Tuesday, June 23, 2015

EXOTICA: Review Adrian Street, the author

“EXOTIC” ADRIAN STREET has been many things over the decades: an innovative professional wrestler who was ahead of his time in many ways, a rock musician, a movie actor…and an author.
In recent years, the English-born grappler – who enjoyed some success in America in the 1980s with his outrageous, punk/androgynous ring persona – has been penning a series of autobiographies (he’s up to Book Six and counting).
But his first stab at writing was 28 years ago with the oddball, semi-autobiographical novel Shake, Wrestle ‘N’ Roll, the first book ever to be published on pink paper (according to Adrian).
It’s interesting to compare this book with 2012’s My Pink Gas Mask, Adrian’s first instalment of his autobiographical series.
Shake, Wrestle ‘N’ Roll tells the story of Adrian, the lead singer of English rock band The Orange Milk Bar. During a gig in the USA, he comes to grief at the hands of three security guys – Krusher, Killer and Krippler – who are also vicious wrestling heels, better known as The KKK.
From his hospital bed, the battered singer vows vengeance against the evil trio. Luckily, Adrian’s also a trained wrestler, who never went into the mat game in England, instead joining a band.
Returning to the gym, Adrian trains like a demon and challenges The KKK, one by one, to matches. Taking on a camp persona to befuddle and upset his homophobic enemies, they accept his challenge and do their best to destroy him.
However, through skill, pseudo-gay shenanigans and sheer luck, our hero vanquishes them all. Meanwhile, thanks to his success in the wrestling ring and nationwide TV exposure, his band – renamed Adrian And The Pile-Drivers – become a huge attraction.
Everything ends well for our hero, except for one quirky twist right at the end, which I’ll leave for interested readers to find out for themselves. Let’s just say that evil sometimes can triumph in the weirdest of ways.
Shake, Wrestle ‘N’ Roll is a fun-but-strange read. Having read his REAL autobiography (well, part one at least) certain chapters are truthful descriptions of Adrian’s childhood and how he became a professional wrestler. In one chapter, which on the surface is describing Killer’s teenage years, he brags to his mates about all the women he’s bedded (which is a lie). When one lass takes him up on the offer to have sex, Killer blanches and runs away. I recognised this anecdote as I’d also read it in My Pink Gas Mask…except the true story was that it was ADRIAN who was the braggart who got caught out by a girl and fled in embarrassment. I found it fascinating that a true incident from his life had been appropriated for a different character in his novel.
Other chapters, however, come across as wish-fulfilment fantasy. Adrian – who in real life did well in the territories era, but never got a significant run in the big leagues such as WWF or WCW – is portrayed here as a wrestling and rock’n’roll superstar on a Hulk Hogan/David Lee Roth level. And why not? It’s his novel after all.
Still, the storytelling is a bit suspect. Apart from his initial thrashing at the hands of The KKK, there’s never any sense our hero’s in any real danger after that. The book moves steadily from one ring encounter to another where he outwits and/or out-wrestles his foes. The outcome – Adrian’s total and utter victory – is never in doubt.
The casual racism and homophobia jars in 2015, but one has to take in account when the book was written, and Adrian in his own way champions the gay cause throughout the book. Still, calling this book un-PC would be an understatement.
By comparison, My Pink Gas Mask is a comprehensive examination of Adrian’s childhood from his birth in 1940 to his leaving his family home in a rough’n’tough Welsh mining town in the  late 50s to move to London and become a pro wrestler. It’s a compelling read, if a tad disturbing.
The one theme that runs through the book is VIOLENCE. Adrian’s parents were violent, his brother was violent, his friends were violent. Not surprisingly, Adrian was a violent child who grew up to be a violent teenager. From the outside, his childhood seems terrifying, but it’s portrayed as quite normal in the book.
His father was a Japanese POW and Adrian goes into horrific detail on what he endured while in captivity. It seems pretty obvious he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he returned home from the war. His behaviour towards Adrian is distressing to read at times.
But it’s not all street fights and domestic abuse. There are some genuinely funny anecdotes throughout the book. Adrian has a way with words, that’s for sure.
The one thing both books have in common is the unfortunate, inevitable consequences of self-publishing: they are riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. I’m a magazine subeditor by trade and I found it extremely frustrating seeing commas, full stops and capital letters constantly being misused. I’m not sure whether regular punters would be as annoyed as I was, but it certainly made both books a little harder to read.
Adrian, if you’re ever looking for a good proofreader to work on future instalments of your autobiography, drop me a line on Facebook. I’ll do it for free copies of your books.
That bugbear aside, if you’re a fan of “Exotic” Adrian Street, English wrestling or 1980s American “rock’n’roll” rasslin’, I would recommend both Shake, Wrestle ‘N’ Roll and My Pink Gas Mask.
These books and others can be ordered direct from Adrian at www.bizarebazzar.com/books.htm.


Blogger Wayne Ghostman said...

Rock on Adrian. I vaguely remember watching several feuds with Jimmy Valiant on the rare Saturdays that I could pick up a Baltimore channel from 45 miles away. Just one taste and I was hooked. I spent every Saturday trying to tune in that UHF channel....wire hangers, aluminum foil, 1 hand on the antenna and 1 foot in the air.....whatever I could do to see this rare glimpse into a far away wrestling territory. Only having WWF and occassionally AWA as my only wrestling options, save for the weekends I could convince mom to visit his sister so that I could watch NWA on TBS (6:05).

Oh, those were the days. For some reason, his accent coupled with his flamboyant ways and his valet/manager (Miss Linda if I recall) always captivated me. I always rooted for Jimmy Valiant.....how could you not cheer for the Boogie Woogie Man?

Even though it was rare for me to get that station to tune in and actually be able to watch it, I still I remember those days and seeing such things as the steel chain match, and one with the leather glove (Coal miner's glove match???). To me it was much more interesting than the stuff I was getting from the WWF - Bob Backlund, Iron Shiek, the Strongbows, Andre and John Studd. If it wasn't for Superfly Snuka (damn you Piper and that coconut!) and the Junkyard Dog (the Big Thump!), I probably wouldn't have even been watching WWF.

Thank goodness for people like Bill Apter and quality magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I would spend the entire trip to the grocery store in the magazine isle reading those magazines!

3:13 PM  

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