Gear4Geeks Interview: Jeanie Clarke

Gear4Geeks talks exclusively to Jeanie Clarke about her book, her ex-husband ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and battles with drug addiction.

Jeanie Clarke
Jeanie Clarke in 2016

Jeanie Clarke is easy to underestimate, she’s a very sweet and polite person who was only in the US wrestling scene for 2 years. However, this is a woman who has fought and beaten drug addiction after dying on several occasions from overdoses and her contribution to pro wrestling cannot be overstated – she was instrumental in catapulting a rookie Steve Austin to stardom in a red hot angle where Austin turned on his mentor ‘Gentleman’ Chris Adams then brought in Clarke to feud with Adams and his wife Toni. Austin won Pro Wrestling Illustrated‘s ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 1990 and the Adams/Austin Feud was runner up for Feud of the Year. Let that sink in, a rookie Austin and the virtually unknown Adams came 4th right behind Flair v Luger, Hogan v Earthquake and The Ultimate Warrior v Rick Rude.

When Austin floundered in the WWF as The Ringmaster, Clarke was the one who came up with the ‘Stone Cold’ name and last year she released her autobiography Through the Shattered Glass, a book which is considered a must read for wrestling fans. Jeanie Clarke is one formidable woman.

 

You released your autobiography, Through the Shattered Glass, last year which has been compared to Mick Foley’s Have a Nice Day in terms of being essential reading for wrestling fans. When you started writing it, did you have any idea that the book would be as successful as it has been?
In all honesty, I never expected anyone to read my story when I began the process of writing. I had just returned from rehab and when I arrived home, I saw the mess that had been created during my addiction. I was still being haunted by the anxieties caused by a long struggle with drug dependencies and I had the low self-esteem of a recovering addict, so I really started by writing down my fears as a way of facing them. Slowly, I then tried to get to the roots of my problems, and the writing provided a therapeutic outlet for exploring my past.

My writing evolved into more of a series of short stories of my experiences, and I was lucky to have some of these typed up by a friend, Neil Cameron. I wanted to create a lasting journal for my daughters. I felt it was important that the girls understood their mother’s entire journey for them to find closure on a very dark battle which had almost claimed my life.

After reading back my early notes, I realised that there were so many of my friends, particularly in the professional wrestling industry, who lost their lives to drugs. Addiction can be a very easy trap to fall into, and there are still a lot of preconceptions about addiction, which is still very much a taboo subject.

From that point, I was lucky to get in touch with Bradley Craig, a pro wrestling historian and writer based in Scotland. Bradley took the brief excerpts that had been collated with Neil, and worked with me to create a complete autobiography. We really worked tirelessly to ensure that everything that was on paper was an authentic, accurate depiction of my experiences, and piece together my life into a coherent narrative. Most of all, Bradley challenged me to be brave when describing the horrors of my ordeals, and this gave me great release.

After years of pain, I could finally put my suffering behind me and focus on my new life.

I just hoped to reach out with a brutally honest, no-holds-barred account of my life so that it could help others understand the terror of addiction. I’d like that to be the legacy of my book. Since its release, I have really been overwhelmed by the support that I have received.

I really appreciate you comparing my book to Mick Foley’s books. Mick was actually one of the first people who read my book and messaged me that he couldn’t put it down, it was a great compliment coming from a New York Times bestselling author.

But I was also touched by the fans who told me that they have found identification in my story, especially the readers whose lives or families have been ravaged by the same issues that I faced.

Jeanie Clarke with Chris Adams
Jeanie Clarke with Chris Adams

A lot of people don’t realise that you started off in English promotions with the likes of Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid, when you were 19. How did you find being in a notoriously hard environment with guys who were legitimate tough guys?
Unfortunately, I grew up with a very tough upbringing, so nothing could really faze me. When I was a child, my mum had been involved with a string of abusive men, who would frequently hit her in front of me. Sometimes it was worse. And not long after I started dating Chris, I witnessed his dark side when he would drink alcohol, and he was a trained fighter and a member of the Olympic Judo team. By the time I entered the pro wrestling industry, I had become pretty hardened to violence. If anything, professional wrestling offered me an escape from a life that was sometimes all too real, and the boys really looked after me. Although they may have had reputations as tough guys, they actually gave me a sense of family which I had never experienced in my childhood.

