their spots, weren't too thrilled with us "interlopers," and they could be real pricks, in and out of the ring. But we discovered that, if directly confronted, they generally backed down pretty fast, including Shirley, whom Bryan poked in the nose once mid-match, warning, "That'll be enough from you, Shirley!" [Laughs.]

With Kid McCoy

Bryan "Billy Pearl" Walsh and "Johnny DiCarlo" (The US Express)

Joe:  How did BG East come into being?

Kid:  It's really pretty simple. I hadn't considered going out on my own. I was busy with my other careers, as associate director and resident choreographer of Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston and resident photographer at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. I also taught and coached at a major university and freelanced as an actor, dancer, and photographer. Last thing I needed or wanted was to run a business. I was happy to let BG do all the day-to-day bullshit--and he was more than happy to do it. We were a good match for the 10 years we collaborated--me, the artist type with years of wrestling experience, and him, the experienced, regimented businessman.

Joe:  So how come the split with BG Enterprise?

Kid:  Buddy Justice was the catalyst for the dissolution of our partnership. Buddy and I had some epic matches. We were civil to each other for the sake of BG, but we both relished beating the fuck out of one another because we are such total opposites. I repeatedly warned BG that Buddy was trouble, and so did "His Eminence," the late lamented Bill "Cardinal" Hughes, owner of the Long Beach ring. But the heart has a mind of its own. BG's work began to reflect Buddy's interests, and there was less space in the paper catalogs for the matches I was producing on the east coast. Buddy's fundamentally criminal mindset wreaked havoc on all things BG. I'll leave it at that. Ultimately it was BG's suggestion that I go off on my own. The light bulb went off in my head, and BG East was born. I'm very fond of BG, he's a gentleman, and we've maintained a cordial relationship.

Joe:  I--and others with me--see BG East as the gold standard for homoerotic wrestling entertainment. There are plenty of other good promotions, too. In your opinion, what distinguishes your product from that of your competitors?

Kid:  Part of it is my life experience, the fortuitous concatenation of skills that I bring to the arena. ... Beyond that, it's two things in particular: our attention to detail and our commitment to variety. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, which is oftentimes enormously frustrating in what we frequently endeavor to achieve, which is basically to create a twenty to thirty minute pas de deux--or pas de quatre, if it's a tag match [Laughs]--often with untrained "dancers"... in three to four hours, which for the stage would ordinarily take two weeks. Occasionally, when we have talented, creative, enthusiastic participants who speak the same wrestling language and who can take an idea and run with it, it's a labor of love, and the process flows easily and quickly. Other times, not so much! I also think it's fair to say that in addition to the best wrestling action, we offer the best wrestling literature. This shouldn't be too surprising given that BG Wrestling was originally an outlet for the exchange of wrestling fiction, which then became illustrated photo stories, which then became video, et cetera. The website format has allowed us to reclaim some of that early focus on text. I like to write, and I enjoy rewriting and editing as well. We've been very lucky to have some very talented writers join the team since we went on line. There are some fans who come to the site expressly to read the write-ups. They are undoubtedly in the minority. A majority barely reads them, if at all. Obviously, it's the photographic images which appeal to and attract most fans to our site, but I am committed to literate and entertaining descriptions even though most of my staff thinks it's a lot of work for marginal return!

Joe:  Do you follow the competition closely?

Kid:  I don't have much interest in the other companies out there. I've seen very little of their product because what I have seen of the competition just frustrates me. I see these good-looking specimens with some latent talent appear on the screen, and then I am invariably disappointed by the lame, lazy, and illogical action, or, in the case of the so-called "real" wrestling producers, total tedium. For some, there is no hold too boring for endless repetition ....

Joe:  Ouch. [Laughs.]

Kid:  I end up wishing I could get those same guys in my ring and coach them to perform to their full potential. And sometimes, serendipitously, that happens. I daresay that the performances we've coaxed out of guys like "Z-Man" Zack Vasquez, Austin Cooper, and Jake Jenkins are worlds apart from their previous work. And these guys appreciate it too. They enjoy working for us, not just because we pay well, but because they know they'll have a match about which they can be proud. For the most part, these newer companies do one particular thing and not particularly well. It galls me when someone markets wrestling matches without any expertise in either wrestling or videography. There's one company which produces a beautifully lit product but hires as "trainers" guys who have no formal training themselves. The producer uses a stopwatch to start and stop the action, regardless of what the wrestlers are doing! It's cynical and betrays a disregard for the enjoyment or even the intelligence of the viewer and either a disrespect for or a total lack of understanding of the product--wrestling--and its fans. However, you know, we've learned over the years that eager fans will try anything once or twice, and the allure of hot images of sexy-looking guys wrestling cannot be underestimated. But in my experience wrestling fans are also pretty discerning and won't continue to support mediocrity. But of the other companies out there, I find BWN [Black Wrestling Network] the most interesting and creative.

