Andre the Giant's drinking and Dusty Rhodes' singing: A conversation with one of the Brisco brothers

Published July 25 2016
Updated July 25 2016

Floyd Gerald Brisco spent over four decades in the professional wrestling industry. First he was portrayed as a serious tough as nails grappler who won more than 20 championship belts with the National Wrestling Alliance — a mix of singles and tag team titles alongside his older brother, Freddie Brisco.

After retirement from in-ring action, Brisco joined World Wrestling Entertainment and was comically portrayed as a bumbling stooge for the evil on-air character of the WWE's real life CEO, Vince McMahon.

Yet not one piece of wrestling memorabilia can be found anywhere in Brisco's Tampa home.

"I don't need to hang anything to remember my career," said the 69-year-old native of Oklahoma City, who has made Tampa home since 1976. "I lived it."

Still, when Tampa Bay Times reporter Paul Guzzo visited the retired grappler, he excitedly unpacked memorabilia from his attic and shed to talk old times.

Your first name is Floyd but everyone calls you Gerald or Jerry and you wrestled under those names. Why?

Floyd was my dad's name and he deserted us when I was 6 so I never wanted to go by that name.

My brother doesn't have Jack anywhere in his name but that's how everyone knew him. My grandfather used to say he was faster than a jack rabbit, and the name stuck.

You wrestled all over the world but rose to prominence in Tampa's Championship Wrestling From Florida. What's your earliest memory here?

My first TV angle when I was just getting started in 1969. Dale Lewis was the bad guy in town. My brother Jack was Florida Heavyweight Champ. Jack's airplane was late so he was late for the TV taping.

Dale Lewis goes out and starts calling Jack all kinds of names and insulting my family.

I ran out and said he can't talk that way about my family. I threw him in the ring and I got a few good punches in but then he stopped me and put me in his Lewis Lock submission hold. This went on for a while but I wouldn't give up.

Finally here comes Jack running with his suitcase in hand and makes the save. That set up their match and established me as tough for not giving up.

You worked for Eddie Graham, who ran the Florida promotion and Vince McMahon's WWE. Compare the two.

I'd call both very creative, so top talent wanted to work with them. Eddie had one of the most successful areas in the entire United States. The talent level here was unbelievable: Dusty Rhodes, the Funks, Don Muraco. Some guys working opening matches were main-eventers in other areas.

Vince later cherry-picked the top talent from all the areas: Valentine, Slaughter, Piper, Hogan, Harley Race. Again, he'd have top guys in non-main event matches.

But Eddie was not as organized and systematic with long range goals as McMahon. I think that is what set them apart.

Compare your time as a serious wrestler with your time as a comedic performer.

I loved it. I was 55 years old and getting air time and becoming a star again to a different generation as a fun character. Pat Patterson — the other stooge — in the beginning hated it.

I used to kid Pat that he and I worked 25 years to be considered legit wrestlers, but we will go down in history as the McMahon stooges. He'd get mad and say don't say that.

Now he enjoys the memories.

He told me he was recently at Joe's Crab Shack and someone says, "Hey are you that Brisco stooge guy?" Pat told the guy he had half of it right.

Do you have a favorite Dusty Rhodes story?

We used to go to Tampa's Imperial Room Lounge on Armenia Avenue all the time and Dusty liked to get up on stage and sing. He had one song, Johnny B. Goode, he'd sing with the local band. He had an audience of wrestling fans. He was horrible but they told him he was the greatest, so he thought he was a rock 'n' roll star.

We became good friends with Willie Nelson, and Willie would invite Dusty out on stage to sing with him, and Willie would secretly say, "God, Dusty's awful."

One time we're drinking at the Imperial and Dusty said, "I'm gonna rent the Tampa armory and have me a concert. I bet I can get 5,000 people." Well, maybe about 125 people showed up but Dusty goes out there anyway.

So a bunch of us wrestlers are backstage with some cold beer and Don Muraco, a 330-pound Hawaiian, is totally wasted. We are all supposed to go out on stage and join in for Johnny B. Goode. Don Muraco goes charging out and starts screaming, not singing. Dusty waves for security and they get Muraco off stage.

When the show was over, because he didn't make enough at the door, it cost Dusty $5,000 to do the concert, but he had the time of his life.

I can't leave without asking about Andre the Giant's legendary drinking feats. Fact or fiction?

There are a lot of crazy stories about Andre that sound fake but most are true, especially his drinking.

Andre used to ask me to get him six bottles of Mateus wine and ice them down. He would drink those before we went to the ring and no one could tell.

One night in Sarasota, Andre is traveling with us. So we pull over and get two cases of tall boys. By the time we get from Sarasota to the Tahitian Inn on Dale Mabry, the two cases were bone dry.

He was one of the nicest guys but I have seen idiots in bars all over the country challenge him, and with one little shove they'd be 10 feet away.

Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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