The Top 10 Moments of Roddy Piper’s Career

You know him as the kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing bad guy of the WWF WrestleMania era. Forever he will be linked to Cyndi Lauper, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T.

But do you know all of Roddy Piper’s career? I’ve watched virtually all of it. I’ve ranked the definitive moments of his career. My criteria is based on a couple of things: 1) Did it make money? You may have a favorite moment that’s not on the list. I’m not judging by what I like. I’m basing this on did it lead to a bigger paycheck. 2) Did it lead to something or have a lasting effect? There are things on this list you may not have heard of before. But those events, while not as famous as some, played key roles in Piper’s career at those moments and later on. 3) It must be in the context of pro wrestling. That’s why “They Live” isn’t on the list.

Keep that in mind as I give what I believe is the definitive list of the Top 10 Moments in the Career of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper:

A young Roddy Piper feuded with Chavo Guerrero in Los Angeles
A young Roddy Piper feuded with Chavo Guerrero in Los Angeles

10) La Cucaracha. Southern California, once one of the hottest territories thanks to Freddie Blassie, John Tolos, and Gorgeous George, was in its dying days in the mid 1970s. A young Roddy Piper first cut his teeth as the brash “Lean Mean Machine” and the most hated man in the Los Angeles-based territory. Feuding with Chavo Guerrero (Eddie’s brother, Chavo Jr’s father), Piper pushed the bounds political correctness to taunt the primarily Mexican audience by wearing sombreros, ponchos and riding striped donkeys from Tijuana to the ring. One day, Piper brought his ever-present bagpipes to the ring in the Olympic Auditorium and promised to make amends with the Latin fans with a promise to play the Mexican National Anthem on the bagpipes. In a solemn tone, Piper worked the crowd into standing in reverent silence. The silence exploded into nuclear heat when Piper broke into “La Cucaracha.” It was a sign of things to come.

9) The Hair Match.  Playboy Buddy Rose recruited Piper to come to Don Owen’s Pacific Northwest territory in 1979. Piper came to Portland as a heel. There’s only room for one top bad guy. A mishap in a tag match lit the fuse for the most epic feud in Portland since the 1960s. Not since Lonnie Mayne had Portland seen such a dynamic baby face. Buddy Rose went on a tangent of hair matches, cutting the hair of lower level baby faces like King Parsons.

3d25b8d7ef37dd791c1a8ed5049d6ee4-1 After months of build up, Piper wrestled and shaved the head of Rose’s tag team partners, The Sheepherders (aka The Bushwhackers). Fans were at a fever pitch waiting for the showdown. In 1980, Roddy Piper put his hair on the line against the golden locks of Playboy Buddy Rose. Holding the match in a larger arena, Roddy Piper shaved the head of Buddy Rose. Actually, Piper and Rose both won that day. It was reportedly the biggest single pay day in the history of Don Owen’s promotion.  Roddy Piper learned a lot in Portland. He always said that he and Buddy Rose made each other during his time in Portland.

8) The First Heel Commentator. Before Jesse Ventura sat next to Vince McMahon on Saturday Night’s Main Event, there was Roddy Piper. It was 1981 and the cable wrestling boom was the hottest thing on television. Georgia Championship Wrestling was the first cable TV show to be seen by a million people. Roddy Piper came to Georgia, not as a wrestler, but as the color commentator for the legendary Gordon Solie.

Gordon Solie and Roddy Piper
Gordon Solie and Roddy Piper

On the mic, Piper not just rooted for the heels and put himself over but, unlike Ventura, Piper explained psychology and technique to the viewer. Yes, it was in the context of the show, but it worked. After a while, the heat on Piper was so hot, they had to turn him baby face. During an interview segment, heel Don Muraco began bullying and threatening Gordon Solie over some allegedly biased announcing. As the menacing Muraco inched closer to the 50-something broadcaster, tension grew. Finally, from the corner of the screen, Roddy Piper rushed in to save his broadcast partner. From despised to loved in 30 seconds.

7) The Dog Collar. Starrcade ’83. Jim Crockett Promotions turned its annual Thanksgiving night card to an event. In front of a turn away crowd in Greensboro and thousands watching on closed circuit television throughout the Carolinas, Ric Flair regained the NWA World Title from Harley Race in a steel cage. There were two big semi-main events: Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle lost the NWA World Tag Team Championships to Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.

The infamous Starrcade 83 dog collar match. Piper won, but lost a lot of blood from his ear in the process
The infamous Starrcade 83 dog collar match. Piper won, but lost a lot of blood from his ear in the process

The other match was a legendary dog collar match. Roddy Piper, bleeding from the ear, courageously battled Greg Valentine in the perhaps the match that stole the show. It was the highlight of Piper’s run in the Mid Atlantic territory. Shortly he would be gone and on to the WWF.