You met Chris Adams when working on the UK scene and you both went to the US but you eventually split then you married Billy Jack Haynes. Haynes seems to be deeply troubled, have you had any contact with him and what are your thoughts on his current mental health?
I last spoke to Billy when I decided to release the book, and he wished me well. Other than that, we have not spoken at any great length in quite some time. Following the split with Chris, I had been enduring a difficult time as a single mother in Portland and he was a great source of support. I am not aware of any health issues that Billy is facing, but I will always remember him with fondness for his friendship at a time I needed it.

You were brought in to World Class and billed as Chris Adams’ ex-wife to join Steve Austin in his feud against Adams and his wife, Toni. While you and Chris were on good terms due to your daughter, was there any awkwardness especially once you legitimately began dating Austin?
Chris and I had slowly rebuilt a close friendship after our relationship had ended, and I also became good friends with Toni. There was never any awkwardness when we worked the ex-wife angle, even when Steve and I started dating in real-life. The dissension between Steve and Chris really began over business disagreements, and this worsened when Steve had been picked up by WCW. I wanted to continue the Adams-Austin feud in WCW and Dusty Rhodes, who was the booker in the promotion, liked the idea. But this was shut down by Steve over his previous resentment, and it never happened. After that, Steve and Chris were barely civil.

Jeanie Clarke with Steve Austin as TV Champion in WCW
Jeanie Clarke with Steve Austin as TV Champion in WCW

Austin was hired to go to WCW but you didn’t initially debut with him, were you always going to WCW or did you have different plans?
I initially had no plans to go to WCW. After the split between World Class and the USWA, I had been offered a role in Memphis, but I was not able to commit to that due to my other business interests in Dallas. At the time, I was a single mother and my main work was managing a franchise of telegram dancers. Unfortunately, a valet position in Memphis was not going to provide us with the reliable income which would allow me to give up my day job, so I had to choose one or the other. The opportunity at WCW really came by accident but it provided the right conditions for me to remain in the wrestling industry.

You were only in WCW for 6 months as you became pregnant and were happy to retire and be a full time mother, but did you ever consider a return to wrestling or was there any interest in bringing you back in either WCW or WWF/WWE?
In 1992, Bill Watts had called me to ask if I would be interested in returning to WCW. Although I was flattered that he considered me, Steve had told me that it would be best for his career if I didn’t. About a year later, Jerry Jarrett had asked if I wanted to work in the USWA, but I politely declined and suggested that Toni would be perfect for the role. I always loved performing for the crowds, but a life in wrestling would have kept me away from being with my daughters, and creating a stable environment for them.

After an unsettled early life spent moving from house to house, and town to town, I was happy to have found a place in Atlanta where I could finally call home and raise my children.

Austin has always credited you with being the one who came up with the ‘Stone Cold’ name, how does it feel to have played a part in creating one of the biggest superstars in wrestling history?
I am really proud of Steve and the success he achieved in the industry. When I first met him, he was a quiet and humble man with a dream of becoming a star. After years of hard work, he was finally being given a chance to show the world what he could do. I am just glad that I could have helped him in any way I could. It’s so weird, after all the cool stuff Steve and I did in the USWA and at WCW, the golden opportunity for him came when I offered him a cuppa.


You’ve done incredibly well going through rehab and not relapsing, what do you think was the key to your success when so many others need multiple stays?
I guess that the main motivation came from my daughters. I wanted to rebuild the trust that I had lost with them after years of lying about my problems. I wanted to prove to them that I was no longer an addict with anything to hide. And I was determined to become the mother that my children deserved. As well as my daughters, I was blessed with a great network of support, which I found through my Christian faith, and my friends.

When we finished work on the book, Bradley explained that I no longer had to feel any shame, my story had been told and I could now move on with new focus on the joys of being free. He has since helped me realise that it’s important to set continuous goals and the value of establishing daily routines. Each person is different, but for me, this has been a great help in structuring my life post-addiction.

