Book Review: Countdown to Lockdown—A Hardcore Journal by Mick Foley.

Midway through Countdown to Lockdown, wrestler Mick Foley’s fourth memoir and ninth published work, the author says that “June 24, 2007, had been a disaster, probably one of the worst days of my year, possibly even my life” (p. 215). And that was before he’d heard the news that colleague Chris Benoit and his family had been murdered.

Of course, it was later revealed that Benoit had committed a double murder-suicide, murdering his wife and son in their home. Foley uses the tragedy as a cautionary tale to others in the business, warning of the affects of not only drugs, but the lonely business professional wrestling can be if you aren’t one of the lucky few to be on top of it.

Aside from the small portion of the book that deals with Benoit, death, drugs and Foley’s unhappiness with his final stint as an announcer in World Wrestling Entertainment in 2008 (which you can find some funny anecdotes about on pages 143–144), the rest is a riot, as are all of Foley’s efforts.

I’m going to relay some choice (re: hilarious) excerpts to really illustrate how talented Foley is:

  • “I think it might have been Al Snow’s fault. For looking so darn good. No, that’s not a misprint… Al looked really good. No, not his ring work, which continued to be sloppy and juvenile. Not his facial features, either, which strike me as ‘Village People cop meets generations of inbreeding’…” (p. 5, in relation to Foley’s “multiple disk herniations” on page 20).
  • “This was where testicular fortitude came in—and brother, if there is any one word that accurately describes my testicles, it is fortuitous” (p. 10).
  • “We’d taped some cool commercials for the book, centred around an unsubstantiated rumour that I was something of a name-dropper—a charge I’m pretty sure CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, who has interviewed me twice, would refute” (p. 11). Sounds a bit like another name-dropper I know love.
  • Foley has some wisdom for keeping your underwear on during a massage on page 14.
  • “I felt like such a phony, like a beauty contestant claiming natural Cs when the slightest feel, the most tender touch, the simplest tweak would have exposed the perfect, impossibly rounded, gravity-defying truth. This talk with Wolfie [Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank] seemed to be tweaking a nipple of its own: the nipple of my conscience” (p. 116).
  • “… I’d been accused of being a lot of things over the years, but a ‘college professor’ was a new one” (p. 148).
  • “‘… steel cage, ladders, tables, chairs, barbed wire, bats… lions and tigers and bears, oh my… it doesn’t really matter to me…’ I love, just love that lines from 1939 children’s movie are being used to promote pro-wrestling matches over seventy years after its filming” (p. 272).
  • “… Like every ounce of joy had been wrung out of life’s hand towel… “Life’s hand towel”? Pretty weak” (p. 290).

The bits about Foley’s kids are the funniest in the whole book:

  • “Like most dads, I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to relating to my teenage kids. Well, not really Noelle, who’s like a straight-A angel, one of the least problematic kids around. See, witnessing those eleven unprotected chair shots from The Rock back in 1999 wasn’t so traumatic after all” (p. 81).
  • “Her on-camera look of surprise, disgust, and humiliation when Dad handed her a twenty to go clothes shopping was a thing of beauty” (p. 91).
  • Page 91–92 also deals with the time Foley, his wife and two young boys were watching Rocky and Foley decided to play a prank on the kids by leaving a message on the family’s answering machine as Rocky Balboa. The terror in the children that ensues is hilarious!
  • Wrestling My Family [the Foley family’s ill-fated reality TV show that never got picked up] seemingly had everything going for it. Humour. Warmth. A wrestling comeback match. That threat of paralysis…” (p. 95).
  • Wrestling My Family also had an irresistible vampire breakfast angle going on, in which former ECW star Ariel (you guessed it, her gimmick was a vampire) would come over for breakfast with the two youngest members of the Foley clan (p. 97).
  • “I looked at my children in the rearview mirror. Dewey and Noelle in the third row, listening to their iPods. Like most teenagers they found the thought of travelling forty minutes without some kind of personal entertainment device to be unthinkable. Mickey and Hughie were sound asleep in the second row—their childhood innocence shattered forever by the image of their dad in a black warm-up suit doing battle with the Coach [Jonathan Coachman]. Forget about those eleven chair shots at the ’99 [Royal] Rumble my older kids witnessed—this was real childhood trauma… That image if all my children together at the match for the first time was one I could live with gladly for the rest of my life… The Coach? A leprechaun? My own son booing me? Absolutely perfect” (p. 136–137).

Countdown to Lockdown is very much all about family, as are all of Foley’s books in some way or another. Another strong emblem of the memoir is Tori Amos. Odd, I know, but hear him out.

Foley was touched by “Winter” by Tori Amos, and it helped him get through one of his most brutal matches in Japan, in which he lost an ear via barbed wire hanging:

“And then there’s Mick Foley, who took the most beautiful song ever written and turned it into his own twisted ode to suffering and woe…” (p. 72).

Readers of Slate, Jezebel or this here blog from time to time will know that Mick Foley has been named man of the year by the Good Men Project, is a volunteer for Amos’ charity, RAINN and labels himself a feminist, amongst many other good deeds he’s used his wrestling career for.

