PROVING THAT SIZE DOES MATTER | WRESTLING LEGEND ANDRE THE GIANT

Andre the Giant

Andre the Giant had an enormous appetite for love, life– and apparently, alcohol.  Lots of it. The stories of his consumption are legendary and honestly– almost unbelievable. They’re also well-circulated too, so I’m sure I’m not telling you anything that you didn’t already know. Andre, I raise my glass– Here’s to you, my friend.  You big lovable French wrestling legend drinker guy, you.

I think I’d be inclined to drink too, if I knew I’d never live anything that even remotely resembled a normal life. What if you’re a guy like Andre and just want to have a nice little family with 2.5 kids and some rabbits, and lead a quiet, simple existence?  Yeah, well you’re totally screwed buddy– that’s what.  It ain’t gonna happen. The world wants its freak show.

They say that Andre had a lot of emotional and physical pain that he was masking with his drinking. Now that you explain it like that, I totally understand the whole “119 beers in six hours” thingy. Comfortably numb. Seriously, all us guys know exactly why Andre would pull a stunt like that– because he could.

French wrestler Andre Rene Roussimoff, best known as "Andre the Giant" during a Paris fashion exhibition. At 19, Andre reportedly stands 7 feet and 4 inches tall  --1966.

French wrestler Andre Rene Roussimoff, best known as “Andre the Giant” during a Paris fashion exhibition. At 19, Andre reportedly stands 7 feet and 4 inches tall –1966.

From Do you have a favorite drunkard? by Richard English, for Modern Drunkard magazine:

Some amazing man or woman, past or present, who stands colossus-like atop the Big Keg, the ground below littered with crushed empties and the blacked-out carcasses of lesser beings? A verging demigod, whose prowess with a bottle leaves you shaking your head in pop-eyed adoration? Lots of us do.

In addition to their wrist-raising abilities, we deify great drinkers because they indulge their lust for intoxication while simultaneously operating at the peak of their powers in whatever their chosen profession. In other words, great drunks are also great writers, actors, athletes, scientists, statesmen, philosophers, and so on.

I have a favorite drunkard. He was an athlete—a professional wrestler in fact—but he was also a gifted entertainer and a true artist. His parents named him Andre Rene Rousimoff, but we knew him as The Eighth Wonder of the World, Andre the Giant.

For two decades, from the late 1960s through the mid 1980s, Andre the Giant was the highest paid professional wrestler in the business and a household name across the globe. Promoters fought tooth and nail to book Andre, as his presence on a card all but guaranteed a sell-out. Fans cheered his every move, and mobbed him on the street as if he were a great big Beatle.

For proof of his drawing power, look no further than Wrestlemania III in 1987. The main event was Andre vs. Hulk Hogan. The show drew the first million-dollar gate in wrestling history, set a pay-per-view record that lasted a decade, and set the all-time indoor attendance record for any live event ever—78,000+ butts in seats at the Pontiac Silver Dome in Detroit—destroying the previous record set by some rock band called the Rolling Stones. His rematch with Hogan two months later, broadcast live on NBC, attracted 33 million viewers, making it the most watched wrestling match ever.

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Andre the Giant with an armload of uh, beauties –back in 1982.

Known to his friends simply as “Giant” or “Boss,” Andre was born on May 19th, 1946, in Grenoble, France, the child of Russian immigrants. Shortly after his birth, he was diagnosed with a rare glandular disease, acromegaly, which caused his body to over-produce growth hormones. As a result, Andre grew to a height of somewhere between 6’11” and 7’5” and a weight of over 500 pounds (his actual height and weight have been speculated about for decades—the business is notorious for inflating wrestlers’ statistics—but Andre’s illness sometimes made him slouch or bow his shoulders, so he might well have been the advertised 7’5”). He first wrestled as Andre the Butcher, but it was Vincent J. McMahon Sr., owner of New York’s World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), who christened him “Andre the Giant.”