Joe:  Yeah. My skinny pocketbook is the only reason I have not explored BWN further.  I checked it out last summer and posted about it. Its narrative plotting, pace, and visual design are impressive.  With money earned this year for teaching some summer classes, I bought three videos in a three-for-two sale, and I was blown away by their relentless violence ... and sex! The wrestlers are smoking hot. Speaking of which. You have wrestled some of my favorite hunks--including Dick the Prick, Wade Cutler, and Scott "Dark" Rogers, who I see--others may disagree--as BG East's first bona-fide star, besides yourself, of course. Do you keep up with these guys? Where are they now?

Kid:  Our relationship with our wrestlers has always been important to us and fundamentally different than the other companies, in that WE are all wrestlers, behind the cameras as well as in front of them. We've always enjoyed the camaraderie of the experience and since we often do five-day to week-long taping sessions, and we house and feed all the boys, the atmosphere and bonding can be reminiscent of a fraternity, where strong friendships are often formed. We've played Yenta The Matchmaker for more than a few wrestler couples.

Joe:  Wrestler matchmaking--a great play on words, too--but I am smelling "business opportunity"!

Kid:  My friendships with guys like Kid Vicious, The Brooklyn Bodywrecker, Andy Bailey, Shane McCall, Doug Warren, Randy Roberts, Bryan Walsh, Patrick Donovan, TNT, Syddo Riley, Scott Williams, Matt Carlton, and Dark Rogers--and Danny Boy Collins, David Higgins, and Remy LaSalle in the UK--these friendships can be measured in decades. Since you asked, Dark is an enormously successful software designer, one of the most engaging and creative friends I've known. He was a student of mine, and both he and The Bodywrecker worked for me at the Opera House. Dick the Prick is beefier. Wrestles privately and looks great, continues to have an incredible menagerie of pets. Wade Cutler is a smart, sexy enterprising guy who shares my skepticism of all things religious. These relationships are some of the most important in my life, and being a part of this wrestling brotherhood brings me great joy.

Joe:  I realize not all BGE wrestlers are gay or bi. I'm curious--do you ever run into wrestlers who balk at the idea of wrestling to entertain what is predominately a gay male audience?

Kid:  Homophobia is a recurring issue. We've had wrestlers who work for other companies tell us they love what we pay, but we're too gay! I find that patently offensive since we're not asking them to do anything they haven't already done for those other companies or even in public on shows. We never ask anyone to do anything with which they are not totally comfortable--a policy which has garnered some considerable criticism from those who would like to see certain of our stars do "more." (The lecherous character I play as The Boss is the antithesis of the reality.) What I guess they find objectionable or threatening is that we proudly and openly declare who we are and for whom we wrestle.

"The Boss" with BG East wrestler Billy Lodi

Joe:  I sense there are a lot of guys who actually "get" the eroticism of wrestling, but they flinch if you dare to talk about it. Like it's supposed to be a secret.

Kid:  Those other closet wrestling companies are in business thanks to the gay clientele which sustains them, a clientele which they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge, or do so only obliquely, both of which I frankly find reprehensible. Especially egregious are the gay-owned closet companies--spineless weasels with a 1950s mentality. Who do they think they're kidding? They're either delusional or filled with self-loathing or deliberately trying to deceive their wrestlers and customers. In any case, it's pathetic. One company actually tells its gay photographers and trainers not to fraternize or even speak to its straight wrestlers! What century do these guys live in? Hey, you told me not to hold back ... [Laughs.]

Joe:  This needs saying.

Kid:  Yes, I'm outspoken. I've worked too hard and experienced too much homophobia in my life not to be. I've never kept my political involvement a secret. I helped found and eventually headed a national gay Democrats organization, and for over 20 years we've contributed at least 7.5% of our profits to LGBT organizations. I'm not religious--just the opposite in fact--but there are tenets of belief which I hold dear: to act upon what you believe and to leave the world a better place than that into which you were born. If someone chooses not to work for us because we're "too gay," it's their loss, not ours. I would add that these gay-squeamish guys include as many, if not more, gay guys than straight, and in 2011 that's pretty sad.