Roddy Piper and Frank Williams
Roddy Piper and Frank Williams

6) Poor Frank Williams. “Just when they think they have the answers, I change the questions!!” With that phrase, a legend was truly born. Roddy Piper was brought into Vincent K McMahon’s nationwide expansion of the WWF to manage Paul Orndorff and David Schultz. As he had throughout his career, his mouth talked him into a higher place on the card. His weekly “Piper’s Pit” segment is the definitive wrestling interview that has constantly been imitated, but truly never duplicated. You can’t even think of a second best. In one of the first ever Pits, Piper showed how he could take a perennial jobber like Frank Williams and find a way to make it interesting. After attacking Williams and literally shoving him off of the set, Piper set the tone for his career and defined himself in the mind of WWF fans.

5) Hollywood Backlot Brawl. Piper is best known for his promos, obviously. He probably doesn’t get enough credit for his in-ring style. Being a smaller guy for his era, Piper relied on brawling and rarely leaving his feet to portray the image as a tough guy. All of the promo ability in the world wouldn’t matter if Piper didn’t have some credibility bell to bell. In 1996, Dustin Runnells was at his peak as the controversial, androgenous Golddust character. He was so good at blurring the lines of sexuality that Scott Hall, Razor Ramon, refused to feud with him at WrestleMania 12. Enter Rowdy Roddy Piper. As he did several times in WWF history, Piper stepped in as last minute replacement. The Hollywood Backlot Brawl featured stunts, a firehose, and a certain infamous white Bronco (remember, it was 1996). While it had it’s silly moments, the Backlot Brawl was a solid, entertaining match, maybe the best match of a lackluster WrestleMania.

4) WrestleMania 8. Roddy Piper never held a major, recognized world heavyweight championship. He would say he never needed it. He might have been right. In 1992, Piper held his only major WWF title. After beating The Mountie in January, Roddy Piper defended the Intercontinental Championship against a still-rising Bret “Hitman” Hart in an outstanding match at WrestleMania 8. It was Piper’s best in-ring performance on a large stage. Bret Hart calls it the match that made him.

3) The Return. Piper was the last bastion of kayfabe. When others were exposing pro wrestling, Roddy Piper was still talking about ‘fights’. After the end of the main event of Halloween Havoc ’96, Roddy Piper shocked the world by showing up in rival WCW at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas and confronting a now-heel Hulk Hogan for the first time since 1985. Eleven years later, with Piper as the good guy and Hogan as the heel this time, Piper showed he could still draw. I don’t know, but I would guess from 1996 to 1997 was probably the most financially lucrative run of this wrestling career.

The crack heard 'round the wrestling world
The crack heard ’round the wrestling world

2) The Coconut. Is there a more legendary angle in pro wrestling? With the whack of a coconut across Jimmy Snuka’s forehead, Roddy Piper sold out arenas throughout the northeast, including Madison Square Garden. Piper even drew a huge crowd with an 18-year-old Tonga Kid as the substitute for Snuka.

Wherever he went, this moment followed him. In many ways, it’s his number one moment. But it can’t be number one on my list because of Jimmy Snuka. An amazing talent, Snuka had personal issues outside of the ring that cut this very lucrative feud short.

For memories, it’s number one.

1) The War to Settle The Score. This lead to the first WrestleMania, by far, the WrestleMania with the highest public profile ever. 1985 was the peak of the music video era. MTV drew it’s biggest rating as Hulk Hogan defended the WWF championship in Madison Square Garden against white-hot Rowdy Roddy Piper.  Not surprisingly, chaos ensued and it built to pro wrestling’s first nationwide extravaganza. While many give Hulk Hogan and Mr. T credit for WrestleMania’s success, it’s the bad guys who draw money in wrestling. People paid to see Roddy Piper get his comeuppance at WrestleMania One.

The Hot Rod
The Hot Rod

Honorable Mentions:

WrestleMania 1: Essentially I lumped “The War to Settle the Score” and WM1 together. I didn’t give it it’s own spot because WM1 was a culmination. Piper never had many other major WWF matches with Hogan again.

The Flower Shop. This probably should be on the list. Piper went from the most hated man to the most popular in just a few months in 1986. His feud with Adrian Adonis, while not memorable, did show Piper has a dynamic good guy.

“I Scare Flair!” Piper became an unlikely US Champion in 1981. His feud with Ric Flair was one of the hottest in the country.

WrestleMania 2: Terrible match, great results. An awful worked boxing match turned the Long Island crowd against Mr. T. T’s performance was so bad, Roddy Piper became the hero again.

Unknown

Many pro wrestlers claim to be trailblazers. Roddy Piper blazed a trail like no other.

I first saw Roddy Piper as a 10 year old kid watching Portland Wrestling. He was, to this day, the most captivating personality I have ever seen.

He had his highs and lows over his career. I chose to remember The Hot Rod, the greatest improvisational talking I had had ever seen.

As a guest on my radio show, many times Piper said this quote. Now, I say this to Piper, “May you be a half hour in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.”

RIP Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Saint Lucia, We Love!

On the catamaran to Soufriere. The Pitons in the background.
On the catamaran to Soufriere. The Pitons in the background.

