Paul Heyman has recalled how he made his way into the wrestling business in the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden and how Vincent J. McMahon helped him.
Vincent J. McMahon is the father of current WWE Chairman Vincent Kennedy McMahon and was the second generation of his family to become involved in the professional wrestling business.
Running the Capitol Wrestling Corporation based out of the northeast United States, McMahon Sr. was a key figure in both wrestling but also in the world’s most famous arena and WWE’s spiritual home of Madison Square Garden.
In an interview with Squared Circle Pit, Paul Heyman – a man who knows a thing or two about promoting wrestling in the northeast United States – discussed his interactions with Vincent J. McMahon as he tried to break into the wrestling business as a photographer:
“I hustled my way into WWWF — we’ll just say WWE to make it easy for everybody to understand. I almost got thrown out at my second show because I approached Vince McMahon Sr. […] I was walking through the Garden locker room, about to turn right to go out to the ring. And I’m fifteen years old at the time.”
“I see Vincent James McMahon with Andre the Giant in the hallway, and I turned off my flash and I kept my camera low. I just started clicking away, and I had 36 photos to take and knew I would get a good one out of it. No flash, 400 ASA film, didn’t need a flash with the natural light in the Garden locker room cover. And when I developed the pictures, I had quite a few good ones, and because I had shot at such a low angle, Andre just looked massive.”
With some killer shots of the company’s star attraction, Heyman got them printed and used his father’s know-how to try and gift the photos to McMahon to use any way he wanted:
“So I printed out some black and white 8 x 10’s, and my father who was a personal injury attorney in the Bronx wrote up what was some sort of a photo release that the then-company Capitol Wrestling Corporation that had all the rights to the pictures could do anything they wanted. Put it on posters, put it in magazines, use it in press releases, you know? Do whatever they want with it, full rights with no fee, no credit needed.”
“Or as much of a release as he knew how to write because he wasn’t an entertainment lawyer, he was a personal injury attorney, but he kind of understood how to write it up. And I put it in a nice manilla envelope and I approached Vince James McMahon with it.”
Paul Heyman was almost undone when two overzealous cops tried to thwart his passage but ring announcer extraordinaire Howard Finkel was on hand to help out:
“Two cops from the Garden picked me up from underneath my elbows. They took me and they were throwing me out, and Howard Finkel of all people came over and said, ‘Officers, officers, hold on, he’s okay, officers,’ because I had a press pass.”
“He brought me back to Vince J. McMahon and I was asked, ‘Did you take these pictures?’ I said, ‘Yes, last month in the Garden.’ ‘Oh, they’re very good pictures. What’s with the photo release?’ I said, ‘Well, they’re of you, they’re of Andre and your locker room, and I appreciate the opportunity to be backstage, so you can do whatever you want with them…'”
“He said, ‘Every month, come to me with a couple of pictures and please, let me contribute to your transportation fund to come to the Garden. Oh, thank you very much.’ He said, ‘Take your education seriously, young man.’ ‘Ah, yes sir, yes sir.’”
“So every Garden show, I’d go up to Vincent James McMahon, take him a couple of pictures and we’d have thirty seconds of, ‘Oh, what did you think of the show? What are you looking forward to seeing tonight? What do you think the audience wants to see?’ Thirty-second conversations, always pleasant. A true gentleman, the Pope of Madison Square Garden.”