Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Friends, fans pay tribute to wrestling star Luna Vachon

SHADY HILLS — Theresa Johal's reward for keeping quiet and being a good girl after she was beaten and molested was to watch wrestling on a tiny, black-and-white television set.

This was in the 1980s, when Johal was a child in New York. Her favorite wrestler was the villainous Luna Vachon, who looked like some female warrior spit back from the underworld. She beat men and women, her body ripped with muscles. This, dreamed Johal, night after night, was the woman who would rescue her.

The little girl who said nothing became a young woman addicted to crack and living in Port Richey. Then one day some friends said, "Do you want to meet Luna Vachon?"

"I couldn't believe it," said Johal at a memorial service for Vachon on Saturday afternoon at Faith Community Church in Shady Hills.

Vachon, 48, was found dead Aug. 27 in her home in Port Richey. Authorities don't suspect foul play. A cause of death is pending toxicology results, said Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office.

Vachon, whose official name was Gertrude Hurd-Nash, lived in Pasco County for much of her adult life, and after she retired from wrestling in 2007 because of chronic neck and back pain, she worked as a tow truck driver.

"She went from everything to nothing," said Denise Macchio, 48, who knew Vachon for 20 years. Macchio and her husband, Joe Macchio, employed Vachon at their tow truck company and owned the home she rented.

Joe Macchio said Vachon was a multimillionaire at one point, but she was too nice and let people take advantage of her.

"She was a warm-hearted person who would give her last dollar or half a sandwich to a stranger," Joe Macchio, 62, said during the service he organized. This was Vachon's church and it fit her, a place with no fancy pretenses and a weekly Bible study for bikers.

Saturday, Pastor Earl Foster, 67, parked his motorcycle by the side door and wore a black leather vest at the pulpit, which agreed with most of the outfits of those in attendance. A 48-year-old wrestler named Cookie Crumble came to the service from Rhode Island.

"She was a beautiful person," said Cookie, whose real name is Karen Canada, who said she also wrestled as Franny Freight Train and Vula. Like Vachon's character of lunatic Luna, all of Canada's characters are villains.

Also in attendance Saturday was "Bad Boy" Barry Hardy, also known as "Executioner Agony." Hardy, 48, drove from his home in Daytona. Saturday night, he had a match in Starke. He also lives with pain from old injuries. The traveling is tiresome.

"It takes a toll on you," said Hardy, who is tanned, with ice blond hair, and wore a black tie with a pink, neon lightning bolt.

"But it's hard to walk away."

Vachon's two grown sons, who live out of state, were not there. Friends said Vachon's mother, who lives in Weeki Wachee, had Vachon cremated and refused to have a service.

Her mother declined to comment Saturday. Her adopted father — a famous retired professional wrestler named Paul "the Butcher" Vachon — lives in Vermont and could not attend the service, though he had a friend of his daughter read a passage he wrote, in which he remembered watching her wrestle at Madison Square Garden. He said he is proud of his daughter. He said he is devastated.

Johal spoke of watching Vachon on her tiny TV and the fate that pushed them together.

"We were like sisters," Johal said.

Friends for more than a decade, Vachon taught Johal how to speak up for herself. Johal, 35, said Vachon was one of the few people there for her as she struggled with her addiction and became sober six years ago.

Dealing with the loss of Vachon has sent Johal tumbling, desperately trying to not relapse. At night, she said, she sits in front of her car, her dream car, a 1986 Monte Carlo Super Sport, the one she always wanted and the one Vachon urged her to get. Johal now has Vachon's favorite quote on the windshield, "Only God knows why."

"Luna, help me make it through one more day," she says, tilting her head up.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Friends, fans pay tribute to wrestling star Luna Vachon 09/18/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 18, 2010 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ratings service Nielsen begins tracking live TV consumption on Hulu, YouTube

    Retail

    TV ratings service Nielsen will begin tracking how many people watch network TV on YouTube and Hulu to gauge how many viewers broadcast networks have through streaming, the company announced Tuesday.

    Nielsen, a ratings company, is monitoring how many viewers watch live TV on Hulu and YouTube to get a better sense of overall viewership. | [AP]
  2. FWC investigates viral video of shark getting dragged behind speeding boat (w/video)

    Wildlife

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  3. Cheers, whoops for McCain's return, then impassioned speech

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — In high drama at the Capitol, Sen. John McCain on Tuesday delivered a crucial vote in the Republican drive to dismantle the health care law, a win for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders, and then leveled a broadside at how the GOP got there.

    In this image from video provided by C-SPAN2, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. is embraced by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y. as he arrives of the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. [C-SPAN2 via AP]
  4. For starters: Slumping LoMo, Dickerson not in Rays lineup tonight vs LHP

    Blogs

    1B Logan Morrison and LF Corey Dickerson, two of the main slumpers in the Rays lineup, are not in tonight's lineup with the Orioles throwing LHP Wade Miley.

    Logan Morrison is 0-for-12 on this homestand.
  5. Pence breaks tie as Senate votes to begin debating 'Obamacare' repeal

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the health care law, taking a pivotal step forward after the dramatic return of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast a crucial vote despite his diagnosis of brain cancer.

    Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive on Capitol Hill, Tuesday in Washington, D.C. [Getty Images]