When Foley agreed to meet up with us for the McMahonsplaining podcast, we were thrilled. It’s not every day you get to talk to a legitimate legend and one of the most recognizable figures in the history of professional wrestling. What we didn’t know is that the conversation would be so much fun, so easy-going … and travel in so many directions.
We spoke to Foley upstairs at Book Soup in West Hollywood, just prior to him holding a reading of his latest book, Saint Mick, for a few dozen lucky fans. You can hear the entire conversation on episode 15 of the With Spandex Podcast, but here is a taste of the wide-ranging conversation we had with the WWE Hall of Famer.
UPROXX: Just to say it Mick, you look fantastic. The DDP Yoga’s been rocking and rolling.
Yeah it definitely helped out. The DDP yoga, some better food choices. It’s tough, man, when you’re driving around Los Angeles it’s … what I had, I’m a binge eater, right? And I love the comfort foods. If instead of binge eating I was a heroin addict, and there was a sign for heroin on every block like, “get it here,” “right off the poppy.” To get away from a day driving in Los Angeles especially when things were kind of hectic and to try to eat healthy, it’s … man, it’s an ordeal, especially if you love the bad stuff like I do.
So what bad stuff that you’ve cut out do you miss the most?
Well I haven’t completely eliminated anything, cut back dramatically. I love ice cream and the problem is it’s anything especially if it’s associated with a good memory. That’s what makes it so difficult. This isn’t probably where you guys thought this thing would go.
No, this is exactly what we want.
But you’re tied up and it’s almost impossible to avoid it because you’ve got Halloween with the double whammy of the candy and the pumpkin spice stuff. And I like anything pumpkin, even before it became cool. I was pumpkin before pumpkin was cool.
You’re the original pumpkin hipster.
If you’re the original then you’re not a hipster, right? You’re an original, you’re not a follower —
I was a pumpkin “pie”-oneer.
As a matter of fact, [people] used to give me pumpkin cookbooks on the road, because they knew that I loved it. So to try to get through that maze and then jump right into the holidays where everything is out there. But it was two years ago when I lost 17 pounds in December. I was like, all right, if I can lose 17 pounds in December I think I can do this thing. And it’s just a matter of making wise choices far more often than not and hoping that when you wake up at four in the morning with a craving for children’s breakfast cereals that you stop at three or four bowls.
But I’ve had the hip and knee replacement and the knee replacement’s really painful, and you wake up in the middle of the night and there’s just no rationalizing with that mind that wants, “I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I want Golden Grahams, I want stuff to taste like desserts in the guise of a breakfast cereal, now.”
I have a two-part question for you, to follow up on what you said. Since you have a deep love for the holidays and you like to eat bad food because it’s associated with great memories, what is your favorite holiday food memory?
Oh man. Well, my son made me woofle-jelly cakes. There is no such food as a woofle-jelly cake. It exists only in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. And every year when we’d go to Santa’s Village in the mountains of New Hampshire — not the one that recently reopened here in the mountains of Southern California — my son would walk up and, “Can I have the woofle-jelly cake?” And then the woman would look at the man behind the counter, pointing to the raspberry tart. So he found a way to make raspberry shortbread cookies. And just anything especially made for me with love, that’s tough to turn down, you know? Tough to turn down.
And he’s a pretty good little cook, my youngest son, and so he makes a lot of things. I used to complain to my daughter. I would say, “There’s no way you can put me in a position where you and your friends are baking and then I come home and you expect there to be something left? No, no don’t do it. Hide it.” There’s all kinds of things hidden from me in my own house. So that would be my favorite … yeah my favorite food memory is probably my son making woofle-jelly cakes for me.
That is adorable. Second part of the question is, does getting in shape hurt the Santa image?
Oh, does getting in shape hurt the Santa image? No I think, as I said to my son last year when he told me I was too skinny to be Santa, I said, “I have to believe in my heart the world has a place for a 248-pound Santa.” Because I was down 90, from 338 to around 247 and then in my book, Saint Mick … I’m not even going to try to push the book very hard. It’s something that people connect with or they go, ‘I know he likes that, but I’m okay without any more knowledge of that.”
