Eric: You will be on this week's edition of the ABC program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Can you tell me how you got involved with the show?
Jimmy Hart: Well, a good friend of mine, Steve Chamberlain gave me a call and said “Hey Jimmy. Pack up your bags. Pack up your wrestling megaphone. Pack up your wrestling jacket. We're going down to a little town in Georgia to do a charity event for a friend of ours that has Under Armour down there, the Langdon Corporation.”
And we set up tents and stuff. We went down there and used the megaphone. We had cook bakes. We had bands playing and all types of activities going to raise money for this little girl named Anaiah Rucker. Well after we filmed all the stuff and she came out to meet us, a TV company from Atlanta, Georgia, came out and filmed that and put it on Atlanta TV. Then the Extreme Makeover people caught wind of it and the next thing I know, I'm flying down to Georgia about three months later with Steve and doing a thing for Extreme Makeovers down there for Anaiah Rucker.
You know, they built a beautiful home for her. Ty Pennington, this guy is so great. The whole staff really is. They had a lot of the local home builders and everyone kind of pitched in.
The little story of the girl is that she saved her sister's life. I guess they were going down to the bus stop one morning, and the mother was at the screen door watching her go across the street. Then this car or truck, I'm not sure which one, went out of control. I don't think that it was his fault but it was fixing to hit the little girl. But Anaiah pushed her sister out of the way and saved her life. Well, she lost her leg, bless her heart. She broke her ribs, broke her neck, just everything happened to this little girl but she pulled through.
Eric: You also made an appearance in the documentary Memphis Heat which was recently released on DVD. What was your favorite memory from the Memphis territory?
Jimmy Hart: Well, there were so many great things in Memphis. This was before I went to New York of course. But the Memphis Heat thing was so great. We did a thing with Jerry “The King” Lawler and Andy Kaufman back in the day. It was really where I learned my trade and gave me a chance for the big boys in New York to really see what was really happening in Memphis. What I did down there is what gave me a job in the WWE, which I probably wouldn't be talking to you on the phone now if it wasn't for the WWE, WWF back then of course. You know, there were a lot of great memories back there. Up and down the road. A lot of great stories. It was live TV, unscripted, an hour-and-a-half every Saturday morning. Our ratings back then were like 23's, 24 shares which is almost like American Idol ratings now.
Eric: When you left Memphis to join the WWE, what aspect of moving from a territory to that company was the most difficult to adjust to?
Jimmy Hart: It was unbelievable really because back in Memphis, we drove up and down the highways everywhere two and three to a car with all the people I managed. We'd do Memphis on Monday night, Louisville Gardens on Tuesday, Evansville, Indiana, and so on and so on. But when I went to New York, it was flying everywhere with 30 or 40 days in a row with no days off. TV's in the morning of course with “Mean” Gene Okerlund. 25 or 30 interviews a day. I was just so blessed with the people I managed up there. From Hulk Hogan to the Hart Foundation to the Nasty Boys, the Rougeau Brothers, the Honky Tonk Man, just to mention a few. I've been at 10 WrestleMania's, got a Hall of Fame ring. It's just been a great run for me. It really has.
Eric: Back in the '80s, there were many great managers working for the WWE. How did the company decide which manager was going to manage their latest free agent acquisition?
Jimmy Hart: I think it kind of adopted to your character. I think Vince kind of looked at everybody and kind of put everybody with who he wanted to be with. You know, of course we had Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who I think is the greatest of all-time. Mr. Fuji was unbelievable. We had the Slickster, Fred Blassie, Lou Albano, just so many great managers. But I think what I brought to the table was somebody that was from the South. We did a lot of music. I came from a group called the Gentry's. Back in the 60's we toured with Dick Clark. We had a million seller with Keep on Dancing. We had four albums. I think that made me a little different than some of the other managers. But all of the managers up there were so great.
Eric: I've heard of rivalries in locker room between the wrestlers due to jockeying for position on the card. Was there a similar situation going on between the managers in the company?
Jimmy Hart: No. Everyone knew our place and our position. Bobby was so gifted with doing commentary. My thing was doing music and running around the ring. Going out four or five times a night. There was no competition whatsoever. Because I thought that Fuji was unbelievable. What a great heel manager. Of course Lou Albano, Fred Blassie, all of them. A lot of the managers that came later like Paul E Dangerously, Paul E from ECW, I thought that he was awesome. And then of course Jimmy Cornette. I mean all of these guys that I just admire and love so much, I was just grateful to be a part of any of these guys.
The interview concludes on the following page