It’s hard to imagine a wrestler more memorable or larger than life than Andre the Giant. From stories of brute strength to drinking prowess, ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’ captivated people wherever he went. Here are his very best stories, from the people who knew him best.
‘MEAN’ GENE OKERLUND tells an ANDRE THE GIANT story
“Andre was a delight. Great memories. I got to know him well.
We had a couple of things in common…we liked good food, we liked good wine; we liked to play cribbage and we like to play Gin Rummy. When you’re spending a week or ten days at a crack on the road with these guys, in your off-time, what are you doing? You’re drinking, you’re eating, you’re playing Gin Rummy…
I was sitting on a plane coming from Denver going to Minneapolis. He sat up in First Class, I sat in the back of the plane. He said, ‘Boss, you’re sitting up here with me.’
We sat down, he ordered himself a Bloody Mary – it was an 8 am flight by the way…he had to have the ‘eye-opener’ – and he said, ‘You know, people think that I have a great life…that I can travel all over and everything…but I see them when they point at me…little kids laugh and say, what kind of a man is he?’
I saw him cry.
He was a very sensitive man. Nobody realizes this…”
BRUNO SAMMARTINO on Andre The Giant
“I met Andre the first time when he was maybe 19, 20. I was touring Australia and from Australia, I went to New Zealand for a couple of matches, and he was there.
You want to hear something funny? You know how tall he was – we actually weighed the same. This was in the 60s. I was 270. Andre was only about 270-275. He looked like a basketball player, he was so tall.
I didn’t see him for years. I was in Montreal, Canada maybe four years later, five years later, something like that, and when I saw him, I didn’t know it was the same guy because by this time, he weighed well over 400 pounds.
Then when he started coming around the Northeast there, in Baltimore, for example, we used to go to Little Italy. We used to go out to dinner. Andre liked to hang around the bar. He was one guy you didn’t try to keep up with! (laughs)
I can honestly say I was never a drinker. I could have a couple of beers or, being Italian, with dinner, I could go for a glass or two of wine. But that was about it. With Andre, he could hold a lot more.
He didn’t like to be alone, so I used to keep him company a lot. To be honest, I liked him a lot, but I felt bad for him at the same time. At times, he struck me to be a lonely man who needed company…”
Bill Eadie on ANDRE THE GIANT trying to get around in Japan
“Andre’s standard drinking was about five or six bottles of Cognac before and during the matches. And it would never affect him. Because you gotta realize Andre’s a BIG man. A large beer to you and I was one gulp to him…
So we’d be going to restaurants and stuff…and the gimmick was that I’d have to go out and hail the cab – because when they were driving by if they saw Andre they’d just speed up and keep going. So the cab would stop and I’d bend down to pretend to tie my shoelace and Andre would try to sneak in the cab. But the cabs are all small, they’re little cars – so he’d have his head in one side and his ass is sticking out the other. The cab driver’s going, ‘No no no! No no no!’ and trying to pull him out.
This was all the time.
And then I’d have to try and cramp in the front…”
BOBBY HEENAN tells an ANDRE THE GIANT drinking story
“We got on the plane one morning in Chicago going to Omaha. Andre liked to have a few [drinks] in the morning…like four or five triples.
So he gets on the plane and we’re in first class and he’s pulling up the armrest between the seats – you know, remove that and it gives him a little more room.
The Stewardess comes by and she says, ‘What can I get you?’ So Andre says, ‘SCREWDRIVER.’
About 10 minutes goes by and she comes back and hands him a screwdriver – a Black And Decker screwdriver!
You know what Andre says to her? ‘WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE BROUGHT ME IF I’D HAVE SAID A BLOODY MARY?’
I take the stewardess aside and I said, ‘Look, you may be new to this, but this might help you with your job…if a guy gets on the plane and he’s seven-foot-five and he weighs 550 pounds and he’s tanked…don’t bring him tools. What if the guy wanted a Jackhammer?'”
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER tells an Andre the Giant story from their time wording on “Conan the Barbarian”
“Andre the Giant – who was a very good friend of mine – and [Basketball legend] Wilt Chamberlin both went out for dinner several times in Mexico City when we did the second Conan movie down there.
They were both always joking about who could pick me up [the easiest] and make me look like a little Fly.
I was making good money – it was the first movie where I got a million dollars, so I felt like a big shot.
I said, ‘I’m gonna take the boys out…’
Andre was the most generous. Wilt Chamberlin was cheap, right? He was always penny-pinching – but Andre always wanted to pay for the dinner.
