The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt: Wrestling Referee

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th August 2012.

Many moons ago I was a lowly physiotherapist working in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. Living in a small rented terrace, I ventured out several times a week to rehearse with the local musical theatre company. In the month of warm weather that was known as Summer I liked to hike around the Brecon Beacons. Life was good

Nobody knew that I was harbouring a secret identity. At night, I’d put on my special costume and dispense my own brand of justice. That’s right folks. (In my best gravelly voice) I’m Batman. Not really, in the world of British Professional Wrestling I was known as the number one referee, Charlie Fatt.

I’m not exactly sure how I came to be a wrestling referee. I noticed a story in the local paper advertising wrestling training and having been a fan of the WWE and such since I was little, I went along to check it out.

I wandered into the Cathays Community Centre in Cardiff one Saturday afternoon to discover a group of people of all shapes and sizes running around the outside of a rusty old wrestling ring. Following that, they entered the ring and started to practice “bumping” with the trainers.

A “bump” is the wrestling term for falling on your front or back without hurting yourself. By outstretching your arms and slapping the mat, and landing with as much surface area as possible, it’s possible to make lot of noise but not hurt yourself (much).

Eventually, one of the trainers, Karl Griffiths, but known to his fans as former Celtic Wrestling Champion Caiman, invited me to join the training session. I declined, as I wasn’t particularly interested in performing in lycra undies and not much else, but did volunteer to help out in some way. Karl suggested I come to their next show and maybe referee a match. He explained that my height, or rather my lack of height, would make the wrestlers seem even larger. “That sounds great,” I said, but my Spider Sense was tingling. What had I gotten myself into?

A few weeks later I’m driving to Cardiff for my first show with James, a mate from Sydney. I had my zebra stripe shirt and black trousers, standard issue for a referee, but still hadn’t come up with my wrestling name and was getting desperate for ideas. As we pulled up to the venue in my rusty beaten up Ford (it cost me 350 quid and I drove it for three years until the fuel tank fell off on the A465), he suggests Charlie Fatt. I don’t have a clue where the Charlie came from but my second cousin is Jeff Fatt from The Wiggles. With no better names on offer, I became Charlie Fatt.

Nervously stepping into the venue, I was greeted by Caiman who informed me that there would be a few hundred people coming to watch the show and that I would be making my professional wrestling debut (with no preparation or training) as the one and only referee for the two hour card. Oh boy.

Next time I’ll write about Charlie Fatt’s grand debut. One..two…three!

Published in: on August 10, 2012 at 08:21  Comments (1)  
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Product placement in movies: buy a hot dog

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 18th January 2011.

Remember that scene in Casino Royale, the 2006 James Bond reboot, where 007 and Vesper Lynd are travelling on a train and she asks him about his watch? She asks, “Rolex?” Bond (Daniel Craig) calmly replies, “Omega.” Lynd ends the conversation about the watch with the simple, “Beautiful.”

Ker-ching! You’ve just been the victim of product placement. Omega reportedly paid $7 million per film for Bond to spruik Omega watches. Sure, the world’s favourite superspy has to wear a watch so it may as well be an actual brand but there’s really no need to shove it down our throats by altering the script to become a bizarre commercial. Last time I checked, the ads were meant to be before the film, not during the feature.

Product placement in films is nothing new but imagine what might happen if a company actually bankrolls a feature film. There are two famous examples of this. One is a beloved family film and the other is one of the worst movies ever made (it has a 0% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes).

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was originally published in 1964. A children’s literary classic, it was adapted into a movie musical starring Gene Wilder in 1971. What you may not know is that the film was financed by the Quaker Oats Company.

Founded in 1901, the company specialised in breakfast cereals at the time and had no experience in film making. The film’s producer, David L. Wolper, managed to convince the company that the movie would be the perfect advertising medium for their new candy bars. And thus, the Wonka Bar was born and the film’s title was altered to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in anticipation of a marketing match made in heaven.

Unfortunately, due to production problems, Wonka Bars never made it to the shops and the film was released, unblemished by product placement, to generally positive reviews (Dahl hated it) but mediocre box office. Via endless television repeats and its popularity on video and DVD, it is now considered an iconic children’s film (despite the scene showing a chook being decapitated).

Quaker Oats sold their share of the rights for half a million dollars 1977 and never invested in another film again.

Mac and Me was an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial rip-off released in 1988. Featuring a cute alien (MAC stood for “Mysterious Alien Creature”) who befriends a boy in a wheelchair whilst on the run from evil government scientists and agents, this turkey was financially backed by Coke and McDonalds.

In one of the least subtle product placement ever, Mac (as in Big Mac) conveniently only needs Coke and Skittles to survive. A visit to a McDonalds Restaurant with the bad guys hot on the trail strangely deteriorates into a syrupy happy impromptu dance contest, complete with a cameo from Ronald McDonald. This sickly sweet scene is widely available on YouTube and has to be seen to be believed. A warning, you may need insulin afterwards.

Ronald McDonald deservedly won the Worst New Star category at the 1988 Golden Raspberry Awards for Mac and Me. The film ends with the words, “We’ll Be Back!” written across the screen. Luckily for us, this atrocious waste of celluloid didn’t spawn a sequel. I understand that business for McDonalds was unaffected by the film’s failure and that there are now several restaurants worldwide.

So the next time you buy a watch, or grab a drink, or participate in an impromptu dance off at your local burger joint, or visit a chocolate factory run by little men with green hair, ask yourself if Hollywood made you do it.