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Wrestling with the loss of childhood heroes in the squared circle


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With the death of The Iron Sheik and “Superstar” Billy Graham recently, Nestor Aparicio and Dennis Koulatsos discuss their childhood family obsessions with Bruno Sammartino, Andre The Giant and the larger-than-life figures of professional wrestling coming to the Baltimore Civic Center every month and every Saturday at 4 p.m. on Channel 45.


wrestling, iron sheik, ric flair, arena, wanted, bruno, met, wrestled, baltimore, superstar billy graham, love, wife, sports, story, tickets, pittsburgh, hulk hogan, piece, break, literally


Dennis Koulatsos, Nestor Aparicio

Dennis Koulatsos  00:01

Welcome back to Baltimore positive wn is Tina nobody more positive than this guy. My next guest the legendary Nestor. J. Aparicio. Nestor welcome in.


Nestor Aparicio  00:12

Hello, how are you?

Dennis Koulatsos  00:14

I’m fantastic. Thank you.

Nestor Aparicio  00:15

I’m about to enter a new category of Baltimore positive, I actually named it remember that time. And it’s sort of, you know, like I’m getting to this storytelling part of my as the silver rolls in, as you’re well aware. And, you know, it’s summertime and I’ve done a ton on the Ravens you and I did like a full treatment of what’s going on there and they’re gonna take the summer off and we’ll be back and they don’t play football September. Meantime, the Orioles are gonna play 100 games between now and then that matter, right. So people say hey, get Orioles fever, whatever. I didn’t get down to the ballpark since opening day. So I’m looking forward to getting down there. I’m watching West Coast all that so and I’ve done that with you and going back to the ballpark and the pitching and Luke and so we’ve done all of that. And a couple of things have happened sporting wise, in recent times. That’s just sort of like a bit of gut punch and a little bit of a reality check for me and where I am in life’s highway. And I guess it’s sort of celebrity deaths that do this to me. And whether it’s seeing Tina Turner pass as I drove literally through the Lincoln Tunnel, which is where I met her and asked her a question in 1986. Like and and then being at Bryan Adams the other night and having him sing it’s only love without Tina Turner. And then being at that arena being at CFG Bank Arena. And when I think of everything I’ve ever done, they’re like I like every celebrity I’ve met Steven Tyler, Paul Stanley, Jon Bon Jovi interviews I’ve had with I mean, any hockey player, you name it, right. All these interactions I had in that arena, I still think of the most momentous memory that I have there, of being seeing Superstar Billy Graham, and Bruno Sammartino.

Dennis Koulatsos  02:14


Right. Yeah, that was good. Oh, back in the day, man. That was great stuff.

Nestor Aparicio  02:17

I don’t think I ever walk in there. I mean, I walked through that arena. And I saw Mark, who’s worked there for 50 years. I think he was backstage and I met Aerosmith in 1984. And he’s got a you know, a blazer on now and a walkie talkie. He’s part of management with Frank down there. And, you know, when he asked me, What do you think of the new place? And I’m like, well, the French fries look good. I know, it’s easy to get a beer. He even told me I had a water. I was like, I’m gonna go buy a cup of water. No, no, no, you get free refills. You buy one water and we have like, there’s free water. Now you just hit the pump. It’s like the airport. So you know, I go down there. And I showed my wife where Mr. Pete hid me. The night that Sugar Hill gang and Grandmaster Flash and sequence came in. In 1981. I was like 12 years old, and I loved rap music. I love Sugar Hill gang at the time. And I wanted to see them do their thing. And Master chi supposed to come on the show soon. So I’m really excited about that. They opened the hip hop Hall of Fame down in DC. So I’m hoping that he could and I’m not a big hip hop fan, but by love I love Sugar Hill gang.

Dennis Koulatsos  03:23

They started the whole thing

Nestor Aparicio  03:23

right? They weren’t Run DMC.


Dennis Koulatsos  03:26

Gang Was that was that was the

Nestor Aparicio  03:28

whole gang was the beginning. That was a rap. Rappers Delight. But now what you hear is not a test. Correct? No. And my wife always say it’s the funniest thing in the world that I can wrap the whole song. Like she’s like, you could do that on a show. So but here’s the here’s the rub on all this. This week? The Iron Sheik dies, right?

Dennis Koulatsos  03:47

Have you really missed that? I’ve had my head in the sand of unbusy. Oracle. Are you serious? We lost the sheik.

