By Terri Schlichenmeyer, July 2018 Web Exclusive.
You are the champion of all-time.
Nobody can beat you; nobody can even tie your record. When it comes to thumb-wresting, you know all the moves and you really throw your arm into it for the win. Hands-down, you’re the best. So now read Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE by Pat Patterson (with Bertrand Hebert) and take it to the mat.
Pierre Clermont understood poverty.
As one of eleven children plus parents in a two-bedroom apartment in a poor Montreal neighborhood, he was acquainted with lacks of privacy, hot water, and food. He and his younger brother slept in a closet, because there was nowhere else to sleep.
Perhaps because he was one of a crowd at home, young Pierre longed to set himself apart and he loved to “create a show and get a crowd to come out and watch.” He thought of becoming a priest, joining the circus, or somehow performing, so when his mother found a ticket to a wrestling match as a premium with a loaf of bread, Pierre became determined to see that show.
He was right – it was a life-changer. Pierre fell in love with wrestling and, because he knew someone whose father was a promoter, he began training to be a pro wrestler. He changed his name to Pat Patterson and, at around that time, he also began to understand why “girls just weren’t doing it for me.” He was gay, an ultimate admission that got him kicked out of the family home.
In Boston – his next home of many – Patterson had to learn English while he worked his way up the pro-wrestling ladder. He became the “bad guy” on the mat, and developed a ring persona. Also in Boston, he was set up with a man who “looked spectacular,” and with whom Patterson fell in love; he brought Louie Dondero into his act and his life for the next many decades, and they traveled the world on behalf of Patterson’s career. And though their relationship and their sexuality might have seemed out-of-place in an über-macho industry like pro-wrestling, says Patterson, “being gay turned out not to be an issue at all.”
Or was it? Did it have anything to do with the “scandal” to which Patterson mysteriously alludes? Plenty is said about old friends, old matches, and off-work high-jinks but “Accepted” only merely bumps into that subject about which fans still argue.
But what’s in here for non-fans?
Well, not much. Patterson’s love of pranks is clear in this book, which makes it mildly entertaining, and there are many times when he points out how times have changed. That’s interesting but, for non-fans, those bits are overwhelmed by names, travels, venues, organizations, and more names that might not make much sense.
Yes, you’ll find a story of an openly gay athlete at a closeted time in history in this book, but there’s a lot to sort through to get there. Non-fans might want to think twice about reading it, but for pro-wrestling followers, Accepted is two thumbs up.