While it can be argued that a miniscule handful of professional wrestlers matched Andre’s in-ring achievements (Gorgeous George back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, perhaps; Dusty Rhodes in the ‘70s, and Hulk Hogan, without a doubt, in the ‘80s), no other wrestler ever matched his exploits as a drunkard. In fact, no other human has ever matched Andre as a drinker. He is the zenith. He is the Mount Everest of inebriation. As far as great drunkards go, there is Andre the Giant, and then there is everyone else.

andre the giant

Andre the Giant– 7″ 4″ and 424 pounds of wrestling mayhem.

The big man loved two things: wrestling and booze—mostly booze—and his appetites were of mythic proportion.

First, consider the number 7,000. It’s an important number, and a rather scary one considering its context, which is this—it has been estimated that Andre the Giant drank 7,000 calories worth of booze every day.The figure doesn’t include food. Just booze. 7,000 calories. Every day.

I don’t know about you, but it makes my brain turn somersaults. Hell, it makes my brain perform an entire floor routine, complete with colored ribbons.

31 Jul 1967, French Riviera, France --- Famous French wrestlers, (L) Cheri-Bibi and (R) Andre Roussimoff, best known as Andre the Giant. At 19, Andre stands 7 feet and 4 inches tall.Andre the Giant

When Andre arrived in New York to begin his long working relationship with the McMahon family, his reputation as both a serious student of the nightlife and an extravagant spender was already a topic of speculation and wonder among East Coast wrestlers and promoters. Andre might make $15,000-$20,000 for a single appearance at Madison Square Garden, and a substantial amount of that  went to settling the bar tabs he piled up as he boozed his way up and down Manhattan until sunrise. Andre’s generosity matched his size. He often invited a gang of fellow wrestlers along for the ride, as he disliked drinking alone, and picked up some truly staggering tabs. Andre was going to have a good time and went out of his way to make sure everyone else did too.

Worried about his headliner, Vince McMahon Sr. assigned a “handler” to the Giant—long-time wrestler, manager, and road agent, Arnold Skaaland, whose only job when Andre was in town was to keep him out of serious trouble and get him to the arena in time to wrestle. Skaaland was an old-school drinker in his own right, but Andre blew his mind. On one occasion he could only watch goggle-eyed as Andre went about demolishing a dozen or so quarts of beer as a “warm-up” for a match.

andre the giant

With Skaaland on the job, Vince Sr. knew Andre was in capable hands, but the promoter still worried about how the Giant would cope with the insane amount of travel required of a wrestling superstar. Andre loathed flying—no commercial airliner could accommodate such a massive man without resorting to the luggage compartment—and his opinion of most cars wasn’t much sunnier, because aspects of his disease caused intense pain in his knees, hips and lower back when he remained too long in a cramped position. When a tight schedule left a plane or car as the only option, Andre eased his discomfort by getting good and hammered.

Vince Sr. pondered the situation and arrived at a novel solution. He wanted to keep the big man happy, so he bought a trailer and had it customized just for Andre. With plenty of room to spread out and relax, Andre could now travel in a semblance of comfort, which allowed him to do some serious boozing. During trips Andre consumed beer at the incredible rate of a case every ninety minutes, with bottles of vodka or top-rate French wine thrown in for variety.

Sadly, the trailer wasn’t available outside the WWWF territory; Vince Sr. wasn’t about to do the competition any favors. Andre didn’t expect other promoters to pony up a trailer just for him, so he commissioned a customized Lincoln Continental. With the front seat now positioned about where the back seat would normally be, Andre had a little leg room. He carried his luggage and wrestling gear in the trunk and towed his necessities in a trailer. Lined with plastic tarps, the rickety trailer was filled with ice and cases of Budweiser tallboys. As he cruised the nation’s highways, Andre kept a case on the seat beside him, stopping only for food, more ice, and another case or two if he ran low.

Wilt Chamberlain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andre the Giant-- on the set of Conan.

Wilt Chamberlain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andre the Giant– on the set of Conan.