Nestor Aparicio  03:53


We lost the sheik on Wednesday. Man, I

Dennis Koulatsos  03:54

love his Twitter account. That

Nestor Aparicio  03:56

is, how many cars are you sell it out?

Dennis Koulatsos  03:58

A lot. Apparently a lot. I’ve had my head and I thought


Nestor Aparicio  04:01

it was the end of the month. That was a problem not the beginning of the month for

Dennis Koulatsos  04:05

every day for us at the end of the month. And I mean, I I didn’t even know about that haze from the from Canada until late late. Wednesday.

Nestor Aparicio  04:14

Okay, so you had your head in the sand Tuesday. It’s fine. Like I go away. i I miss things. I missed Bruno Mars at the Preakness thing and embarrass myself a couple of months ago. You know, I didn’t know he was coming.

Dennis Koulatsos  04:26


20 A lot of my friends went Wednesday night, he was down at the National Harbor. renew us. Yeah. So a lot of my friends did an hour and a half set down there. Phenomenal concert takes your phone away, which I think it’s great. I don’t know why I don’t know if his reasons are genuine. And he said he wants us to focus on the music and not be distracted. But you know what? When I went to the Eagles concert, there was some people in front of me and they were like, you know, FaceTiming and putting stuff in social media that was standing the whole time. It took the fun out of it for me. So

Nestor Aparicio  04:56

I think that the whole part of don’t be a jerk that day. Even modell going for concerts Right? Like I went to see Mellencamp last week. Mellencamp is Dennis he’s a prick he’ll the fans you’ll watch him throw somebody out at the Lyric last time I saw him play literally stop the show and threw somebody out of the room. Like he well he’s just really into don’t distract the show. There’s a he’s got a really weird people thing where he doesn’t look at people and know that like yeah, he he’s really cranky. really cranky. Okay. And, and he has signs up that like literally all over the theater that say Don’t misbehave in the theater. But I haven’t been to a concert where people have behaved well, in recent times. I have not been to a concert where somebody’s not being a jackwagon to talk into a slow song. Yeah, yeah. But I did

Dennis Koulatsos  05:52

enjoy that by putting out when I went. Last year, he did take away our phones and I was okay with it. I was okay. Just focus on the music, dancing, clapping the whole nine yards. It was great.

Nestor Aparicio  06:01

He took my phone and my wife’s phone. We were up in the upper deck down at National Harbor a year and a half ago, the same time on the crabcake tour. And it was he’s great. I mean, we stood in the rain in Washington play five weeks ago, my wife to go see it again. She want to pay $400 to see it. But she would love to see it for a buck and a half, we would go do it again. You know, I


Dennis Koulatsos  06:20

scored some good tickets. A year and a half ago, we sat six rows backs. We were like right there. But there were people coming up rushing the aisles. But it was okay for us. But

Nestor Aparicio  06:28

I took my wife to Philly. And we had like fifth row in Philly about four years ago. Because during when she was ill my wife was really ill and 14 and 15. That’s when he was like playing the arenas and selling them out on the roof. And then she got better and I wound up scoring. And we didn’t spend like a lot of money. I mean, it may have been a buck and a half. It wasn’t crazy, because the craze was kind of over on him in the arenas. And we wound up just with a magic night in Philadelphia at the hockey rink. It was like Yeah, so like, but I wanted to be a magic knights and Philadelphia MC and Bob Backlund restless number saw the Iron Sheik wrestle at the spectrum. So we lose the Iron Sheik on Wednesday, didn’t know Right? Yeah, well, sorry, I’m mad. Now I’m gonna let you react to that. I didn’t realize you didn’t have reaction bomber.

Dennis Koulatsos  07:13

But the I mean, come on.

Nestor Aparicio  07:16


We also start Billy Graham to write and I start to think like, this is something that I really share with you. And Luke, even though he’s a little bit of a, you know, a half a generation behind us in regard to Hulk Hogan and in regard to

Dennis Koulatsos  07:31

wrestling, he missed out didn’t hit him and that was talking about a golden era, right? I mean, because back then there was nothing else to watch on a Saturday at 4pm on UHF when I think

