New England Fan Fest 7 brought legends to Warwick, RI
June 18, 2019
The BIGGEST show in the smallest state!
November 8, 2019
Exclusive: Legendary Hart family brother Smith Hart
Joseph Bruen: First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. What was it like growing up in Calgary and more importantly growing up as a Hart kid?
Smith Hart: Growing up in Calgary wasn’t too bad. I have come back here after all these years because of my family connections to this town, but have always preferred living in the tropics of Puerto Rico. Growing up a Hart kid really was only special because of all the brothers and sisters and having so many kids to play with. Outside of our home, we weren’t anything special growing up and because we were on the hill, we were rather secluded from the rest of the city. But at home we had so much fun playing and I loved that time with my siblings. Being able to play any team games, playing with all the animals it was just great fun.
Joseph Bruen: What is your earliest memory of pro wrestling?
Smith Hart: My earliest memories seem to be all the wrestlers coming to the house to pick up their paychecks. I remember seeing such legends as Gorgeous George and Buddy Rogers walking through our front door. Boxing legends like Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali.
Joseph Bruen: You had a short in ring career in pro wrestling. What made you decide to stop?
Smith Hart: I guess that is perspective. I wrestled 18 years. And theoretically I still kept doing things sporadically right up until a few years ago, although more as a teacher than an active competitor. If it wasn’t for this cancer I might still be doing that. Compare that to the 14 years Steve Austin wrestled or the 8 years The Rock wrestled or the 4 years Bill Goldberg wrestled. I think the difference is my career was winding down before the big boom period of the 1980’s. That and I never really had a major run in any major territory. I decided to stop because I never enjoyed being a wrestler or working out. I preferred being the booker and only wrestled when I had to.
Joseph Bruen: Obviously it`s known what your father Stu meant to pro wrestling, but since you felt it all first hand, what did Stu mean to Calgary?
Smith Hart: Stu was heavily involved in every charity and every organization in the city it seemed. He was an Order of Canada recipient for all the work he had done in the city, which is the highest civilian honor in Canada. I remember, because he was a member of the Stampede board, the circus came to town and wasn’t doing very good in terms of ticket sales, so the board asked him if any of the wrestlers wanted to wrestle a giant Bengal Tiger to give some publicity. Of course all the wrestlers chickened out. So in order to keep the board happy, my Dad got in there himself and wrestled 750 lbs Bengal Tiger. The wrestling bear was old, had no teeth, had his claws removed and wore a muzzle and still knocked the crap out of everyone. This tiger was young and fierce had razor sharp teeth and claws and no muzzle. The only protection was this 120 lbs kid holding a chain on the other side. My Dad got it up on its hind legs and just tried walking it backwards. He grabbed the Tigers cheek and said the muscles in his cheek were like grabbing a tennis ball. He tried arm dragging it, but the tiger took my dad down with ease. My Dad was so impressed with its natural wrestling tendencies that he tried to buy it. When my dad died, it was headline news in the city of Calgary for a week. I would argue it was on par to what it was like for Muhammad Ali’s death this year in Louisville. The whole city stood still to honor my Dad (as opposed to the whole world standing still for Ali). That meant a lot to me.
Joseph Bruen: What were your hobbies growing up as a kid?
Smith Hart: I loved to draw and I was an avid stamp collector. Especially with mail coming in from all over the world I loved collecting stamps. The previous owners left a detailed stamp collection that I continued on.
Joseph Bruen: How was your relationship with your father?
Smith Hart: During the early years not very good as I had previously been raised by my grandparents who treated me like gold and gave into my every wish, whereas living with my Dad was full of hardships and discipline and I had to get used to getting whatever was granted to me. So my Dad and I didn’t quite see eye to eye. As I got older I gravitated more towards being creatively inclined and smoked pot and lived a bit more of a care free existence opposite to my Dad who was straight laced and didn’t have any vices. I like to think that in later years my relationship with my Dad improved and we became quite close. In fact I moved back into the house for the main reason of taking care of both my parents.
Joseph Bruen: Tells us your memories of Stampede Wrestling and all that it took to keep that territory going strong. What did Stampede wrestling mean to your Dad and the rest of your family?
Smith Hart: To my Dad, I think it was the true definition of a livelihood. Because nothing made him feel more alive than being in wrestling, so it really did mean the world to him. He sunk everything he had into wrestling and as a man of his word, would pay the wrestlers every dime, even at his own expense or in the case of us children, the expense of us having some of the basics of life. My memories of Stampede are mostly of the long cold trips. My favorite story is from just outside of Edmonton. A guy came up to me and gave me his camera and asked me to go into the locker room and take a picture of my brother Bruce for him. Bruce had already left out the back door by then, but the Sheepherders (Bushwhackers) were still there and they suggested we take some picture of Mulumba (a rather well hung Black wrestler from the Caribbean) in the shower. Mulumba happily agreed as long as his face wasn’t in the picture. So the Sheepherders got down on their knees and pretended to be gnawing away on this giant penis. I emptied the whole roll of film and gave it to one of the stagehands to give back to the man waiting outside the locker room. The next week that same man came back and showed my Dad the pictures, telling him they were for his daughter, but the funny part was my brother Ross got blamed for it. Being on the road for me was more about the brotherhood and the humor.