But I talk about going to a house on a Christmas Eve visit and the armchair just shattering while I was sitting in it. It just shattered and I said not since Jimmy Dean’s iconic 1961 song “Big Bad John” had timber cracked with such frightening velocity. Which is a great song. “Came the day at the bottom of the mine when a timber cracked and men started cryin’. Miners were prayin’ and hearts beat fast and everybody thought that they’d breathed their last ‘cept” … you’re getting emotional aren’t you?
Yes. Did you ever think of recording your own great story songs CD?
Just Bill Shatner-ing my way through it?
More like Red Sovine.
What a great storyteller, right? He would sing about the trains and trucks, the “Phantom 309,” was that him?
The teddy bear, yeah. And there would always be that hook at the end that would get you. And even if you heard it like 20 times, that line comes around —
Those country story songs, the ending was always like, ” … and the kid is dead.”
No, it’s never the kid is dead. It’s “mom is dead.” Like “Roses For Mama,” where the one guy, the narrator of the song is trying to hustle off, he’s too busy to get anything for his mother and the little boy comes up, “I just want some roses for my mama,” and then —
Well like that Dolly Parton song “Little Andy” where the kid’s dead.
The craziest thing about that song is that I’m a huge Dolly Parton fan. I’m on record saying if I could meet one person, and not talking about going back theologically in time, but one person living on the earth. Now I would like to meet Dolly Parton. And I say love and I mean that in the purest form since I was seven or eight years old.
As a matter of a fact when the Santa community turned on me for a little while before the release of I Am Santa Claus, some of them they couldn’t even refer to Santa Jim kissing his boyfriend as a kiss, they would call it “that thing they did” on the carousel. Yeah, there’s some pretty —
Yeah there was some people taking it out on me for being one of the producers of the film and so I thought, all right, when the Santa world has turned on me where do you go if Santa’s not there for you? And my answer was Dolly Parton’s always there for me.
Exactly. She will always love you.
She will always love me. But I listened to that song “Little Andy”, I got the CD it was live in San Francisco at a time like ’78, ’79 when she was … it’s amazing where these conversations go, right?
And she was expanding from her, I think it was New Harvest … First Gathering was the name of the album that she was promoting and she sang “Little Andy” to a crowd in San Francisco that didn’t know what it was about and they started laughing during the song. And I’m listening to the song, I had tears in my eyes in the car, I’m like, “Little Andy’s dead,” because she’s singing it in that funny voice. And then at the end she’s like, “Why are you all laughing?” If I meet her that’s one thing I’ll probably say, “Can I hug you for that moment? That must have hurt a little bit.”
We need to figure out a way for UPROXX to arrange Dolly Parton and Mick Foley to be in one place at one time. That may be too much legend to handle. We could also throw Elvira in there and handle all the Holidays.
I’ve met Elvira. [She’s] very nice. When you’re a wrestler, you have to, eventually. Because a wrestler can fit in any convention, any format. So it’s like baseball card show, yes. Wrestling convention, obviously. Monster truck show, yeah. Science fiction show, sure, why not, comic con, goes without saying. But the thing is if you take another guest from the sci fi show and put them at the Monster Truck event, they may not make it out alive.
I just did HorrorHound in Columbus and it went really well. They had the kids from A Christmas Story there, Scut Farkus and Grover Dill. And you can tell when someone’s a big Christmas Story fan when they don’t say, “Scott Farkus.”
Scut. Very important distinction.
Yeah, very important. I had my photo taken with those guys. They were like holding me up for money, shaking me down.
They were giving you the Virgil treatment.
In defense of Virgil, everyone who does a convention will ultimately be in a lonely Virgil place. You can’t … if you’re there say for eight hours a day for three days, you’re talking 24 hours at a table.
WWE, to their great credit, never puts their Superstars, or Al Snow, in a position … thanks. [laughs] In a position where they’re seen as anything but huge stars. So they come in two hours, sometimes one hour and it doesn’t matter who it is, it’s been so well-promoted that they’re never going to be sitting at a table by themselves.
Even the most popular of people eventually, if they’re there for many hours during multiple days, are eventually going to be alone and you just hope no one’s there to document it. Especially with the great expansive area; because he was at a table, and there was nothing going on for several hundred yards in any direction.
