Alan Snoddy (of Toronto band Bellwoods) was never much of a wrestling fan. So when he ran into Rowdy Roddy Piper at a charity event in Toronto a few years ago, he treated the encounter like he would any other – an opportunity to shoot the breeze with a friendly stranger.
Little did he know that this chance meeting would lead to not only a good friendship, but also a collaboration of the musical variety. A documentary about the wrestler was underway at the time (the yet-to-be released Behind the Villain) and the team behind it was looking for a biographical song. Alan put something together, sent it over and Piper headed back to Toronto to record. You can watch the music video for “Off the Top Rope” here.
Roddy Piper passed away in his sleep from a heart attack on July 31. And now as family and friends say a final goodbye to the legendary WWE “villain” at his funeral Tuesday, Alan pays his own personal tribute to him by recalling some of the most memorable times they spent together.
Ramona Zacharias: Tell me about the first time you met.
Alan Snoddy: I met him through a mutual friend at a charity event at Comedy Bar, 2 or 3 years ago. He came in, and was a cagey kind of guy. Me and my friend Maurie (Kaufmann, of the band Lights) were talking to him – Maurie likes motorcycles and Piper was wearing a motorcycle jacket. People kept coming over to him and asking him things…but eventually it ended up being just the three of us sitting in the corner and having a drink. Maurie and I weren’t really fans, you know? We were just chatting. And I think he liked that. We took a couple of pictures together and left it at that. He said “If you’re ever in Portland, look me up”. I thought nothing of it and went home and went to sleep.
Around 5:30 in the morning my phone rang. “Hey bud, it’s me, Piper. What are you doing?” I said “I’m asleep! It’s 5:30…what are you doing?” “I’m at the airport. Bored, you know?” I told him to get a magazine or something! I had to be up later and was a little bit short with him. He was all apologetic and we hung up.
Two or three minutes later, just as I’m getting back to sleep, the phone rings again. And it’s him. “I just wanted to apologize for waking you up.” I said “You just woke me up again!”
And that was it.
RZ: What are some of your memories of him?
AS: I remember one night we came to the Drake for dinner. It was a Sunday and packed – you can’t get in on a Sunday. The girl told us it would be a 45-minute wait. He just smiled, said “OK” and walked in and sat down at a table. So one of the staff came up and politely said “Excuse me, um…there’s a bit of a wait so we’re just going to ask you to…” He took a menu and said “We’ll take three burritos”. And then another guy came over – the manager. “Hi guys, hope you’re having a good day…” And Piper just shook his hand and said “We’ll take those burritos”. And that was it. They brought them over and we ate them. We got up and he didn’t even ask for a bill – everything would just be rounded up to the nearest hundred. As he walked out, he just found somebody who worked there and handed him a hundred-dollar bill. “Here – take this.” It was all done in a very nice, diplomatic, positive a-hole way! And everybody just went with it. He was a very polite impolite.
RZ: How often did you get to see him?
AS: I hung out with him a couple of times here in Toronto. And then he did a tour of the UK – something that incorporated music and archival stuff on a screen that he would narrate. Similar to that one-man show Mike Tyson did. There were a couple of bits with guitar so that’s what I did. It was about five minutes of guitar and the rest of the time was just hanging out with him. That was last summer/fall and we went to Scotland, Ireland and Wales. So I didn’t see him that often. But for three weeks straight I was hanging out with him.
When we were in the UK, he would do these meet and greet sessions. People would come through and he’d shake their hands, take a picture and so on. Most people were pretty quick. If he could tell someone was a really big fan, he’d spend a bit more time with them. There was this one guy who came through who was really drunk. He kept saying “You’ve got to put me in that sleeper hold that you’ve got”. And Piper kept saying “No, no, I can’t do it”. The guy kept on and on and then eventually left. But then he came back with his buddy and a camera and he asked again. Piper, with a big smile, looked at me and just winked. He said “OK, let’s try it”. He took the guy and put him in the hold. And I just saw the guy’s eyes go back – legs, gone. Piper laid him on the ground, got some ice to put on his neck, and that was it, they dragged him out. This was before the show, so I guess he didn’t see it. As he was doing it, I said “Roddy, what’s that smell?” and he said “Oh, it’s ok. He just sh*t his pants. If you do it right, they sh*t their pants.” Apparently, if you hold it for a certain amount of time, they just go out; but if you hold it for a little bit longer, the body just gives out. So that was the trick. The line moved a lot quicker after that!
RZ: What surprised you about him?
AS: The stuff about wrestling itself surprised me – it was like the Wild West. They had no contracts. I think he said he once wrestled something like 90 days in a row. Non-stop. They’d give you pills – pills to wake you up, pills to put you to sleep. If you broke your leg, too bad – they’d just tape it up and freeze it and you’d have to go out. And if you didn’t do it, you’d just get the boot and were gone.
He’d even wrestle bears. He’d show up and there’d be a bear in the cage. They’d pour honey all down his back to get the bear going. There’s footage of it – he showed it to me. And it was a drunk bear – they’d give it a bottle of whiskey first. They’d take out its front teeth but it still had its back ones. The guy told him “Try and avoid putting your hand in its mouth. You might lose a finger.” Thanks for the tip.
That’s what he would do on his tour – just tell stories, you know? Some of them were just nearly unbelievable.
RZ: When was the last time you saw him?
AS: The last time I saw him was on that tour, in London at the airport. I spoke to him a few days before he died. He liked to read – or so he said. He used to like books on tape so he could listen to them. He really liked Of Mice and Men. I used to call him Lenny as a joke! I found a picture of him online, it was him at Disneyland standing beside a big rabbit. So I said “You finally got to tend to those rabbits”. And he wrote back “You a-hole”. Those were our last texts.
He was a very kind guy. He was very docile, very calm, and very considerate. Nice guy with a good sense of humour. He really loved his wife and kids and was good with them. But, in a split second, you could tell that he could turn…but not on you. As long as he was on your side, you were alright.