Diana Hart was born to write about wrestling

Cau­li­flower Heart se­ries telling the tale of a fic­tional wrestling clan should side­step more hurt feel­ings, feuds and law­suits

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - ERIC VOLMERS

It wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if Diana Hart had reached the end of her rope, so to speak, when it came to the fam­ily busi­ness.

As the youngest daugh­ter of leg­endary pro-wrestling trainer and pro­moter Stu Hart, sis­ter of su­per­stars Bret and the late Owen and for­mer wife of the late Davey Boy Smith, Diana Hart didn’t so much choose her in­volve­ment in that strange spec­ta­cle as was born into it. On top of that, in the past 15 years or so, the of­ten tur­bu­lent world of “sports en­ter­tain­ment” has seemed an end­less source of tragedy, con­flict and frus­tra­tion for her and her fam­ily.

Owen died in an in-ring ac­ci­dent in 1999. A few years later, a con­tro­ver­sial mem­oir she wrote with Cal­gary au­thor Kirstie McLel­lan Day called Un­der the Mat set off a storm of law­suits, feuds and lin­ger­ing bad feel­ings that di­vided the Hart clan.

In 2002, just a few years af­ter their di­vorce, ex-hus­band Davey Boy Smith died un­ex­pect­edly, an­other ca­su­alty of a busi­ness with an un­usu­ally high death toll.

Only 39 and the father of Hart’s two chil­dren, he had bat­tled ad­dic­tion to pre­scrip­tion painkillers and abused steroids dur­ing his ca­reer. He died of a heart at­tack while va­ca­tion­ing in Bri­tish Columbia.

By 2008, Hart had de­camped to Tampa, Fla., with her chil­dren as son Harry Smith em­barked on his own short-lived stint with the WWE, the same be­he­moth prowrestling or­ga­ni­za­tion that made stars of Bret, Owen and Davey Boy Smith. But other than of­fer­ing sup­port for her son’s fledg­ling in-ring ca­reer, Hart es­sen­tially found her­self iso­lated from the fam­ily busi­ness for the first time in her life.

De­spite all the con­flict and heartache it seemed to have caused, Hart quickly re­al­ized she missed pro­fes­sional wrestling.

“I was very lonely for what I was miss­ing in Cal­gary,” says Hart. “I wasn’t a part of any wrestling any­more. I didn’t have my dad’s house or the fam­ily. I think I was very de­pressed and long­ing for what I was miss­ing. So I started writ­ing about it as a way to fill the void.”

That writ­ing even­tu­ally took the form of a ro­man­tic tril­ogy set in the world of pro­fes­sional wrestling. Part one, Cau­li­flower Heart: A Ro­man­tic Wrestler (Head­line Books, 184 pages, $16.95), has earned rave re­views from pro-wrestlers such as Mick Fo­ley and Gail Kim and from Smash­ing Pump­kins gui­tarist, and high-pro­file wrestling fan, Billy Cor­gan. Ear­lier this year, it was a run­ner-up at the Hol­ly­wood Book Fes­ti­val and was awarded a sil­ver medal for sports fic­tion at the Book Fair In­ter­na­tional in Mi­ami.

It fol­lows the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of Clau­dine, a daugh­ter of a wrestling fam­ily who mar­ries a su­per­star grap­pler named Drew Bellamy. Hit by drugs, pol­i­tics and the pres­sures of fame, the fairy-tale ro­mance be­gins to un­ravel. Which will sound fa­mil­iar for those who know Hart’s back­story. But while she drew in­spi­ra­tion from her own ex­pe­ri­ences, she in­sists the char­ac­ters and story arc are fic­tional.

“I think it is re­flec­tive of me and my life but it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily things I have ex­pe­ri­enced,” she said. “It’s things that I saw hap­pen to other peo­ple in my life. It’s fic­tional but I had a lot of emo­tion. I felt a lot of em­pa­thy and sym­pa­thy for my char­ac­ters. I was cry­ing when I had to let one of them go. They were like real peo­ple to me but they’re a cul­mi­na­tion of a lot of peo­ple.”

While pro-wrestling ro­mance may be a largely un­tested sub­genre, books by for­mer and cur­rent in-ring stars of­fer­ing an in­sider’s look at the in­dus­try have be­come fairly com­mon­place. In the Hart fam­ily alone there have been at least three mem­oirs: one by Bruce Hart, one by Owen’s widow, Martha, and a best­seller from Bret.

Chron­i­cling the du­elling egos, in­fight­ing and back­stage pol­i­tics have be­come hall­marks of th­ese be­hindthe-scenes pro-wrestling mem­oirs, but few proved as im­me­di­ately con­tentious as Diana Hart’s 2001 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Un­der the Mat.

It promised an in­side look at grow­ing up as part of the Hart dy­nasty but ended up di­vid­ing the fam­ily. Martha Hart threat­ened to sue. Bret called it “porno­graphic.” The book was even­tu­ally pulled from the shelves and Diana has since dis­owned it, al­though it is still men­tioned in her au­thor bio at the back of Cau­li­flower Heart.

While Hart ad­mits she doesn’t watch wrestling all that much th­ese days — her son, Harry, left the WWE af­ter a short run and now wres­tles in Ja­pan — she still speaks fondly about her strange up­bring­ing sur­rounded by the larger-than-life char­ac­ters of the busi­ness. She was the se­cond youngest of 12 ram­bunc­tious Hart chil­dren, who grew up out­side of Cal­gary as their father trained fu­ture stars in a base­ment omi­nously re­ferred to as “the dun­geon.”

“We grew up with such an amaz­ing house­hold,” she said. “I don’t know that many peo­ple who have had 11 brothers and sis­ters by the same par­ents and grew up in the coun­try where we didn’t have any real rules. The things we saw: An­dre the Gi­ant was there in the sum­mer. We had a wrestling bear.”

Hart, who stud­ied Fine Arts at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary and has hoped to be­come a teacher, plans to use her back­ground as fod­der for more fic­tion. The next two in­stal­ments of Cau­li­flower Heart will come out early this year and in 2017, re­spec­tively, and she is also work­ing on books that fea­ture a fe­male wrestler as the pro­tag­o­nist.

As for the Hart fam­ily, Diana says the bad feel­ings over her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy have passed for the most part and she is on good terms with her brothers and sis­ters. Pa­tri­arch Stu Hart, who passed away in 2003, was in­ducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010. Most of the fam­ily went to Phoenix, Ariz. for the emo­tional fes­tiv­i­ties and the ten­sions be­gan to thaw.

“A lot of us hadn’t seen each other in a while. I think it was the mend­ing of all the sad­ness and mad­ness. It just seemed to dis­solve and I’ve been on great terms with ev­ery­one.”

I think it is re­flec­tive of me and my life but it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily things I have ex­pe­ri­enced.

HEAD­LINE BOOKS.

Diana Hart’s un­usual life grow­ing up in the heart of a large pro­fes­sional wrestling clan helps in­spire her new ro­man­tic tril­ogy which has earned rave re­views.

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