As famous as Andre was in this country, he was even bigger in Japan. He spent a few months out of every year over there, where he was treated like a living god and pocketed five-figure payoffs for a single night’s work. That being said, Andre didn’t really like Japan. Everything was too small. Hotel beds were like bassinets and it was all but impossible for him to shower or go to the bathroom in their Lilliputian facilities. He was known to rip the door off his hotel bathroom and make use of the toilet by sitting sideways with his legs sticking out into the main room.
Getting from show to show presented its own problems. Japanese promoters preferred to transport the gaijin wrestlers by bus, vehicles which steadfastly refused to house giants. In order to placate their star import, promoters removed several rows of seats from the back of the bus, creating something of a private cabin for Andre, a place spacious enough for him to stretch out or catch a nap. Mostly, though, Andre used the space as a comfortable spot to do his drinking.

A very green rookie wrestler named Hulk Hogan toured Japan several times with Andre and witnessed the Giant’s alcohol consumption first hand. According to Hogan, Andre drank, at a minimum, a case of tall boys during each bus ride. When he finished a can Andre would belch, crush the can in his dinner-platter-sized hand, and bounce the empty off the back of Hogan’s head. Hogan learned to count each thunk, so he could anticipate when Andre was running low. Whenever the bus stopped, it was Hogan’s job to scamper off to the nearest store, buy as many cases of beer as he could carry, and make it back before the bus departed, a sight that never failed to make Andre roar his bassoon-like laugh.

March 25th, 1976-- New York.  Ali Meets a Giant.  When World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali was in New York, March 25th, 1976 to meet Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, whom he will meet in a boxer versus wrestler match in Tokyo, June 26th, someone caught his eye --- it was seven-foot-four Andre, the Giant, a wrestler from France and friend of Inoki. The towering Asdre became the object of Ali's attention after he was through trading barbs with Inoki. Ali, so taken in by the man who made him look diminutive by comparison, literally bowed to Andre and then matched his hand against Andre's massive palm. All later placed "The Giant's" fist on his jaw -- glad he won't have to face such a blow.

March 25th, 1976– New York. Ali Meets a Giant. When World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali was in New York to meet Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, whom he will meet in a boxer versus wrestler match in Tokyo, June 26th, someone caught his eye — it was seven-foot-four Andre, the Giant, a wrestler from France and friend of Inoki. The towering Andre became the object of Ali’s attention after he was through trading barbs with Inoki. Ali, so taken in by the man who made him look diminutive by comparison, literally bowed to Andre and then matched his hand against Andre’s massive palm. All later placed “The Giant’s” fist on his jaw — glad he won’t have to face such a blow.

On one tour, Andre’s Japanese sponsors rewarded him with a case of expensive plum wine. Andre settled down in the back of the bus and started drinking. Four hours later, the bus arrived at the next venue, and Andre was polishing off the last bottle of wine.

Sixteen bottles of wine in four hours is a considerable feat, but it gets better. Andre proceeded straight to the ring and wrestled three matches, including a twenty-man battle royal. The 16 bottles of plum wine had no discernible effect on Andre’s in-ring ability. By the end of the evening, Andre had sweated off the wine and found himself growing cranky. He dispatched Hogan for a few cases of beer. Hogan hurried to do as Andre  asked, knowing from painful experience that a drunken Giant was a happy Giant, and a happy Giant was less likely to fracture some vital part of an opponent’s anatomy in a fit of grumpiness.

Andre the Giant

In 1977, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes wrestled Andre at Madison Square Garden. Afterwards, the old friends went out on the town. They adjourned to one of Andre’s favorite watering holes and took stools at the bar (Andre occupied two). Several hours and some 100 beers later (around 75 of them were Andre’s), they decided to head back to their hotel. Andre looked at taxis with the same scorn as most other conveyances and announced that he and Dusty would walk, which was problem because Dusty was having trouble maintaining a vertical position. Andre studied the situation, and a twinkling grin blossomed across his huge face. People who spent any time with the big man quickly learned to watch for that grin. It was a harbinger of danger. It meant that Andre was contemplating something risky, something with potential legal ramifications, but also, most assuredly, something fun.

