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Andre the Giant

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Funk's Corner - Andre The Giant, A Christmas Story

"Junior, Andre is our friend. This is our last night in Japan and Christmas is coming soon. We are going to buy his dinner tonight. You and I will split the bill." Those were the words of my Brother, Terry Funk as our taxi pulled up to the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku Tokyo Japan. We were to join Andre The Giant by his invitation at the French restaurant on the lower level of the hotel.

If Andre was your friend he was a great person to know. When we traveled in Japan, we always traveled on the Japanese bus (As opposed to the Gaijin (American) bus. Andre occupied the front left two seats and Marti and I always sat right across the aisle on the right side. Terry occupied the seat right behind us. As long as Andre was around, we always got anything we wanted. Andre was clearly the boss of the bus and no one was going to dispute that.

Andre was sometimes difficult to get to know because so many people were awed by his size. He wanted to be appreciated as the human being he was as opposed to a "big freak." He was very proud of his accomplishments in the wrestling business especially the record gate of 93,000 people in attendance at the Silver Dome in Pontiac Michigan.

Andre was also proud of the movie he made, The Princess Bride, in which he had a starring role. On his last trip to Japan, he brought the tape with him and showed it several times on the TV screen in the front of the bus. He also told us much about his upcoming movie roll, "Jack and the Bean Stalk." Guess who Andre was going to play?

Andre liked his beer and wine. He loved to sit in the hotel bars after the wrestling matches and drink and talk into the early hours of the morning. He was an awesome man. His hands were so big that when he held a beer can in his hand, you could hardly see the beer can. He was so big and so strong that people really didn't want to make him mad and often would leave the bar open just for Andre and his group. Andre always took good care of those who treated him with courtesy.

Terry, Marti and I stepped off the elevator on the lower level of the Keio Plaza Hotel and easily found the French Restaurant. Andre was waiting for us. As we entered the restaurant, I could hear his deep voice as he spoke to me, "Hey boss, come on over here and have a seat." For a while I really thought maybe I was boss, then I heard him calling everybody boss, but the real boss was Andre The Giant."

I couldn't guess how long Andre had been there but it must have been for quite a while as his eyes were near the color of the French Beaujolais red wine he was drinking. I knew Andre could drink a lot because the All Japan Office usually supplied him with a case of wine a day on the bus. This was a day off and I would imagine he had been there most of the day. The thought just crossed my mind, I wonder how much Andre would spend a day on wine?

Our food came and it was delicious, small portions but tasty, things like crepes, petite shrimp, and cheese blitzes and more and more wine. After not too much food, but a moderate amount of drinks we were ready to go and Terry unbeknown to Andre slipped up front and picked up the tab. In the taxi on the way back to the Ginza Tokyu Hotel I asked Terry how much I owed him. He said, "The bill was a thousand dollars, you owe me five hundred." "A thousand dollars!!! For a few glasses of wine, petite shrimp, salmon minute, and an after dinner sweet!!" "My word, that's a little expensive isn't it?"

The next day as we were waiting for the bus for a trip to Niigata I asked Terry, "Did you tell Andre we picked up his tab last night?" "Well noooo I just did it." was his reply. I said, "Well, if we picked up his tab last night for a thousand bucks, I would certainly like for him to know about it." Andre. makes lots of money and spends lots of money. He runs a big tab and pays when he checks out of the hotel. I really doubt he would have known that we picked up his tab the night before.

I wasn't sure exactly how to tell Andre. I had some trepidation that he might be mad because he did ask us to join him. I really didn't want to make the Giant mad. A bit unsure of myself, I eased up to Andre on the bus and said, "Did you pay for that dinner last night?" His response with sarcasm, "Nooo, It was f----ing free (Andre Laughing)." I said, "Oh, Well, I just wanted you to know that Terry and I picked up your dinner last night." Andre responded, "Harummmph," and turned back to the cribbage game with Riki Momota.

That tour ended with a special All Japan Memorial match in Budokan hall with Baba, Myself, and Stan Hansen against Andre, Jumbo, and Terry Gordy. (Photo of the Memorial Match Official T-shirt with the full card printed on the back is on www.dory-funk.com.)

This was Andre's last big match. I don't remember the outcome of the match, but I will remember forever coming into the ring and the respect the Japanese people had for Andre The Giant. It was after that tour that Andre went home to France to his father's funeral. He returned to his hotel and was found dead the next morning, cause of death was not determined.

To this day I don't know if Andre knew that we picked up his dinner that night and I don't know if it would have made him happy or mad. I do wish he were still here. Maybe some day in the future I will once again set down and have a Coors or a glass of Beaujolais wine in that great place in the sky where I am hoping many of the good wrestlers of this business have gone. A toast to the greats, Andre, Dick Murdoch, Dory Funk Sr., Ray Stevens, Chris Taylor, Mike Dibiase, Eddie Graham, Vince McMahon Sr., Giant Baba, Lou Thesz, Riki Dozan, and many more too numerous to name here now.

Mata Aimasho (Until we meet again)

From the Funking Conservatory in Ocala, Florida, We wish you all a happy holiday season.

Dory Funk Jr. - Coach of the Funking Conservatory Wrestling School - www.dory-funk.com.

T-shirt back from Andre's last big match.

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