Published on July 5th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Lanny Poffo On “350 Days,” Life After Wrestling, Shel Silverstein & How To Live To Be 100 Years Old
Lanny Poffo made his professional wrestling debut in the early 1970s, working alongside father Angelo Poffo and brother Randy, who would later be known as “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Poffo made it to the WWF in the mid-1980s, which he stayed for almost a decade. As The Genius, Poffo was one of the more distinct heels, reading poems before his matches to generate heat as a true intellectual. He notably had a 4-month feud with Hulk Hogan in the late 1980s, which led to several headlining appearances at New York City’s world famous arena Madison Square Garden.
Poffo continued to work steadily after leaving the WWF, now the WWE, but had been successful enough to retire years ago. He only works part-time, but still trains full-time as if he never left wrestling. Poffo is one of the performers featured in the new documentary 350 Days, which hits select movie theaters on July 12th for 1 night only. 350 Days opens up about the wrestler’s lifestyle of yesterday — Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Marty Jannetty, Tito Santana and “Superstar” Billy Graham are among the other talents profiled besides Poffo — while also focusing on life after wrestling.
I spoke with Lanny Poffo by phone about 350 Days and plenty more. Other highlights of our conversation can be read on the Sportskeeda site. More on Poffo is online at www.geniuslannypoffo.com, while more info regarding the Fathom Events presentation of 350 Days can be found at www.fathomevents.com/events/350-days-legends-champions-survivors.
Lanny Poffo: The difference between me and everybody else, they were all “power, pleasure, possession” and I was “health, wealth and freedom.” Without health you have nothing. Then wealth is whatever you define that as, but health comes first. Then of course freedom, its subject is not objective, but I never did drugs, I didn’t drink, that saved me a lot of headaches that other guys had.
Coming into the business with such a health-oriented ideology, where did that come from? Did that have to do with your father being a wrestler?
Lanny Poffo: That came from, in 1967, I was in Hawaii, I was 12 years old. My parents took me and my brother to the Ilikai Hotel and we watched the Mr. Hawaii contest. Before the show Paul Bragg made a speech, and he was a health crusader. I listened to his speech and then I started reading his books and I became a health nut from the age of 13 to the age of what I am now, 63. That’s about 50 years there.
For somebody that’s hoping to get healthier, how much of it is diet versus exercise?
Lanny Poffo: It’s both. I actually moved to a place where I’m walking distance to Whole Foods and I’m walking distance to Crunch Fitness. Plus there’s a lot of vegan-friendly restaurants in the neighborhood. My goal is to prove to the world that I can live past 100, and then have someone ask me how I did it, that’s my fantasy. Exercise is second most important to diet, diet is number one. Some people work out too much, some people work out too little — it’s the “Goldilocks” of “just right.”
How do you feel about intermittent fasting, which a lot of people do and see as a trick to getting healthy?
Lanny Poffo: I do both, I do intermittent fasting and I don’t start eating until 4 o’clock. But then once a week I do a prolonged fast of 2 or 3 days… Once you get in the habit, it’s not that hard.
Were you into fasting at all when you were an active in-ring performer?
Lanny Poffo: I couldn’t do it because I was too skinny. But I always told myself that I would do it once I was done with my career, and now there’s nothing stopping me.
Lanny Poffo: To tell you the truth, I met Art Linkletter when I was a kid in Hawaii. I asked him for his autograph and he told me to buzz off — except he didn’t tell me to “buzz.” I was so hurt by that, that I realized if I ever got to be a big deal or somebody wanted my autograph, I would be the opposite of that. I would try to make their day instead of ruining it. A lot of the positivity comes from there.
The poetry, my 5th grade teacher discovered my ability to be a writer. She cajoled me along with praise, then it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then in 1977, I’m in Nashville and this strange-looking bald-headed man came up to me and wanted to know if I would go out to eat with him and his people, he had about 10 people in his entourage. He said he liked my wrestling. We went out to eat and then I find out his name is Shel Silverstein. He’s the guy that inspired me to do poetry in wrestling.
I’ve never heard of Shel Silverstein being a wrestling fan. Have you encountered a lot of people over the years who were wrestling fans that no one would have expected to be such?
Lanny Poffo: When I was in Louisiana in 1984, I was at the Red Stick Airport in Baton Rouge and that’s where I met Justin Wilson… He was the “Cay-jean chef”… Then he explained to me that he doesn’t talk like that. He was a comedian and then he always cooking, so he brought the two together and had his own Cajun cooking show where he told Cajun stories. I think he lived to be about 100. He was a wrestling fan and he was really nice.
I didn’t know that he was playing a character.
Lanny Poffo: He tried to get away with it with me. [Poffo then says a few of Justin Wilson’s catch phrases in the accent] Then he’s like, “I don’t talk like that, that’s my character.” But he really was Cajun, he just didn’t talk like that. He put it on for TV.
Finally, Lanny, any last words for the kids?
Lanny Poffo: My advice for children is be yourself or be by yourself. I don’t believe in peer pressure, it doesn’t matter what I think of you, it matters what you think of you, because a lot of people go astray because of peer pressure.
I wrote a book, Limericks From The Heart (And Lungs!), and I said: “Just ask yourself, why am I here? To smoke until I disappear? The reason for living is loving and giving, tell pressure to jump off a pier.” Which is a double meaning for the word “peer,” a different spelling. It’s corny, but I love that one. It tells you the reasons for living: loving and giving.