Book Review: Creating An Inside Look Into Wrestlemania

Cover Design :Franco Malagisi

Being an honest reviewer, I admit I am skeptical of books released under the WWE brand. The books (at least in the past) have been mostly written with the wrestlers in character throughout, or sometimes, without the wrestlers’ involvement in the telling of their own stories. However, Jon Robinson’s  “Creating The Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life” (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2018) is an enjoyable book that dispels this notion of past WWE related books.

This book interviews many of the top WWE wrestlers, film producers, and other WWE employees to give an inside look at all the work that goes into the Wrestlemania card, including the events during the week that have grown beyond just having a wrestling show, which made its debut in 1985.

Vince McMahon Jr, who created the Wrestlemania concept, is interviewed early in the book, telling the story how he created the idea of Wrestlemania when he started to turn his then WWF league into a national, and eventually, world-wide extravaganza. Robinson interviews people such as John Saboor, the Executive VP of WWE Special Events, who details how the city of the event gets picked, and how the WWE wants the city’s community to be involved since Wrestlemania is full of events all week, including the Hall of Fame Ceremony, WWE Axxess (that includes fan events and meet and greets with some of the stars), and how the WWE expects to work with the city chosen for years to come, not just a one time deal with the big event. Saboor also states that the WWE plans their major PPV events three years in advance. This part was especially interesting when Saboor states a group of WWE executives meet every three weeks with the city officials, holding meetings that last as long as 8-10 hours a day. Most fans think that the WWE just shows up to the city and puts on the show, which is far from the truth. The planning and execution is extremely detailed and time consuming. The people behind the scenes are just as much champions as the talent seen in front of the cameras.

The book involves many of the WWE stars and their thoughts on Wrestlemania, their favorite Mania matches (as a fan or participant), along with some encounters that they have had, such as wrestlers getting knocked off the card, or matches being switched at the last moment due to injuries or the signings of new stars or celebrities.

The surprising part of this journey is how the writers and wrestlers discuss their involvement with other leagues. In the past the WWE would never mention that a wrestler was a part of another company, but this book mentions Ring of Honor, TNA, and Japanese leagues, which makes it a refreshing read. Another area that is surprising is that the people interviewed for the book talk about how some of the storylines were changed, and bring out subjects that fans may not have known about; such as Braun Strowman being scheduled to win the Andre The Giant Battle Royal before the WWE got football player Rob Gronkowski involved (which switched the ending) and how the creative team did not know if Brock Lesnar was going to beat The Undertaker until McMahon finally made the call during the day of the show. Proposed matches were set like Jason Jordan vs Kurt Angle, Kane vs Finn Balor, and how UFC star Ronda Rousey was going to be used in her first match are covered.

Interviews with Elias, Jeff Jarrett (right before his Hall of Fame Induction), and producer “Road Dogg” Brian James, who informs the reader how The Royal Rumble is planned, are informative, along with the Alexa Bliss/Nia Jax friendship turning into an on screen storyline. There is also a touching story about announcer Corey Graves, and how he had to learn the skills needed to be an announcer after his career ended by injury (His describing all the voices he hears in his headset during a program gives a new respect to the position for those that may not know what goes on during the televised parts of the shows).

“Creating The Mania” has great insights of the wrestlers stating their opinions on future storylines that they’d like to be a part of , or would like to see, including a possible Reigns vs Rock match. This was entertaining, and who knows a possible tease, for fans to converse.

Overall the book has insightful interviews by people in front and behind the screen, with plenty of photographs throughout the book. It takes the reader right before Wrestlemania. The last chapter has a summary of the WrestleMania 2018 results, so the reader can see what happened from the planning stages to the final product. “Mania” also has an interesting section where some of the wrestlers list their all time favorite Wrestlemania match, which is worth the read. The behind the scenes from planning storylines to how the television production is handled is refreshing compared to past WWE sponsored books. “Creating The Mania” is a different approach covering the WWE Universe. Robinson writes well and engages the reader, so much that the reader may go through the whole book in a few days (like I did). The interviews are wonderful, and the reader does not have to be a die hard fan to understand the topics, because it is easy to follow the flow of the stories. Do not let previous stereotypes of past WWE books prevent you from checking this one out. This is worth your time.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of ECW Press and WWE Books.

 

“Creating The Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life” by Jon Robinson (ECW/WWE Books, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-77041-450-1 hardcover, 978-1-77305-271-7 ePub, 978-1-77305-272-4 PDF) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com and is available August 7, 2018.

 

For information about the author, Jon Robinson’s Twitter account is  @JRobAndSteal.