A moment later, the two huge wrestlers attacked a pair of horse-drawn carriages. Dusty threw a handful of paper money at one driver while Andre hauled the other from his seat with one hand. While one driver cursed and the other scrabbled around on the ground collecting his windfall, Andre and Dusty thundered off in the carriages. They raced through the Manhattan streets, dodging cars and pedestrians for fifteen blocks before ditching the carriages and lathered horses a block from their hotel. By the time the cops arrived, Andre and Dusty were enjoying snifters of brandy in the hotel bar, appearing as innocent as angels. The next day, they main-evented another card at the Garden. Another sell-out. Two pros at the top of their games.

Andre the GiantAndre the Giant

Another time, in the ‘70s, Andre was holding court at a beach-front bar in the Carolinas, boozing it up with fellow wrestlers Blackjack Mulligan, Dick Murdoch, and the inimitable Ric Flair. They’d been drinking with gusto for hours when Flair goaded Mulligan and Murdoch into some slap-boxing with Andre, who had poured over 60 beers down his gullet. One of the two “accidentally” sucker-punched Andre. The Giant became enraged, grabbed both Mulligan (6’5”, 250 lbs.) and Murdoch (6’3”, 240 lbs.) and dragged them into the ocean, one in each hand, where he proceeded to hold them under water. Flair intervened, and Andre released the men, assuring them he was only playing around. Murdoch and Mulligan, who had nearly drowned, weren’t so sure, but neither messed with Andre the Giant again. They also picked up the tab.

On another occasion, Andre was touring the Kansas City territory and went out for drinks after a show with Bobby Heenan and several other wrestlers. When the bartender hollered last call, Andre, slightly annoyed, announced that he didn’t care to leave. Rather than risk an altercation with his hulking customer, the bartender told Andre he could stay only if he was drinking, imagining, surely, that he would soon be rid of the big fella. Andre thanked the man, and proceeded to order 40 vodka tonics. He sat there drinking them, one after another, finishing the last at just after five in the morning.

Debbie Harry with Andre the Giant

Debbie Harry with Andre the Giant

When ill health forced Andre to largely quit wrestling in the late ‘80s, he accepted the role of Fezzik in Rob Reiner’s movie The Princess Bride. Everyone on the set loved the big man, with the possible exception of Reiner himself. Ever the sociable fellow, he kept fellow cast members Mandy Patinkin and Carey Elwes out night after night, drinking and otherwise goofing around. The actors were incapable of matching Andre’s intake, but certainly gave it a serious try. As a result, they often showed up on set still loaded or suffering from the sort of hangovers that make death seem a pleasant alternative. Reiner tried to get Andre to leave the actors alone, but Andre could only be Andre, and the other cast members continued to pay the price.

The shooting schedule required Andre to be in England for about a month. When his part wrapped, Andre checked out of his suite at the Hyatt in London and flew back to his ranch in North Carolina. His bar bill for the month-long stay?

Just a shade over $40,000.

Now, if everything I’ve described so far isn’t proof enough that Andre the Giant was the greatest drunkard who ever lived, these last two stories should set my claim in granite.

You won’t find it in the Guinness Book of World Records, but Andre the Giant holds the world record for the largest number of beers consumed in a single sitting. These were standard 12-ounce bottles of beer, nothing fancy, but during a six-hour period Andre drank 119 of them. It was one of the few times Andre got drunk enough to pass out, which he did in a hallway at his hotel. His companions, quite drunk themselves, couldn’t move the big man. Fearing trouble with cops, they stole a piano cover from the lounge and draped it over Andre’s inert form. He slept peacefully until morning, unmolested by anyone. Perhaps the hotel people thought he was a piece of furniture.

Think about it: 119 beers in six hours. That’s a beer every three minutes, non stop. That’s beyond epic. It’s beyond the ken of mortal men. It’s god-like.

Andre the GiantAndre the Giant

Giants are not made long for this world, and toward the end of his life injuries and health problems caused by the acromegaly caught up with Andre. It became difficult just to walk, let alone wrestle, so he retired to his North Carolina ranch to drink wine and watch the countryside. He declined myriad requests for a comeback, despite promises of lavish payoffs. He was simply in too much pain to perform at the level he demanded of himself. Then he received a call from Vince McMahon Jr.

