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Playboy Buddy Rose Knows How Much He Weighs

W. Todd Kaneko


Flower For Adrian Adonis

Before he was adorable, Adrian Adonis

was rough. He rode his motorcycle

across the country, wrestled

every man in New York, Hollywood,

Texas—breaking every man he fought

with a knee drop. He wrapped thick arms

around a man's neck, squeezed

until the announcers exclaimed

Goodnight, Irene! as bodies crumpled

to the canvas. My father rode

a motorcycle back in the seventies,

an old Indian my mother took

when she left us. Sometimes a boy

is smart to keep silent about things

he finds—secret photos of my mother

astride that bike, her lips peeled

back in a lovely snarl at the Golden

Gate Bridge, in Times Square,

at the Grand Canyon. My father, alone

in his underpants after a double shift

at the plane yards, those photos

gripped in one hand, his forehead in

the other. When he became adorable,

Adrian Adonis was a buffoon,

a man smeared in perfume and eye

shadow prancing through flower shops,

sashaying with a bouquet of posies.

That tough guy who rode his motorcycle

from fight to fight, who fought for the World

Championship, fought for the fun

of beating a man—Good night, Irene!

All that's left are flowers now.


That Night the Fabulous Moolah Finally Lost Her Championship

The stars were out that night

Moolah wrestled the cowgirl—

that's why we came here

to New York in 1984, where alligators crawl

the sewers, where the rat kings skirmish

in alleys. Sometimes, a man can't see the sky

so he invents something to look at.

Moolah the Slave Girl clad in leather

pleats and leopard's claws in 1953.

The Fabulous Moolah now, her pockets full

of dollar bills, flowers perfumed for love

or murder. Moolah—ladies wrestling

champion for twenty-eight years before

this night. We came to see the stars

form new constellations, that neon pop

singer squeaking ringside for Moolah's rival—

the cowgirl blows kisses to MTV,

she-bops under the lights. Her lips glisten

as she slaps on a chinlock, a knee lodged

in the old woman's spine. We remember

what those legends still say—Moolah

was an old beast with a crocodile

cunning, the slipperiness of weasels.

A man feels helpless when he can't help

but root for the wrong woman. Jumping

headscissors, a flying mare, those bodies

dissolving into tricks of light, the Milky Way

vanishing when the night blooms

dark with loss. That's why we came

here—because Cleopatra still rules Egypt

from the sky, Medusa those undercrofts of bone.

Moolah grabs them by the hair, bashes

their heads together to remind us

who the men really come to see.


Playboy Buddy Rose Knows How Much He Weighs

I do not weigh 271 pounds. I weigh a slim, trim 217.

          — Playboy Buddy Rose, Professional Wrestler

No one wants to be a bad guy, but to me

Buddy Rose will always be exactly 217 pounds.

My father said I was too short to grow

into a professional wrestler. Every weekend,

the Playboy postured in my father's living room,

half-cocked in glitz and bleach damaged hair.

Not my father's house, but on the West Coast

where men wore tights, grappled for honor

and the love of a good knuckle sandwich.

Before I threw my first punch, before

I understood it's not easy being the bad guy,

my father tried telling me wrestling was fake—

a pageantry of blood and teeth for old men

and wide-eyed children. He told me to study

if I wanted to be a doctor, but Buddy Rose

was a Las Vegas hog flaunting his sallow

physique, jiggling all over in a full-nelson

before tumbling out of the ring headfirst.

Back then, I just wanted to see the Playboy

get his heavy ass kicked. I wanted my father

to show me how a good man makes a fist

out of soft fingers. I wanted to know

what Buddy Rose probably knew back then

as he stomped back to his dressing room—

there is no such thing as a good guy,

only men who look good.

W. Todd Kaneko has recent work in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, NANO Fiction, the Collagist, and elsewhere. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.He is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor 2014) Visit him at

Illustration by Alex Fukui.

My bed is a mattress on a floor and this place has cockroaches

The robots we could become