Advertisements

Book Review: This Book Rocks: A Drummer’s Insight Into The Vinnie Vincent’s Invasion

Cover Design by Domini Dargoone. Cover Illustration @John Douglas

The first time I heard of drummer Bobby Rock was in 1990, when he was a part of the band Nelson. I became a huge fan of the Nelson brothers, and even had one of their shirts which I proudly wore to school, along with my Warrant shirt. I would play along to their debut album “After the Rain” on my drum set everyday when it was released for months. It wasn’t until years later that I found out Bobby Rock was the drummer for the ex-Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent in his band The Vinnie Vincent Invasion, which also involved members of what would become the band Slaughter; another favorite band of mine.

Bobby Rock went on to be a drummer for other bands, currently with Lita Ford, along with creating drum videos and books. His latest book , “The Boy Is Gonna Rock: A Drummer’s Journey From Houston To Hollywood In Search Of Hair Metal-Heaven” ( Zen Man Publishing, 2018), details his career as a drummer in several rock bands, including his time with The Invasion. The behind the scenes story of what happened inside of the Vincent band is the main theme of the memoir.

Lita Ford contributes to the book in the Forward, telling how she was in a bind for a drummer, calling Gunnar Nelson asking for help. Nelson informs her that Rock is the guy she needs on short notice. Rock is still playing with Ford years after the phone call.

The book is filled with great photographs, and stories, from Bobby’s first love of Hard Rock Music (when he bought his first Alice Cooper album), to learning drumming techniques throughout high school, and his time at Berkley School of Music. His goal of becoming a jazz drummer took a side turn when he called Dana Strum after hearing about an audition for Vinnie Vincent’s new band, who just parted ways with Kiss in the mid 1980s.

Rock’s book is an honest account of the dealings with Vincent, who has always had a stigma attached to him for being hard to work with on stage and in the studio. He takes the reader through the many frustrating attempts to record the debut Vinnie Vincent Invasion (more popularly known as VVI) album, and the tour that followed. He details his opinions on the band members, including first singer Robert Fleischman, who left the band right before the first tour, which the band ended up with singer Mark Slaughter.

If you are hoping for a bashing book that trashes the members, this is not the book. Rock tells the story from what he saw, what he felt, and is not a typical “I hate this guy” rock recollection. The text is not all rainbows either, which makes this one of the best rock biographies I have read in years, and is definitely in my Top 10 of all time in the genre already.

My Nelson band shirt ,featuring Rock, which is now a pillow.

Rock’s writing is just as skillful as his drumming. With many writings on his resume, Rock has taken this project seriously, and is a entertaining writer. Every musician, or aspiring musician, should read this book, with its commentary about the business of music, which was a major aspect that affected VVI ‘s break up. The book covers lawsuits, management and crew members’ darker sides, to the relationship Rock had with his on stage companions Strum, Slaughter, and Vincent. Slaughter fans would also enjoy the book, with Rock’s tales of just how behind the scenes Dana Strum was in The Invasion’s recordings and management side. The collection is recent as well, with Rock giving his opinion of the re-emergence of Vincent during the 2018 KISS Expo in Atlanta, after decades of being out of everyone’s radar. Rock tells his experiences with joining the Nelson Brothers (and dispels some rumors about how he joined, along with if he was to be the drummer in Slaughter), Lita Ford, along with some tales of the artists he almost ended up drumming for.

It’s hard to write a book that appeals to everyone, but Rock has succeeded. The stories are entertaining and honest, the pictures are wonderful and plenty, along with giving stories that fans of KISS, Nelson, Alice Cooper, Slaughter, and other Hard Rock acts of the 1980s-1990s will love, while describing the learning experiences of the inside workings of the music business. Many independent books are filled with grammar errors or wrong dates, but Rock ‘s book is void of these, with his detail to the writing process. There is some adult language in the book, but it does not deter from how great this book is, or come off as overtly offensive. The only complaint of the book, for me, was that since the book is mainly about his time in Vinnie Vincent’s Invasion, he only briefly mentions at the end about his time with Nelson (since I was a big fan of the band, I can plea that if Bobby has enough stories, to write a book just on his time with them).

“The Boy Is Gonna Rock” is not just a music book, but an American Dream tale from a guy who became the drummer of one of the most interesting (although short) times in an unique band. KISS fans must have this book to their collection, along with anyone who loves the 1980s Metal scene. This book definitely Rocks!

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Bobby Rock, Tim Young, and Zen Man                Publishing.