“Saint Lucia, We Love!” is the chorus to a catchy dance track by Mongstar. The video, images, and lyrics sum up perfectly how welcoming it is in St. Lucia.

So many people I talk with are afraid to travel. Fear of sickness, crime or worse keeps them home in the good ol’ USA. If that sounds like you, St Lucia is a place where you can relax. The weather is tropical, water is turquoise and the people are friendly, kind and genuine.

Click for YouTube video: After flying into the international airport, we took a helicopter ride to the other end of St. Lucia
Click for quick YouTube Video: After flying into the international airport, we took a quick 12-minute helicopter ride to the other end of St. Lucia.

It’s hard to compare St. Lucia. It’s lush and tropical with gorgeous turquoise water and sandy beaches, including some black sand beaches and the man-made Sugar Beach. Not an exact, but an easy analogy would be saying St Lucia is like Florida, except not flat.

The helicopter pilot claimed there is a marijuana grow in there. Can you see it?
The helicopter pilot claimed there is a marijuana grow in there. Can you see it?
Sulfur Springs in Soufriere. It's called a 'drive thru' volcano. You can't drive up to the volcano any more, but you get pretty close.
Sulfur Springs in Soufriere. It’s called a ‘drive thru’ volcano. You can’t drive up to the volcano any more, but you get pretty close.

If you want some hiking or fishing with your beaches, then St. Lucia is your place.

My Segway tour guide Sammy waxed philosophical as he helped through the bumpy off roads.
My Segway tour guide, Sammy waxed philosophical as he helped through the bumpy off-roads.

The people could not be nicer. Speaking English with a hint of French and British accents, I couldn’t help but think how boring I sounded compared to them. They’re not only warm, accommodating, with great senses of humor, the people of St. Lucia I met were very inviting. They don’t just smile and move onto the next tourist.People working in the St Lucia service/tourist industry engage with you about their country, your country, history, current events, anything. You feel immediately welcome.

Forget Carlos & Charlie’s or Señor Frog’s, The Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party is the real deal. Locals and tourists gather in the area to enjoy food, drink and live music. Front yards transform into lemonade stands for grown ups complete with lights, music, and homemade food. Start time is 9pm, but the party doesn’t really start in earnest until midnight (what good party does?).

For the first half of our visit we stayed at The Landings Resort & Spa. 

Living/dining room plus second bedroom at The Landings.
Living/dining room plus second bedroom at The Landings.
Living room with an enormous veranda at The Landings.
Living room with an enormous veranda at The Landings.
The lobby at The Landings
The lobby at The Landings

Offering 1-4 bedrooms with a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and massive verandas in the front and back of your condo, The Landings is perfect for gatherings of family and friends.

There are several pools, a marina, beach club, two restaurants and a gorgeous spa, all minutes from Pigeon Island National Park. With everyone under one roof, you can lounge by the pool or the beach while someone else does nature photography or rents a snorkel from the beach club.

From The Landings we literally went next door for a few days at Sandals Grande St Lucian, your quintessential all-inclusive beach resort. You’ve seen the commercials. Sandals knows its guests and has created a very relaxing, fun environment here.

Sandals Grande St Lucian is a large, well appointed property with a large beach area.
Sandals Grande St Lucian is a large, well appointed property with a large beach area.

You want a drink? It’s coming right up. Hungry? There are 9 restaurants on property plus you can almost always grab a burger, hot dog, crepe, pizza or ice cream. The ice cream at Sandals Grande St Lucian is fabulous and also makes tasty milkshakes. I was a little underwhelmed by the desserts, but the ice cream more than made up for it.

Billiards Room at Sandals Grande St Lucian
Billiards Room at Sandals Grande St Lucian

Sandals is a cruise ship that never leaves port: plenty of food, booze, sand, water activities and entertainment. I found this Sandals resort to be pleasantly more relaxed than others. You’re not harassed by staff into a belly flop competition or drinking contest with bad house music blaring everywhere. The music around the main pool was primarily Caribbean with appropriate rock, country and pop hits. While energetic, I could actually hear myself talk. Imagine that.

If you want culture, this is not your property. There a many more authentic and/or boutique places on the island. If you want to relax and not think about anything, Sandals is a fine choice. Keep in mind it’s a couples-only resort. There are a lot of honeymooners, weddings and corporate groups.

My wife and me leaving Soufriére on a catamaran.
My wife and me leaving Soufriére on a catamaran. She is one of the top sellers of St Lucia vacations on the West Coast and North America.

My favorite part of the journey was the catamaran to Soufríere and the Pitons in Southwest St Lucia. You can stay at or near a Unesco World Heritage site.

I’ve seen many hotels and resorts. Ladera Resort is unforgettable. Located between the Pitons on the Unesco World Heritage site, Ladera has no TV in your room. Who needs it? The resort has been built into the hillside with views more stunning than anything on cable. There is high speed internet, so you can humble brag to your friends while relaxing in your private Piton-view pool inside your suite. Shuttles run down to nearby Sugar Beach just below.