Joe:  I wish I were surprised. Where I am, it's next to impossible to find friends--and, back when I tried more diligently to find guys to wrestle, wrestlers--who both like men and like wrestling. And where I have found the two interests together, four out five times the guy is in the closet--deep deep deep in the closet. Frankly, if anybody's going to dish up some homophobia for me, I prefer that it be a straight man--gay and bi homophobia is just too much for me, but all too common, maybe especially in the South. Right now my real-world, in-the-flesh friends who most support this blog--and read it--are straight. My gay friends just roll their eyes. "Joe-thinks-he's-butch." They don't get it--or they think it's something it isn't. What it most definitely isn't is self-loathing. But maybe for a lot of guys, that is what it is.

Kid Leopard working Thom Katt

Joe:  Clarify something for me, will you? A "jobber" and a "babyface" are not the same thing, are they? 

Kid:  The phrase "heels and jobbers" is a construct almost exclusive to gay men and seldom, if ever, used anywhere else in the wrestling world. The conflation of jobber and babyface has become ubiquitous among gay wrestlers and wrestling fans, which would be fine were it not inaccurate. Time after time I see references to wrestlers like Alex Wright, Tom Zenk, Brad Armstrong, and so on, as "jobbers." They were babyfaces, not jobbers. There is a distinct difference, and I can assure you that these guys never thought of themselves as jobbers. When regional wrestling promoters provided shows for TV stations in their market for free--pre-McMahon Jr's largely successful drive for an international monopoly--the TV shows were used principally as a means to drive sales for the live event house shows and to build up the stars the promoter was pushing. So what you almost invariably saw were the big names or stars of the day crushing rookies in what were called squash jobs. The guys who got squashed were "jobbers" who did the "job" for the name star. It made the name look strong and "put him over." The stars wrestled other big stars only on the house shows. That gradually changed, and squash jobs and jobbers were largely phased out. Where once they were the staple of wrestling TV shows, now they are decidedly the exception. But their legacy and their legion of squash job fans still exist, which at least partially accounts for our Hunkbash and Demolition series. Very few if any of these guys enjoyed jobbing, but it was better than no exposure at all.

Joe:  You may be shooting down a lot of fantasies here.

Kid:  OK, I know that a lot of gay wrestlers like being dominated and get off on playing the jobber role--for which I am ever grateful. Hey, I love a hot jobber as much as the next horny heel, but there are precious few jobbers or squash jobs in pro wrestling today.  

Joe:  How closely do you oversee match tapings? For what percentage ... about ... of the matches are you right there live on the scene of the action?

Kid:  Well, for the past two and half years I've been dealing with cancer. I've had three surgeries--but it's not as dire as it sounds. Except for cancer, I'm in great health. [Laughs.] Because of that, at least in part, I avoid the cold at all costs, so I'm spending six to seven months of the year in Florida. So I'm present for all of the matches taped here. I'm missing most of the winter matches taped at our Massachusetts facility, but the boys and I have a confab in advance of each taping, and sometimes during! No, I'm not a control freak. [Laughs.] The boys have been with me for a very long time. They know my approach and do a fine job without me being there. Will each match have my personal imprimatur? No, but I defy people to figure out which is which!

Joe:  What has been the biggest headache in running a business like BG East?

Kid:  Piracy. It's always been a problem, but it has escalated as electronic communication becomes more facile, pervasive, and ubiquitous. I would warn those who avail themselves of product by this means that doing so endangers the very thing they desire to see. Also, there are many more producers now than there were a decade ago. The gay wrestling market is not infinite. The pie is being divided into smaller and smaller sections. If it is also being eroded by nibbling PI-rats (to use Shakespeare's double meaning), it will result in less product being created, of lesser quality. We're a small business. Go rip off Walmart, and leave us alone! There is also a mindset among those who have grown up with Internet access that everything should be free. They are accustomed to having access. Paying for it is anathema to them. Of course, the economic downturn doesn't help either. Sales of recordable media are down across the board, industry-wide, internationally. And I also imagine that advances in virtual reality technology will someday render what we do obsolete. It's entirely likely that you will be able to wrestle your favorite BG East star of today or yesterday, if only virtually. It's little consolation that our thirty-plus years of work is the obvious template for all the action and combinations of bodies entwined together to create these customized individual fantasies. Some cartoonists, animation artists, and other computer-savvy guys are already doing it.

Joe:  I love the videos, photographs, and even some of the comics, too, but what's a little ironic is that one of the chief selling points of wrestling, for me anyway, is its fleshy physicality--the aspects of man-to-man connectivity that are not virtual at all--or, if virtual, that convey a strong corporeal sense of the experience--including pain, including b.o., including the squishy human dampness of it all. So given the rapidly morphing nature of wrestling entertainment, what about the business keeps you going?