Nestor Aparicio  07:40

about like seeing Hall Cogan wrestled at the Capitol center before he was alive, like the firt. So this is what I wanted to talk about was wrestling in the impact that like, you know, you’re a Ravens guy, you were coke guy. I’ve been an Oreo guy, good, bad, ugly and different. Wrestling’s changed dramatically right from it’s real. And there’s Ivan Putski. And oh my god, Greg Valentine, really, you know, broke, strong rose leg, like, you know the whole deal, right? So, and wrestling stuff pops up because I think Luke uses our Twitter in a wrestling League. He follows wrestling stuff. So it just pops up in my world and pops up on my Facebook. This whole like tails of the ring that they do advice that pops up. So I am I’m a I’m a Maher. We’re old school wrestling stuff. But I like the modern era and marvez and AED like I’ll never watch it again. I’m not into it. I’m not interested in it. But there is something about Superstar Billy Graham dying and something about the guy and sheet that has made me go get my ticket stubs. Friends of mine are putting pictures up from the civic center, okay, that they took with their cameras in 1986 of Sergeant slaughter bloody in the ring. And you know, the Iron Sheik stalking him behind him. Like when I think of the arena and I think of sports, and I think of my childhood, I think I my mother and father and I go down to the arena with my wife to see Bryan Adams and Joan Jett, which I did. It was unbelievable. I think wrestling and I think of being there. And I think it’s junkyard dog. His birthday was the other day. I met him outside the backstage door when Georgia Championship Wrestling came to Kevin act because we loved wrestling like we loved wrestling. And to see these guys lose these guys. It’s moved me in sort of a strange way because I go back to that place. I go back to the arena. Now to see Bryan Adams thank you to Frank and CFG bank and anybody down there that is a part of making that something we can do that I can get the car and in 15 minutes be downtown park my car, get great food walk in and see Bryan Adams and Joan Jett and I paid 50 bucks. It was phenomenal but wrestling is is the middle of all stanch days yak and Bruno the first time hooked me in man.

Dennis Koulatsos  10:04

Well, that’s my connection to my dad. God rest his soul. You know he was a huge wrestling fan. He thought it was real. He was a tough, tough guy. He used to cry though, like when chief Jay Strongbow broke his leg. He used to cry. Oh, the poor guy, his poor family and like that it’s it’s not real. He was convinced and he and I would right before he passed away. We sat ringside and got tickets. We he stopped. We saw Vader against Hulk Hogan, and he’s bleeding over the rail. He’s high. fiving Hogan. He’s high fiving Vader. Probably the best memory I have with my father. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it. So that’s my pictures of that night or No, I don’t have pictures. No, but we


Nestor Aparicio  10:39

have a lot of pictures of my dad. And I mean, we need to get camera to rest. We need to get camera to oriels games. I mean, my dad and I went to 1000 Oriole games. I don’t have one picture me and my dad at Memorial Stadium. Yes, I do it. Louis. Aparicio is in because we took a picture with like, so I do have a picture underneath right outside the hit and run club in the bird feed room. There we go.

Dennis Koulatsos  10:58

Now, but see, we might that have never been to a live wrestling match. This was his first one. So we’re, we’re walking down and you know, he’s got his cane with him. He’s like, we got good tickets. So yeah, we got good tickets. So we get down within 10 rows. He goes better tickets. And these better seats have better seats. So he was he wasn’t when I said your dad

Nestor Aparicio  11:13

never took you to see Bruno’s like No, no, your dad loved it on television.

Dennis Koulatsos  11:18


zactly I had I had when I was old enough to get tickets myself. And I took them to the arena. And I’m telling you he was he was missed the eye when he sat front row, the very first seat when they were coming in. And it was the best memory I still have to this day of my dad. So my connection with the Iron Sheik and Bruno and Hogan and Vader and all of these guys and Superstar Billy Graham. They’re right there for me as well.

Nestor Aparicio  11:43

So it came to me naturally because of the block I was on the Elliot brothers were knuckleheads and they love the valiant brothers and the executioner’s and the bad guys. And like all that, and so it came to me in 1976 77. I’m in elementary school in the Fonzie into kiss and Aerosmith into disco and the girls in the Farrah Fawcett. You know what I mean? Like I’m an eight year old kid.