Well now that we’ve gotten an Al Snow burn, we need a Mean Street Posse burn at some point.
I got that out of my system in 2001. I read Pete Gas’s book, I thought it was pretty good. It’s all about different perspectives. I enjoyed Jim Ross’s book because there aren’t many books written from the business perspective or management perspective so it was really interesting to see things from there. Pete was a guy who played a role. The whole Mean Street Posse did and I thought they performed pretty admirably. They became a pretty big part of the show for a while there.
Let’s talk about Saint Mick a little bit because I’m excited about that because —
Come on, no one’s excited about that.
I’m excited about it. I have a copy right here.
It is a book that I think will find a readership eventually. It’s not necessarily the wrestling fans, because most of them … this is documented in 2014, when I had the I Am Santa Claus movie coming out at the end of that year, so I had told Morgan Spurlock, our executive producer, “Look you can get some grassroots support for the movie, I’m going to wear something Santa Claus-esque or Christmas-y every day of the year and I’ll document it.” You know, put it on Twitter.
Every day there was a different look. It was like, here is Santa … they would show me, “Santa day number 124 it’s a custom button down on Katie Couric.” And it would have like one retweet, two likes. And then my children would see that I was losing followers. And this is in like 2013 when I had the hall of fame thing going, I was like, wow there’s this huge climb and it was like, man I’m gaining 50,000 followers a week. Then as soon as I started tweeting about Santa it was like I’m losing a couple hundred people a day, slow, slow, minor hemorrhaging.
It’s just now something people connect with at least not March, April, May, or June. So we’ll probably do a little publicity run after Thanksgiving, but I did not write it with the expectation that many people would read it. And at one point, was just going to self-publish it for like a hundred to two hundred people.
And definitely you don’t do any Santa-related touring or promotion in Philadelphia.
Because they historically treat the big guy in red bad there. Right, with the snowballs? Yeah. But I think our fan base they, the word comes out, I think there’s a certain amount of pride where they go, “You know one of guys he’ll grow his beard out for an entire year, like that’s his commitment to the cause.” So I think people, they get a kick out of it, but it’s not something … Santa is to me what hunting is to Shawn Michaels. Nobody’s going to become a hunter because they like a Shawn Michaels match. Like sure, man, he is the showstopper. I wonder what other hobbies he has?
Do you think there’s anybody out there that has like 60 camo hats and they don’t know what to do with them and that’s how they get into hunting?
I don’t know. I don’t really know. It’s one of those things … it’s similar with Santa, you either get it or you … it either clicks with you or it doesn’t.
So if you’re a pumpkin pioneer, you also are a pioneer of pro-wrestlers turned authors.
Yeah, yeah. Actually, if anyone likes anything that wrestlers have done, any renaissance men, Adrian Street’s probably the first guy to look to because he was writing his own music, coming out to music before anyone else did it. Adrian Street was thought to be too small. You should look into this. He’s a really interesting guy because he could paint, he could sculpt, he could write songs, he could write novels, and he could break your leg in about 18 different ways before you knew it was happening. So he was a really interesting guy, and he was writing. But I think mine was certainly the one that brought it into — 30 years later, 25 years later, brought it into the forefront. So I guess I can take credit for some of the good books and bear the blame for some of the not-so-good ones.
Well I don’t think the value of art of is in whether or not people think it’s good or bad. You’re writing it for a purpose for your own self. Very much like Saint Mick, you write it because it’s in your heart and you want to get it out there.
Well in this case, that is accurate and that’s one of the things that I love about the book is because there was no market audience for it and because I wrote it and eventually I got a tiny advance, but a real small advance and I donated that and the audio to children’s charities. So I’m out here promoting something I really believe in.
After Have a Nice Day, there was always a sense, oh, I might be able to make some money on this one. So hey, I’m going to write a followup without telling anyone, and then that one did really well. They did two Countdown to Lockdown Hardcore Diaries, they were works in progress whereas documenting things that were going on as the events transpired. So I had no idea how they were going to finish up. And in this case I thought I had an important, surreal, and touching story to share and that if I didn’t share it this year, that I would regret it. So I put pen to paper last fall and I’m really happy with it.
