CZARFACE MEETS TONY ATLAS (FOR A T-SHIRT!)

I only answer the phone for two people: my mom and Tony Atlas. Yes, WWE Hall of Famer, Tony "Mr. USA" Atlas, who has brightened my otherwise dark stretch of quarantine life with his filter-free stories and endearing artwork. It isn't often you get to talk, I mean really talk, to a pro wrestler that created so many indelible memories from your childhood. His battles alongside Rocky Johnson (father of Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson) as the Soul Patrol will forever live inside my head, as the theatrics of pro wrestling proved to be such a strong source of bonding for me and my friends in the 80's. Currently retired, Tony is more Bob Ross than Jim Ross, using his hands for something other than a face rake, drawing charming portraits rather than rabid crowds. I had a simple plan: have Tony draw Czarface and we'll put it on a shirt! After getting his number from indie grappler Anthony Greene, and accepting the harsh reality that he's not a texter, I did what I haven't done in ages...I prepared to call someone! Cold call someone! And Tony ATLAS at that! He's old school- a phone guy, and you know what? I had to become a phone guy too if I was going to succeed in having Mr. Atlas illustrate Czarface with the same hands he slammed Hogan with. How was I going to explain to him what Czarface was all about? It's easy to say "we're a rap group" but that doesn't really explain why I need him to draw this chromed-out crimefighter with fangs and a red cape. With everything I knew about Tony's career, and last seeing him on Vice's Dark Side of the Ring, proudly recalling pulling out shotguns in locker rooms and dealing with Andre the Giant's infinite gas, I found calling him out of the blue a little daunting. Here goes- the phone rings...and rings. YES! A voicemail. I can clearly state my business and give him a little Czar history before we actually talk because after all, the dead silence of a voicemail is 200 times better than the awkward silence of a pro wrestler who has ZERO idea of wtf a Czarface is. I leave the message, but it's interrupted by an incoming call. Yep, it's Tony. Shit. I mustered up some bass in my voice, answered, explained who I was and just blurted out what I was looking for. In retrospect, I probably sounded like Ralphie pitching the Red Ryder BB gun to the mall Santa- "I want a picture of Czarface press-slamming another wrestler, any wrestler really and he doesn't even have to be press-slamming him I just want you to draw it because you're a legend." Thankfully, Tony was an incredibly easy guy to talk to, and was into the idea. He explained his technique (pointillism) and how he ships the finished product, and I explained it's for a t-shirt so we might need it digitally, which he said I could handle once I got the art. I gathered that any e-communication wasn't going to be an option here, so my next step was bravely entering the COVID-stricken post office to snail-mail him a few images of Czarface for reference. This was my first foray into anything other than our local supermarket, at what was then considered the height of the pandemic (I was shook, but it had to be done..it's Tony Atlas!). A week goes by, and oh shit, incoming call: Tony Atlas! This was incredible, I wanted to screencap it. I had James Brown "Drive That Funky Soul" on in the background, a drink in my hand, and Tony on the phone. I motioned to my wife to clear the room (because some big business was going down!). We spoke for awhile, discussing everything from Bruiser Brody to George Floyd, to the protests, to hip-hop, to racial tensions in wrestling and Dick Murdoch being in the KKK. This was nuts! At this point I didn't even care if he drew Czarface or not, this experience was thrilling enough. "Now, you want Crazyface press-slamming someone right?" He said CrAzYFaCe. CRAZYFACE. It was instantly the best thing I'd ever heard so I didn't correct him, but my train of thought drifted as my anticipation for throwing all of this in Vinnie Paz's face grew. Crazyface. Wow. "Ya know, in the 70's people woulda thought Crazyface was a devil worshipper and ya'll would be in a lot of trouble! Back then they wanted GOOD, but today? They want BAD and then they want WORSE, so Crazyface is right on time." I loved it. We wrapped up the call and by the end, Tony was going to draw the illest Crazyface man has ever seen. A week went by. At this point, I've brought my wife up to speed on the legacy of Mr. Atlas, and when he called I'd smile and say "Tony's calling" and slink out of the room, escaping any prior responsibility I had. They were business calls, but they were FUN business calls. One night, a call that started out as a quick question, continued hours later as the former bodybuilding champion schooled me on nutrition. I normally tune out anyone telling me to eat greens, but this was different, and sadly my 5 year old daughter's bedtime was looming. I didn't want to get off the phone, because listening to a man so rich in history speak was priceless, but I had to put Allie to bed. I compromised: instead of reading Allie her books, we listened to Tony on the speakerphone. What a treat. "Ask her what she likes better, french fries or kale." Allie, with the confidence of Ken Jennings, yelled out "FRIES!" "See, kids today!" laughed Tony. I couldn't believe one of the bright spots of my childhood was once again bringing me light during the darkest of times in 2020. The following week, a long tube arrived in the mail, a magnificent work of art from the man Tony Atlas. Czarface, by Tony Atlas. Or Crazyface, depending on who you ask. I snapped a few pics, sent them over to 7L and Deck, and a shirt was born! Thank you Tony "Mr. USA" Atlas! 
-Eso
           

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