I can’t recommend this—nor any of Foley’s books—enough. It’s got the perfect combination of violence and morbidity, family and fun, humour and intelligence, and empathy and charity.

[Slate] The Wrestler & the Cornflake Girl.

[Jezebel] Wrestling Star Mick Foley Blows Our Collective Mind.

[The Good Men Project] Top 10 Good Men of 2010: Mick Foley.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Ten Books I Wanted to Read This Year But Didn’t.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Loving… Mick Foley.

 [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Book Review: Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne.

Lady Most Likely: Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People

Every time I turn on the readio, it seems like there’s a Will.I.Am collaboration (“3 Words” with Cheryl Cole; Usher’s “OMG”; “Imma Be” with Black Eyed Peas) or Will.I.Am sounding collaboration (“Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B.; “If We Ever Meet Again” by former über-producer Timbaland and Katy Perry) getting airtime. The BEP front man may indeed be the new Timabland, so I was surprised he didn’t make it onto the list. There’s always next year, I suppose…

Someone who did make it on, though, is Lady Gaga.

Cyndi Lauper, Gaga’s partner-in-crime for the MAC AIDS Fund, profiles her for possibly the most talked about ranking this year. I have no doubt Gaga is the most influential person in entertainment today, as she’s collaborating with and inspiring the fashion, beauty, art, advertising, music and film worlds with her own performance artas Lauper writes, “she is inspiring other artists to go further in their own work”and striking up water cooler conversation with her boundary pushing antics, both onstage and off.

Time is spot on in naming Marc Jacobs the only influential fashion figure. Jacobs, who is profiled by fellow fashionista and friend, Victoria Beckham, glamorised grunge, began the bag lady chic movement, and is now championing voluptuousness in his new season looks for Louis Vuitton and his titular line. Perhaps Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour would have made welcome additions, but Jacobs certainly has the respect of all facets of the fashion world his peers, his models, his muses and his loyal subjects.

I am utterly dumbfounded to not see George Clooney on the list. Not only did he single-handedly organise the Hope for Haiti Now telethon but, like a fine wine, he only gets better with age.

In other “Artists” notes, shoe in Oprah is profiled by Phil Donahue, while her partner, “Mr Oprah” Stedman Graham makes the Least Influential list (more on that below); Robert Pattinson is bafflingly included (for influencing legions of teens and, worryingly, tweens ready and willing to let Pattinson bite them? Perhaps Brad and Angelina would have been better choices, as they actually contribute something to societyas well as being really, really ridiculously good looking. Or even Stephenie Meyer, without whom Pattinson wouldn’t have an Edward Cullen to broodingly portray); and “new media mogul” Ashton Kutcher, whom I was pleasantly surprised to see on the list.

Of course, President Obama makes an appearance as one of, if not the most influential leaders. While he certainly is the most well-known leader on the list, whether he’s been as influential as he could have during his first year in the presidency is a point of contention for a lot of politicos and American citizens.

My second favourite President (after Obama, George W. Bush is the only other President whose reign I was [un]lucky enough to grow up during, so Clinton wins via default), I find Bill Clinton funny, charming and smartalthough, hey may not have been utilising the latter during Lewinskygate. Nonetheless, he’s making positive change, and that’s all that matters here.

On the other hand, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin makes the list. She is certainly fascinating and controversial, but I wouldn’t call her influential. Perhaps she would be more at home on Barbara Walters’ annual most fascinating people list?

Speaking of other lists, on page 96 you will find Joel Stein’s “The Time Bum Hundred”, relaying how he chronicled the 100 least influential people of 2010, split into “four categories… Losers, Flameouts, Morons and Slimy Bastards”. The complete list is not available in the mag, but it is on Time’s website.

Here is a sneak peak of “the Least Influential People Who Used to or Ought to Have Influence”, not including babies (who really are the least influential people in the world!), “the tattooed chick who messed up Sandra Bullocks’ marriage” (negative influence), and Tiger Woods, who just had a “bad year”, but is “still immensely influential, only now his influence lies in preventing men from texting their mistresses”: the Tom Tom GPS navigation system; “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”; Paula Adbul; Michael Jackson’s doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray who, unfortunately, was influential enough last year to play a key role in the death of Michael Jackson; Joaquin Phoenix; gay-disapprover, sex tape “without any sex” star and Former Miss California Carrie Prejean; “first dog” Bo Obama; George Clooney’s ex, Sarah Larson; former MTV TRL host Carson Daly; questionably, The Doors, who “actually sucked and just had a handsome lead singer”; Grover; Carrot Top; news anchor Katie Couric; John Edwards; the quintessential douche bag reality show dropout, Jon Gosselin; keeping it in the familyLindsay and Michael Lohan; Jersey Shore outcast Angelina Pivarnick; Bernie Madoff; Levi Johnston; Tila Tequila; Nicollette Sheridan; witches (“Charmed was like, ten years ago. It’s all about vampires, werewolves and zombies now”); anddrum roll pleaseSpencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, collectively known as Speidi. Let’s hope Heidi truly is uninfluential, especially for The Hills‘ primarily teen audience’ssake, or we could have an army of over-inflated, frozen-foreheaded Barbie clones on our hands.