At Knoebels: Fun, food, fantasy. ... And Foley
Knoebels Amusement Resort's slogan of "Fun, Food and Fantasy" certainly rings true for those who have had the opportunity to sample what the local park has offered during its 87 years of operation.
Count the Insider among the many who can testify to the accuracy of the slogan, having enjoyed the pool, the rides, the dances of yesteryear, the family picnics and reunions and the free entertainment for more than half a century.
And include pro wrestling icon Mick Foley among those who consider Knoebels a special place to visit ever since his inaugural stop in 2000.
While Foley may not be the most famous celebrity to ever visit the Grove (that honor could arguably go to Liz Taylor, who stopped by with then companion Malcom Forbes during a motorcycle fundraising event for the MDA in 1988), he is unquestionably the most famous regular patron of the park.
As far as fantasy goes, could a wrestling fan ever imagine a more unlikely scenario than having a friendly chat with the sport's amiable hardcore legend at a cottage at the local amusement park with a live Raw playing out on the television and the grizzled veteran's young sons contemplating park food selections and their next ride destination in between applying wrestling holds to one another?
That is precisely what the Insider got to do this past Monday evening, thanks to the good folks at Knoebels and the benevolent former multiple-time wrestling champion. (Note to Colette Foley- Mick had at least one eye on both boys during the entire chat and had them break potentially dangerous holds faster than Earl or Dave Hebner ever did.)
Foley had been at the park this past Memorial Day weekend and, since he had recently been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, it was tempting to approach him about an interview, but it didn't seem right to pester him while he was enjoying the park with his kids on a holiday. Besides, with his track record, there was a belief that another opportunity would present itself before too long.
This past Monday, Mick returned to Knoebels and that evening the Insider was given a primo parking spot by security, whisked via golf cart to the secure location of the temporary Foley compound and warmly greeted by Brian Knoebel and Mick. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, we sat down and the interview began.
The Insider: This year you are visiting Knoebels as a bonafide WWE Hall of Famer. Have they rolled out any extra VIP treatment for you?
Foley: Knoebels has always treated me like a VIP since the first time I came here in 2000 on June 7th, my birthday. I remember getting a phone message from Vince and Linda McMahon singing "Happy Birthday," which made me feel pretty good about my status with the company at the time cause Vince is a busy guy and it meant something that he took the time to do that. I wish I still had that, but I think I lost that phone.
I really like Knoebels. A while back I took a bunch of photos off a camera phone, not too long before I lost that phone. A lot we took here at Knoebels and a few at other places. After looking at them, I ended up writing a poem that was entitled "Why is dad so scared?". The photo album had two sides or two columns to it, one on the left and one on the right and it had pictures of us riding on the Twister or the Log Flume over the years where I am making all kinds of scary faces. The people here at Knoebels always treat us great. The food is good, especially that pizza - Cesari's pizza. I try to make it a give and take situation and not just take. I was a judge for the Fall Fest Halloween parade and did a signing for one of the Employee Nights. I did a talk one year about the Phoenix during the anniversary celebration and a signing and comedy show at the Steakhouse the day of a snowstorm where I actually posted on twitter not to come see me because the roads were bad.
Brian Knoebel: Yeah, Mick's done a lot of things for us here over the years, but the neat thing about Mick is seeing him not as a star, or as Mick Foley, Mankind or Dude Love the wrestlers, but as a devoted father, no different than any other dad trying to make lifetime memories for his kids. When he is here, he's here as a father and a husband, but I have watched him deal with people coming up to him and he never pushes anybody away. They want an autograph or a picture. Sometimes, if it gets too hectic and they start swarming him, we try to get him away and move him to another location.
The Insider: What was April 6th like for you - -the night of your induction into the Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden with a pretty darn impressive class (Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Booker T, Trish Stratus, Donald Trump and Mick) that you quite aptly compared to the '27 Yankees?
Foley: It could not have been at a more special place for me. Bruno and Backlund have a lot of history there, but growing up in New York and going to the big matches there and hitch-hiking from college (for an inspiring cage match), it was great for me to be at the Garden. Plus, being from Long Island, it saved me airfare.
(Shamokin's Bill Gilger "arranges" the interview each week with The Insider. Part 2 of the Mick Foley interview will appear next week.)