Kid:  Guys often say to me, "You have the best job in the world." I appreciate that, and I know I've been very lucky to pursue my dreams--down a variety of avenues. And they're probably under the impression that behind the scenes BG East is all hunks all the time. That's a nice fantasy, but the reality is the time we spend with the wrestlers is a very small fraction overall. It's hard for me to think of it as the best job in the world when I'm spending hours on end cropping photos and editing text and writing captions and dealing with the typical minutiae of any small business. What keeps me going is my passion for wrestling.

Joe:  So wrestling's more than just a moneymaker.

Kid:  It's at the core of my psycho-sexual makeup, and I still can't get enough of it--doing it, writing about it, watching it, promoting it. Hell, if I can't get a real match, and I'm especially horny, I'll engage in detailed wrestling chat, cyber-wrestling, or even phone matches. Hey, I'll take it any way I can get it! My mentor in photography was an elegant Boston Brahmin type--by assimilation, not birth--and he once told me that sexual desire was the life force. And his desire was very strong all the way until he was 90! I'm beginning to understand what he meant. The other thing that keeps me going is my staff. The boys are family, and they sustain me and the business.

Joe:  Well, not to get all college professor-ly about this, but Freud used the word "eros" to mean the life instinct, which of course includes sexuality and procreation, but also includes any kind of productivity, creativity, and the urge to thrive--art, friendship, touch, affection for animals. And it's in opposition to "thanatos," the death drive, equally as strong, or nearly so, which thrives on not just war and destruction, but also any push to limit natural exuberance--such as censorship, harshly restrictive morals, even self-sacrifice in martyrdom. Herbert Marcuse, a Freudian and a Marxist, wrote a book called Eros and Civilization, which contains the bedrock of my whole philosophical approach to wrestling, desire, and, well, life. So let's talk life force. Somebody once complained in a comment to one of my earlier interviews that I did not ask about wrestlers' cock sizes. So, here goes. Whose members have been especially memorable to you?

Kid:  And the Boner Oscar goes to ... It's a tie! Lance Jeffers and Gabriel Ross. Truly remarkable specimens. Honorable mentions: Kid Vicious and Jonny Firestorm.

Joe:  I'd be happy to accept the gold statuette on behalf of anyone unable to attend this year's ceremony. [Laughs.] I know you like watching young blond dudes getting their asses kicked. You've said so. What are your other wrestling kinks? I want details.

Kid:  By the way, you get major props for mentioning Marcuse.

Joe:  Thanks.

Kid:  Reading him and Havelock Ellis, among others, give me hope for a non-repressive utopia. ... Kinks, eh? I have to say I'm a great proponent of meshing wrestling action with the sensual/erotic. ... I wrestle because it's the central component of my makeup, and that's what I want to continue to explore. I'm egalitarian when it comes to private matches. And I don't limit them to young blond dudes either! I like all ages and most sizes and since virtually everything about wrestling turns me on, I can get into just about any fantasy.

Joe:  Yeah?

Kid:  I try to learn as much about what excites and arouses the other guy and then go with it. It takes two to tangle--if the other guy isn't enjoying it totally, then neither will I. For me, it has to be reciprocal to be truly rewarding. When guys say, "We'll just wing it," I say, "Oh, no, we won't." That's a recipe for disaster. We're not mind-readers. I want to know what you're into before we meet. The more you know about the other guy, the better able you are to accommodate his desires and fulfill his fantasies. My goal, always, is to create an experience that both guys are eager to repeat and expand upon, rematch after rematch. I've been lucky to have some longtime and ongoing wrestling "romances."

Joe:  I think sometimes guys say, "Let's just wing it," because they are out of touch with what it is they actually enjoy--and they may even be afraid to name it. That's why I use the blog to explore my own personal "pleasure principle," and I hope it encourages others to do the same. I think we should all become specialists in the various and precise ways we get our rocks off.  

Kid:  For me a guillotine (or on-the-mat abdominal stretch) is not complete until you've pulled your opponent's face toward yours with your lips in close proximity and eyes boring into one another and then see what happens and where it goes next! Lip-locks should be mandatory in every wrestling match. [Laughs.] So should passion.

Joe:  No argument here.

Kid:  The ideal for me is a match which seamlessly meshes wrestling and sex, whatever that happens to be for the two participants, as discussed and agreed upon in advance. I should also say that I'm a huge fan of both facial and full body expressions of agony, or what the French essayist Roland Barthes called "the iconography of pain." He also said, "In wrestling, a man who is down ... fills the eyes of the spectators with the intolerable spectacle of his powerlessness ... even in the depths of their voluntary ignominy, wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible." It's a description which succeeds in being both brilliant and visceral.