Private pool and swing overlooking the Pitons from a suite at Ladera.
Private pool and swing overlooking the Pitons from a suite at Ladera.

We took a five hour flight from Seattle to Miami, then a little less than fours hours from Miami to St Lucia. It takes about 90 minutes to shuttle from the international airport at the south end of the island to The Landings and Sandals Grande (there are 3 Sandals resorts on St Lucia). I was perfectly comfortable during the flights and transfers. Or you can book a seat on the helicopter. It’s slightly more expensive, but it takes 12 minutes and it’s a flight seeing trip.

On the helipad in St Lucia.
On the helipad in St Lucia.

Most any tropical vacation offers sun and sand. St Lucia is filled with friendly people with a passion for life. That passion will compel you to leave your resort and enjoy local food, drink and activities. With very few chain restaurants and stores, it’s less commercialized and more authentic than many tourist destinations. A week in St Lucia was an inspiring way to celebrate my birthday with my wife.

Like the song says, ‘St Lucia, We Love.’

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The Duggars: 19 Excuses and Counting

Megyn Kelly did a respectable job asking questions, IMO.
Megyn Kelly did a respectable job asking questions, IMO.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar proved my suspicions about them. Their interview with Megyn Kelly of FOX NEWS, showed no contrition, only a clumsy attempt at preserving their baby-making business.

It’s official: everyone is a victim; nobody apologizes anymore.

I don’t know when it happened, but apologizing became a sign of weakness. When caught doing something against the values you preach, the move is to now blame those who uncovered your transgressions and claim to be the real victim.

Molestation could, in theory, happen across any walk of life. I grew up with good church-going kids and wild church going kids. I’ve seen kids reject their families’ churches. I’ve seen ‘bad’ kids embrace religion. If there is a perfect way to raise a child, I’m not aware of it.

At this point, unless more information comes out, I don’t blame Michelle and Jim Bob very much for not immediately calling the authorities. I’m sure it was very shocking and disappointing to them. I believe them when they say they felt like they failed as parents. There were a lot of issues and emotions to process.

My problem is the cover up. There have been rumors about this for years. That didn’t stop members of the Duggar Family from falling victim to their own celebrity, criticizing others’ lifestyles and morality. Given what they’ve been through, I think they should have struck a much more humble tone pre and post scandal. Pride cometh before a fall.

They were on a verge of an empire: a life of spin-offs for kids and grandkids, high-paying speaking gigs, book deals, maybe a long dress collection on QVC, and political aspirations. The Megyn Kelly interview was Jim Bob and Michelle’s stubborn, defensive attempt to salvage that. They’re Duggars Inc.

They even falsely claimed that releasing the records was illegal. It wasn’t. But the purpose of saying that is to fill social media with that claim, regardless of whether it’s true or not.

The Duggars are just doing what business people do, trying to protect their money. They need to play the victim. They need to cast blame. Because doing the truly Christian thing doesn’t pay nearly as well.

Centralia is #1! What It Needs To Do Better

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If you grew up or live in Centralia, Washington, this was all over your Facebook feed. Homesnacks.com (whatever that is) rated Centralia the “Worst Place to Live in Washington (state)”
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As the former Chamber director, I offer a perspective no one else can. I’m not living there anymore, but I will always care about Centralia and Chehalis. I have no political ramifications to fear. Believe me. That is more important than you could possibly know. Remember when I talked about identifying and protecting your own in my Mike Huckabee/Duggars blog? Lewis County has more competitive groups and passively aggressive waring factions than it has people working together. Which brings me to my first point…

1. Work together. This is easier said than done. When I was there, I tried to build as much consensus as I could. It wasn’t easy. There were literally people I was told not to do business with. It was difficult. I worked around some, but not all of it. The truth is Lewis County, and Centralia, has a well-earned reputation for not cooperating. That needs to change.

2. Quit alienating Olympia. Let me tell you a story. I was at an event at Trans Alta. The governor and many other dignitaries were there. I had to leave early. I noticed Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, the most powerful man in Olympia, was going out to the parking lot. I took the opportunity to reintroduce myself. (I had covered the Capitol as a reporter for KIRO Radio.) It went poorly. I thought I was being pleasant and just making small talk, but he tore into me. I experienced the brunt of the legendary Frank Chopp temper. In my head I literally heard the sound of a plane taking a nose dive. “How the hell did this happen?” I thought as I bowed out of that disaster as gracefully as possible. To his credit, Chopp personally called me and apologized.

with Washington State Speaker of the House Frank Chopp. We got off to a very rocky start. I was hopeful to build a relationship that would benefit Lewis County.
with Washington State Speaker of the House Frank Chopp. We got off to a very rocky start. I was hopeful to build a relationship that would benefit Lewis County.

We have been on good terms ever since. I used the opportunity to bring him down to speak at a Chamber luncheon and meet with him privately on behalf of Lewis County. My point? When, as a county, you receive more tax dollars than you take in, perhaps a little diplomacy is better than being constantly combative. You don’t have to change your political opinions, just be more diplomatic in how you express them.

