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Meet the Author

May 23, 2024
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Brad Balukjian | The Six Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Wrestlemania

@ Beaverdale Books

They say to never meet your heroes. Brad Balukjian doesn’t listen.

From the bestselling author of The Wax Pack , comes another eye‑opening road trip adventure into a pocket of massively popular pop culture—professional wrestling—starring the Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan, Tito Santana, and many other larger‑than‑life characters of the WWF of the 1980s.

In 2005, Brad Balukjian left his dream job as a magazine fact-checker to pursue another partner with his childhood hero, The Iron Sheik (whose real name is Khosrow Vaziri), to write his biography. Things quickly went terribly wrong, culminating in the Sheik threatening Balukjan’s life. Now seventeen years later, Balukjian returns to the road in search of not only a reunion with the Sheik, but something much truth in a world built on illusion. He seeks out six of the Sheik’s contemporaries, fellow witnesses to the World Wrestling Federation’s (WWF) explosion in the mid-80s, along with the man driving the ship, Vince McMahon, to unearth their true identities. As Balukjian drives 12,525 miles around the country, we revisit the heady days when these avatars of strength, villainy, and heroism first found fame and see where their journeys took them. Balukjian plumbs their lives outside the ring, uncovering the pain of the inevitable transformation into their ring personas as myth merged with reality. From working out with Tony Atlas (Tony White) to visiting Hulk Hogan’s (Terry Bollea) karaoke bar, we see where these men are now and how they have navigated the cliffs of fame.

The Six Pack is fascinating for its humor, honesty, and clear‑eyed look at the spectacle of sports entertainment. Balukjian combines the spirit of a fan with the rigor of an investigative reporter, tracking down former WWF employees who have never spoken publicly on the company’s inner workings. But what makes this book so compelling is the humanity beneath each wrestler. Wrestling is perceived as a subculture, a sideshow without a cultural home, somewhere between sport and dance and theater and improv. It is often dismissed by the elites as low‑brow, silly, and simplistic. But ironically, an industry built on illusion is underlain by radical truth, and is arguably among our most democratic forms of entertainment. The Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan, and the rest of the cast were not pieces on a game board or characters in a comic book movie. They were real people, with families and feelings and bodies that could break. Most of them did, in fact, break; some have been repaired, but none of them will ever be the same.

Brad Balukjian, PhD [Bu-lewk-gee-in] has chosen two careers, journalist and scientist, which converge on pursuit of the truth. He has been published in Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, National Geographic, and many others. His first book, The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife, hit #7 on the LA Times bestseller list and was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020. He is a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences, and he discovered 17 species of insects (green flash bugs) in Tahiti, one of which he named after Harrison Ford. He lives on the Road, where he’s in an open relationship with his VCR.


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