McMahon was in the midst of taking his WWF promotion national. He’d scored big-time with his Wrestlemania events on pay-per-view, and as Wrestlemania III approached, Vince Jr. was hot to make it the biggest thing yet. To make that happen, he needed Andre the Giant.

Andre was in France visiting his ailing father when the call came. He thanked Vince Jr. but said there was no way he could get back in a ring, even though he very much wanted to. Not willing to give up, Vince Jr. flew to France to speak with Andre in person. He took Andre to see doctors specializing in back and knee maladies. Radical back surgery was proposed. If successful, the procedure would lessen Andre’s pain and perhaps make it possible for him to get in the ring for Wrestlemania. If Andre was game, Vince Jr. agreed to pay for the entire cost of the surgery.

The time arrived, and the anesthesiologist was frantic. He had never put a person of Andre’s size under the gas before and had no idea how much to use. Various experts were brought in but no solution presented itself until one of the doctors asked Andre if he was a drinker. Andre responded that, yes, he’d been known to tip a glass from time to time. The doctor then wanted to know how much Andre drank and how much it took to get him drunk.

“Well,” rumbled the Giant, “It usually takes two liters of vodka just to make me feel warm inside.”

And thus was a solution found. The gas-passer was able to extrapolate a correct mixture for Andre by analyzing his alcohol intake. It was a medical breakthrough, and the system is still used to this day.

Chuck Wepner is draped on the ropes, about to fall through, after Andre the Giant picked him up and tossed him out of the ring in the third round of the boxer-wrestling match held at Shea Stadium.  Andre was declared the winner in 1:15 after a wild scene in which trainers and handlers tried to push Wepner back in the ring within the 20-second time limit --1976.

Chuck Wepner is draped on the ropes, about to fall through, after Andre the Giant picked him up and tossed him out of the ring in the third round of the boxer-wrestling match held at Shea Stadium. Andre was declared the winner in 1:15 after a wild scene in which trainers and handlers tried to push Wepner back in the ring within the 20-second time limit –1976.

Five months later, Andre the Giant wrestled a “body-slam” match against Hulk Hogan and brought down the house.

Two liters of vodka. Warm and fuzzy. Side by side like that, the two sentences hardly make any sense. For most of us, two liters of vodka means a one-way ticket to Blackout Island aboard the good ship Regurgitania.

After Wrestlemania, Andre retired for good. His beloved father died in 1993 and Andre returned to France to be with his family. He was still there when, on January 26th, 1993, Andre died in his sleep of heart failure at the age of 47.

The key to Andre the Giant is this — even as a youth he knew that his disease would dramatically shorten his life. He knew there was no cure, and lived every day with the understanding that death could shamble around the very next corner. Knowledge of this sort can darken a life.

It did not darken Andre’s.

He chose instead to pack his days with as much insane, drunken fun as they could hold. Instead of languishing in the darkness, he chose to walk in the sun.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now. Andre the Giant was an inspiration. I would pay a fortune for the opportunity to go back in time 30 years to watch such a master practice his craft, in the ring and at the bar.

Andre the Giant was the very embodiment of what being a drunkard is all about.
—Richard English

Andre the GiantAndre the Giant

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andrethegiant (120)

Andre the Giant on the ‘Croisette’, the beach boulevard in Cannes, France with a young lady in bikini. 29 July 1967. via

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ANDRE THE GIANT SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

Andre the Giant (here with Lee Majors) was the first actor to play Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man tv show.

70 thoughts on “PROVING THAT SIZE DOES MATTER | WRESTLING LEGEND ANDRE THE GIANT

    • “And thus was a solution found. The gas-passer was able to extrapolate a correct mixture for Andre by analyzing his alcohol intake. It was a medical breakthrough, and the system is still used to this day.”

      Complete BS. Tolerance to alcohol doesn’t mean you have will the same tolerance to opiods. Just goes to show most of these stories are grossly exaggerated. Still entertaining tho

      • Well, here they are talking about inhalant anesthesia, which is not opiod in nature. (They work usually on GABA, NMDA, dopamine and other receptors) Back then, it was probably halothane, or isoflourane.