 

“The Boy Is Gonna Rock: A Drummer’s Journey From Houston To Hollywood In Search Of Hair Metal Heaven” (Zen Man Publishing, 2018 ISBN-10: 0966859936 ISBN-13: 978-0966859935) can be found at http://www.bobbyrockstore.com

 

For information about the author, visit: http://www.bobbyrock.com

 

Classic Book Review: Ghoulardi Book Is A Piece of Cleveland/Horror History

Cover Design and photo illustration by Lawrence J. Nozik

Tom Feran and Rich Heldenfels’ book “Ghoulardi : Inside Cleveland TV’s Wildest Ride” (Gray & Company, 1997) is filled with tales and photographs of Cleveland’s late night host.

Television had many TV horror hosts , from Vampira, Svengoolie, “Chilly Billy,” and the most famous, Elvira. However, in the 1960s, “Shock Theater’s” host, Ghoulardi, was one of the most famous in the Northeast.

The character, played by journeyman radio and TV personality Ernie Anderson, who was approached by the heads of Channel 8 to create a late night show that would introduce old horror films. The character of Ghoulardi being created is discussed, from the station holding a fake contest in naming the host, to a makeup artist in Cleveland designing the look and never getting credit for his work.

The early parts of the story tells about Anderson’s early years in Cleveland, befriending people like Tim Conway (who ended up bringing Anderson out to Los Angeles after Anderson left the channel), and how another Cleveland TV host, “Big ” Chuck Schodowski worked during the show.

Anderson’s wild stories during his stint as Ghoulardi, such as riding his motorcycle in the studio, having crazy pets such as bulls and goats at his house, to eating and drinking at a bar (minutes before he was to go on air) and rushing to the station to make his on air spots. The book also talks about Anderson’s attitude towards host television host Mike Douglas, and his on air comments about local Cleveland celebrities and personalities during the show.

Anderson’s Ghoulardi was so popular that he had his own merchandise, which the authors shown with black and white photographs. Ghoulardi’s use of music for his skits are also covered, along with a list of the movies that were shown throughout the years. Anderson was so well liked that the station gave him more shows to host as the character. Anderson’s charity events, billed the All Stars, with their football, basketball, and softball games, were so popular that they sold out most of the events.

The authors also talk about the declining ratings of the Ghoulardi show (the authors state maybe too much of a good thing was part of the reason, along with the popularity of music shows like American Bandstand and other shows that got the attention of teenagers after Beatlemania), along with Anderson leaving Cleveland for Hollywood, where he ended up doing voice work, instead of being an actor. Anderson’s death is also covered in the book, and his influence on the industry, where his one time gofer Ron Sweed took over a similar role as “The Ghoul.”

“Ghoulardi” covers one of the legendary characters in Cleveland television. The book is filled with odd facts, movie lists, and photographs on the sides of the pages. There are nice interviews with those that worked with Anderson, including newspaper interviews and plenty of stories by Conway and Schodowski. Growing up after the Ghoulardi era, it is interesting to read about the character and the crazy things that went on during the show (both on air and off). Fans of Cleveland, television, and horror show history would enjoys this easy to read book.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Gray & Company

 

“Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland TV’s Wildest Ride” by Tom Feran and Rich Heldenfels (Gray & Company, 1997 ISBN: 978-1-886228-18-4) can be found at http://www.grayco.com, or contacting 1-800-915-3609.

 

 

Book Review: A Mysterious Life Is A Long Journey

One of the things I have realized by writing a blog page is that sometimes it is hard to write reviews on something that I did not like, without coming across as just bashing the topic. Granted, I have written a few book reviews that have “bashed” the writing, I still make sure that I want to let people know that reviews are just opinions. My background having a B.A. in English, being a former drummer in many bands, along with my years of studying professional wrestling and films (with some acting experience), gives me some credibility to give a more in depth and honest reviews.

Laura Thompson’s “Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life” (Pegasus Books, 2018) is such a book. Within the past three years, I have sought at as many of Agatha Christie’s books at book sales and libraries. Christie has become one of my favorite writers, so a biography about her would be a wonderful read for me.

However, Thompson’s book is not only a long read, but at times, filled with so many quotes, that it becomes a chore to get through. The chapters are long (some are 40-50 pages), which , as a reader, I like my chapters shorter so I could read a chapter or two at a sitting throughout my day at various times without getting stuck in the middle of a section. Thompson compares Christie’s characters in her books to Christie’s own opinions and people in her life. A writer does create characters from people and events around them, but some of the comparisons seem like a stretch at times, for instance, when a character in her book talks about not liking children, the author makes a big deal out of the fact that Christie hated kids, but liked her childhood. Either Christie was such a walking contradiction, or the author is reading too deep into things at times (I am not sure, but it makes a frustrating read; I am not taking away from Thompson’s research on the topic. She has more access than I ever will have).

