It's a good thing Hulk Hogan's reality show is no longer on the air. They'd most likely have to change the title from "Hogan Knows Best" to something along the lines of "Hogan Doesn't Have A Clue."
Unlike the world of pro wrestling, where characters and storylines are in the relatively safe hands of fantasy writers, Terry Bollea, aka the Hulkster, has found his life of late exposed for the world to see. And it's not very pretty.
Also unlike the world of pro wrestling, Hogan is finding it increasingly difficult to spin the situation and manipulate the media. He's been a master at that aspect his entire wrestling career, but even Hogan hasn't been able to play the press this time around.
The latest sordid chapter in the ongoing Hogan family saga, of which there have been many, is the release of the Nick Hogan prison tapes. Hogan's 17-year-old son recently was sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading no contest to reckless driving stemming from an incident last August. The passenger in his car, John Graziano, was left with a much harsher sentence — confined to a lifetime of medical care with massive brain damage and in a permanent vegetative state.
Authorities say Hogan was street racing his father's modified 1998 Toyota Supra when he struck a curb, spun in traffic and slammed into a palm tree near downtown Clearwater, Fla. Hogan, who was not seriously hurt, had alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.
Graziano, a 22-year-old former U.S. Marine who already had served two tours of duty in Iraq, made the mistake of getting in a car with a teenager who had spent his free time compiling an ugly driving record — four speeding tickets racked up in the past year alone — while snubbing his nose at authority. About two weeks before the accident, he was nabbed for driving 82 mph in a 45 mph construction zone and cited for speeding and not wearing a seat belt.
Young Hogan had even boasted about talking his way out of tickets in an interview he gave to a car magazine.
"Speeding to Nick was a badge of honor," Graziano's mother, Debbie, said during the recent court hearing.
Hulk Hogan, though, has consistently denied suggestions that his beleaguered son's bad driving record and affinity for racing may have been to blame for the crash. Even mom Linda Hogan encouraged her young son's street racing.
"Oh, I love it. I love it," she once said. "The rush, the speed on the road, stereo-blasting, heart-pounding, racing in between all the cars, dodging the cops. It's awesome."
His mom even bought him a car to work on when he was just 14. The license plate was COEHSP. "Capable of eluding high-speed pursuit," the youth told a reporter at the time.
"Nick is not the person that he's been asked to be portrayed on TV. … Nick is a good person," argued Hulk Hogan, who allegedly bought alcohol that his son allegedly drank on the day of the crash. " He is kind, he is gentle, he's compassionate, and he doesn't have a bad bone in his body. And people fail to realize that Nick is still a 17-year-old child."
Yet young Nick, who should have been the focus of better parenting skills, still got the green light to get behind the wheels of his fancy car.
It's the constant attention, adulation and power that drives this family. It's also what has caused its downfall.
The recent capturing of jailhouse conversations between Nick Hogan and his family has again put the Hogans in the familiar spotlight. While there's no doubt they were caught off guard by the release of the tapes to the media, the sentiments expressed during these conversations are sadly revealing.
A weeping Nick Hogan tells his parents that he is "really freaking out" behind bars and begs them to ask the judge to put him under "house arrest."
Complaining about the accommodations during his daily phone visits with his family, Nick says, "It's much worse than you could ever imagine. This is like a state prison. I'm all by myself." "Don't cry, baby," his mom tells him.
Hogan can be heard telling his dad that he wants to turn up for a court hearing in his jail jumpsuit "for the sympathetic factor."
That conversation is part of 26 hours of jailhouse tape released by the Pinellas (Fla.) County Sheriff's Department. Jailhouse phone conversations are typically recorded, except in the case of phone conversations between an attorney and his client, which are viewed as privileged. Other conversations can be considered part of the public record and become available to the media or any other person who may request them. Inmates repeatedly are warned that their calls may be recorded.
In another recorded conversation which was leaked, Linda, Hulk's soon-to-be-ex, is critical of John Graziano's mother, claiming her grief is greater than that of the victim's family.
"(Debbie) has no other recourse other than to be nasty and vindictive now, because if she really knew you, if she really knew the relationship between you, John and (another friend), she'd be sad right now.
"She wouldn't be mad. You know, she'd be devastated like I am. She's not sad; she's just acting angry, like she wants some money. John never meant anything to her or Ed. It's sad because I really appreciated you kids, and I miss John. I miss you, too. She's not suffering. I am. I have the loss."
A whining Nick Hogan tells his parents in the tapes that "I want to breathe fresh air." He says, "I'd do anything to get out of this room."
Instead of using the incarceration as a wake-up call, the Hogans seem more concerned about coming up with a new way to cash in on the misfortune.
At one point, Nick Hogan even asks his father to hook him up with a new reality show "where I can make the most money."
