I’m officially old. Tonight proved it. But it also exposed something a little less obvious and a lot more significant.
I just noticed (via someone’s “tweet”) that the infamous wrestler/manager Lou Albano passed away at the age of 73. I have to admit that, while I don’t watch professional wrestling any more, when I was a kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my Dad and I did a little bonding in front of the TV. There weren’t many channels back then. There was no internet. “Exciting” video games like “Pong” and “Pacman” hadn’t quite hit the market. So, when bad weather kept me from playing ten continuous hours of baseball with my friends, television was the primary form of entertainment.
It must have rained quite a bit back before “global warming” kicked in. Dad and I would watch a comical assortment of ethnically and morally categorized wrestlers bludgeon each other for hours at a time. (“Political correctness” obviously hadn’t been invented yet either.) Albano was one of the “bad guys”. He was loud, obnoxious, out of shape and dirty (literally and tactically). He was one of the people everyone loved to hate. I had no great affinity for “Captain Lou” or any other stereotypical villains of the “squared circle”.
But, just on a whim and with questionable sincerity, I decided tonight to post “RIP Captain Lou Albano” on my Facebook profile. I also included this comment: “Let’s see how many of my ‘old’ friends remember this guy.” What happened next was absolutely astounding.
Within an hour of my original post, I had accumulated two pages of comments, some (sadly) from people I thought were “just kids”. They didn’t eulogize Albano however. No, much to my amazement, everyone started reminiscing and naming their favorite “old school” wrestlers, personalities and “catch phrases”. The list was extensive and it included names like George “The Animal” Steele, Chief Jay Strongbow, Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Ivan Putsky, Freddie Blassie, “The Grand Wizard of Wrestling”, Andre the Giant, Killer Kowalski, and of course, the “Pencil Necked Geek” a.k.a. scrawny young announcer, Vince McMahon. It really “took me back” and I caught myself chuckling and waiting anxiously for each new entry.
My roster of Facebook friends is probably typical of most in my demographic category. Mainly married or divorced professionals with kids of varying ages. Bankers, lawyers, IT folks, massage therapists, men, women, liberal, conservative, black, white and brown. Quite a mix of characters actually, and a fun group to boot.
What I found quite intriguing, aside from how willing everyone was to “date” themselves by commenting, was that the conversation bonded us all so quickly and seamlessly. Race, gender, profession and party affiliation became irrelevant. We all just took a break from the “rat race” and jumped on the nostalgia bandwagon. People who have never met in person started interacting with each other. The business guru from Atlanta talked with the stay at home mom from New Jersey. A hardcore “techy” chatted with a Facebook “newbie” who can barely check his email. It was really interesting to watch.
So what do I take from this experience?
- My long term memory is working just fine, thank you. (Now, if only I could remember what I did with my pants!).
- My friends are not vain. They clearly don’t care who knows how old they are!
- Everyone needs a diversion now and then.
- Reminiscing about “the old days” bonds “old coots” like us together, regardless of backgrounds or current circumstances.
- A silly pop culture reference from 30+ years ago can trigger a powerful range of emotions and, in my case anyway, fond memories of family and friends.
- New media and technology can cause some serious “flashbacks”! (Remember, children of the 60’s and 70’s, it’s not the drugs. Go right ahead and blame Twitter and Facebook!)
So I guess I have to close by thanking Captain Lou Albano and all of his professional wrestling cronies for the years of entertainment which mysteriously yet compellingly resurfaced on my Facebook page. I don’t regret chanting: “Albano is a bum” in 1971, but I do now recognize the significance of the Captain’s contributions to a simpler society and unique TV genre.
RIP “Captain Lou” Albano–and thanks for the memories!