Ringside Remembrance: Buddy Jack Roberts
Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.
“People living deeply have no fear of death” — Anais Nin
My internet was off and on, over the past week, thanks to winter storms. When it finally cleared up, I opened an e-mail from David Carson. He runs a very informative website called Who’s Alive and Who’s Dead. This e-mail brought me the sad news that one of my favorite wrestlers, Buddy Jack Roberts, had passed away from pneumonia. It was a shock to hear that Buddy Jack was gone. I wanted to share a few memories of the Freebird. I know his spirit now soars with the eagles.
The boxing headgear:
Back in World Class, Buddy Jack “developed” this mysterious hair cream that would cause the person to go bald. Ok, we all knew it was Nair but we played along. Buddy Jack was feuding with “Iceman” King Parson, at the time, and he vowed to remove the dreadlocks of the fan favorite. Parsons got the final laugh by smearing the ivory semi-liquid goop on Buddy Jack’s skull. We actually never saw Buddy Jack’s bald scalp. Buddy Jack donned a blonde wig, held in place by a boxing helmet. Bright red, as I recall it. Parsons (and others) tried to remove the silly looking head gear but never really succeeded in showing us the hairless scalp of Roberts. That gimmick would be rehashed, several times, in future years. No one, however, pulled it off (pun fully intended) as well as Buddy Jack.
The North Texas Meeting:
It was my first big assignment as a news reporter for my college radio station. The USWA/World Class gang were doing a show at the University of North Texas to help support a battered women’s shelter. I got the lucky draw to cover the show and, thanks to Bill Mercer (one of my professors), I got backstage access. I got to talk to the above-mentioned “Iceman” King Parson, “Wild” Bill Irwin, Frank Dusek, Michael Hayes and a few others. At the time, Buddy Jack Roberts had split with the Freebirds and was serving as the manager of the Samoan Swat Team. I had talked to several people when a gravely voice from behind me asked “So, aren’t you going to ask me a few questions?” I spun around and saw a smiling Buddy Roberts. We spent just a few minutes together but I learned about his fun times, touring the world. He even introduced me to Samu and Fatu, who were very polite and also chatted with me for a short while. I headed back to my little one-bedroom apartment, that day, with a big smile and the Michael Hayes album…signed by all three original Freebirds. I still have that album. It’s framed and hangs on the wall of my office.
Mr. Cots vs Buddy Robertss
My grandfather was a delivery driver in the Dallas area. One of his regular stops was the Dallas Sportatorium. He was “Mr. Cots” to those that knew him. Shortly after the Freebirds turned on the Von Erichs, my grandfather and I were attending a taping of the World Class tv show. My grandfather always taunted the bad guys, even if he liked them (behind the curtain). I was such a mark, back then, that I really believed the good guys were good guys and the bad guys were evil. “Dad” (my name for my grandfather) yelled at Buddy Jack, calling him a traitor and a loser. I had no clue that they had talked, earlier in the night. Buddy Jack came over and yelled at my grandfather, calling him an “Old Man” and threatening to beat him up. I was ready to jump out of my chair and defend my grandfather. Dad told me to just calm down, it was all part of the show. Later that night, after most of the people left, Dad ran into Buddy Jack. They shook hands and talked about how much fun that little altercation had been. That was the day that Buddy Jack Roberts became one of my favorite wrestlers.
Buddy Jack Roberts lived a wild and crazy life. I’m not here to judge him for the things he might have done. I’m only here to praise and remember a gentle man that my grandfather thought the world of. I’m here to shed a written tear (and a real one too) for a childhood hero who has crossed over to his reward. Thank you, Dale, for entertaining us for so long.