It’s hard to imagine a wrestler more memorable or larger than life than Andre the Giant. From stories of brute strength, drinking prowess, and clearing out elevators with his farts in Japan, "The Eighth Wonder of the World" captivated people wherever he went. Here are sixteen of his most memorable stories from the people who knew him best.
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1. Mean Gene Okerlund on Sensitive Andre the Giant
"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 liked 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, and 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…"
2. 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.
Do 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, while Andre was only about 270-275lbs. 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.
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, I could go for a glass or two of wine with dinner. 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…"
3. Difficulty Getting 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 me was one gulp to him.
So we’d be going to restaurants and stuff. 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.
The cab would stop, 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 on 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…"
4. 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. 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 go by, and she comes back and hands him a screwdriver – a Black And Decker screwdriver!
Do 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, weighs 550 pounds, and he’s tanked, don’t bring him tools. What if the guy wanted a Jackhammer?’"
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger Shares Memories from Working with Andre the Giant 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 in 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."
6. Harley Race Slammed Andre the Giant Before Hulk 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."
7. Andre the Giant Didn’t Have Respect for Macho Man Randy Savage
"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."
8. 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."
9. Ted DiBiase Shares a Classic Andre the Giant Classic Elevator Story
"The funniest Andre story I have was when we were in Japan.
It is a 14-hour flight from Atlanta, or New York, or Dallas, just about anywhere, to Japan. Andre was 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 got off the plane, and now it’s another hour into the city. We checked into the hotel, dropped off our bags, and went to get something to eat. So, I pushed the button on the elevator, and there is Andre, ‘Hey boss, let’s eat.’
As it started down, it seemed that this elevator stopped on every floor, and people just kept 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 Andre the Giant was he didn’t like to be crowded. He had just been on a 14-hour flight, crammed in a little seat in a plane. Now he was in a Japanese hotel in a room that was by our standard normal, but in his standard not. We were standing in an elevator, and people kept getting on.
He reached over and tapped me on the shoulder, 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, Andre 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 just kept going!
The poor guy who was standing directly behind him, which obviously…this guy is right at butt level, so he got it full force.
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!"
10. Bret Hart on a Scary Car Journey with Andre the Giant
"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!
André’s loud roar drowned out my yell. 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."
11. Cary Elwes on Meeting Andre the Giant During Pre-Production for "The Princess Bride"
Reddit and /r/SquaredCircle regular, ForWhomTheBoneBones transcribed these stories from a lengthy interview Cary Elwes did on The Kevin Pollak Chat Show Podcast. These stories can also be found in Cary Elwes’ book.
"Andre the Giant 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 five people, but he’d give it to you."
12. Sleeping in the Hotel Lobby
"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, 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, a meeting 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 a 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, straightened his jacket, and headed straight for the front door.
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."
13. Andre the Giant and His ATV
"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, a three-wheeler. And they brought this thing out; you can go online and look at the 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 would be 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 said, ‘Oh, it’s very easy, guv’nor. 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]."
14. His Farts
"…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 anyway, there’s this long silence after this 15-minute fart, 15-second fart was up, it felt like 15 minutes—stone silence. Rob [Reiner] broke the silence. It was brilliant; I’ll never forget it.
He goes, ‘Hey, Andre… Are you okay?’ And Andre, without missing a beat, goes. ‘I am NOW, Boss’… and it just killed us all. We were just slain from that moment on. It was hilarious. That was the first day working with Andre."
15. Celebrating with Andre the Giant After "The Princess Bride" Movie 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.’ We got in his modified truck that he had, and we went 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.
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.
At the second bar we went to, I noticed a guy at the bar 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. The fourth bar we go to, I nudge Andre, and this guy is still there.
I go, ‘Andre…’
And he goes, ‘What, Boss, What?’ He’s on his like 15th pitcher. He called them ‘The Americans.’
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 went 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? 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."
16. Andre the Giant Opens Up About His Childhood
"One day, he says, ‘Come here, Boss,’ and I went over. When a 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 aged about 13; he was already about 6 feet tall. The next one is him, about 18, and he is throwing furniture into the back of a furniture van.
He goes, ‘That’s when a furniture mover spotted me.’
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 who 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 beside 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.
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.
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 conversations 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."
These stories may also interest you:
- André The Giant | Unforgettable Encounters with Fans
- Andre the Giant Documentary – 12 Things Learned (And Facts Left Out!)
- Andre the Giant and Akira Maeda | How Their Fight Turned REAL in Japan
Sources used in this article: 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 were compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.
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