"We can call it 'the new Nick,'" Hulk responds, advising his son to use his jail time to come up with a name for a new money-making entertainment vehicle. "Don't freak out," he tells him, suggesting that the possible producers of the show be himself, Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey.
"You know, if I'm producing the show, I won't screw you," Hogan assures his jailed son. "You know that. I'll make you an owner. You'll own the show. So let me get to working on that with Eric tonight. He's here, too. We can get that pulled off, too."
The narcissistic family even goes so far as to blame the semi-conscious victim. At one point, Hulk says, "For some reason God laid some heavy s--- on (Graziano)." Nick describes Graziano, described in the court hearing as his best friend, as a "negative person."
The family of John Graziano has rightfully expressed outrage over the conversations. Incensed over what they say is a clear lack of remorse on the part of the Hogan family, the parents have condemned the "outrageous conduct" exhibited by the Hogans during the jail conversations.
The Grazianos also have responded to the Linda Hogan comment by stating, "They don't care a bit about my son, all they are doing is planning a party."
A statement released by the Grazianos through their lawyer said the jailhouse conversations show that the Hogan family's contrite and subdued statements to the court at the sentencing hearing were insincere.
"These tapes clearly show what the Bolleas said in court was calculated to give the court the impression that Nick deserved a break.
It was a true Academy Award performance. They (the Hogan family) spoke of their love for John and they expressed how sorry they were, but their true feelings have now been revealed in the tapes."
"These people, the Bolleas (Hogans), are the biggest phonies and two-faced individuals that I've ever seen," the statement quotes Debra Graziano as saying.
The Grazianos also have blasted the Hogans for trying to cash in on their grief.
"Nick Bollea and Terry Bollea are already planning a new reality show. Cameras are set to film Nick Bollea as he is released from jail and while he serves his probation."
"The reason he (Nick) was put in jail is to think about what he did to my son. (But) that's the last thought on his mind," says Ed Graziano.
The Graziano family has filed a civil suit against Terry and Linda Bollea (Hulk and Linda Hogan), alleging they are liable for their son's actions. "I'm not seeking revenge, only justice," says Debbie Graziano.
"John was everything I hoped and dreamed he could be," says John Graziano. "He was healthy, safe and strong, and a hero. A United States Marine and a hero to his county ... However, on Aug. 26, 2007, everything changed because of the senseless acts of recklessness by Nick Bollea ... Not only did he destroy my son's life, but also those that John loved. What al-Qaida couldn't do to my son, Bollea did in minutes."
The self-absorbed Hogan family's fascination with fame — despite the consequences — remains boundless. VH1 announced last week that wannabe-pop star Brooke Hogan's "Brooke Knows Best" spin-off will premiere on July 13. "No longer an innocent teenager, Brooke learns what growing up is really about," according to a network press release. "For the first time, Brooke is learning how to deal with the ins and outs of daily life, new relationships, of her family's recent struggles, as well as managing her career and finances without Mom and Dad."
--Rudy Kay, who was a favorite in the Carolinas during the '60s and early '70s, died Sunday of septicemia at the age of 65 in his hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
Kay, whose real name was Jean-Louis Cormier, was part of a famous Canadian wrestling family that included brothers Yvon, Leonce, Romeo and Malcolm. Rudy was one of 13 children in the family and the third of five to enter the wrestling business.
The brothers became performers under various aliases: Jean-Louis as Rudy Kay and Rudy Martin; Yvon as The Beast; Leonce as Leo Burke and Tommy Martin; Romeo as Bobby Kay, Tommy Martin and Bobby Burke; and Malcolm as referee Mel Turnbow. Two of the brothers joined Rudy in the Carolinas in the early '70s as Bobby and Terry Kay. Yvon also worked for Crockett Promotions as The Beast.
Kay, who was given his ring name by a booker who thought he resembled an old-time grappler by the name of Rudy Kay, also was a successful promoter in Canada's Maritime provinces during the '70s. Emile Dupre, a veteran wrestler and promoter on the Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling circuit, said the Cormiers "were to New Brunswick what the Hart family was to Calgary."
--While making a recent appearance on the Opie and Anthony radio show, John Cena was asked by a caller what he does to relax when he's stressed out. The WWE star said he'll often tip back some Coors Lights at a local bar, work on his muscle cars or visit "an establishment of ill repute." Asked by the hosts if he was serious, he said he was.
--Ric Flair will be inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame Saturday night at Phillips Arena in Atlanta.
--George's Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the One Night Stand pay-per-view at 8 p.m. tonight. Cover charge is $7.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at (843) 937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For wrestling updates during the week, call The Post and Courier Info Line at (843) 937-6000, ext. 3090.