        Remember that alcohol gets you thrashed from the ethanol, by messing up your GABA and NMDA receptors. Ethers (the precursors to modern anesthetic gases) work in a very similar mode of action.

        To think that they used this as a guideline is not nearly as far fetched as it might seem.

    • he was escaping from that fact by drinking although he was the perfect wrestler ever he never forgot his disease he never had a normal life
      u can tell he was escaping from thinking

      i wish he would tell us now is he happy for what he did in his personal life?

  1. My wife met Andre the Giant at an airport when she was a little girl. She still talks about it. Her favorite movie is “The Princess Bride,” in no small part, I imagine, because of Fezzik.

    And an amazing tidbit: Samuel Beckett, who was Andre’s neighbor when he was a kid, used to drive him to school.

  2. Great feature–good read, cool photos!! I remember watching Andre The Giant as a kid. Its funny…looking at these photos made me realize just how giant is hair was–lol!

  3. I loved Andre growing up. I would have paid money to see him and Dusty Rhodes driving horse drawn carriages down a busy nyc street.

  4. Good stuff. Did you find any mention of Andre booking two rooms in hotels and using one bathtub as a toilet? Sorry for the image.

  5. When I see a giant in a movie, Big Fish or Get Smart, etc. I google them. Bless their hearts, what a bizarre life.

    Not sure why giantism isn’t more talked about, for example in the NBA.

  6. i read this and needed to let it all sink in for a day or so…from a long line of irish drinkers, and the tolerance level of a first time drinker following me around my whole life, i mean, WOW! i cannot even comprehend…i mean the story is about him as a giant and of course i loved him in princess bride, etc, but the story is also about the drink. wowowowowow. who knew!? who knew that about him, and who knew any body could tolerate so much drink.
    amazing. i still don’t entirely know what to say about it. but fascinating surely!
    bess

  7. I’ve run into this piece around the internet a few times now, and every time I do, I can’t help but read it in its entirety. Very entertaining, and particularly well-written. Many thanks for sharing this again.

  8. He didn’t retire after his match with Hogan at WrestleMania III. In fact, he even wrestled into the 90′s. He was in a tag team championship match at WrestleMania VI.

    Andre The Giant = Bill Braxby?

    • Thank you, but I didn’t write the main article. It was written by Richard English for Modern Drunkard Magazine.

      Best,

      JP

  9. A very interesting article, but don’t really understand the writers obssession with drinking, it would be more comprehensive with half of that stuff stripped out of it.

    • That’s the whole point of the article… It was written for Modern Drunkard magazine…. the focus of the article was what an unbelievable drinker he was…

  10. Possibly because the article title is “Do you have a favorite drunkard?” for Modern Drunkard magazine. This may be the reason for the emphasis on the exploits of Andre at the bar.

    On the article, great read and a fascinating insight into the side of professional wrestling we rarely see.

  11. Very good article! It is true about his appetite for alcohol. That was his way of self-medication for the huge amount of pain he was in during the 2nd half of his wrestling career. There’s a great book about his life that was released earlier this year that will agree with much in the article including the Hulk Hogan story.

  12. I had a friend who used to work for the then WWF. He tells a story about Andre ordering a vodka and cranberry juice at a hotel bar. The drink came in a lowball glass, which was a sip for Andre. After the first one, he got the bartender to mix his drinks in a beer mug for the rest of the night.

  13. Andre didn’t wrestle a “bodyslam” match against Hogan, he wrestled a “bodyslam” match against Big John Studd at the original WrestleMania. The Hogan/Andre match was for the WWF World Title and Hogan won it after slamming and pinning Andre.

  14. The Author Richard English originally wrote the article for “Modern Drunkard Magazine ” and says he is indebted to the works of Brian Solomon, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Dave Meltzer, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and Hulk Hogan.)

