"Be a man." Words to live by, maybe, but also words to cough up into the ether of self-reflection, if you happen to be a man that really isn't one.
I can remember pouring home from a suburban mall situation, circa 1985, with my freshly oranged Sun-In-blond front, all John Taylor in intent, only more, er, Boca Raton. Mom's able jaw dropped into a face of nonamusement, naturally. "Why are you such a sissy?" she said (although I'm sure she wouldn't remember that, selectively). "Why can't you just be a man?"
Fast-forward 17 years to a full blond head, one of Annie Lennox intent, and it still pops up every now and then. A cough here, a suicidal diatribe there, and maybe just one or two drunken falls into coat hooks producing suitable 911 drama, and there it is again. The boyfriend, a "man" by all accounts except that, well, he sleeps with them (and I say "them" because I'm beyond suspicious, dramatically), and out of his coughing mouth comes my mother's words, only packaged in a John Wayne Southern drawl. "You gotta toughen up," he stares, a little bit meanly. "Be a man."
Funny then that I should be on the telephone with Macho Man Randy Savage, he of WWE (or WWF, depending on your age) legend, who has just released an album titled, coyly, "Be a Man." Who is this magic demon who is trying to kill me (or give me a sex change)? Who, I beg you? Who?
OK, it's me. Trying to be funny again.
Anyway, Savage (or Macho, as I like to call him) is a remarkable 50 years old now and frightfully buff. A gay man's dream, you might think quietly to yourself -- before your mother jumps into that noggin with a rolling pin and cackles, "Be a man!" By now a sort of tragic legend, he's opted for the obligatory, um, rap album to cap his first half-century. And I must say that it is -- predictably and entirely -- unlistenable. So wretched is this slice of deep-bass, Deep South opportunism that I find myself playing it into the background of a Star Jones legalese fake orgasm on "The View." Yes, that bad.
But for humor's sake, I'm gonna pretend it's not that bad -- kind of like a fake orgasm of my own, I suppose -- as I engage Macho on the phone. I'm wearing pink, I should say. He can't see me, and I have to have some pride.
"This is Billy," I cleverly answer my cell, silently adding, "not a man!"
"Yeah, this is Randy Savage calling for my interview," he whispers in my ear.
You know, I think I'm starting to like him. But, then, I'm easy like Tuesday morning.
"A little out of left field," I caution. "Y'know, this album thing."
"Yeah, well, I've been around music all my life, and I saw this opportunity come up and I thought, 'Why not?'"
I've taken pen to paper and, in record time, have arrived at something like 437 reasons why not, without even thinking (or drinking). Let's see, we'll start with the seven deadly sins, swing by a convenience store called "quality," and wind up around a mile-marker reading "humility," only to meet the unfortunate death of an oncoming continuing interview.
"But rap and wrestling don't traditionally mix," I quiz without any answer book. "Do they?"
"Nah, so at first I thought, 'heheheh.'" He giggles like a schoolgirl. "But then it worked out."
OK, to be honest my interest in wrestling is a little deeper-seated, though long-forgotten, than I would care to admit. For one, when a certain wee lad was trying to "be a man" in 1977, he watched Dusty Rhodes and sipped his dad's Bud while pretending it all was real. Kind of like the History Channel now. Then there was the unfortunate incident involving Cyndi Lauper and Capt. Lou Albano in the '80s that I had to watch, for reasons obvious to all of me. I wonder if Randy was in the "Goonies 'R' Good Enough" video with all the other wrestlers, but quietly, as to not be overheard by the aging police.
OK, back to the subject at hand. And the hands of my subject ... STOP IT!
"I just want to make sure that rappers know that I don't mean any disrespect to rappers," he backpedals. "I'm just trying to bring something else to it."
I try to say something about how hard-edged the whole affair is, while looking for support from Star Jones, only she's faded into the unforgiving beige of Barbara Walters. Where to turn?
"Well, that said, I have a tribute song on there," he adds, unnecessarily.
Said tribute song is one of those slow-jam, talk-over things that made me stop masturbating to LL Cool J pictures some years back and is dedicated to yet another wrestler with whom I am unfamiliar, Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig. It's called "My Perfect Friend," and it's excruciating.
The funny part is that Savage hardly wrote any of the album. It just fit him. Kind of like a wrestling singlet, I suppose.
Likewise of (no) merit, is the title cut/call to arms, "Be a Man" (which he says he did "actually" write). It's directed at the similarly hairy and big Hulk Hogan, who Savage has a longstanding rivalry with -- and who also, incidentally, is very blond.
"He's all talk," says Macho. "He's a punk."
And, likewise, something like 50. What's become of adults today? They used to be so innocent.
"So, like, will you answer my biggest question?" I tiptoe into the bathroom to throw up. "Is wrestling real?"
"Oh no, it's not real," he shocks and awes. "But you do get hurt."
"You know what, Randy?" I wipe my mouth. "I didn't know what to expect talking to you. I was afraid you were a-gonna come on the phone and scream at me, perhaps tell me to 'Be a man.' But you seem really down to earth."
"Wow," he charms me back into my chair. "That's the biggest compliment anyone has ever given me."
He's nice enough. I just hope he doesn't read this and snap me like a Slim Jim.
I am not that much of a man.