We’re both looking forward to reading, it for sure.
What you should do is get the audio [from my reading] so you can hear me break down on the last page of my own book. I got very emotional. It was a deep story and I’m looking back on the whole thing and I don’t want to give away the ending for you, but one of the themes is something I’ve touched on in at least on of my other books, is you don’t let anyone else define for you what being a success is.
And this will not be the story I broke down on but at the end of the main part of the book I’m heading home — this is with the understanding that I’ve had one Santa experience, really a real Santa experience. I talk about dressing up in a Party City suit for our troops, which is great but they always, okay, it’s just one of the guys with an unmanageable mane of hair and an ultra fake beard and you just have to look hard enough, okay it’s Steve Walsh this year, or Mick Foley this year.
So I had 30 children in the mountains of New Hampshire in early December then my next appearance as Santa was in front of thousands of people and millions on TV for Tribute to the Troops and I had the RAW episode where Alberto del Rio ran down Santa with a BMW and I got a little spoiled. Okay, I’m supposed to be that guy in front of thousands. And so it was four years after that when I’m driving home with my son and we had just done this great Christmas Eve visit for these two children, and I said, “I feel like I just had a big PPV match.” And he goes, “But dad there was only three people there”. I said, “Yeah it doesn’t matter.”It’s that idea of creating something. Like there’s only three of us here and it’s magical, right?
Absolutely. I never thought I could talk to you about Dolly Parton’s 1970 discography, but we’re doing it. How are you feeling after your surgeries?
Well in general I’m feeling good. My back’s locking up on me a little bit, I have to figure out why. I think that’s because I was a little ambitious setting out for a book tour one month after total knee replacement. A little ambitious. And then when I went on this 12-day tour I did not bring the cane and so I’m moving around a lot more and I think from compensating for the injury now I’m putting too much pressure on something. So it’s been a bad back day for a few days, but it’ll pass.
Quick Christmas question for you. With the world being as sort of tumultuous as it is right now and people being so divided and being so reactionary, how do you detach from that especially being someone who has to be on social media to promote your work? How do you detach from that and truly enjoy a holiday that’s supposed to be so happy and pure?
Well that’s a good question. I made up my mind that when I’m … like I remember after the election we went to Animal Kingdom the day after the election and I think I’m on record saying I wish it had turned out differently and that makes a lot of people angry. Some of my fan base is not on board with that. And I just thought when people ask me for autographs I’m going to go, “Well who did you vote for?” And then I said, no, no, no there’s enough division. You know what, I’m going to go out and I’m going to be nicer to everybody.
And I’ve tried so especially when you put on the red suit, you don’t dare ask, you don’t think about what’s somebody’s, whose somebody’s mom or dad may have voted for. You’re on disconnect from it and you try to be the best you can for every child regardless of race, creed … there are a few guys who specifically feel this is a Christian tradition and resent somebody of a non-Christian background getting on the line. Then I would say that’s an absolute minimum, but there are places in the country where you don’t run into people that don’t look like you very often.
And I think when I get off of, I’ve been to 49 states and 37 countries, and I remember getting off a … I had to get on a plane and I stopped by to get a couple essentials and I saw, wow, I’m the only Caucasian here on the street and I’m fine with that because I’m used to it. But you take somebody who is not used to that and put them in front of a flood of people of different colors and backgrounds and they get scared because change is scary to some people.
They refer to kissing your boyfriend as, “that thing they do.”
“That thing they do,” yeah. And there is a great fear of change and if somebody comes along and tells them … I don’t want to get into politics. I believe Donald Trump captured the fear vote by a landslide and he’ll probably do whatever he can to exploit that the next time around, as well.
So since we have to let you go, we agreed we were going to think about seeing if you could give us a Santa Claus sign-off.
I don’t know if I can just metamorphosize at your will. This character requires deep thought and transformation. It’s not a role I play, it’s a transformation I undergo. [deep Santa laugh] Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!
I might be able to do that. But thank you guys. Thanks for the conversation.
You can listen to the full conversation with Mick Foley as part of the below podcast.