    Leave any comments about discrepancies with the history of Andre’s wrestling career with the link below, if historical accuracy concerns you so they can be informed.

    http://www.drunkard.com/issues/10_06/10_06_andre_giant.html

    Best,

    JP

  15. “yes honey I was in this bar and there was a giant who kept insisting we all drink with him and he never stopped and I couldn’t get away till he fell asleep on the pool table”. I’ll bet that happened more than once.

  16. You really can’t fully comprehend how big Andre’ was unless you were standing next to him. I’m a Flight Attendant and in about 1988, I was working a flight from LaGuardia to Toronto. Andre’ and 14 other wrestlers walked on my Boeing 727-200, but only Andre’ was seated in first. the reason? He couldn’t fit in the seats in coach. (His head grazed the lighting panel above him in first as it was !)
    During the one hour and 10 minute flight, he drank 4 rock glasses of vodka on the rocks, each glass containing 3 minis. Despite those big, glass rock glasses in First Class, it looked like he was holding a Dixie cup. He was very kind, extremely charming, and quite sweet, actually. He invited the entire Flight Crew to the match that evening in Toronto as we had a layover for the night. We were to meet him at his Hotel lobby; his Hotel was across the road from ours.
    I was the only one that showed up. What an interesting evening…I rode with him to the arena in a van, where they had taken the first bench seat out. We were sitting in the second bench seat and his feet were nicely tucked behind the driver’s seat. He also told me that the Hotel had to give him a suite with two king sized bed pushed together to accommodate him.
    After the match, I went to dinner with the wrestlers and they were hysterical and all very nice to me because they remembered me from the flight. Dinner was Japanese and I ate more than Andre’ did, but I certainly couldn’t drink more. He told me the story of his back surgery and the anesthesiologist, only he told me it was 2 quarts of vodka, about the same.
    He also told me that he loved making “The Princess Bride” and that he had more fun and learned more making that movie than anything else he had ever done.
    He and his driver dropped me off at my Hotel Lobby after dinner and he was a perfect Gentleman, with a kiss on the cheek and a request to call him in North Carolina should I ever find myself there. I never did make it to North Carolina and was sad to hear of his death a few years later.
    This is one of my favorite stories fro my flying career. He was such a nice person and it was generous to show me such kindness.

  17. What a great piece! My favorite passage:

    “Two liters of vodka. Warm and fuzzy. Side by side like that, the two sentences hardly make any sense. For most of us, two liters of vodka means a one-way ticket to Blackout Island aboard the good ship Regurgitania.” I laughed out-loud after reading it!

  18. Good article, but as a pro newstand magazine photographer who’s shot globally from 1966 to current, Andre never wrestled Dusty Rhodes at the Garden(MSG). He teamed with him and Mil Mascaras for a 6 man “dream” tag match I shot there, but I don’t believe Andre ever wrestled against Dusty in a singles or tag anywhere else, either.

    The author may not be a wrestling person, but did a very nice job on the text; and I don’t mean to be critical.

  19. Great read! I was going between laughter, shock and just out & out AWE while I was trying to grip what I just read.

    RIP, Boss =(

  20. Lovely article; while I’m not too ussed in the term ‘drunkard’, the writer’s admiration for Andre as a man and as an athlete comes through clearly in the article.

    A well-researched piece that adds to both subject and audience. well done!

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  23. Such an entertaining article! Thank you for posting it here (since I don’t subscribe to Drunkard Magazine).

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  26. Andre was not only a giant, he had a giant heart. I’ve never heard of anyone saying anything bad about the man, his goodness and smile are an inspiration to me.

    • I can vividly recall hating Andre the Giant as a kid (really, who could root for someone fighting Hulk Hogan?), only to realize decades later how beautiful of a human being he was.

  27. WOW.. I never knew much about Andre until I accidentally found this site.. While in search of rare pictures of James Dean. Maybe the rare in the search found me here? :) I’m truly glad I found this site! Thank you for writing this article about this gentle giant. I have much respect to him more than ever. I’m happy he lived his life to the fullest. I do wish he could have had a family of his own.. I’m sure he is grateful for what he had in this life. Friends and family who adored him. A wonderful man indeed. I enjoyed this story very much! Thanks again to the writer. You’ve done a splendid job! Well done!