3. Find a niche. This is a hard one. Many people asked why Centralia doesn’t attract tech like Microsoft. One reason is most MS workers are contractors. A lot of work is done through temporary staffing agencies and you can only work so many months a year because otherwise you would be full-time. My personal opinion is that Centralia might start by trying to attract a call center. It’s not the highest paying job, but it’s a start. Manufacturers are also looking at places like Centralia: low cost of living, easy product distribution, and not a strong chance for unionizing. (It’s true, believe me). Again, while manufacturing isn’t what is was during Detroit’s heyday, it’s something. Right now there isn’t much. As more companies come back to the US for manufacturing, perhaps Centralia might be attractive for its relatively lower start up costs.

4.Some small businesses need to raise their game. Antiques are great. But that market is getting older. Tastes shift. There are no mid-century style stores downtown and that’s very popular. Some stores, honestly, look like swap meets and hurt the curb appeal of those who are putting in the extra effort. Why is McMenamins successful and your store barely makes rent? Your inventory sucks and your front window has no curb appeal. I was sad to see that Up The Creek Antiques left downtown. It looked terrific, but people treated it more like a museum than a store. I know it’s a hard balance.

5.Own Christmas. The Lighted Tractor Parade was a disaster that did a complete 180. I would find money for the biggest downtown light display you can afford. Think big. Cover the downtown business front in lights. Between the parade, the drive through display at Borst Park, and downtown looking amazing, you brand Centralia as a family holiday shopping destination. Shelton used to be Christmas town USA. Own that. Make it your identity. If you build it; they will come.

6. Support Centralia College. Education is more important than ever. Coming from an economically disadvantaged area means many who live there can only afford to attend Centralia College. It’s a great institution for its value. It offers a wide variety of courses and now offers some bachelors programs. Lewis County needs all of the trained people it can retain. An educated workforce is desirable to employers and can only help the community and economy in the future. I know some neighbors are frustrated living so close, and I’m very sorry for them, but sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. A more educated population is critical for Centralia and Lewis County’s success.

The Grand Ballroom at Centralia Square.
The Grand Ballroom at Centralia Square. Neil and Jodi White have done an amazing job restoring the old Elk’s Lodge.

7. There is hope. Centralia has some cool, new things happening. To me the most important is the new Industrial Park At TransAlta, or IPAT. The hundreds of family wage jobs at “the steam plant” aren’t coming back, but the IPAT offers hope of new industry coming to Centralia. I can’t think of a better person to manage it than Allyn Roe, the former manager of the Chehalis-Centralia Airport. He’s smart and level headed. I’m also hopeful that Peter Abbarno will bring new life to the city council. He’s an attorney who does his homework. I would go to council meetings in the past and be frustrated that council members then often voted on things based on ideology, rather than reading bills, proposals and other things that crossed their desk. Often times reality and practicality trumps bumper sticker ideology. I hope that the new council does its due diligence. I also love the new Centralia Square. The hotel and ballroom are top notch. Neil and Jodi White and their partners did a tremendous job of revitalizing the old Elk’s Lodge. That building has so much to offer and it was rotting away as simply an antique store. I heard McMenamin’s refers people to that hotel when the hotel at the Oly Club is booked. Working together. Who knew?

These aren’t the only things that can be done. There are probably better ideas out there, either in theory or practice, right now.

Centralia isn’t dramatically different from what’s happening in small towns all across the country. For good or bad, times have changed. More and more people are migrating towards cities because of jobs and services. It’s up to small towns to meet the challenge of offering opportunity and selling quality of life. This is going to take commitment, self sacrifice, and focus on a common goal.

To Morimoto On His 60th Birthday

We were lucky enough to be eating at Morimoto’s Waikiki in The Modern Hotel Honolulu on the famous chef’s 60th birthday. Not only was he there, Morimoto was the life of the party. He sang, played the keyboard, posed for pictures and danced.

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Here he is joining in with some Hawaiian dancers:
Morimoto dances at Morimoto’s on 60th birthday: https://youtu.be/D0pDa0LDHtc

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Morimoto's birthday cake.
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Decorated for Morimoto's birthday.

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Of course if you’re at Morimoto’s, you have to post food pics. Here are the obligatory food pictures.

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I never knew I needed my salad in a plastic tube before.
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The prettiest sushi ever.
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Wagu beef
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Duck soup with puff pastry.
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Bomb

Morimoto’s is amazing. Arigato, Morimoto and The Modern Hotel Honolulu.

Bud Valley, The Korean War, and the Battle Against Scurvy

My old man, Gilbert Valley. His dad’s name was Gilbert, so as a child he was Buddy, later Bud Valley. None of his three sons even have the middle, let alone, the first name of Gilbert. He said because he didn’t want any of us to get our ass kicked for having Gilbert as a name.

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Gilbert and his son Bud Valley, my father.