After years of numbing myself with drugs, I wanted to set challenges to keep me active, which would allow me to grow as a person and make my life full. From re-establishing my relationship with my daughters, to passing my driving test, then releasing my story, to the next challenge of moving into a new house and making it a home, and maybe even finding a new job which will give me a new direction. I want to prove that, despite a troubled past, anyone can have a full and productive future.

Jeanie Clarke as Lady Blossom in WCW
Jeanie Clarke as Lady Blossom in WCW


It must be very poignant to have come through the addiction while so many friends and co-workers have died so young.
It’s heart-breaking. None of my friends or colleagues who were abusing drugs expected to die, but they did. I want the world to accept the reality that death is the ultimate end to drug addiction unless the addict gets the right level of help.

You’ve appeared at a number of conventions both in the UK and US recently, how have they gone?
It has been such a cool experience for me, and something that would have been impossible during the seventeen years of my life which I lost to addiction. It’s so amazing to meet the fans who remember me from my time in wrestling, and also engage with new fans who have seen the vintage footage of Lady Blossom from all those years ago. I loved the opportunity of being around so many of my old friends and colleagues who I hadn’t seen in years, and having the chance to return to the United States after such a long time. I can hardly wait to return in May for the Cauliflower Alley Club convention in Las Vegas.

Jeanie Clarke with Terry Funk in 2016
Jeanie Clarke with Terry Funk in 2016

As Through the Shattered Glass has been so well received do you have plans to write any more books?
I would love to write another book. There are a number of issues which I am passionate about, and I would like to explore these at some point in the future.

Maybe I could also write a sequel to Through the Shattered Glass, this time about the rebuilding of my life, now that I am free of addiction, and the challenges I have faced since I have shared my story to the world.

Who would play you in a movie of your life?
One of my daughters – probably Stephanie or Cassidy. They witnessed many of the ups and downs of my life. I think that they would be able to capture the essence of my character better than anyone. I would also love the world to see just how talented, beautiful and awesome they are.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
There was one time while working in WCW which I have no doubt to being my most embarrassing moment. It was a show in a really huge arena, and I was doing my usual Lady Blossom routine of pouting to the fans to raise their ire. But on this occasion, the first five rows of the crowd erupted in absolute hysterics. I went closer to the ring to quietly ask referee Nick Patrick if I had missed something in the match. I got nothing from Nick as he was trying to cover this broad smile. He couldn’t even concentrate on the match as he was just killing himself laughing. Confused, I then looked down and realised that my black shoulder-less dress had slipped. I had fallen out of it for the whole audience to see. I was mortified.

Lastly, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I would like to be empowered with the ability to heal people who are struggling with their past mistakes and allow them to move on and be happy. I am part of a family that was broken by errors from the past, and as I reach this new stage in my life, I would love to see others accept that the past is gone, and we all have the chance to create a more positive future for those around us. Everyone makes mistakes, but I would love to have a magic wand that could erase old grudges and allow people to move on and live happily ever after.


Jeanie Clarke’s book Through the Shattered Glass can be bought via this link from Amazon and is a fascinating read covering the best and worst parts of the wrestling industry while giving a unique view into the life of Stone Cold Steve Austin. The book also gives a very frank and powerful look into the life of someone struggling with drug addiction in an industry where many of the superstars of her time died before the age of 40.  

It began as the classic rags to riches story of a girl who escaped a life of misery to attain accidental fame and fortune in the United States. But what happened to the girl when the American dream became a living nightmare? Jeanie Clarke, who shot to wrestling stardom as Lady Blossom, reveals all in this frank account of her individual rise, fall and retribution, and struggles to sustain a family with a husband who was driven to become the greatest wrestling star the world had ever known. For years, she suffered in silence to survive personal tragedy, the pressures of fame, and drug addiction: a self-destructive lifestyle that spiralled out of control. This uncompromising autobiography exposes the dark nature of the substance abuse culture which gripped the entertainment industry, examining the consequences to a broken family that it created. It is a detailed account of her highs and lows during a lifetime in the wrestling business, and the ultimate cost it had on those around her. This is a story of personal survival that remained unknown… until now.

Morg

Gear4Geeks' owner and interviewer.

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Gear4Geeks' owner and interviewer.

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