What do Andre the Giant, Tito Santana, King Kong Bundy and the Junkyard Dog have in common? Well, I'll tell you.
It was 1985 and my daughter Brenna, a huge World Wrestling Federation fan, dreamed of having the infamous wrestlers at her 6th birthday party. Her mom, Susie, and I explained to her that none of the wrestlers were probably going to be able to make it because of a small prior commitment they had called WrestleMania.
It was March 31, 1985 and the first WrestleMania was being held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was reported the attendance was almost 20,000 people.
Not to disappoint my then young daughter, her mom and I decided to have a mini-WrestleMania themed birthday party for her. I believe Vince McMahon, the controversial WrestleMania promoter, had one redeeming quality to him. As her mom and I explained to our young and trusting Brenna, McMahon called us one day and asked for permission to always have WrestleMania around her April 2 birthday. We said “yes” and the legendary birthday parties began in or home.
I had the easy part. I sent out invitations letting all in attendance know they had to come dressed as their favorite WWF wrestler. That included parents who stayed to watch the fun. It must have looked like clown cars at a circus to our neighbors as our guests pulled up to or home. I often have wondered what they thought as car loads of children and adults dressed as “Randy Macho Man Savage,” “Jimmy Superfly Snuka,” “Ricky the Dragon Steamboat” and other mini-versions of famous wrestlers of that era came walking up the sidewalk to our home.
Dressed as “Jake the Snake Roberts,” I took care of the cold adult beverages, barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers while Susie did all the hard work of baking the birthday cake, preparing goodies bags for all children and making sure “Hulk Brenna Hogan’s” younger twin brothers Sean and Aaron never took too seriously their role as the “British Bulldogs” with their cousins. And of course, Brenna’s older sister, “Miss Elizabeth” Nikki always seemed to be the ringmaster of cousin wrestling mayhem.
I don’t remember how old Brenna was when we stopped having the WrestleMania parties, but we sure do remember them. I asked Brenna, who just turned 41 on April 2, what she remembered the most about her WWF parties. Her first response was, “I can’t believe how much work it must have been for mom.” She is right. Her mom never complained and always seemed to enjoy the 50-plus guests who would show up for Brenna’s parties. It seemed to be when Susie was happiest … with a house full of family.
Brenna also said, “Dad, it was like our own Super Bowl party but with WWF characters.” Ask any of her cousins and they can tell you exactly which WWF character they dressed as for Brenna’s parties.
True to his word, Vince McMahon just held WrestleMania 35 on April 7 at MetLife Stadium’s with what has been reported as a sold-out crowd of 82,265 fans from all 50 states and 68 countries attending.
Sounds like fun, but impossible to match the fun at Brenna’s WWF birthday parties.
DOLORES HUERTA’S BIRTHDAY
Buck Owens once said he could sell out anywhere in the world except Bakersfield. I offer that the same “taking-for-granted in our own backyard” philosophy applies to legendary Kern County resident Dolores Huerta. Some consider Dolores as the most influential labor activist of the 20th century. As the recipient of many honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, Dolores is rarely publicly celebrated in our own community.
I know Dolores casually at best, but to the community she has helped elevate, she is beloved and respected. Without exception, every time I have seen Dolores, she is always humble, generous with a smile and with kind words for my family. Her diminutive physical size should never fool you as to the magnitude of her national stature and influence. She is one tough lady.
Whatever your political perspective you hold, there is no denying Dolores’s youthful vigor, sharpness of mind and dedication to advocating for youth and the working poor.
Happy belated 89th birthday, Dolores!