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Time Travel Art Machine: Curt Hennig
One of the best moments I've ever experienced.
This painting of Curt Hennig is one of my personal favorites I’ve ever made. I painted it at the Cauliflower Alley Club’s annual reunion in 2015, a place for people from all walks of life in pro wrestling to come together and celebrate the thing we all love so much.
That year Curt’s father, Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig was being honored by the group and I thought it’d be cool to paint this live during the week-long event. On the last day before the banquet I pulled aside one of the organizers and said that I’d love to surprise the Hennig family with this painting as a gift and asked them for the best way to do this. They stunned me by saying I should go up on stage and give it to Larry and his wife Irene during the honors.
As Larry’s AMAZING speech drew to a close (and seriously, the Axe’s dry sense of humor and innate comedic timing is second-to-none), the emcee JJ Dillon cut in to say that we had one more surprise, they gave me the signal and I walked up the steps carrying this 30” x 40” painting to gasps from the crowd. Sitting right up front are people like Gene Okerlund, Ricky Steamboat, Ata Maivia, Sgt Slaughter, and Curt’s real-life friend and in-ring partner Scott Hall, but it was the look on Irene’s face seeing the painting that’s indelibly burnt into my mind.
Larry snatched the painting from my hands and held it up, yelling, “It’s Mr. Perfect! Mr. Perfect!” and the entire gathering gave him and his son a standing ovation while Irene grasped me tight in a hug, sobbing.
I shipped the painting to them after the show and received a wonderful letter from Irene thanking me, and included one of Larry’s business cards which now used this painting I had made in 2012 of Larry, Curt and Curt’s son Joe aka Curtis Axel:
Through my time working with the Dan Gable Museum I struck up a closer relationship with Larry and Irene, always making time to sit and talk. Larry was a big art fan it turned out and was eager to talk about different pieces through history he enjoyed, especially after a trip to Rome if I remember correctly.
Working with WWE I immediately became friendly with Joe, who I’m sure thought it was strange that this guy was such good friends with his grandparents. He told me that Larry and Irene gave him the painting of his dad and that it’s now hanging in his family room. Whenever he pops up backstage we invariably end up having great conversations just talking about the family and how they’re doing.
It’s all really human and beautiful.
Here’s the Canvas 2 Canvas video of the piece, where you can see Larry and Irene’s reaction at the CAC reunion:
Love you more,