Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake had a career renaissance in 2017 thanks to three incidents:
- Conrad Thompson, co-host of MLW Radio’s Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard, remaining flabbergasted that Beefcake ended Mr. Perfect’s winning streak, subsequently referring to him as Brutus “The Fucking Barber” Beefcake and spawning the #BTFBB hashtag.
- Beefcake publishing his 400-page autobiography.
- Beefcake announcing said book by igniting a Twitter feud with former best buddy Hulk Hogan.
— Brutus Beefcake (@brutusbeefcake_) October 26, 2017
— Brutus Beefcake (@brutusbeefcake_) October 27, 2017
A couple of wrasslin’ legends, Beefcake and Hogan could simply be strumming up a little buzz to get Beefcake’s book some publicity. However, his co-author Kenny Casanova claims the war of words is legit, as real-life drama between the friends has turned them into recent enemies. Although the Mega Maniacs have overcome Money Inc., Macho Man and the all-powerful Zeus, it appears they’ve fallen apart due to man’s greatest foe – women.
Casanova, a New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Famer who toured the indie circuit from the early 1990s until the late 2000s, has launched WOHW Publishers, an independent outlet teaching pro wrestlers how to self-publish their autobiographies and distribute them through their own websites. Casanova’s first project – Kamala Speaks – earned roughly $60,000 from book sales, Kickstarter and GoFundMe, with all proceeds going toward Kamala’s medical bills. Casanova graduated from SUNY Albany with a BA in English Literature and The College of Saint Rose with a master’s in education. He currently teaches 12th grade English, having piloted an integrated program that lets vocational students gain English credit in their trade classes like auto, culinary and carpentry.
Casanova recently spoke with The Wrestling Estate regarding his publishing platform and Beefcake’s new book.
Why did you drift away from the wrestling scene?
Kenny Casanova: “I started out as a Tom Jones lounge lizard type and that transitioned into me singing karaoke to bring wrestlers to the ring. It got popular to the point that fans would then ask me to DJ for them. Like, hey, can you DJ a wedding? I started getting so many bookings that it pulled me out of wrestling because the money was way better in the wedding industry.”
How did you end up ghostwriting for Kamala?
Casanova: “I was going to put out a sci-fi book when I saw an article about Kamala losing both of his legs to diabetes. It hit home for a couple of reasons: I worked with him a lot and he’s a great guy, and my mom passed away from diabetes. I played Kim Chee for him a number of times in the Northeast, so I felt obligated to try and help the guy. I wanted to give something back.
So I gave him a call and started putting his book together. We launched a Kickstarter that brought in like $17,000 in the first week or two. We used the Kickstarter as a platform to get a little awareness back to his character, and then we started putting out T-shirts and 8x10s, too. Steve Austin put us on his podcast, Roddy Piper did the same. Jason King from Bleacher Report helped with an additional GoFundMe page. Kamala was able to pay off his medical costs and get himself out of debt. You know, a lot of these guys don’t have any retirement or medical insurance.”
That’s incredible. You felt connected to Kamala’s story, so was there a connection with Brutus Beefcake?
Casanova: “Not in terms of health issues. We just printed the book and put it out. We could have done a Kickstarter, but when I think of that, I think of a Kickstarter as helping somebody down on their luck. We have Danny Davis’ book coming out soon, and because he was real hot in 1987, but didn’t headline cards or isn’t as big a name as Beefcake, Kickstarter might be better for him.”
Anybody else you’re currently working with?
Casanova: “We did Vader’s book. Some of the wrestlers like to have control as far as their voice is concerned. Right now Vader is going through the book and he’s picky, but arguably that’s a good thing, because it will make the book more him. Once he’s happy with the final draft, we’ll probably put it out around WrestleMania time.”
Awesome. So how did you get in touch with Beefcake?
Casanova: “We were both at an autograph signing and I showed him the Kamala book. Beefcake was trying to write one with Scott Epstein, another independent Northeast manager guy like myself, and he passed away. By this point, I was becoming a publisher, but I don’t like publishers. People who have written or attempted to break into the writing business know it’s almost as hard as breaking into WWE. You have to have a literary agent, you have to know somebody for the most part. The stars have to align at the right time. Nobody wanted to buy the Kamala idea. I said, look, it’s going to help the guy out. Plus, he has a real compelling story. He was a world traveler and now he has no legs. He sits in his kitchen and looks out the window and can’t go anywhere and can’t see past his backyard.
So I said screw all you guys, I’ll learn as much about publishing as possible and do it on my own. I teach the wrestlers how to self-publish and create their own merchandise platform. I make websites for them. Another popular wrestler, I won’t say his name, but he had a book come out and he made about $8,000 in royalties. He contacted me for his second book, and by going through me, he has no publisher keeping two-thirds of the money.
There’s a writer named Thomas Friedman who wrote a book about the world being kind of flat now. You can sell product out of your small apartment in Brooklyn, and with no overhead or employees, you have enough savings to compete with these big-name brands because the internet connects us all. My label has become a way to empower some of these guys that I’ve worked with or grew up watching on TV to create some kind of revenue stream for them in the long run.
As for Beefcake, I like to hear the voice and the story. It fills a creative need now that I’m not doing as many wrestling shows. It keeps me in the business a little bit.”
Because you’ve been in the business, do you feel these wrestlers trust you more than they would another author?
