Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fat man and little people

"When all actions are mathematically calculated, they also take on a stupid quality." -Theodor Adorno

"People to whom nothing has ever happened cannot understand the unimportance of events." -T.S. Eliot

His name was King Kong Bundy and he was a mountain of a man. "Big trouble comes in 450-pound packages," he said, "like King Kong Bundy," thumbing himself in the chest.

King (as in royalty) Kong (as in King Kong) Bundy (as in Ted).

He wanted Hillbilly Jim most of all, but if "those other midgets" -- those midgets, not his midgets (Little Tokyo or Lord Littlebrook) but those midgets -- if those midgets get in his way, Bundy had a pledge:

He would squash all three of them.

"They'll have to pick you three up with a platter!" Bundy vowed.

As no less than Gorilla Monsoon would observe, "King Kong Bundy, obviously looking to make a great squash out of some midgets."
"To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend." -Derrida

The people's poet; the Belvederean bard.

But on that day he was high above the crowd. It was Wrestlemania III: March 29, 1987, in the Pontiac Silverdome. I lived three hours away, but to Bob Uecker, my ten-year-old self was not part of his world.

Flanked on one side: Mr. Monsoon. To Uecker's left, it was Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

Uecker, drawn by celebrity and lucre. He was at the peak of his game. Mr. Belvedere was halfway through its fabled run. And Uecker had it all. Wrestlemania III was the cultural midpoint between the fictional Owens home of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and glamorous Hollywood. Away from the shadow of Christopher Hewett and Ilene Graff, he arrived to the Silverdome triumphant.

He was there to announce, and he would announce the balls out of that shit.
"Domination delegates the physical violence on which it rests to the dominated." -Theodor Adorno

Hillbilly Jim was not going to be mistaken for royalty, much less King Kong Bundy.

The ascent was so startling that there's little sense in exaggerating the obvious. Mud Lick, Kentucky one moment, and the next, international renown.

Hillbilly Jim strode big in overalls and hat, the pride of Appalachia. Jim, we can safely assume, has never read Cormac McCarthy, but McCarthy's early works (Outer Dark, Suttree) may well have been composed with Jim and his kin in mind. A simple person, a person of dirt and struggle: that was Hillbilly Jim.

"I'm not really worried about myself in this match here," said the hillbilly, "because I know how King Kong Bundy is and I believe I can take whatever he dishes out. But I'm worried about my little buddies here, and I'm here to tell you ... I'm going to do my doggest."
"In his state of complete powerlessness the individual perceives the time he has left to live as a brief reprieve." -Theodor Adorno
What distinguished the match was not the timeless spectacle of oppression (Bundy) against the masses (Hillbilly Jim). It was the midgets. "Midgets" -- a term now in disfavor.

Little people are little people and midgets are an epithet.

There are no epithets on this blog. Those midgets, they were a cross-section of the world. Bundy was brute power and Jim was the sweet spirit of the people.

Those midgets were humanity.

Little Haiti: a symbol of those oppressed by colonialism's madness. Little Beaver: wither the white man for what he did to the Americas.

Little Beaver.

Little Tokyo: The pain of Japanese automation in the heart of American labor and its struggling auto industry. Lord Littlebrook: England's vicious class system would new allow a little person to be among the elites.

Little Tokyo, in younger days.

And surely, it was no accident that the victims of modernity found themselves in the squared circle against a "King." The impoverished white man of Appalachia had anointed himself their liberator.

Before they stepped into the ring, the hillbilly swept Little Haiti and Little Beaver into his arms. He carried them, the way that he carried the mud of his youth. As the banjos played, they rolled to the ring as one. They dosey-doed before the crowd.
"Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane." -Theodor Adorno
Most people have stages where they are interested in something regrettable -- "Ice, Ice Baby," "Mama's Family," etc. From second through fifth grade, my interest was professional wrestling. Baseball and other real sports came along and I didn't think about "Nature Boy" Ric Flair or Greg "The Hammer" Valentine after that.

A few weeks ago I followed a link to a post about Wrestlemania III. It was all coming back to me. My inner third-grader got inspired, and then he got greedy, and then he ordered from Amazon. Later, a package came to my office -- Wrestlemania III. I balanced it with Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale Univ. Press 2006) and Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt (Random House 2003).

It's good to have interests.
"The worst enemy of life, freedom and the common decencies is total anarchy; their second worst enemy is total efficiency." -Aldous Huxley
At this point, there are no more images.

Some struggles are better played in the life of the mind.

The midget triple tag-team: Hillybilly Jim, Little Haiti and Little Beaver, fighting King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo.

Uecker fears the midgets. "I don't want my kneecaps rearranged," he says. "I'm doing fine the way I am right now." And then, says Uecker, "Beaver reminds me of a girl I used to go without about 25 years ago. She had the same kind of haircut."

The four little people unleash. All four wrestle at once. Gorilla Monsoon observes that the referee will struggle to keep them "all in line" at once. Ventura observes that the little people move at such fast paces, referees have difficulty maintaining order over the matches.

We know what Monsoon and Ventura were saying: That power of the law is in a constant struggle to retain its mastery of the oppressed.

"You're part of history now," Monsoon informs Uecker.

"I'm telling you gentleman," Uecker replies, "this is the greatest."
"True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power." -Milan Kundera
The brutality begins with Ventura. He expresses hope that Bundy will "crush" one of the midgets. "They'll have to bring Aunt Jemima's spatula out there," he says.

Uecker agrees. "Marinated mushrooms, that's what it will be."

Cannibalizing midgets is popular, but so is risque entendre and misogyny. As Little Beaver unleashes swift but ineffective attacks on Bundy, Uecker observes: "I think there's a lot of Beaver all over this place."

"Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them." -T.S. Eliot
Little Beaver faces death.

The hillbilly is immobilized. The King wants to destroy.

Bundy lifts Little Beaver above his head and slams him to the ground. As the crowd boos, Bundy raises a finger and shrieks at the masses.

"Is he gonna splash him?" Ventura wonders aloud.

Yes. And an elbow lands on the small Native American's chest.
"The hardest hit, as everywhere, are those who have no choice." -Theodor Adorno
The hillbilly cradles the broken Little Beaver in his arms.

"They can throw him in a garbage bag," observes Venture, "and stick him in the dumpster."
"We humans are an extremely important manifestation of the replication bomb, because it is through us - through our brains, our symbolic culture and our technology - that the explosion may proceed to the next stage and reverberate through deep space." -Richard Dawkins
The match is over. The referee intercedes. It is too late.


Shorty said...

Awesome with a capital A

Passion of the Weiss said...

This is like the best thing McSweeney's never did.