Joe:  Given all the variations in taste, how does BG East make so many different people with so many different kinks happy?

Kid:  I maintain a correspondence with quite a few of our customers and fans. They have no inhibitions when it comes to telling me what they like and don't. I try to respond to them all and generally appreciate the feedback. Frequently we act on their requests and suggestions. The only time I get annoyed is when someone dismisses a wrestler because of his body type or age or denigrates a particular style of wrestling. You don't like 22-year-old smooth, blond, barefoot muscle boys in square cuts wrestling in a ring? Fine, but don't disrespect those who do. We offer enough variety for you to find something you do like. In the very next match you might find an older, dark, hairy, booted, beefy man wearing a jockstrap, wrestling on the mats.

Joe:  Are there any kinds of matches you would never set up for BGE?

Kid:  We would never condone a match where there was a distinct likelihood of deliberate violence or injury. If guys want to settle a score, do it elsewhere.

Joe:  Do you see BGE ever going in the direction of boxing or MMA?

Kid:  We've done some boxing and may well do more. I have minimal interest in MMA. It's like a bad virus. So many guys now show up having learned a dollop of BJJ or some other martial art. And a little knowledge of MMA can be a dangerous thing. Personally, I fail to see any artistry in "mount and pound" or much excitement in an endless "guard" position. I suppose there's some primal appeal there, but for me it's primal as in primate. But I can understand the appeal of it .... It's intense. It's an adrenaline rush, for sure.

Joe:  Does BG East stage live shows anymore?

Kid:  We haven't done any live events in a while for a variety of reasons: they're a lot of work, they're not particularly popular with the fans, and they've never sold well. There are also issues of liability, dealing with venue owners and club managers, and wrestlers who show up late or don't show at all. And at most of these venues alcohol is served, and that's a whole other can of worms. I wouldn't totally rule it out if the right opportunity presented itself, but it's not something we're seeking to do. We let our work with NewPro Wrestling fill that particular need.

The Warlord, with "Ref" Leopard

Joe:  I am no businessman, but I can imagine all kinds of ways to diversify the BG East product line. I'm not talking about Jonny Firestorm action figures or The Brooklyn Bodywrecker Sings the Songs of the Season, but T-shirts at least ... and autographed 8x10 stills ... and, c'mon, BGE Wrestling Summer Camps! What do you think, Boss? [Laughs.]

Kid:  Jonny would love to have an action figure, and I'll have you know the BBW has a very fine singing voice! By the way, the BBW is one of my heroes for his work with men's health issues, and Jonny coaches a school wrestling team pro bono. See! Us heels ain't as dumb as we look!

Joe:  Well, I'd think twice before insulting a heel.

Kid:  We've considered T-shirts in the past but decided they were too much work for too little return. ...  A summer camp, eh? We've actually thought about it, but we've got our hands full training our own guys. But, hey, your ideas may be brilliant since I'm no businessman either! I couldn't quote BGE sales and income figures if my life depended on it. And I frankly don't really care all that much, and never really have. I frequently get missives from guys saying, "If you only did what I like, you'd make a gazillion dollars!" Profit has never been my primary motivation--wrestling has. I have an artist's mindset. So long as we stay afloat and can keep the boys on the staff paid and happy, I'm content.

Joe:  What wrestlers have you not yet worked with, but would like to?

Kid:  We don't "poach" wrestlers from other companies. If they approach us, fine. That's different. Some recent additions to our roster came to us via this route. But, generally speaking, we're not interested in retreads or rematches, and we're especially not interested in booking matches which other companies have already taped.

Joe:  I would think that you could name a couple of wrestlers you'd like to work with--even though you would not resort to luring them away from the companies they currently work for.

Kid:  Sure, there are some guys from other companies with whom I'd like to collaborate. I'm a wrestling fan as well as a wrestler and promoter. Having made my pro debut there, I'm still a big fan of British pro wrestling. Some of the best action and wrestlers are burning up the rings there. I'd love to have Zack Sabre work for us. We met him when he was a kid training with one of our co-promoters in the UK. He actually made his video debut on a NewPro Wrestling tape. Zack is a mat wizard, a brilliant little "grafter," as they say in the UK. Of the younger generation of non-BGEast American wrestlers out there, there are a couple of guys from BWN and that Joker from UCW who interest me.

Joe:  Joker is a force of nature.

Kid:  I recently purchased some of his matches. The production values are execrable and the action is illogical, directionless, and often silly, but what potential! Joker has an ebullient personality, but needs firm direction and maybe a valium before taping. [Laughs.] I hope to work with him before he gets too over-exposed or thinks he knows it all. [Laughs.] For a guy without any professional training, he's a diamond in the rough.