So this one day I said, ‘I’ll be right back…’ and I snuck out to give the waiter my credit card. I said, ‘Don’t let Andre or anyone pay – no matter how much he complains. I’M going to pay…’
So anyway, I came back to the table and sat down and at the end, the waiter came and gave me the bill to sign. All of a sudden, [Andre’s booming voice] ‘NOOO…YOU MAKE ME VERRY ANGRY ARNOLD…’
He picked me up – and then, of course, Wilt joined in, ‘Oh yeah, I wanted to pay…’, I said, ‘Oh, dat’s a good one…’
They both carry me out of the restaurant – people are freaking out – and they sat me on the roof of my car out front. It was a very funny scene.”
HARLEY RACE talks about slamming Andre the Giant before Hogan
“I had him fully above my head – Hogan got him about chest high. Hogan claimed to get hurt after performing the famous slam – I didn’t. I got him in the position and brought his head full through all in the same motion. It’s when those pauses come in and that weight is allowed to come straight on you, that you get hurt.”
RANDY SAVAGE on Andre the Giant
“I have respect for Andre The Giant, even if I know in his lifetime he didn’t like me at all. (Laughs) That doesn’t mean you can’t have respect for somebody…
Andre was just that way. When he met you, he either liked you or didn’t like you and that was that.
Why didn’t he like me? I don’t know.
All I know is that he used to beat the hell out of me every night. (laughs) I mean, what are you going to do against Andre The Giant?
Everyone had respect for him. Unfortunately, the guy was in pain all of the time. That guy was a warrior and he was trying to pass the torch the correct way. Andre was a stud. Even at the end of the road when he had all of those back surgeries. Even if he never liked me, I’ve got nothing but props for Andre The Giant.”
RODDY PIPER on Andre The Giant
“I had over 200 matches with Andre The Giant. Andre and I go way back.
I was one of the few people that did what I wanted to do when Andre was around – other than push Andre around.
Andre took me under his wing, as did many other old timers. And I was the only man ever to have Andre the Giant bleeding, carried out on a stretcher in Madison Square Gardens. That’s what Andre thought of me.
What do I think of Andre? I don’t think I’ve ever met a finer human being.”
A classic story from TED DIBIASE’s time on the road with Andre the Giant
“The funniest story is, we were going to Japan. It is a fourteen hour flight from Atlanta, or New York, or Dallas, just about anywhere, to Japan. Andre is sitting in first class, and Andre sitting in first class is like me sitting in coach now, you know, you’re jammed in the seat, you’re not comfortable. So, we get off the plane and now it’s another hour into the city, we check into the hotel and we drop our bags and we are going to go get something to eat. So, I push the button on the elevator and there is Andre, ‘Hey boss, let’s go eat’ and so as it starts down, it seems that this elevator stops on every floor and people just keep getting on. Japan is a very small country, with a lot of people, so what you and I would consider a full elevator, not over there. One thing about the Giant is he doesn’t like to be crowded, and he has just been on a fourteen hour flight, crammed in a little seat in a plane, and now he is in a Japanese hotel in a room that is by our standard normal, but in his standard not, and now, he is in an elevator and people keep getting on. He reaches over and taps me on the shoulder or the leg and I glanced up at him and he winked and he smiled. I said, ‘okay, something is going to happen.’ I’m looking straight ahead and all of a sudden, the Giant cuts the loudest, longest fart I believe I have ever heard in my life. I remember standing there thinking when is it going to end, it was like ‘oh my gosh,’ and it just kept going. The poor guy who is standing directly behind him, which obviously…this guy is right at butt level, so he is getting it full force. All I can tell you is this, when the elevator stopped and the doors opened, those people couldn’t get off the elevator fast enough, it was like the exodus. All you could hear was the Giant going, ‘Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.” I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe…it was a classic Andre moment…”
BRET HART tells the story of how his brother Smith barely got Andre the Giant to the airport in one piece
“The next morning the crew would be heading to Montana, and there were enough wrestlers that I could have a rare couple of days off. I have no idea how I ended up with Smith, driving André to the Calgary airport. His original flight had been canceled, which was fine with André, as he didn’t mind missing a sold-out show in Butte to have a couple of days off either. But Smith had found a seat on another flight: The problem was that the plane took off in twenty-two minutes, and the airport was forty minutes away. I was in the passenger seat when we picked André up at the hotel, and he squashed himself into the back, rightly protesting, “I’ll never make it, boss.” Smith stubbornly replied, “We can still give it a try!”
