Thursday, October 6, 2022 Oct 6, 2022
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True Story: I Wrestled a Bear in Deep Ellum

It was perhaps the worst St. Paddy's Day promotion every conceived.
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Courtesy of Tom Stephenson

By 1986, I’d sold my bar on Greenville Avenue, the Greenville Avenue Country Club, and thus had no place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. As was my custom, I tried to figure out a way to drink the day away while still making some money.

I rented a place in Deep Ellum very late before the holiday without having a solid idea as to how I would draw paying customers to the space. Enter our good friend Mike Shropshire. Shrop knew a guy in Denton who owned and campaigned a 775-pound bear named Ginger. For a mere $100, anyone could jump into the ring with Ginger and win $1,000 for pinning her shoulders for three seconds.

I hired Ginger and her trainer, whose name I forget, and proceeded to publicize the event as best I could. Attorney Roger Albright formed the drunken notion to get Councilman Craig Holcomb in the ring with Ginger. We enlisted the help of professional boxing referee Spider Bynum (God rest his soul) to keep mayhem to a minimum. Things did not go as planned.

On the big day, the bear made a magnificent entrance, as the crowd clapped heartily and shouted her name as she made her way to ringside, securely restrained (we hoped) by a 16-gauge chain and an ancient leather muzzle. With Councilman Holcomb dancing around the ring like a cross between Tinker Bell and José Greco, it is fair to say he had no plan to engage Ginger. My thought was that drunken revelers would see the ectomorphic Holcomb challenge the bear and no longer be afraid to put up their $100. We would have a regular WrestleMania there on Commerce Street.

But after he refused to make it a match, not a soul came forward. Thankfully, emboldened by several large Jamesons, the brilliant criminal attorney Kevin Clancy decided to sacrifice—uh, volunteer, that is—his son Danny. You may know Danny as a one-time judge and candidate, in 2010, for the office of district attorney.

To Danny’s credit, he actually attempted to disrupt the bear’s mauling of him. The picture you see above is of that effort.

But still no one else would come forward with the $100 entry fee. Our referee was about to leave the ring as the crowd lost interest. That is when I entered my own over-served ass into the ring. Rather than fight defensively, I decided to take the fight to the bear. I would like to tell you that I held my own with Ginger, but I did not. As I sprinted toward her, she answered with a look of pure nonchalance before putting her head in my chest and dropping me to the mat so hard that first my butt hit canvas, then my back, and finally my skull, with a thud.

After this spectacle, even the drunkest in the house thought it best to avoid Ginger, and she left with her trainer and my guarantee of $800. The postscript has me entering Joe Miller’s around closing time, only to be told I had to take my reeking, repulsive self to the end of the bar where other customers wouldn’t be bothered by my bear stench. I drank in stinking silence.

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