Joe:  Let's push the fantasy further. What non-wrestling stars would you like to see wrestle?

Kid:  Being from Boston, I give mad props to my homies, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck. And, no, I don't talk like that usually. [Laughs.] I'm also a big Brad Pitt fan. I think he's hugely underrated. His performance in Snatch is sublime.

Joe:  That's probably my favorite Brad Pitt movie.

Kid:  He'd make a great babyface and a hot heel. And speaking of heels, Alan Rickman would make a very nasty, nefarious heel. I can so see him entering the ring in his Snape robe, then unveiling black leather gear underneath, then low-blowing the Harry or Ron babyface. Jason Statham is a total stud, and the thought of him as a heel in trunks and boots in a ring or even in an octagon, wearing tight squarecuts makes my heart rate rise.

Joe:  Won't somebody PLEASE make that happen! [Laughs.] Anyone in particular you'd like to wrestle?

Kid:  Hands down, Daniel Craig. I loved his performance in Layer Cake, for which he won a well-deserved British Academy Award. Plus, he wants to do a Star Trek. I can so see him as the next Captain Picard. But when he walked out of the water in those tight sky-blue squarecuts in Casino Royale, that was it! He's been my fantasy dream opponent ever since, on the mats, in the ring, and on the beach! Yeah, I'm a total Anglophile. I love me some Britboys!

Joe:  Any pro wrestlers you'd like to wrestle? 

Kid:  Terry Frazier, another Brit. He's pure fucking sex in skimpy trunks and boots, equally hot as a heel or a face, villain or blue-eye.

Joe:  How often do you wrestle these days?

Kid:  I wrestle at least once a week, frequently more often. Fort Lauderdale is a popular place in winter, and there's a steady stream of wrestlers, foreign and domestic, who pass through. I also have some regulars here with whom I meet, and a few I train. It's my constant craving. [Laughs.] Gotta dance! I'm still utterly fascinated by the endless potential of kinetic sculpture inherent in wrestling. A crafty unexpected submission hold I've never seen before will still give me massive instant wood. [Laughs.] And I'll be, "Damn! why didn't I think of that?"

Joe:  So do you follow any wrestling discussion boards? Read any wrestling magazines, go to pro wrestling shows?

Kid:  I'm a moderator on a Yahoo group, which only means that I occasionally contribute BGE photos. I've stopped participating in others because of the banality of the comments and the cowardice of the owners in censoring any political or social commentary. Christ, we have but one life!  I choose not to live it in fear of controversy, dialogue, or argument. I regularly read Cage Thunder's blog, your blog, and Bard's, but that's about it. I haven't looked at a wrestling magazine in years. I occasionally go to local pro shows, but I usually end up being appalled.

Joe:  Appalled?

Kid:  I attribute it to what I call professional wrestling's fundamental conceit: Musicians know their charts, dancers know their steps, actors know their lines, but pro wrestlers largely wing it.

Joe:  So it's not "scripted"?

Kid:  The two wrestlers will know the opening and the finish and some "high spots" in between, but otherwise they improvise, communicating as best they can through gestures and whispers and through the ref as a conduit between the two, and half the possibility of error is reduced because holds are always applied on one side of the body. But as any good actor knows, improv at its best succeeds only about 90 to 95 percent of the time, and getting to even that point requires extraordinary skill and timing, great instincts, and years of experience. For that other 5 to 10 percent, you're left with egg on your face, and in pro wrestling that is deadly.

Joe:  Deadly, how?

Kid:  The illusion is destroyed, and pro wrestling absolutely depends on the willing suspension of disbelief. So what we have in pro wrestling today, especially in the indies, as well as among all these other gay wrestling companies, is the spectacle of so-called wrestlers trying to "wing it" when they are ill equipped and lacking the training and experience to pull it off. Unfortunately, promoters are unwilling to spend the time to adequately train their performers or to insist that they properly rehearse for that specific performance. Rookie wrestlers are afraid to admit that they are unprepared, for fear of being dissed by the veterans. It's a pernicious circle, and the biggest loser is the audience.

Joe:  Well, you're a tough audience, given all that you know about the business.

Kid:  On the other hand, we go to the UK every year and generally see a pro show or two over there for NewProWrestling.com, and those we generally enjoy. We taped one this past October, and it was terrific. Terry Frazier ... Oh my! I better stop here before I really get myself in trouble!

Joe:  Any parting shots?

