In his new autobiography, Ken ‘Dazzler’ Dunlop grabs you and counts to ten, writes Ali Khan.
Growing up in the 1980s, the only wrestler I had heard of was Hulk Hogan. I can still picture his handlebar blond moustache and menacing look and remember him as the face of the WWF.
What I didn’t know was that Australia had a bustling wrestling scene around the same time and that those in our wonderful LGBTIAQ+ community were among the best and most revered. And that’s when I started my matriculation into ‘Dazzler Dunlop,’ the autobiography of gay wrestler Ken Dunlop.
The Dazzler hails from Moe in Victoria and as his story continues, he takes us back to his childhood and high school years. Then you hear about a Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Sliding Doors’ moment that left him with two choices: to be another brick in the wall.. or to honour yourself. He swiped right, and that act led him down the path to wrestling glory.
From the outside, wrestling appears a butch and macho sport with all of the grunting, body slams and bravado. However, the Dazzler reveals that there are also many lovely characters, who, like himself, take pride in entertaining and putting on choreographed spectacles to see if the ‘baby face’ can overcome the ‘heel’.
He describes the wrestling community as one that is supportive, welcoming and funny; however, there are some jerks out there, too.
I love his story of wrestling to a full house at Westfield Parramatta and about the time the Dazzler witnessed the culinary habits of American megastar wrestler Andre the Giant. Let’s just say, if Jenny Craig had seen what Andre ate that night, she would have been appalled.
We learn that as a gay man, the Dazzler lived during a turbulent period in Australia’s queer history – the height of the AIDS epidemic and when many states still outlawed homosexual acts. The Dazzler isn’t coy about telling us about his colourful social life on the Golden Mile (Oxford Street) though and of having to be mindful not to fall prey to ‘ring rats’ (well, except for one memorable occasion).
He also reveals some of his emotional and health struggles that are raw and troubling and about the drug culture that ruined some other lives in the wrestling fraternity. Then about the incident on a particular day in 1982 that shows how a simple human interaction can change the course of someone’s life (and we’re glad it did). The memoir is about getting to know the full Dazzler, even when life isn’t particularly dazzling.
I’ve read through a few memoirs over the years and most of them have a glossy feeling, courtesy of a ghost writer and a marketing team, laying out the next phase of the storyteller’s career. As for the Dazzler, I felt I was sitting next to him at the local pub around the corner. Every word you read is his; he has no ulterior motive. He just wants to share his story, have a laugh and grab another cold one. If I do get to meet the Dazzler in person one day, the next round will definitely be on me.