Leatherface and the Executioner talk about the joys of full-contact celebrity
There’s a certain uneasiness that comes with meeting people who name themselves Leatherface and the Executioner. Maybe it’s because of their Web site (at www.thebbqshack.net), where they look big and mean, wear masks and sell jerky. Or maybe it’s because of the mayhem they proudly created on Season 2, Episode 7 of MTV’s Viva La Bam, where they “busted the living shit” out of Bam’s bar (as Leatherface puts it). Or maybe it’s the fact that a primary influence for their TV pilot, Off the Hook, is the gross-out and stunt franchise called Jackass.
The drive along Watt Avenue through North Highlands—dry and barren compared with the tree-lined streets of Midtown—is so punishingly hot that the Ralphs-anchored strip mall where the extreme wrestlers are waiting seems like an oasis. Inside a Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Leatherface and the Executioner sit in a booth with Flex, a.k.a. Random Dumbass.
“Flex is part of the crew,” says Leatherface, of a group that specializes in bravado, pranks and stunts.
“If [Leatherface and the Executioner] say to do something, we do it, because it’s fun,” says Flex, referring to himself and Tony, a.k.a. Stretch, who is not present.
“We have to kick their asses here or there. They get a little too wild,” says Leatherface.
Despite their bravado, Leatherface and the Executioner are shy, hulking giants—around 6 feet, and easily twice the width of your average girlie-man. Leatherface, 28, wears a muscle shirt; his arms are tattooed, he’s got jewelry in his eyebrows and mouth, and in his left ear he wears a peace-shaped earring. The Executioner, 23, is bigger and wider than Leatherface and without any piercings. He wears an Atlanta Falcons jersey—No. 7, Michael Vick’s number.
They met five years ago and became a tag team in National Wrestling Alliance California territory, a step below World Wrestling Entertainment, which is the big time for professional wrestlers. Later, they watched Jackass: The Movie.
“We thought it was as funny as hell. We started doing pranks and goofiness and enjoyed it. That’s when I decided to get ahold of Bam,” says Leatherface. “Bam wasn’t going to come here, but said, ‘You guys are going to come [to Westchester, Pa.,] and wrestle on the show.”
Their association with the show is opening up new opportunities. “We were two characters drowning in a big pond,” says Leatherface, “and Bam came along and snatched us out of the water.”
Bam is Bam Margera, a famous skateboarder, and his antics gave rise to the Jackass franchise. Bam’s brother, Jess, is the drummer for CKY, Camp Kill Yourself. In this self-contained world, people do what they want, when they want.
As Tom, my 12-year-old neighbor, explained, “Viva La Bam is funny. In one episode, there’s a car sale for junk cars, and Bam, a skateboarder, bought all of them and had a demolition derby. It’s kind of not good because they make fun of fat people. They have fat-boy contests. But it’s funny.”
But Tom has less regard for Bam’s better-known Jackass. “It’s kind of a stupid show,” he said. “I mean, peeing on a snow cone and then eating it?”
In one episode, Bam and his cronies build a drawbridge and moat to replace the front door. In another, they go to Vegas, order their friend a mail-order bride, dress him up in a tuxedo and drag him through oil and dirt before the ceremony.
In gratitude to their mentor, Leatherface and the Executioner had CKY tattooed on their forearms. They have plans for their own uncensored pay-per-view show called Whoopass, and the premise behind their TV pilot, Off the Hook, is pretty much the same as Viva La Bam’s: guys having fun doing dumb shit.
In one episode, they play full-contact laser tag. (“Executioner and I bash the crap out of each other,” says Leatherface.) In another, they go through the drive-through at Long John Silver’s in reverse.
“We decided to go through and see what they would do,” says Leatherface. “I told them the new giant shrimp looks like a butt plug. The manager started cursing at us: ‘You can’t go through my fucking drive-through.’ He offered us cups of water, and we threw them through the window and hit him.”
Leatherface and the Executioner’s success on Viva La Bam has given them fans across the country, and they’re making regular local appearances at underground events, including a low-rider convention and the notorious Porn Star Costume Ball, where they were on stage with 20 female porn stars, “being stupid, being asses,” says the Executioner.
Before the pranks and porn stars—before they became characters— Leatherface was Tripp Hendersen, and the Executioner was M.J. Broadway. They grew up watching stars from the World Wrestling Federation (the predecessor to World Wrestling Entertainment).
“I grew up watching Hulk Hogan. I was always the fat, big kid in school,” says Leatherface, of his own “fat boy” past. “I was teased, picked on, bullied. In 10th, 11th grade, there was too much stress.” He dropped out and trained as a wrestler, but anxieties made it hard to perform.
“Leatherface became an obsession after I realized I could cover my anxiety and many other mental disabilities by putting the mask on,” he says.
The Executioner started wrestling at age 3. “My dad was flipping through the channels, and I saw Andre the Giant on TV,” he says. “My dad changed the channel, and I said, ‘Dad, change it back.’ And as I watched it, I grabbed my teddy bear and tried to do all the moves. I broke three beds doing that.”
When he was 12, the Executioner’s mother left the family. “Pretty much as a kid, I used to get in a lot of fights,” he says. He did poorly in school, quitting in 10th grade. He was depressed for two years before he started going to wrestling shows. “I didn’t have the right education. I didn’t have the speaking skills,” he says.
“Mr. Executioner, his character doesn’t say much—just moans and grunts,” says Leatherface. “He’s a little shy with the ladies anyway, but he gets them.”
“I figure that Face gets all the fine-looking women. I get the strung-out and dirty ones,” says the Executioner.
“That’s not true,” says Leatherface. “Leatherface does a lot of the talking. Ex-man doesn’t talk much. At the end of the night, he ends up with all of them. Ex has pimp status.”
“He’s pimpalicious,” chimes in Flex. “I’m a little white boy that’s small but knows how to talk to girls.”
By reinventing themselves, Leatherface and the Executioner attempt to transform unhappy childhoods and perceived inadequacies—their size and difference—into careers as fantasy characters. But there’s still a real world in which they spend their daily lives. North Highlands is “like a hellhole,” says the Executioner, noting that he didn’t want to be here—but it keeps calling him back.
But Leatherface figures it’s not so bad. “We smoke wherever we want,” he says. “We do what we want to do.”
Beneath the masks, in a neighborhood of strip malls and parking lots, it’s easy to feel powerless.
“I don’t vote, because they say they’re going to change all this stuff, and nothing gets done,” says the Executioner.
“We leave politics for the stiffs,” says Leatherface. “We’re like, ‘Fuck you; we’re going to do what we want.’”