Joseph Bruen: Let’s talk about your brother Keith. Keith is a known firefighter and wrestled as well. What was Keith like growing up and do you still keep in contact with all of your brothers today?
Smith Hart: Keith nicknamed Putz was my father’s pet. I never bonded well with Keith as kids and often found him more of a tattletale. Keith was as straight laced and disciplined as anyone I have ever met and because of that I think my father favored him, at least at first, over all his sons. Whereas I was a much more outside the box thinker. Keith was much more of an amateur standout than he was adapted to the pro style and when he had the chance to be the booker, he basically was promoting glorified amateur wrestling. Later in life Keith and I became somewhat closer, but have never been as close I would like to have been. When I did get my cancer diagnosis, he did call to wish me well and tell me to get my affairs in order.
Joseph Bruen: The basement of the Hart house became famously known as "The Dungeon". Your father Stu would do all the training and stretching down there with other wrestlers and up and coming talents. What was it like hearing the screams and groans from "The Dungeon" all the way upstairs?
Smith Hart: I think the screams and groans are often over-exaggerated. More often than not, it was legit training with accomplished wrestlers that my Dad was working out with the likes of George Gordienko, Luther Lindsay or Gorilla Monsoon. Very rarely did someone get tortured and that usually stemmed from some drunken cowboy or a local martial arts student thinking they were tough and trying to call someone out at a live event and my dad inviting that person back to the house to teach them a swift lesson. Archie The Stomper Gouldie was one such example of this and Archie went on to be one of my Dad’s biggest draws and one of the best villains I ever seen in wrestling.
Joseph Bruen: Obviously having such a large family, holidays must have been a great time. What was the holiday season like at the Hart house?
Smith Hart: Not as jolly as you may imagine. We had some lean years growing up and my parents fell on hard times. There were years we had no heat in the house. There were years all the boys would get a hockey puck as our present. Aside from always having amazing Christmas dinners, it wasn’t always the grand holiday one might imagine.
Joseph Bruen: Did you watch WWF as a child or was it all Stampede growing up?
Smith Hart: We didn’t get WWF in Western Canada. At least not until the late 1980’s. In fact, WWF didn’t get any TV rights in western Canada until my Dad sold his TV rights to Vince. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, all we got was local regional Stampede wrestling, although I often saw Al Tomko’s Vancouver territory also.
Joseph Bruen: Your other brothers Ross and Wayne both had short (In ring) wrestling careers. They quickly moved onto a referee spot and eventually retired from the ring. Tell us about their journey in the business.
Smith Hart: Ross nicknamed “Inky” was notorious for always playing in my mother’s office and getting covered in my mother’s ink pads hence the name, which I believe was the breeding ground for him to be more office oriented. Although he was a talented wrestler like all of us, he like Dean lacked size and therefore didn’t find much in terms of success in the ring, but was one of the most organized promoters I ever saw. He was also a noted historian and new every detail about the history of the business. Wayne nicknamed the Goat was often criticized as the black sheep of the family. He grew up in the 60’s and associated quite clearly with the counter culture. I think he unfortunately took the worst of my dad’s punishments growing up and got blamed for a lot of things that had nothing to do with him. I think because of this he distanced himself from the in ring aspects of both amateur and professional wrestling. But to earn a living he would work as a referee for my father and was a damn good referee that should be held in the same breath as other great referees like Tommy Young, Tiger Hattori, Earl Hebner and Sandy Scott. He was also the best driver my dad ever had. You have to imagine that road trips in my dad’s territory could be up to 60 hours round trip in the cold prairie winters through God awful blizzards and snowstorms. Many accidents occurred with the wrestlers often acting out and partying on the road. But my brother Wayne was often entrusted as the safest of all winter drivers.
Joseph Bruen: Which brother did you find you were closest to growing up?
Smith Hart: I was closest to my brothers Wayne and Dean. I was born in New York and my parents had been alerted by the chief of police about an opportunity to purchase the rights to promote in Calgary. So I was left with my grandparents in New York while my parents travelled to Calgary to secure the deal. It was along that way, my mother 9 months pregnant with Bruce, that they were in a terrible accident that destroyed my mother’s face, broke all her teeth and caused her to go into delivery with Bruce immediately. They ended up staying in Montana for about 2 years settling the litigation on the case which is where both Bruce and Keith were born. After that they settled in Calgary and opened up shop. Fortunately it was