“The prettier the flower, the prettier the butterfly, the prettier the bird— the more it gets my attention.” So says the Exotic European Middleweight Champion Adrian Street, as we watch him walking down his driveway with a peacock. The 30-minute documentary, on view as part of Jeremy Deller’s current show at Gavin Brown (sadly, not online), tells the story of the Welsh wrestler’s evolution from coal mining town to flamboyant glam-rock archetype known the world over.
It all started with a powder blue outfit which, Street thought, made him look like Buddy Rogers; instead, “Mary” was the name jeered from the conservative British audience. It wasn’t the reaction he’d expected, but it was a strong one, so he owned it. Street would become known for skipping around the ring, even holding his competition in a lip-lock, before flipping him over on his spine. He shows the camera his battle scars: a cauliflower ear, several broken ribs, a brutalized nose, a broken achilles. “My knee was up here,” he says, pointing to his thigh. It’s cut with a shot of another wrestler snapping straight down onto his wrist.
But Street had always embodied an element of costume. He grew up wanting to be a “red Indian chief,” painting his face and donning feathers; he turned to wrestling, he writes, after watching a movie in which Chief Yellowhand is killed in a hand-to-hand combat with Buffalo Bill Cody. “…I swore that no Paleface, or any other kind of face [especially a Babyface] would ever beat me.”
So Many Ways to Hurt You, the Life and Times of Adrian Street is one of two biopics playing in Jeremy Deller’s current show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. The show closes next Saturday, December 15th.