My dad was a veteran, as a kid it seemed every man of a certain age had served. Gilbert Valley was in the Air Force during the Korean War. I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that, in many ways, The Korean War is the forgotten war. Yes, the TV show M*A*S*H was set in the Korean War, but it only incorporated historical events as a dramatic device.

On this Memorial Day weekend, here’s a famous Bud Valley story in our family. Bud took a merchant marine ship over to serve in South Korea (I believe. All of this is second hand as Bud didn’t discuss his war experience me. I was 8 when he died.) The food left a lot to be desired: no fruits, vegetables, nothing fresh of any kind.

When he was discharged and it was time to ship home, Bud was afraid he was going to get scurvy on the trip home. As funny as it may be to think about today, it was a legitimate concern at the time.

So Bud Valley left most of his personal belongings and toiletries behind. He packed the very minimum and filled the rest of his bag with fruits and vegetables. He lugged that heavy bag from his station in South Korea to the ship.

It turns out he didn’t take another merchant marine ship back home. He shipped out on a US military ship stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Bud had lugged that damn bag across South Korea for nothing.

We appropriately remember those who gave all on Memorial Day. War is hell, after all.

But even if you are fortunate enough to never see combat, to those in a supporting role, because of a lack of resources, communication, and planning war can also be just a simple pain in the ass sometimes. Service is a lot to ask of people on many different levels. Like they say, ‘Sometimes it’s the little things that wear you down.’

Mike Huckabee and the Mentality of Protecting Your Own

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First let me say that I fully support Mike Huckabee’s freedom to choose to practice his faith and his beliefs. While he and I see the world differently, I fully understand the dangers of silencing those with whom I disagree.

If Facebook and Twitter are to be believed, Mike Huckabee has angered members of his religious base by coming out in support of alleged confessed child molester Josh Duggars.

I get it. Huckabee has been against marriage equality and said very wrong and derogatory blanket statements about homosexuals. He then immediately forgives and supports someone who allegedly (I’m using that for my own protection) sexually abused young girls, even in his own family, simply because Huckabee “knows” this person and Josh Duggar has ‘repented’. It’s a double standard.

But everyone does it. We all identify with people like ourselves. We are our friends. As animals, it’s instinctual that we defend our own. Bill Clinton supporters did it. Tom Brady fans did it. Dick Cheney defends the decision to invade Iraq like every six months.

I was irritated by the anti-racism event that barred white males in England. Organizer Bahar Mustafa said that wasn’t racist because racism is institutional.  That’s true, but she is prejudiced. Like Huckabee, she’s prejudiced and defending the group with whom she identifies. I’m a white guy who considers himself part of the solution. But to her, I’m part of the problem.

When I was in college, I took a women’s studies class. I put the same amount of effort into it as I did my other classes. My point is that I didn’t think I did anything special. As I walked up to hand in my final paper, the professor asked me if I wanted to be a discussion group leader next semester. Me? It never crossed my mind. I was flattered. I said yes. It was a great experience and I’m proud to say I was the only male discussion group leader that year. That professor or women in the class could have just as easily dismissed me as a “white, privileged male”. But something I said or did earned their respect and trust. To this day I still have no idea what that was.

I don’t consider myself a feminist for the simple reason it’s too narrow.  I consider myself a populist: someone who stands for everyone. Feminism is a part of it. If you’re gay, have a family, a job, great. If you’re straight, I’m all for it. Go to church? Fine by me. If you’re honest and truthful and living your life the best way you can, you and I have no issues. That’s America. That’s freedom. That’s equality.

What I’m seeing today is that some, not all, people who claim to be for ‘equality’ or ‘freedom’ really mean, ‘we want to be the dominant culture so we can supress our enemies.’ They don’t stick up for anyone else but themselves and those with whom they identify.  I don’t see how that makes them better than the oppressors of the past and present. The King is dead. Long live the King. I grew up seeing everyone as my equal. I’m guessing you experienced the same thing.

Circling back to Huckabee, it’s time to drop the ‘tribe’ or ‘team’ mentality when it’s clear that you are just covering for the faults, transgressions, or crimes of those with whom you identify. It clouds judgment, contributes to prejudism, and, also, will likely continue on until the end of mankind.

The Duggars: Unless You’re a Doctor, Having Babies Shouldn’t Be Your Business

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The Duggars. You either passionately love them or are violently disgusted by them. Like the family itself, nothing is small about it.

The famous Duggar internet meme. I have no idea who created it.
The famous Duggar internet meme. I have no idea who created it.

If you are fortunate enough to afford a large family, have at it. I have a good friend who has 8 or 9 children. He and his wife home school and from what I can tell, it seems to be a very healthy and happy family. I’m sure it’s a colossal amount of work, but they are a healthy family unit. I support that 100%. But not everyone has the time, money, or aptitude to be a parent of a super-sized family. Kids need attention. guidance, love, and structure.