That’s when I buckled my seatbelt. Smith drove like an absolute lunatic at speeds in excess of a hundred miles per hour through city traffic. We made the sharp curve into the airport with the speedometer pinned and the car tilted up on two wheels, a hair’s breadth away from careening forty feet down off the elevated departure ramp! My yell was drowned out by André’s loud roar. When we screeched to a stop, Andre, his big eyes bulging out of his head, was about to explode. I watched my brother march him into the terminal, thanking God I was alive.
“Put your hands up over your head, you crazy son of a bitch!”
I looked up from the passenger seat to see a scowling Mountie with his gun drawn! I slowly put my hands up, then told the officer a slightly embellished story about how my dad had finally let Smith be in charge of some shows and how he had everything riding on getting André on that plane. Then Smith came out, followed by one very angry giant. Smith simply held his hands out to be cuffed.
“On account of what your brother just told me, I’m going to let you off, but so help me God, if I ever . . .”
André’s stare burned straight through Smith, and me too, and he never forgave my dad for letting Smith take him to the airport that day.”
Reddit and /r/SquaredCircle regular, ForWhomTheBoneBones transcribed these stories from a lengthy interview Cary Elwes did on The Kevin Pollak Chat Show Podcast. Pollak has guests sit for 90 minutes where they talk about really interesting parts of their lives. These stories are in Cary Elwes’ book, along with others. A link to hear this podcast is at the end of this article. If you like ‘The Princess Bride’, we highly recommend you listen to the entire interview!
Cary Elwes on meeting Andre the Giant during pre-production for “The Princess Bride”
“He took the breath out of the room. You just gasp. It’s like the eighth wonder of the world, 7 feet, 450 pounds.
…he’s like the Pentagon, no matter how big it is, you have to be standing right in front of it to appreciate the size of the place. He has to bend down to come through any door because there’s no door that’s his size. You have to be standing in front of him and have him engulf your hand like a giant [catcher’s] mitt and yours is like a little baby to appreciate this man.
The sweetest guy, a gentle giant. He’d give you the shirt off of his back, it’d be enough for 5 people, but he’d give it to you.”
Staying at the same hotel as Andre the Giant while they were shooting
“Andre was staying at the hotel, at the Dorchester, he was suffering from terrible back pain, but he also liked to drink. And his doctor told him that until the operation on his back, that the best thing he should do for pain is to drink. What medication could you give a giant? You never know how much to give to someone that big.
So, he drank and he emptied the Dorchester of some of their finest liqueur and ended up passing out in the lobby. Literally, like Gulliver BAM, down and out. And, by the way, when Andre went out, Andre… he went out. And I’m sure it shook the foundation of the hotel. Of course, the staff was terrified, they called engineering, they called security. They tried to shift him and there’s no shifting 450 pounds. So, there was a meeting that was held and there was a discussion with the night porter. “What do we do? Do we call security, do we call the police?” And they very wisely decided not to go that route. Because they figured that’s the kind of press they didn’t want. So they ended up putting a velvet rope around him. They put a velvet rope around Andre. It’s genius, cause they wanted to protect him from other people. “Don’t touch the giant”. Never wake a sleeping giant.
Housekeeping came. He woke up to housekeeping the next morning, all these Pakistanis vacuuming. They were looking at him like “What is that? What is going on? Who is guest here? What?” A cab driver was called when he woke up, he finally woke up to the sound of all of the vacuum cleaners. He got up and I think he just adjusted his hair and straightened his jacket and heads straight for the front door. And the cab driver took one look at him and went “I, I can’t, there’s no way, are you kidding?” And so, they got a bus, they got a bus, they put him on a bus and they got him home. God bless, Andre. God bless him.”
Andre the Giant’s ATV on location
“Andre has his own pace when he walks, you know. And this was certainly no way to get him up to these sets because Rob wanted to film on the top of all these mountains to get the vistas and the beautiful views. So they thought “How are we going to get Andre up to the set on time?” So, um, the production manager asked him “Andre, how do you get around at home on your farm in North Carolina?” and Andre said [deep gravelly voice] “I use an ATV, boss” An all-terrain vehicle. So they searched and I think they found the only all-terrain vehicle in England in 1986, it was a three-wheeler. And they brought this thing out, you can go online and look at picture of it, it’s great, it’s a red thing. It’s tiny, it was like a tricycle under him, it was hilarious. But, you’ve never seen a giant move so fast! He loved this thing, he would zip along all day. You would stop what you were doing. “Oh my god!” VROOM, this guy going by.
And he keeps riding up to me and going “You like my toy, Boss?”
