Here’s a close look at the story of Frankie, the beloved bird of professional wrestler Koko B. Ware. Why did Koko start using him as part of his act and what tragedy eventually befell the iconic bird?
The Tragic Story of Frankie, Bird of Koko B. Ware
In an interview with the now-defunct Everywhere Legends Video, Koko B. Ware opened up about his bird, Frankie.
“It started out as my late wife’s idea, God bless her. She really helped me get the idea of the ‘Birdman’. As a matter of fact, I was the ‘Birdman’ before I got the bird. I had birds on my tights.
We were sitting at home and we were watching the movie Purple Rain with Morris Day and The Time, and they were on the stage doing this bird dance and my wife was a dance teacher and she just got up and said, ‘You could do this dance really easy. Everybody can do this bird dance.’
So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll take it to the ring.’ And it took off.
One day she went to a pet store and she saw that blue and gold Macaw and she had this Polaroid camera and she took a picture of it. She came back home and she said, ‘This is what you need to help you get on top’. I asked her what she meant by getting ‘on top’ and she said, ‘If you wanna be where Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper are, you need this. Put it in your pocket.’
And you know, it was strange.
When Vince McMahon was going around the territories and pulling out all the best talent that he could out of every small territory there was, I just happened to be down in Louisiana and after that, he just called me and said, ‘We want you in the WWE. We definitely got to have you. You’re talented and you’re good. We need you.’
When I went to New York, I met with Vince and at the end of the conversation I was walking away, getting ready to leave, and out of the blue he said, ‘Is there anything else that you would like to add to your gimmick?’
I said, ‘Oh yeah…’, reached in my pocket, ‘I would love to have… THIS!'”
I don’t know where I’d be today without Frankie.
We went all over the world. When I come to all these places to wrestle, you know, America, Canada, Japan, China, Russia, Austria, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, all these places I go to wrestle, when I couldn’t take my bird it was just hard for me to function. We got along great.
I had him for 15 years. I lost him in a house fire [in 2001]. It was hard, very hard.
I was at church and somebody came running up to me and said, ‘Koko, you gotta go home, your house is on fire…’
I got there and it was a disaster.
A neighbor who I had never met before, who lived down the street, was in the backyard on his knees crying.
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t save your child…’
He had heard a voice inside the burning house. It was saying, ‘Let me out! Let me out!’
He thought it was one of my kids. It was Frankie, trapped in his cage.
I loved Frankie. To this day, his spirit is still with me.
God bless you, Frankie.”
We feel your pain, Koko. What a terribly sad way for Frankie to go out.
For Koko B. Ware, Frankie was much more than a key ingredient that helped him stand out amongst the many greats of his time. He was his loved pet. Millions of fans were entertained by Frankie and there is even a Find a Grave memorial page dedicated to the beloved bird. RIP, sweet Frankie. You deserved a better way to go out.
Watch: Koko B. Ware sings “Bird Bird Bird” on WWF Prime Time, September 11th, 1989
This story was one of many included in our long-form piece entitled, Animals in Wrestling. Read on to learn the stories of many of the true heroes of wrestling, the wrestling animals that graced our television screens over the years. What were the stories behind them and what eventually happened to these animals once the cameras stopped rolling?