I never read comic books as a kid, but I did something similar when I started watching professional wrestling on TV.
Rather than being ink figures drawn on a page, professional wrestlers were live and in the flesh, right there on the TV screen. They moved, they taunted each other, they got into the ring on occasion, but above all else they were there for our entertainment. And none of these superhero-ish TV gladiators was any more amusing than Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream.
We’ll never have to hear about the deaths of Spider Man or Batman or Superman, because they never existed in the first place, save for in our imaginations. And Dusty Rhodes was an artifice too, but there was a real man who created that character and brought him to life. And the passing of that man on Thursday means that we won’t see him ever again, except in the old footage of him with Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, and whatever other characters he shared the limelight with through the years.
I haven’t watched wrestling on TV for a very long time. Vince McMahon and the WWF brought Dusty Rhodes and the others to a far bigger stage than they occupied when I used to watch it on KPLR Channel 11 out of St. Louis, or WTBS out of Atlanta. I like to think I outgrew wrestling, but that’s not fair to the grown adults who follow the carnival that professional wrestling is, and always has been.
Dusty Rhodes had a charisma that few people possess, in any field. Any piece on Dusty Rhodes that leaves out the word “charisma” is missing the point of who he was and why he was so widely loved. People are sad today, myself included, because we’ve been reminded that he was only a man, like the rest of us are. A larger-than-life figure, both literally and metaphorically, but still only a man. And his time came, just like all of ours will come too, someday.
I like to think that because of the way Dusty Rhodes talked, I once called my brother “Daddy” and my daddy “Brother.” Thanks for all the happy memories, Dream.