Dick Slater:
I drove down a quiet residential street and stopped in front of a Florida bungalow set among lush subtropical vegetation.  Sitting in a lawn chair in the center of the front yard was a huge man.  Golden hair, golden skin, golden smile.  His head, neck, chest and limbs were beyond that of ordinary mortals, the biggest I have ever seen in a man sitting at his ease.  Abdomen and hips were moderate.  There was not a scrap of fat.  Everything about him was drumhead tight.  Only the enormous features of his face had any slack, although now drawn into a welcoming grin.  He was a golden goblin, massive even for a creature of myth.  I had entered the presence of Dick Slater.

Dick Slater, Van Richard Slater, Dirty Dick Slater and a number of other nicknames, he was the real life incarnation of the Al Capp character Earthquake Muldoon, world’s dirtiest rassler.  He had inspired crowds to frenzies of hate and love, had endured enormous adulation and abuse, all of which he seemed to shrug off.  He invited me in to discuss terms.  He was going to write his autobiography and I would help.  He was offering a larger percentage of what the book might make than I was willing to accept.  We came to a compromise.

From childhood I had wanted to write, had written, had enjoyed writing.  I would sit on my grandfather’s knee dictating tales which he carefully copied out in his even, dignified and almost illegible hand.  My own writing was never even and was even less legible, but eventually I learned to type and the world was my chocolate éclair.  On entering adulthood I found a darker passion had crept from the caverns of my soul.  I wanted to write something somebody might want to read.  With rare exceptions, this higher ambition was beyond me. 

I had brought along note paper, a tape recorder and had reviewed my tricks for getting people to pour out their deep concerns.  He said he had stories to tell, and without invitation started one.  Suddenly I was alone in a far off darkened city.  They had singing towers all over the city, which was silent in the darkness except that they would go up into the towers and sing all night.  I cannot remember his exact words.  I begged him to stop and I would switch on the recorder.  When I did, the flow ceased.  The contraption cast its own spell.  Perhaps this was not going to be so easy after all. 

As I left that afternoon he had a question.  “If this isn’t all about money, what are you doing it for?”

“Who wants to be on a winning team?”

“Everybody wants to be on a winning team,” he acknowledged. 

At first I transcribed from the tape.  Then I started looking for a transcriptionist.  I finally found one who was fast and accurate.  I would compare her text with the tape recording, but as weeks grew to months and years she got so good I could work from the draft.  A major preoccupation was punctuation.  There is a general belief that people do not speak grammatically and are in fact rather incoherent.  And it would seem to be so, but I found that if I looked long enough I could almost always turn the word stream into perfectly good Standard English.  Complex speech is virtually instinctive, and I suspect reports of scrambled dialogue reflect mostly a failure to do the homework.

It was not long before he took the recorder away from me.  I only got the tapes.  We would work on three tapes at a time.  I would be milling a draft.  They typist would be working on the next one.  Dick would be dictating a third.  Even so we did not produce a page a day. 

When I thought what I had was presentable we would sit down, Dick and I, and I would read it aloud to him.  He could read as well as I could, but if I was the one reading I could easily find the place to make correction.  Not a word passed us without being read three times, often more. 

He told me he wanted it written correctly, so we frequently had this conversation:

“There is a grammatical problem here.”

“Fix it.”

“But I like it as it is.  It has flavor.  It’s perfectly clear.  Let’s leave it be.”

“Fix it.” 

Rarely something simply left me cold.  There would be something he thought was blisteringly funny, and I could not see why.

“But it’s not funny, Dick.”

“It’s the way he said it.”

“So how did he say it?”  He told me.  “All right, you need to tell them that.  They weren’t there.”  We would finally reach an agreement.  There was not a sentence that didn’t get more attention than the terms of our deal.  Touching that, I think he has held up his end of the bargain.  He does not owe me anything at all.

The singing towers were never quite like I first heard of them.  That is proper.  You cannot maintain haunting beauty for very long.  But there was haunting beauty in the book, and there were other feelings.  There was childhood nostalgia, there was unseen magic.  There was rambunctious ribbing.  There was grand humor.  There was profound grief.  There was pain and embarrassment.  There was paranoia.  There was terror.  There was astonishment. There was tough honesty.  There was coarse comedy.  In the end he never had anything bad to say about anybody.  There was a very subtle sub current of spirituality.  The book was far better than anything I have ever written or ever shall.  I do not think any athlete has ever accomplished the like on paper.

Nor has any surpassed him in a sport.  Wrestling is the oldest sport, the only one for which there is no equipment, the only one that an untrained animal can understand and enjoy.  It depends on the animal, and you must understand the risk, but you might be able to wrestle with your own dog.  He may enjoy it as much as you and honestly acknowledge a pin if you do it right, I mean doggy style, I mean the pin of course. 

In ancient Roman cities, there would be the theatre for drama and an amphitheater for sports.  But anyone who thinks that actors and actresses do not compete or that they do not exert themselves should think again.  And anyone who thinks athletes do not cooperate to put on a good show should speak with one of them.  The distinction is one of degree, that’s all. 

I quizzed him a number of times about whether he used drugs to build his strength, but I knew the answer.  No.  Never.  I fancy I can walk into a place where young people are gathered and tell at a glance which young men have taken drugs.  There is a kind of prettiness about them.  Chemicals do not a golden goblin make.  That takes good genes and overpowering will.

He would sit on the porch with the recorder working on his prose all afternoon.  As I toiled at the word processor I could hear him but not well enough to distinguish the words.  Mumble, mumble, pause, rewind, repeat, repeat, repeat, new mumble, mumble, mumble, rewind … At the end of the day he generally had his page.  If you work as hard on your physique as he did on that autobiography people will notice. 

It was fun.  I never tired of rereading passages.  And he was a good cook.  I fattened up admirably. 

He even included me.  He wanted to include what I was doing with my genetics program.  For that page I was really a ghost writer not an office boy.  It is the low point in the book I dare say.  But it’s only one page, so that should be all right. 

I wish I could invite you to run down to the store and buy a copy, but it has never been published.  Even for celebrities things do not always go as one would like.  I suppose anybody who reads about them knows that at heart.  But if you ever see the book printed, go for it.  It’s a lot better than this.

There have been 1,075 visitors so far.  Linton Herbert

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