When a professional athlete gets too old to play any more, but still wants the league to pay his bills, he becomes a commentator or a coach. When the same thing happens to a pro wrestler, he becomes a manager. Ostensibly the equivalent of a celebrity's agent, the manager is allegedly the guy who books his wrestler's matches and guides his career.
In reality, he's just there to cut promos and help the guy cheat. One of the greatest managers was Captain Lou Albano.
Often immitated but never duplicated, the disheveled, bearded manager with rubberbands pierced through his face was one of a kind. Originally a tag team wrestler, Captain Lou really became a superstar as a manager, leading singles stars and more than a dozen duos to WWF gold. But his biggest contribution to the world of wrestling was a chance encounter on a plane - when he sat next to pop star Cyndi Lauper on a flight, she decided to include him in her "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" video, kick-starting the Rock'n'Wrestling Connection and sending wrestling into the mainstream.
Lou started out in a tag-team known as The Sicilians, a pair of mob-type tough guys. The act was toned down when some real mob-type tough guys told them to. The gimmick continued for a few more years, until Lou switched to managing, at which point he became a brash, grating voice of unbridled enthusiasm and exaggeration. With a quick wit, he gave interviews that mocked his opponents and really got on fans' nerves - he was one of the great "bad guy" managers, but was even more popular once he turned "good."
Despite his claims that he had "the body women want and men envy," Captain Lou was always on the tubby side - a feature flaunted by the fact that he wasn't afraid to uncover his gut. He's lost weight now, but since this is the "Classic Superstars" line, he's carrying a keg. Of course, since Jakks just re-uses stock bodies, he's still looking pretty fit. Thankfully, as a manager, Captain Lou doesn't have to wear tights - he gets big-boy pants, and shoes with no laces. No laces? If he didn't have a belt, you could pretend he was going to jail! His removable cloth shirt sports a surprisingly complex pattern and two real pockets. Wow!
The likeness is pretty good. The nose might be a little bit too pointy, but not so much that you can't tell who this is. His curly hair reaches his shoulders, and his long gray goatee is bunched up with a yellow rubberband. Another red rubberband is sculpted on his left cheek. As a kid, I could never figure out how he got those things to stay there - of course, that was before people started piercing any part of their body they could reach.
Jakks figures always have the same articulation:
neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, hands, waist, hips, knees and ankles. They really need to redesign the necks, because none of the figures can ever look up. How many years have they been using the same articulation, now? We're way overdue for an upgrade, and I don't just mean a separate superarticulated line. Captain Lou has a blue folding chair, perfect for throwing into the ring when the referee's back is turned.
Classic Superstars 13 is the last series where all the figures come with a reproduction WrestleMania ticket - if you've collected them all, you can send away for an exclusive Hulk Hogan figure. Captain Lou Albano has a ticket to WM18, which the company actually called "X8." Yes, it's pronounced "ecks eight." This would be the last WrestleMania held by the WWF; they pussed out in their legal fight with the World Wildlife Fund, so next year's event was put on by the WWE.
So he's been a wrestler and a manager, but Lou gained even more fans when he took another job: plumber. In 1989, he put on red overalls (and took off his dignity) to play everyone's favorite family-friendly Italian stereotype,
Mario Mario. Because their cartoons were too short, production company DiC bookended their Super Mario Brothers Super Show with live-action sequences to pad the running time. The skits were god-awful, even by the standards of early-'90s syndicated children's television but Lou, god love him, did his best to make the things enjoyable. Not to take anything away from Danny Wells, the guy who played Mario's brother Luigi, but no one would have watched without Captain Lou. He even sang the themesong and danced under the closing credits. Buy this figure and you're one step closer to your own custom live-action Mario figure - better Captain Lou Albano than Bob Hoskins, right?
Who'd win in a fight between Captain Lou and Ron Jeremy? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.