Dennis Koulatsos  12:10

Yeah. fair. The fair poster hanging on your RV. Come

Nestor Aparicio  12:12

on, man. Of course I did. You know, I had her on the t shirt. We all did the iron on And Ocean City. So with my cousin Alex. So I would just say like the wrestling thing hit me. And I had seeking the magazines and I tell the story of drug city as our sponsor. I tell George foetus, another great Greek American and on the east side of town. I tell him all the time I my parents, I would make them bring me over here to get the wrestling magazines that I couldn’t get in Highland town. And in Highland town, there was paper doll who Johnny Allen My dear dearest friend, Rockstar, John Allen, his Uncle Marty owned paper doll. They had baseball cards. They had smoker magazines, playboys, rock and roll stuff. They probably had roach clips, and like all that kind of stuff in the day, but but they definitely had wrestling magazines. And you could get the wrestling magazines at whities newsstand on Broadway. On Broadway whities was a Broadway maybe Lombard only place you could you could get wrestling magazines, in Highland town at Marty’s place. There was a Wawa back on like a tiny little one back on Highland Avenue near where Chaucer is. But drugs city and I had to get I had to get it all right. I mean, I had to make it happen. And every month and then my aunt, my Aunt Clara subscribed me to Ranger Rick. After that, some National Geographic she wanted me to be a hunter and a fisher. I mean, they were kind of you know, redneck South Carolina. My mother’s family.


Dennis Koulatsos  13:55

I’m thinking Ranger Rick, I remember that wrestler. Go ahead.

Nestor Aparicio  13:58

This was nature this was God Smokey

Dennis Koulatsos  14:01

the Bear like they can raise your IQ and never heard of they

Nestor Aparicio  14:03


wanted me to cut fish shoot bears go hunting in the woods where Cameron never was into that, right. So finally she gave in, in like 1979. And, like, got me wrestling subscription. And I thought was the greatest thing ever. She got me a subscription to the restaurant inside wrestling. They remember the apartment house wrestling, you remember all that? So Kevin acts. His picture in 1975. He was one of the kids who got his pen pal. His picture is in a wrestling magazine with Billy Graham on the cover and like before I knew Kevin so Kevin and I went to the matches and he came into my life in 1979. Kevin acted but I was way into you know, I was there than I Bruno lost the belt. I mean, like all of that era, and it when the Iron Sheik and superstar grand die in the same month it just like yeah, you know, I mean, like, yeah, as much as Tina Turner and movie stars and rock Stars and, you know and I I did a piece this week with Wil graves. I want to promote it because he’s such a great piece. He’s a Marylander for Waldorf who covers Pittsburgh sports for the Associated Press. He is a Encyclopedia of sports. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s a cancer survivors, a wonderful guy. He did a blog segment me about Pittsburgh and Baltimore. I’m like, all your heroes are dead in Pittsburgh, like Clemente star jewel, you know, those. They just lost Franco Harris. I’m like, we’re so blessed here, right. Jim Palmer is on TV every night Brooks is still alive, you know, doing well and Cal Ripken I said you know, that’s the beauty of baseball. Coming back to life here’s we still have our heroes Sure, sort of kind of here. And you know, we lost Bruno last year and Dusty Rhodes is gone. And every time I see Hulk Hogan it looks broken down in the lawsuit and all the awful stuff is going on with him. But I just I just wanted to give a little oxygen to rasslin here with you and I’m sorry you didn’t know about the other cheek man

Dennis Koulatsos  16:02

and not know me. That’s just again, I’ve been very busy because that I’ve missed current events the last couple of days last 48 hours I was having none of it.