I have no doubt the Duggar Family started out with the best of intentions. My feeling about the Duggars is now they are just breeding for attention, to stay on TV and in the public eye. Having babies is their cottage industry. Before the TV show Jim Duggar did have a challenge feeding the family. Now it feels like all of his kids are anxious to pump up their families so they can be celebrities like mom and dad. I think that’s wrong and cynical.19-kids-and-counting

Celebrity is fleeting and it’s not a good business model. Now that Josh Duggar, the oldest, has confessed and apologized for sexually abusing girls, including sisters, as a teenager, the money is going to dwindle. No major TV network will want to be associated with them. They may get some public appearances or speaking engagements, but I think the best days are behind the family.

While I may not agree with their life choices, it does make me sad that small children will likely suffer because older members of The Duggar family had stars in their eyes.

I want to make it clear, if they want to practice their faith as they see fit, I support that. My point is that it went from something real to a calculation that more kids meant more attention, money, and fame.

My advice to the Duggar men and future husbands of the Duggar women: get a real job.

David Letterman & Me

I have been a fan since day 1. Just by chance, I happened to be home sick from school when David Letterman’s short-lived daytime talk show debuted. I was in 4th grade and loving every minute of the comedy boom that began in the 1970s: Steve Martin, Saturday Night Live, Andy Kaufmann, Robin Williams were all big influences. I had all of their albums and knew them by heart.

Then came David Letterman. I had seen him on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He was fine. He had some good lines. He seemed more in the mold of David Steinbrenner, funny, personable, but not particularly dynamic.

It turns out the monologue wasn’t his greatest strength. Dave was a concept artist. Late Night with David Letterman broke all conventions. Years of Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and Mike Douglas and the has-been celebrity gabfests were held up to a mirror. What Letterman lacked in star power, he made up for in irony, absurdity, and creativity. Jimmy Fallon has done a tremendous job breathing new life into The Tonight Show. But it’s completely scripted and publicist approved. Letterman was raw. Its beauty was in its imperfections.

I don’t have to tell you what happened. Leno got the Tonight Show. Letterman went to CBS and became America’s Darling until he hosted the Oscars in 1995. It wasn’t the greatest hosting job, but I’ve seen Whoopi, Ellen (the first time), James Franco, and others do much worse jobs hosting with no career repercussions whatsoever. Suddenly, David Letterman was no longer above criticism. I believe he gave up that day. Jay Leno booked Hugh Grant fresh off of his hooker scandal and the rest is history. Dave never recovered. Even his return after open heart surgery, didn’t cause the public to fall back in love with The Late Show.

Dave has struggled. Comedy bits that Letterman would have mocked in the past, now make the air. He lost his inspiration. His staff of writers and producers are also to blame. It makes me frustrated and sad.

I was there live for Dave’s saddest moment of all. October 1, 2009: the night he confessed his affair.

Life & Style magazine's version of that night and Letterman's affair featuring a quote from me.
Life & Style magazine’s version of that night and Letterman’s affair featuring a quote from me.

It was bizarre. First you need to know David Letterman is notoriously paranoid. His studio is notoriously cold because Dave worries people are going to fall asleep during his show. While waiting in four different lines to enter the Ed Sullivan Theater interns and producers cheerlead you into laughing, “Okay, when Dave tells a joke, laugh as hard as you can, even if it’s only a little funny.” You are literally cajoled into laughing at everything for the hour before the show tapes.

An ill-gotten photo from inside the Ed Sullivan Theater. (Photography is prohibited)  October 1, 2009.
An ill-gotten photo from inside the Ed Sullivan Theater. (Photography is prohibited) October 1, 2009.

Ushered into the theater and coaxed to clap feverishly as The Black Eyed Peas’ “I’ve Got A Feelin'” blared over the speakers, our seats were fourth row center.

Before the show, Dave comes out to warm up the audience. His staff obviously gives him a report on the crowd. He tried to set the narrative by saying he heard there were a lot of foreigners in the audience. Then he took questions. My hand shot up like a bullet. He picked me. David Letterman called on me. Admittedly, he seemed disappointed that I was American and spoke English, an opportunity for comedy missed. My question to Dave, “What’s the highlight of your television career?” He paused, scratched his chin and said, “Talking to you now, Jim!” There it is. I, Jim Valley, according to the man himself, am the highlight of David Letterman’s career.

Not my best picture. We took the red eye into NYC and we hadn't slept.
Not my best picture. We took the red eye into NYC and we hadn’t slept.

Then Letterman started his now-infamous confession. The audience, which had been coached to laugh at anything that might be even the slightest bit funny, made it more awkward by laughing at inappropriate moments. It took several minutes for me to realize exactly what was happening: I was witnessing a childhood hero in the most vulnerable moment of his life. It started like a typical, meandering Letterman story and ended as a baring of his most humiliating secret. To his credit, he didn’t blame anyone but himself. He took full responsibility. That said, what he did was selfish and hurt a lot of people.

During the commercial break, the lights went down and a few staffers gathered around his chair, presumably for support. After a minute or so, Dave got up and exited the stage to his left. Through an open door I could see him pacing back and forth. He quietly returned to his desk and the show went on with guests Woody Harrellson and Kim Kardashian.