Casanova: “Certainly, I think that’s one of my selling points. I’m doing another guy’s book, who sometimes might be overly colorful or he might say words from the 1980s that are no longer acceptable today. I’m able to console him in such a manner that we keep the flow of everything and I’m able to talk to wrestlers in their own language. A lot of them will use wrestling terminology as regular every day vocabulary. I know exactly what they’re saying, but a regular author doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. There is also a whole give and take as far as how much of the story you want to give. If you want to protect how some of the industry works, then I think I’m able to have a good grip on that.”
Let’s talk about #BTFBB.
Casanova: “(laughs) Can you fill me in on that? He embraces the hashtag and uses it in all of his stuff. He asks me to use it, and I never asked him the story. I think it’s a work, I don’t know. At one point, he said something about being on Prichard’s show at some point. It sounds like at least Prichard is cool with Beefcake, and maybe the other guy doesn’t like him and they think it’s funny. I don’t know. I don’t really know Conrad, but I know there’s something there.”
Let me ask you about another…
Casanova: “You’re going to ask about the Twitter war with Hogan, right?”
Cavanova: “Man, I was on the phone with Hogan’s lawyer for hours. I’m telling you, it was not a work. If it was, then Hogan and Beefcake worked me as the writer and Hogan’s own lawyer. I’ve gotta tell ya, that’s not the case. They sent warnings about making sure the book was clean and free of error, and no added ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ that weren’t correct. Hogan went through the very public Gawker trial which hurt him as far as looking like some sexual deviant as well as dropping racial slurs. When Beefcake said, ‘Brother, I’m going to put this book out soon and it’s a tell all,’ Hogan got perhaps worried. You know, when they first started out, they were like rock stars. They were probably all over the place with girls to some degree. Anyway, they’re a bit estranged right now.
At the same time, I believe that the story Hogan was concerned about the most, had something to do with an argument with Beefcake’s wife and him, and none of that is in the book. That one element, much later in life, isn’t in the book and I think that’s the thing he was most concerned about. But that’s pure speculation on my part. I don’t even know.”
What was Beefcake’s reaction when you’re on the phone with Hogan’s lawyer?
Casanova: “He didn’t want me to talk to him and I only talked to him on one occasion. I think the lawyer would have loved to talk to me even more. Right before Halloween, they started shooting somewhat threatening letters, and in the heat of the moment, I called up Beefcake and his wife to tell them I’m setting that lawyer straight. I called him up and we talked for a long time. Everything is cool, I think I smoothed everything out that night. They realized that I wasn’t in it to bury the guy, but he was going to take his shots in some old stories on the road. They weren’t going to be taking the low road and making him look bad, they were just fun stories. Is the book still a tell all and has some cool Hogan stories? Yes, totally. But I don’t think there’s anything in there that is comparable to the Gawker, TMZ stuff.”
So it’s probably just the timing of everything. If the Gawker stuff hadn’t just happened, you probably wouldn’t have even heard from Hogan’s lawyer.
Casanova: “Right, that’s what I’m thinking, too.”
What did you learn about Beefcake while working with him?
Casanova: “The whole parasailing accident was much bigger and much crazier than I had thought. I knew it was bad, but I thought it was mostly superficial. Originally, when I heard parasailing accident, as a kid I thought he fell down into the motor and got his face cut up. But it was much different than that. To tell the story quickly, there was a July Fourth party and he was over a boat dealer’s real fancy house. They were doing some parasailing stuff and put it all away. Then B. Brian Blair, the guy Iron Sheik wants to make humble, then he showed up with a girl. They brought the parasailing stuff back out for her, and Beefcake was in the water trying to get the rope untangled. The guy pulled her up before it was time, and the girl’s knees went right into Beefcake’s face. He flipped around 360 degrees in the air, and Blair tried to help him up.
All the bones in his face were broke. The roof of his mouth had collapsed so he had to hold it up with his hand just to breathe. It was a mess. They brought him to a hole-in-the-wall hospital out in the wilderness – they weren’t prepared for this kind of injury. They brought in a specialist and trailers of medical equipment from somewhere else. They had to reconstruct the inside of his face. All the bones in his face were smashed into powder. This was before 3D scanning so they had to look at pictures of his face to rebuild it with a bunch of titanium plates, screws and wire.
While people think the book is burying Hogan, I think it sheds positive light on the guy. Beefcake wasn’t sure what he was going to do, and Hogan came through and paid for a bunch of stuff. In fact, before HGH was illegal and even before it was in America, Hogan started calling all these herbalists to find someone who could help Beefcake with healing. He took some kind of steroid early on to help heal himself. That’s why when he came back for The Barbershop, he was jacked. I mean, he was huge. He didn’t have the money for that, and Hogan put up some cash to help his buddy out, whatever he needed.”
That’s really great.
Casanova: “They grew up together, they went to the same high school, they played on the same teams and stuff. They were friends for 34 years or something like that. Honestly, I wanted Hogan to write his forward, but they aren’t really chummy right now. But we had Wade Boggs write the forward. Pretty neat story as he played on the same little league team as Beefcake. Many years later, Wade Boggs was hanging out with Mr. Perfect and went backstage to see Beefcake. ‘Oh, my son has your action figure.’ Didn’t even realize it was the same guy he played ball with as a kid. (laughs)”