Nestor Aparicio  16:11

Well, I would also say this for wrestling and every memory I have I high fived Andre the Giant when I was a boy, you know over the rope, right? I saw Ric Flair and Harley Race wrestle for an hour at the Keele Auditorium in St. Louis with my family in 1983 Baron von Raschke. He was on that card. Dusty Rhodes was there that night I had pictures of Hulk Hogan walking into the arena and Ric Flair getting out of his limousine. And when I think of, like wrestling terminology, he’s a mark jabroni the rock and what the rock represents. And when I saw the rocks, father and grandfather both wrestled in at the arena, right? I mean, I saw the high Chief Peter Maivia. I’ve interviewed the rock several times, you know, that’s if the rock sat down with me right now. I will talk about the high chief with him. Sure. wrestling match. So like I just I loved wrestling and when these things happen when I was a boy in 1978 or 79 and I sort of famously share that video I did with John Buren. So you want to be a sports guy Chris Ely won a competition Moeller actually got on television, right. I have a tape of it. And like all of that I wrote a story at the papers 1988 But in 1979 or 80 They did. What have been Randy Blair might have been close. Wagner I’m not sure is one of those guys was after Nick Charles at Channel 13. Somebody will remember all of this ish all of this right? I wrote on a postcard. Why I wanted to meet a hero. Right? So you want to meet your sports hero, and they were looking for postcards you might want to meet. I don’t know who it would have been in 1980. It might have been Brooks Robinson. Everybody met Brooks. He was hanging around town everybody met Johnny Unitas and Baltimore. You’ve already done that. You could go get beer from Jim Parker. Right. But I wrote a postcard to channel 30 never heard back. One of those things where it’s like, it was kind of like the Christmas story, the oval team thing you know, but I wrote that I wanted to meet the American Dream Dusty Rhodes. Fair. Nice. So that was that was my dream to meet the American dream. I never met Dusty Rhodes. I have never met Dusty Rhodes what a performer he was to the Ric Flair. Ric Flair and I had 20 minutes alone in the room that’s now the lounge underneath of CFG Bank Arena. On the on the side where the press entrance was. Ric Flair went into a room with me with promoter Gary Juster in 1984, five and in his full regalia. He had his robe on and he sat with me and did sort of a serious interview because I was writing a story for the paper. So it wasn’t in character but it was a getting to know who Ric Flair is because they were trying to sell tickets, right they were trying to get the NWA promotion over the Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion over in Baltimore and Ric Flair, and I have a notebook. And Ric Flair wrote an autograph to me with warmists personal regards, Ric Flair, and he dated it stated like summer of 85 You know, I still have the autograph? Yeah. I also did that with Bob slaughter. Sergeant slaughter was on the car and he came in and did a very straight. My name is Bob Good to meet you. And, and and talk to me because I was doing a piece about wrestling catching on Hulk Hogan is in the WWF they’re doing Saturday nights in de la Upper like all of that. So this was a serious piece I was I might have been doing it for the news American before I went to the sun, which was 86. It’s probably 85 that I did this, but like, I just have these great, great members, Bruno Sammartino agreed. Toward the end of his life. I want to say this is maybe in the arts, he was well enough. And he had a promoter in Pittsburgh. We were gonna fly him in to do an Italian dinner at a meat cheese dentist. So break your soul. I didn’t sell enough tickets. I tried my ass off. I ran an ad in the paper. That’s great. Like, I yelled on the radio and like, literally, and it was, you know, 40 bucks, come have dinner meet Bruno and eat meatballs at a meat cheese. Like literally and I couldn’t get 100 Pinot like, we really wanted to do it. And I wanted to give it a chance. And at that moment, and I guess the local promotion that Kevin has been a part of. And you know, we’ve had those fellas on from up in Harford County. They do such a great job. And you know, Dan, and all those guys, David, all those guys have been on the show he brought Jr. Jim Ross to my home and my wife had cancer. Jim Ross sat on my couch in my home for two hours and told stories. And so barbecue. And Tolstoy just told great, great wrestling stories. And so I have such a connection to the old school wrestling and yeah, so I just wanted to ramble on your shoulder minutes about wrestling. You know, good. I’m glad you did. My connection to my parents do my parents equally love wrestling. My dad and mom. There was never one or the other. They both wanted to go to the wrestling matches. And they here’s something maybe you didn’t know. Or maybe you do know this, you know, the tapings in the in the 60s were in Baltimore. Right? Like Baltimore was an epicenter for Gorgeous George right. You knew that? No, that No, I didn’t. Okay, so my parents in the 50s would go and they said it was like, and please if anybody can correct me or anybody here’s this piece. old schoolers and people that buy cars from Dennis not even in my audience but your audience then is that remembers going to park circle and there was a studio there a TV studio there and some way that Gorgeous George wrestled and and this is the most important thing that my audience and I know this is true. And every and I’ve had people recount this to me at some point in the 60s, the teamsters Hall on Hollenberg Avenue, excuse me Dundalk Avenue, correct that Dundalk Avenue across from the circle. So we’re talking like where the Dunkin Donuts was in O’Donnell Heights on the O’Donnell Heights side. There’s a building there. That was a teamsters hall that they used to have some like bull ropes and oyster fest out in the backyard right across from the circle that they had wrestling matches there. And Bruno wrestled there, and Bobo Brazil wrestled there at a period of time in the 60s after Park Circle, but before McMahon and like when the Baltimore Civic Center started hosting the cards. So anyway, there’s a little wrestling history there I know Ron kasi or somebody can you know, we’ll we’ll spend a nickel gonna chase in the stories but there this is a town with deep deep wrestling history. Kevin knows more about wrestling than anybody I know. But But anyway, I wanted to lay that on you so wrestling. That’s my topic today.

Dennis Koulatsos  23:26

Always appreciate your insight Nestor, you’re, you’re you’re walking, talking, living, breathing encyclopedia when it comes to all things that are sports, particularly wrestling, and I’m very grateful to have had a segment with you would that we’ll take our next break here. 1570 am WNS t take a quick break. We’ll be right back right after this.

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