Wrestler Mick Foley draws a packed crowd


Mick Foley, a former WWE Champion and a best selling author, poses for a photo with a young fan after Foley spoke to a packed room at the Downtown Headquarters Library in Gainesville Saturday August 24, 2013. Foley, who was brought in by the Alachua County Library District, spoke about his time as WWE stars Mankind and Cactus Jack, while joking about his writing career after wrestling. Foley has written both a best selling autobiography and a edgy kids Christmas book

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 9:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 9:40 p.m.

Charles Volkert, 26, of Hawthorne, has been a fan of wrestling ever since his father introduced him to the sport at a young age.

He has also been a lifelong fan of pro wrestling champion Mick Foley and the personas — Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love — that Foley has assumed over his long career as a professional wrestler.

Volkert even won most original Halloween costume during his freshman year at Hawthorne High School for donning the misbuttoned shirt, iconic Mr. Socko hand puppet, and injury-induced limp that Mankind was known for.

Volkert said he likes Foley because he’s not a stereotypical wrestler.

“He’s not a bodybuilder,” he said. “He’s (the) average joe, essentially. And he’s one of those people (who) shows that if you put your mind to it, (and) if you want something bad enough — regardless of what anyone says or what the stereotype might be — you can definitely break that.”

Mick Foley, also known as the Hardcore Legend because of his ability to withstand pain in the ring, spoke, answered questions and signed autographs during an event at the Alachua County Headquarters Library on Saturday.

In addition to being one of the most widely recognized names in professional wrestling, Foley has also written four autobiographies, including the New York Times bestselling “Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks” and “Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker than Wrestling,” four children’s books and two novels.

In addition to his writings, Foley entertains crowds across the country with his comical spoken-word performances. He also is a volunteer and advocate for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), which was co-founded by singer-songwriter Tori Amos — of whom Foley is a big fan.

Fans, many of whom were carrying Foley’s books or DVDs, gathered in the library’s lobby recounting Foley’s most famous matches and personal stories, while others perused the library’s offerings while eagerly waiting for access to the fourth-floor meeting room where the event took place.

Once the stairwell and elevators were unlocked, the fans hurried to obtain good seats. The chairs quickly filled, and some of the almost 200 people who attended had to sit on the bench that ran along the walls of the room.

Foley walked in with his thick beard and shaggy, shoulder-length hair, wearing a black Santa-themed Hawaiian shirt over a red Santa’s Village T-shirt — quite a contrast from his wrestling personas.

In an interview after the event, Foley explained that he recently earned his bachelor’s degree in SantaClausology from School4Santas in Atlanta.

“I was very close to the characters when I was involved,” he said. “I’m much closer to being Santa than I am Mankind these days — I barely can even wear the mask. The best characters are just an extension of someone’s real personality, and I am very Santa-esque.”

Foley took to the lectern as the crowd applauded and cheered loudly, then quickly began making jokes at crowd members’ expense and telling funny stories that had the crowd cackling.

Foley told a story about one time when he visited Tallahassee and did what he calls the “craziest, stupidest thing” he has ever done in his career — going out to the crowd and doing the Gator Chomp.

“Someone told me it was a good idea,” he told the crowd. “I said I don’t really get it, and they said ‘Oh, just go out and do it. Trust me, it’ll be excellent.’ ”

He spoke about his career, injuries, writing and many hysterical personal experiences.

Not all of his stories were funny, but even his dramatic stories were littered with humor. Highlights included recounting his departure from WWE, becoming speechless while on camera as the WWE commissioner and losing his ear in a match with pro wrestler Vader.

Concerning his work as an author, Foley recounted his experience working with a ghostwriter for two days. He said it was surprising to learn that most athletes used a ghostwriter.

This might sound a little strange coming from a wrestler,” he said to the crowd. “But that sounded awfully fake to me.”

He pointed out that when his first book hit No. 1 on the NYT Bestseller List, it sat above the 2000 presidential candidates’ autobiographies. With one exception, all of their autobiographies were ghostwritten, he told the crowd.

“When we live in a world where the president of the U.S. is having his book ghostwritten, but a professional wrestler is writing his own — we’re all in a lot of trouble,” he joked.

Foley discussed some of his other interests. He told the crowd that he trained to be a volunteer for Survivors of Sexual Assault, and that he was once named the RAINN volunteer for the month, which he includes among his highest honors, such as becoming WWE champion and being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

“You don’t have to be a big tough guy to perform great acts of courage in life,” he told the crowd. “Am I correct?”

To which the crowd answered with a resounding “Yes!”

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