Last week, I decided to tell a story about Barry’s Cherries each Monday. Of course, several months ago, I decided to do that on Sundays but didn’t get far. I’m telling you that so you’ll realize what a freaking triumph it is for me to follow through today.
In last week’s anecdote, I mentioned that I tried to include as many real-life details as possible to ground Barry’s Cherries in reality, specifically Nashville reality, but sometimes things got weirder when I did so. This week’s anecdote is another good example of that.
When I had only the smallest embryo of a story, I was working with a guy who was an amateur photographer. One of his gigs was photographing the wrestlers of TNA — a Nashville-based pro-wrestling league. From time to time, he’d tell me stories about hanging out with the wrestlers. At some point while putting all the pieces together for my story, I decided to make Roxy Ramone — the starlet Barry must save from sex-tape infamy — the hostess of a wrestling show.
The initial inspiration for Roxy was a TNA wrestling MC named Goldylocks. Jimmy had given me a press kit for Goldylocks. I thought the role of a wrestling announcer sounded pretty cool for Roxy, a former actor. It also dovetailed nicely into one of the themes of the novel: fame. Roxy doesn’t want the Hollywood fame that she used to. For her the wrestling gig is more real, more true to herself. Goldylocks was also a musician and while I never spoke to her about this, I imagined that her wrestling gig was sort of a sideline and that music was her real passion. I mean, I imagined it to the point that I imagined she was sort of over the wrestling gig. Like it was her temp job. Which is the opposite of how I wanted Roxy to feel.
This is a completely unfair assumption about Goldylocks. But that’s how I started making the connections in my head. Though the novel is essentially a romp — just a humorous, weird story — I do have ideas behind it. The novel is partly a meditation on fame from the perspective of a man who is over it, who in fact doesn’t want it, doesn’t even want to be around it. Barry also ponders what roles people play and how people in entertainment find the role in which they’re comfortable. Roxy finds hers as the wrestling announcer. She doesn’t want the fame of Hollywood or the infamy of a sex-tape no matter how much money either would bring her. She likes the wrestling gig because she gets to be herself. Times 100.
Now, once I started putting all these pieces together, I went to my friend Jimmy and told him I was working on a story with a character who worked on a wrestling show in Nashville. Jimmy put me in touch with Trinity, a female wrestler for TNA. (She’s the one in the picture above.)
I interviewed Trinity one warm spring afternoon in 2005. We met at her house which was just outside of Brentwood in a totally normal, suburban cul-de-sac kinda neighborhood. It was like stepping into the world I’d been writing about. I had already completed a draft of the novel when I met her so I’d already set the story in Brentwood and south Nashville before I had any idea she lived there.
I pulled into her driveway and she was in the garage with the door open, packing. (She was moving soon.) In the driveway was her perfectly normal suburban vehicle (an SUV or something). Trinity is a compact woman who appears to be solid muscle. She doesn’t bulge or look hulkish in any way, but you can tell she is solid. Totally fit. I think she was wearing workout shorts and an exercise top exposing her completely tanned arms and legs. She led me into her house which is where the Brentwood suburb theme abruptly ended. The couch and chairs and TV were certainly normal enough but the two giant black panther scupltures definitely changed the mood of the room.
We talked for a long time and I recorded it and made tons of notes. And I sweated a lot. Her house was a little warm. But also I was a little terrified.
Though we only met the one time, Trinity informed the characters of Roxy and her boyfriend Monroe tremendously. She told me plenty of great wrestling stories and helped me understand a lot of the language and energy. I didn’t want to pepper the novel with wrestling slang or trivia. But certain phrases came straight from Trinity. When Barry talks about Roxy being “good on the mic” in the wrestling arena, it’s a phrase Trinity used. The whole “heel vs. babyface” setup I’d heard of before I talked to Trinty. (In every wrestling show, there’s a heel — the bad guy — and a babyface — the good guy.) In the novel, there’s a story about Monroe (Roxy’s boyfriend) being made the heel in an episode after he missed a week because he was on a movie shoot. This actually happened to Trinity.
Because I wasn’t writing a novel on wrestling, just about a woman who works in the business, I left tons of good stuff on the cutting room floor. I’ll have plenty of material for the sequel.