Exiting the theater, upbeat and laughing, it didn’t seem that the audience fully grasped what they had just seen. I did. I called my media friends. Nobody understood until it aired. The next morning I did countless interviews for Fox News, Seattle, Spokane, Washington DC (I got to talk to Gopher from The Love Boat!) , and magazines.

My contribution to Life & Style magazine. The reporter called while my wife and I were having lunch at Tavern On The Green.
My contribution to Life & Style magazine. The reporter called while my wife and I were having lunch at Tavern On The Green.

I wasn’t there for the velcro or Alka Seltzer suit, throwing Pumpkins off the roof, Larry “Bud” Melman, or Andy Kaufman, but I was there for his worst night and, according to David Letterman himself, the highlight of his career.

Let’s Get This Out of the Way

My health.

Since 2012, it’s defined me. You work hard. You’re nice to people. You try to make something of your life.  It doesn’t matter. Now I’m the ‘Bubble Boy’.

In Providence St. Peters March 2012
In Providence St. Peters March 2012

I have an autoimmune disease. It used to be called “Wegener’s Vasculitis”. (Wegener was a nazi apparently, thus the name change). It’s now GPA for short. Basically, it attacks white guys in their 40s and 80s. 20 years ago it was a death sentence. There are maybe 500 cases a year. The cause is unknown. I wish I knew. I’d make changes. Lifestyle, genetics, environment, who knows? My immune system attacked my lungs. If you don’t identify it and treat it soon enough, it moves onto the kidneys and a person can end up on dialysis or dead. Many older doctors are amazed I’m still alive. As of right now, it’s in remission. There hasn’t been a trace in my blood in years. I wish the story ended there. It doesn’t.

My lungs March 2012. The white you see is blood filling up my lungs. A normal lung X-ray would be black.
My lungs March 2012. The white you see is blood filling up my lungs. A normal lung X-ray would be black.

It started on Oscar night 2012 (the last time Billy Crystal hosted). I started coughing up blood. After going to a clinic thinking I just needed antibiotics, I spent the night in a local hospital, then was whisked by ambulance to the rheumatologists at Providence St. Peter in Olympia. The hospital where I was born was almost the hospital where I died.

In April and March of 2012, I spent 30 days in the hospital, most of it in ICU. I couldn’t be stabilized for a biopsy. When I was finally strong enough, I went into a simple lung biopsy with the knowledge that I might not make it. I almost didn’t. Being intubated for just a few hours stretched into 9 days. Thanks to a team of doctors and nurses and my wife, I pulled through. One doctor said, “You never crashed, but you were clipping the tops of trees.”

Out of the hospital and ready to get back to my life, I started a regimen of Cytoxan, a chemotherapy infusion. The GPA quickly went into remission and I thought that would be the end of my health scares for another 20 years. That’s actually where the problems started. The drugs suppressed my immune system and opened the door for an unwanted guest.

Aspergillis, a common fungus in the air, lodged in my spinal cord in my neck at C4.
Aspergillis, a common fungus in the air, lodged in my spinal cord in my neck at C4.

Sometime, somewhere I inhaled a fungus and it stuck. It stuck in my neck and my brain. While your immune system can fight off all kinds of things in the air, I couldn’t. As one doctor put it, “It’s the drugs, man.”

Brain MRI 2012. You can see two lesions on the right front and back lobes. The frontal fungus disappeared with medication. The larger lesion didn't.
Brain MRI 2012. You can see two lesions on the right front and back lobes. The frontal fungus disappeared with medication. The larger lesion didn’t.
Aspergillis in the bottom right lobe of my brain. 2013.
Aspergillis in the bottom right lobe of my brain. 2013.

At first doctors didn’t think it would be an issue, just take some anti fungal meds and the lesions would be gone in 9 to 12 months. They were wrong. The fungus caused a relapse in the GPA and sent me back to the ICU in late April. I spent 60 days in the hospital this time, 13 days intubated. The Tuesday after Memorial Day, doctors told my wife to prepare for the worst. I wasn’t going to make it.

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A never-before-seen photo of me intubated in March 2012.

Days later, I finally woke up under a completely different set of circumstances: I couldn’t walk or talk. The lesion in my neck paralyzed my entire left side, even my face was drooping. Because I was intubated for so long, my throat was trached and I couldn’t talk. But I was happy to be alive.

The next 40 days in the hospital were hell. I had to learn how to walk, talk, eat, breathe, pretty much everything all over again. I had no strength, stamina, or lung capacity, yet I had to come back from three near death experiences. It was the biggest challenge of my life, but all of my tools had been stripped from me. I was frustrated, humiliated, and grateful all at once. This is just an overview of my diagnosis and struggles, I’ll share more stories in later blogs. While I posted everything about my journey in social media, it’s so complicated, most people still don’t understand what happened. Just know that doctors didn’t expect me to walk or use my left arm again. I beat their predictions and I beat death. The score is still Jim: 4 Death: 0

Come along for the ride