“Yes, it’s very nice, Andre.”
“It is nice, you want to try it?”
And I’d go “No, I don’t think, I don’t know…”
VROOM, he’d take off again. This went on for four days
“You like my toy?”
“You know you WANT to!” VROOM.
And finally, on the fourth day, he came up and did this whole thing “C’mon boss, one time, try it”
And I went “OKAY, fine”
And this is where my hubris totally exceeded my aptitude, I should have ever gotten on this thing. And his bodyguard, his bodyguard, like he needed a bodyguard. This guy, the easiest job on the set. This guy walked up and says “Oh, it’s very easy guv’ner. It’s just like a motorbike, Bob’s your uncle, put your foot here, clutch here’s the brake and on/off switch. There you go.” I thought “That’s the greatest lesson in an all-terrain vehicle I’ll ever get in my life.” I get on this thing and after Andre gets off of it, by the way, it goes up three feet. Much bigger close up than it looked, without him. And I get on this thing, I put it in first gear and I didn’t go more than two feet and I went over a rock and caught my left toe between the clutch pedal and a rock and it snapped right away [10 days into shooting].”
On Andre the Giant farting
“…my first day working with Andre. The scene is this parapet they built out of plaster and wood, that is the tower of Floren Castle where Montoya, Fezzik and myself are about to storm the castle. The famous storming of the castle. And I’m mostly dead, right? I’ve just come from Miracle Max’s and I’ve taken the pill and what have you.
And I think Andre has the first couple of lines “I wonder how long it will take before the miracle takes effect” something like that.
And Mandy’s line is “Your guess is as good as mine”
And then I come to and I say “I’ll fight you both together or I’ll beat you both apart” or something like that.
And Andre’s line is “I guess not very long.”
He didn’t finish the word “long” when there emitted from Andre the most MONUMENTAL fart, look we’ve all experienced giant farts, 15 seconds, the sonic resonance, I can’t overestimate the sonic resonance of this thing. I actually looked over and saw the sound man do that [mimes covering his ear drums] I’ve never seen that before on a set… And we all thought it was an earthquake, cause everyone grabbed this plastic set that was shaking and I looked over at Andre and he had like this beautiful, he always had this smile on his face, but he had this look of bliss like Peter Sellers in “The Party” after he finally got that pee.
And this fart, 15 seconds! And I mean, we’ve all experienced giant farts, this was A GIANT’S fart! It was insane. And it was INCREDIBLE. And he had steam, for some reason he had steam coming out of the top of his head. I don’t know why, I swear to God, but he had steam… so the combination of the steam and the fart, which was still going on, I lost it. I looked away and just had to hide my laugh.
So anyways, there’s this long silence after this 15-minute fart, 15-second fart was up, it felt like 15 minutes… stone silence and Rob [Reiner] broke the silence, brilliant, I’ll never forget it, he goes “Hey Andre… Are you OK?” And Andre without missing a beat goes “I am NOW, Boss”… and it just killed us all, we were just slayed from that moment on, it was hilarious, first day working with Andre.”
Drinking with Andre after the movie’s premiere
“After dinner Andre said “You want to go drinking, Boss?” I never passed up an opportunity to go drinking with Andre, never, you should never pass up an opportunity to go drinking with this man… He goes “C’mon, Boss” and we get in his modified truck that he has and we go bar hopping to his favorite haunts.
The first place we went to… was this famous bar in New York. And we get there and we get in, whenever Andre walks into a place, everyone stops like in a Western when the piano twangs [to a stop].
Everybody stops and looks and I said to him “You can’t make a simple entry”
And he goes “No, Boss, but don’t worry they know me here”
And we go in and the bartender says [nonchalantly] “Hey Andre, how’re you doing?… Do you want your usual?”
And Andre nods.
And the guy literally grabs a beer pitcher and he goes along the bar and takes every liquor bottle and starts to fill this beer pitcher with everything… you name it! Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Brandy, EVERYTHING! And Andre picks it up and the beer pitcher is about this big in his hand [indicates a coffee mug] and he takes a giant swig and he offers it to me. And I remember, I’ve never tasted airplane fuel before, but this is about a close to airplane [fuel]. I started coughing and he thought that was very funny [mimics a gravelly laugh] and I just cough this thing out. For the rest of the night, cause I realized I had to pace myself with this man, I just sipped beers, he thought that was very cute.
Second bar we went to I notice a guy at the bar who I recognized from the first bar we were at, sitting further down. I thought “Oh, it’s a fan” you know, Andre has people who follow him, a very easy guy to spot. We go to the next bar – same guy. I think nothing of it. Fourth bar we go to, I nudge Andre, and he’s still there this guy.