Kid:  Yoga and confession. Yoga because it works the body fully, inside and out. It is really the best overall exercise for sustaining a long career in participatory wrestling. Not bad for nookie, either! And confession ... by which I mean, "Spill the beans." I can't tell you how many wrestlers I know who dive back into the closet as soon as the prospect of a romance with a non-wrestler arises.

Joe:  Ah, the "closet wrestler"!

Kid:  We often joke about it. "Oops! Haven't heard from so-and-so in a while! He must have a new boyfriend!" Such relationships seldom end very well. How could they when you've failed to reveal an important aspect of your being? I tell my friends that it's the first thing they need to tell a prospective partner.

Joe:  It can be hard to find other gay guys willing to take an interest in wrestling seriously.  

Kid:  At the very least most guys think wrestling is butch, if not downright sexy. And if you don't tell him, then what? Abstinence? Do you know how many so-called abstinent guys repeatedly engage me in horny chat on line? If not abstinence, what? Wrestling on the sly? Another recipe for relationship and mental health disaster.

Joe:  People sometimes give up a lot of who they are for the sake of a relationship, I guess.

Kid:  Accept who you are. Come to terms with it. Shakespeare again: "To thine own self be true!" And what's wrong with liking wrestling? It's far less kinky than many other fetishes. A lot of guys are alive today because their proclivities were intrinsically tied to wrestling and not to the more usual forms of male sexuality. Regrettably, internalized homophobia is still very prevalent. I mean just look at the numbers of guys on wrestling personals and social networking sites who hide, literally, behind masks or post headless photos. That mindset really makes you feel you're living in a pre-Stonewall world. You know the world today doesn't really give a shit that wrestling makes your dick hard. If they do, it's their issue, not yours.

Painting by Tom Jones, currently hanging in Kid Leopard's office

13 comments:

  1. Great interview. Best wishes to Kid Leopard, who has provided me with hours of pleasure through his company for, is it over 20 years now?

    One of my favorite parts of receiving the old BGEast catalogs in the mail years and years ago were the "American Classics" and other titles from prior years of pro-wrestling shows they had clips of and the descriptions, they would compile matches on VHS. Sure wish those were available on DVD with a section on the website.

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  2. Thanks, Joe, for a very insightful interview with the Kid. I've admired his work and his contributions for a long time and was pleased to learn so much more about him as an individual. Yet another reason your blog is among the best.

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  3. I find this interview fascinating on multiple levels most people could never imagine. I'd like to add a couple things:

    1) On memorable dicks at BGE (the good kind, not the personality, lol), if one is specifically referencing straight up rock hard dripping cock captured on tape, one can't dispute Kid Vicious, Lance Jeffers or Gabriel Ross's phallic statements. But if one expands the question to not seen on BGE tape, Justin Pierce deserves some dick props. Just looking at his Playgirl spread, which one can see a few stills of on the Arena if one looks, that boy was huge. It's really an embarrassment of riches in his case. He's already on the short list of guys who were proverbially "too pretty for wrestling," and his body was sick. And he was quite athletic, what with the dropkicks and kip ups in most of his ring matches. But, hey, that only added to his genuine "fantasyman" appeal, not to mention the surreptitious bonus of watching his basket wrestle within his unlined trunks as the rest of him wrestled without. Oh yeah, Joshua Goodman gets props for that whole not naked but nothing left to the imagination tip, too, along with Jobe Zander. One of my fave gay wrestling conceits is the whole salacious without salacious illusion. Love it.

    Honorable mention to Brad Rochelle for his well-proportioned, perfect extension of his physique schlong as also seen in PG before it decided to suck, as well as, of all people, Rio Garza. One of the nice asides to being a gay wrestling fan is stumbling across the guys like Garza and Justin and Brad (or a few years ago, Chris Bruce and Troy Baker) who have "model" looks in a modeling context. Rio's one I only saw a few months ago when I wasn't looking when I happened to be flipping through one of those uber-expensive quasi-porn but technically "art" gigantic hardback books at Outwrite, one of the few remaining gay bookstores. Anyway, I was flipping thru an oddly titled one called "Suburban Pleasures" and right there was Garza, sitting, wearing a shirt but bottomless, with his legs drawn up and his pride and joy at 12 o'clock, while he's got one hand in his hair and this expression as if saying, "Hey, I'm just sitting here," which always titillates/cracks me up. Not huge, a la Justin, but, really quite appealing. After all, is not part of the "jobber fantasy" as we often call it, correctly or not, the not so subtle extension of that wrestler as submissive, which inherently is a metaphor for being a bottom, by choice or by pseudo-force? So, really, his flip side is the real money maker.