    Sincerely,
    Angela goldy3001 =)

  28. As an avid reader of wrestling magazines in the ’70s, I remember Andre also referred to as Jean Ferre. I saw him win a battle royale at the Winnipeg Arena in, let’s see, the early ’80s? I think my friends were off at a junior high dance that night, but I declined so I could go see Andre wrestle.

  29. Having met the gentleman, in the mid-80s, on a puddle jumper in the southeast as he was on his way to a match and I was on a business trip, I can say that he was, indeed, a gentleman. It was a small plane, and impossible to miss him – not to mention his discomfort in his seat. I spoke to him, in French, he responded in kind – clearly surprised. And we spent some time speaking (en français) after everyone else exited the plane. He invited me as his guest to his wrestling match a little later. As I stand 5′ tall, even conversing must have been amusing for those who watched us together.

    I must say – I’m not exactly the wrestling match type (that was my one and only one venture that close to a ring – EEEEEK, they were huge and it was pretty intense up close and personal).

    He was – to me, at least – a lovely man. Articulate, funny, completely charming. And I have a delightful memory of that evening.

  30. Great photos. I saw Andre back in the early 1970′s,. Many wrestling fans don’t know that the young Andre was mobile in the ring, unlike the late 80′s -early 1990′s WWF Andre, who could barely move.

  31. Pingback: VINTAGE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER | PUMPING IRON ON THE SILVER SCREEN « The Selvedge Yard

  32. Ive seen wrestling documentories where they said no one could come close to “really” beating this guy up. During matches, that were scripted, the opponent didnt really know what was going to happen. Andre apprently didnt like to lose, even when he was supposed to, so anyone wrestling him had to feel it out if Andre was going to follow the script. I saw a photo of a beer can in his hand, and as someone else mentioned, it looked about the size of the smallest ipod they offer. Crazy…

  33. Thanks for posting this. The pictures were great. I think in maybe the spring of 1988 he wrestled in my hometown of Shamokin Pennsylvania. I was in jr high and the event was held in the gym of the high school I’d later go to. He wrestled Big John Studd, who won via disqualification. King Haku ran interference and Hacksaw Jim Duggan ran in to help Studd. Andre got hit by Duggan’s 2×4 at one point. Good times.

  34. He didn’t retire till after wrestlemania 7. Because he comes in and helps the big boss man against mr. Perfect. And in wrestlemania he lost the tag team titles as colossal connection to demolition.

  35. This is a refreshing joy article to have just read online. It’s not another regurgitated copy. But original And fresh read. Long live all giants big and small.

  36. I met Andre the Giant back in 1981 one night when me and my friend went to a Bar on 8th ave called the Savoy which was owned by a couple of Russian guys. My friend told me that a very famous person would go into this bar after he finished wrestling at the Madison Square Gardens to have a few drinks. I was very intimidated when I met Andre the Giant that evening due to the fact that when I put out my hand to shake his hand I had noticed that my entire hand had disappeared entirely into his and that his hands were the size of Bone China Plates. I also noticed that Andre the Giant was so huge that he took up 2 bar stools in order to sit down, His ass cheeks sat on their own bar stool (One bar stool for the left ass cheek and one bar stool for the other ass cheek). Andre the Giant wasn’t much for holding conversations and I respected him for that and certainly did not want to rattle his cage whatsoever because I valued my life and one can only imagine the degree of damage that Andre the Giant could inflict upon the anatomy of a human being if pushed to the point of no return. Trust me I did not want to become a statistic that evening. NO SIREE!!!!!!!!! All in all he appeared to be quite a jovial fellow and I could tell that he was having a great time knocking back the drinks that he was drinking and he seemed to be quite relaxed too. by the way I forgot to mention that this all took place in Manhattan New York. Well I certainly hope that all who have read this have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed typing it out. Take care and have a great life!!!!!

  37. It is this kind of fantastic, outstanding and perfectly riveting writing that keeps me coming back to the selvage yard on a regular basis to see what has been posted.

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