The biggest complaint for me in this almost 500 page piece is how Thompson constantly cites from Christie’s autobiography, along with her book “Untitled Portrait.” Writing a book about a person who has an autobiography already released can give some great insight to the person, however, the book is almost a summary of Christie’s autobiography to the point that 1) the reader doesn’t need to ever read the autobiography because it’s all in this book, or 2) it detracts from this book and makes the reader want to read the autobiography, forget about this book, and get Christie’s take on events, rather than this long summary with interpretations thrown in.

“A Mysterious Life” has some good parts to it. As mentioned earlier, it is clear the author has done get research on the topic. A few interesting stories detail how low Christie’s first writing contract was (10% of any sale over 2,000 copies) , to detailing Christie’s different suitors of marriage before she married her first husband Archie. Another interesting part is when Thompson discusses the symbolism of finances to Christie’s life and her writings, stating that out of the 55 full length crime novels, 36 of Christie’s works has the basis for the crimes is money and finances.

Thompson’s book is for major die hard Christie fans who would like to add this to their collection of all things Christie. For the casual fan, this book might be too long and too deep with information, assumptions, and may be a struggle to get through. The book’s massive use of citation of Christie’s autobiography detracts from the book more than helps it.

 

The review copy of this book was given in thanks from Pegasus Books.

 

“Agatha Christie : A Mysterious Life” by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-68177-653-8) can be found at : http://pegasusbooks.com.

 

For information about Laura Thompson, and her other works, go to:             http://www.laurathompson.co.uk/

 

Book Review: Beach Boys Not The Only California Music

Cover images: Photofest

Author William McKeen takes his readers through a journey with many roads in his book about California music from the 1960s in “Everybody Had An Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles” (Chicago Review Press, 2017).

McKeen writes in the last part of the introduction that he wrote this book while fighting cancer. Writing a book is a task in itself; while writing and fighting a disease is admirable and courageous.

“Everybody Had An Ocean” starts out by describing the many times McKeen tired to get Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson to open up and talk about Wilson’s encounters with Charles Manson, who Wilson was linked to before the brutal Manson murders. Although Wilson refused to discuss Manson, the book is a gripping introduction to get the reader engaged.

The book is basically a Beach Boys story, with tales of other musicians thrown into the story (sometimes in the other chapters, and many times right in the middle of the chapters). After reading many Beach Boys books and seeing movies made of the band, the information here is not that new; Brian Wilson writing the songs for the band when Dennis was the only brother who could surf, Mike Love’s competition with the other members of the band trying to be THE guy in the band, and the Wilson brothers’ father Murray controlling the band (and Brian) early on before being dismissed as manager are detailed.

Where this book differs from other Beach Boys stories is that the tales and some history of the other acts from California (or that moved out the L.A. after the New York music scene dried up for a while) are told intertwined into the story of The Beach Boys. For example, when Brian Wilson meets up with Jan Berry and Dean Torrence (who became Jan and Dean), the book goes into an in-depth history of Jan and Dean in the same chapter. Some background information is nice, but maybe waiting until the next chapter to get into a full history of the early days of how Jan and Dean made it on the charts would have flown better. This goes on throughout the book with musical acts like The Byrds, The Righteous Brothers, Phil Specter, Buffalo Springfield, and more. Being a fan of Jan and Dean myself, the stories about them are interesting, especially the association Dean had with the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr., which was rumored to have ended the Jan and Dean run on the charts, due to Sinatra Sr.’s connections.

The book covers some of the shady side of the music business in this time (like the subtitle suggests), including the inside fighting of the Mamas and The Papas (which I never knew existed) , Tommy James and his record company who was associated with the mafia, to the mystery of Bobby Fuller’s death. Stories of acts like The Doors, David Crosby, and Johnny Rivers are told in the book as well, which is all mixed throughout with the continuous tale of The Beach Boys.

The main complaint of the tales all being wrapped together throughout the book, and not being separated does not mean McKeen’s book is bad.; it is just different in its presentation. I learned much from the book that wasn’t about The Beach Boys, like the Sinatra Jr. kidnapping connection to Jan and Dean, to the inside information on Cass Elliot and John Phillips’ working relationship.

For collectors of books about The Beach Boys (or other music acts from this era), “Everybody Had An Ocean” is great to add to the collection. For those readers that get easily distracted (like this reviewer), the book is winding and curvy at times, just like Dead Man’s Curve , but it still has plenty of entertaining value to it.

 

The copy of this title was given courtesy of Chicago Review Press.

 

“Everybody Had An Ocean” by William McKeen (Chicago Review Press, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-61373-491-9) can be found at http://www.chicagoreviewpress.com.

 

The author’s work can be found at: http://www.williammckeen.com