I wasn’t sure I should write this. I had to ask Widro if he thought it was appropriate to share it here. I’ve met Dusty before in real life, and my memories of it are very personal and powerful for me. But I wasn’t sure if I SHOULD. Parts of this story could entice trolls to be trolly. Widro however thought it seemed like something that should be shared in Dusty’s memory though. So I guess here goes nothing.
Some of you longtime Pulse readers and writers know that two decades ago I wrote for my major local newspaper, the Province, and that I used to use my Province Press credentials to get backstage and meet wrestler whenever the big two came to town. That part of our readership and staff also know that I’m intersexed and trans, and was raised as a male.
I met Dusty 5 times this way. The first four times all happened before I came out and transitioned.
The first four times I met him were never one on one. There were a crowd of fans and agents and other such folks. And Dusty had a way of making us all feel like family. He talked to all of us like he had known us for years, like we were all old dear friends as he told us stories. He lit up the room and had everyone wrapped up in the moment, and the way he told his stories made you feel like you were there with him when whatever he was talking about had actually occurred. No one I’ve EVER met in wrestling, not even those I won’t name who were total assholes, ever had an unkind thing to say about Dusty.
But it wasn’t those first four times that most stick out in my memory.
Those first four times were while he was with WCW, and eventually the WCW staff figured out my press credentials weren’t actually valid anymore given I left the Province in early 97. So I was banned from getting in whenever they toured. Though as far as I can remember they never did an actual Nitro here, just house shows, so the top tier stars were never there anyway.
The fifth and final time was 9 years ago. My mom bought a ticket for a house show at the PNE for my birthday. I’d long since transitioned. Dusty had been back with WWE for I think a year maybe? Year and a half? It was just after his TNA stint I think. I had an aisle seat near the entranceway. Hadn’t pulled the sneak backstage thing in years because WCW told the Province about it and I was forced to return my expired credentials, but a few b list wrestlers I had kept in touch with spotted me and recognized me and invited me backstage during intermission.
I freely admit I didn’t expect to see Dusty at a house show in Canada. I kinda figured if he was a booker he worked in Stanford and only attended tv tapings and ppvs. And I shamefully admit that once I did see him I tried to not be noticed because I was afraid him being a southern guy he wouldn’t react kindly to meeting the real me. Then again I also assumed he wouldn’t even remember me, given he probably met hundreds if not thousands of people every year, and I had never actually SPOKEN to him those first four times. I was just part of the couple dozen or so people he was telling stories to.
But Dusty spotted me and came over. I have no idea how but he recognized me. I dunno, maybe the b-listers I knew occasionally talked about the kid who used to manage to get backstage at house shows with an expired press pass who had become a girl. Or maybe he actually just did remember every face he ever met.
He smiled and said “Well hello young lady”, and commented how very different I looked from 7 years prior. He asked me what the deal was and I awkwardly explained about being trans and finally getting sick of being miserable pretending to be what society wanted me to be and how I finally started being myself.
And 10 years later, every word he said to me is burned into my brain. I remember it exactly, like it happened 5 minutes ago. I don’t think I can ever forget it because it both completely surprised me and made me cry.
“Well then darlin’ I’m proud of ya. Ya are who ya are, and life ain’t livin’ if ya can’t be true to who that is. I remember ya and ya stuck out cause ya never seemed like you fit right, ya never seemed happy to be in ya own skin. Ya stood out. Ya been in this bizness long as I have and ya learn to spot pain a mile off, and you had it in spades darlin’, and it makes me happy to see ya don’t look like that no more. Ya look happy, ya look like ya like who ya is, and lemme tell ya Miss Penny, tha’s the best thing I can ever hope to see in another human bein’ God bless ya darlin'”.
And I burst out crying and hugged him without even thinking, and he hugged me back and had someone bring me a few teeshirts, and had me escorted back to my seat, and when he saw where I was he had my chair moved up to ringside beside the timekeeper.
Dusty was the first person to ever call me Miss Penny. He didn’t bat an eyelash at how I’d changed. He ACTUALLY REMEMBERED me.
If I added up the time I actually spent with him across those four encounters, I probably shared… a bit under 3 hours? That’s the total of time I was in the same physical space as Dusty Rhodes. And 2 hour of that were just standing in a crowd listening to his stories trying not to be noticed and somehow being noticed anyway. I’ve only spent around 45 minutes actually TALKING to the man.
And yet he made a bigger impact on my life than almost anyone I wasn’t related to or married to.
That man was special in ways I can’t even begin to describe. And that last time I met him he made me feel like a daughter he was proud of and made me wish my own father had been more like Dusty.
I shared less than 3 hours on this Earth with him. I wasn’t family or even a friend. Yet he made me feel like both and his death hurts like it IS family I’ve lost.
I miss you Dusty Rhodes. Be at peace.
Tags: Dusty Rhodes