I go “Andre”
and he goes “What, Boss, What?”. He’s on his like 15th pitcher, he called them the “American”s.
I go “Andre, I think there’s someone following us”
And Andre turns around like this “Where? Where, Boss, Where?” He called everybody “Boss”, which was so sweet, by the way, like anyone could be this man’s boss.
And I point to this guy at the end of the bar, I’m thinking “If this guy was trouble, he’s not gonna be for much longer”, right?
And Andre looks at him and goes “Oh, don’t worry about him, Boss.”
I go “You know the guy?!”
“Oh, it’s a long story”
“Andre it’s 2 in the morning, I’ve got time. What’s the story?”
Turns out, that one time he gone drinking in New York, he slipped and fell while waiting for his car and fell on a patron, who must have thought a building was coming down on him, right? And ever since then NYPD, New York’s finest, sent an undercover cop to follow Andre wherever he went drinking. And Andre would buy him a drink! [As Andre] “Get him a drink, get him a drink!” I thought, “This guy, what a great job to trail around Andre” and he took the drink and he was like that [raises his glass] and I thought “How hilarious, he’s got his own police escort” That guy has a story for life: “I’m the guy who tailed Andre the Giant”. And Andre was so funny, he would go “It’s for my own protection, Boss”, he thought that was very funny.”
Andre on his childhood
“One day he says “Come here, Boss” and I went over. When I giant tells you to come over, you go right away. “Yes, what is it Andre?” Sat down next to him and he took out his wallet and it was this big thick black wallet. And he started to show me pictures from his childhood and I was so touched by it.
And he says “Look at this one, Boss” And the first picture was of him age about , he was already about 6 foot tall. And then the next one is him about 18 and he is throwing furniture into the back of a furniture van.
He goes “That’s when I was spotted by a furniture mover”
Some very enterprising furniture mover thought, “I can hire this guy and he can do the work of five men.” There’s a picture of him just tossing an armoire, it’s great, it’s just fantastic…
And there’s another picture of him and he’s on the beaches of Cannes or Nice in San Tropez or whatever and he’s got eight women on his shoulders and now he’s been discovered.
And he goes “That’s when I was [discovered]” I think it was a wrestling impresario saw him moving furniture and thought “That guy!”
And I said “Gosh, you must have been very popular with the ladies, Andre”
And he goes [gravelly laugh], like that.
And then there’s a picture of him, now he’s dressed in a smart suit, he’s in London, he’s lifting an Aston Martin above his head.
And I said “Gosh, what a life you’ve had Andre!”
He goes “It’s an incredible life, Boss, incredible life!”
And he began to tell me about his childhood and I said ”You look about 6 foot tall there at 13”
He goes “Yeah, Boss. I grew very quickly, Boss”
I go “So, were there problems with that as a kid?”
And he starts telling me this story that he couldn’t fit on the school bus in his little village of [Grenoble] where he grew up. He couldn’t fit on the school bus already at 13 and his parents were besides themselves because they really wanted their kid to have an education, like most parents do. And they couldn’t figure out how to get him to school. And it turns out that Andre Roussimoff Sr., the father, was both a farmer and he built cottages in the town, in the village. And he befriended this new writer who moved into [Grenoble] and helped build this cottage, this writer that wanted to get away from England. And he was the only guy who had a convertible car in the village, and [he] convinced this guy to… drive Andre to school every day. That was [the famous playwright] Samuel Beckett.
I said “WHAT?!”
And he said ”Yes, Boss.”
I go “Samuel Beckett. Drove you. To school every day?”
I go “What are those conversation like?” Forget ‘Waiting for Godot’, it’d be like ‘Waiting for Andre’…
And he goes “Cricket. Mostly cricket”
That’s a true story, for as far as I know he hadn’t shared the story with anyone else.”
For more great stories about Andre the Giant Check these out:
- Andre the Giant Documentary – 12 Things Learned (And Facts Left Out!)
- Leaving a Mark: The Brutalizing, Attitude-Adjusting ANDRE THE GIANT
- THE BIG SHOW: Your Gentle, Genial Giant & His funniest stories!
SOURCES: RF Video, steelbeltwrestling, eYada Radio, Grantland/Bill Simmons, IGN, pwmania, Bret Hart’s autobiography: ‘Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling‘, Cary Elwes on The Kevin Pollak Chat Show Podcast
Some quotes used in this article compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page