    And for the second thing... Oh, I can't remember. I'm all distracted-y from my previous comments.

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  4. Thanks so much to both of you for this interview. After many years of pleasure from BGE it's nice to hear some personal history from Kid. I am very grateful for all that Kid has given to the gay community.

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  5. Oh, I remember the other thing. Just to expand on KL's comments on the jobber tip... We use the word as a general catch-all for any wrestler who loses consistently, but by the true definition of the word, it doesn't have to be. In fact, if you really play it out, on the gay scene jobber could actually refer to a wrestler who not only wins but dominates. It's like this...

    As KL said, "jobbers" were used by the big feds as fodder on TV (mainly in the 80s and a little of the 90s) to build big name wrestlers leading to the big house shows where they would tangle with other big names, which was where the money was in wrestling back before cable TV got huge ad rates and massive, internationally distributed pay per views. Invariably the jobbers got beaten cleanly and simply if the name was a face or, in the case of a monster heel, absolutely destroyed to the point of KOed, stretchered out, put in bodybags or "humiliated" by having a flower or a dollar bill stuffed in his mouth a la "exotic" Adrian Street or the Million Dollar Man or whatever that heel's gimmick was. But, that was only because the paying audience for that product almost exclusively and automatically rated the guys who won as better than those who didn't. The winner was the star, the draw.

    When you shift the focus to a gay wrestling context, where the audience is often more interested in the guy who loses, the equation shifts. Quite often the guy who ends up KOed or pinned or screaming, "No more, please, no more!" is the star of the match, the reason most folks shell out 20 to 50 bucks for the tape, and the guy who dominates is often "just" the conduit who does it. As such, the guy losing, suffering and selling is the actual big name, and the guy dominating the lesser known. Which makes him, under that context, the jobber. Crafty, no?

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  6. Wonderful interview! It is nice to find out that Kid Leopard is a man of intelligence. I am sorry to learn of his cancer. Please tell him a long-time customer wishes him good health.

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  7. Let me add my two cents worth. Like the others, I have been a fan of BGE since its start and of BG before that, but especially a fan of KL. No one, bar none, has turned me on the way he did when he wrestled. I loved his novel and creative submission holds and the way he could play with and totally dominate an opponent, I mean victim. And I agree with him as to WWE being a cartoon, I used to love watching pro wrestling but McMahon has turned it into a meaningless caricature of itself, boring, endlessly repetitive with noting new or creative, the same old same old every week. Thank God for BGE and KL for continuing to fuel my wrestling fantasies. Thanks KL and thanks Joe for the great interview.

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  8. Excellent interview! ... it was great to be able to read thoughts and comments from the enigmatic Kid Leopard. Joe, your blog just gets better and better. Kudos all around.

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  9. You've captured such a compelling conversation, Joe! This interview is simply wonderful. It's a pleasure to get so much more context in KL's truly inspired career, and to get a glimpse of his humor, intellect and generosity (as well as yours!). I picture the two of you smoking cigars and holding brandy snifters in a gentlemen's club... well, a gentlemen's club with an attached pro-wrestling ring. Great job, Joe!

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  10. This is, as so many have said, a brilliant and fascinating interview with an extraordinary man.

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  11. Great interview! Was really nice to see the story of "The Boss's" Life ... he is truly a good man and a good friend too! Having being a part of the BGE family now since 2006 I can say he is truly a good person and his work is fantastic... I have been able to learn so much from him...

    KL - bossman as I always call him will forever be a friend..

    Sincerely

    Mitch Colby

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  12. Kid Leopard is amazing. I dig his truthfulness and he knows what people want to see! Keep up the great job. More hairy chest in the future!

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  13. Wow! I'm embarrassed to say I'm only now catching this interview but what a great one!

    You have a great style for interviewing that covers a wide range in a short time, provides a sense of history, and brings in the personal as well as the analytical while still being compelling.

    My mouth literally fell open to learn that BWN is one of the few that Kid Leopard finds interesting and creative after BGE. On behalf of all the guys here, thank you! That is truly high praise coming from Kid Leopard.

    BGE will always be the original and largest producer that got me interested in the industry, with the greatest variety, and I was most certainly a fan before starting BWN, and still am.

    Thanks for the props, squash that cancer, and here's to many more years of continued success sir!

    (By the way, if I had a nickel for every time someone told me I have the best job in the world...as I'm doubled over this computer editing, packaging, fulfilling, promoting, etc.;-))

    Alex Arias
    Black Wrestling Network (BWN Video)
    www.blackwrestling.com
    www.facebook.com/blackwrestling
    www.twitter.com/blackwrestling

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