The Death of Andre the Giant

  

Andre “Andre the Giant” Roussimoff
May 19, 1946 – January 27, 1993
“Anybody want a peanut?”

Andre was born Andre Rene Roussimoff in the countryside ofGrenoble, France. His parents and four siblings were of average size. They knewAndre took after his Bulgarian grandfather who was over 7 feet tall so theyweren’t alarmed at his size.  By age14, Andre stood 6’3 and weighed 200 lbs and though he could do the workof three men on the family farm – he dreamed of different life. Andre firsttried factory work in a nearby town, then moved to Paris in 1963 and worked as afurniture mover.

Biggie Biggs was discoveredin a Parisian gym at age 17 (and6’7″ tall) by local wrestlers who showed him a few basic moves and piquedhis interest in the showbiz sport.

Within a few years he went from wrestling in traveling carnivalsto appearing in arenas of North America and Japan.

It was while on tour in Japan, that Andre, age 22, first saw adoctor about his condition. He was diagnosed with Acromegaly (more commonly known as “Gigantism”), which causes thosewho have it to never stop growing. Andre learned that his condition wouldeventually become fatal.

Andre reportedly shrugged off the diagnosis and told hisco-wrestler buddies that the doctors “didn’t know anything”. With theprospect of death in middle age, Andre developed a passion for food anddrink. 

 French-Canadian wrestling legend,Edouard Carpentier, taught Andre the ways of the wrestling world and with “Lord” Alfred Hayes acting as his manager, Andre became the biggestattraction in wrestling. In 1973, he signed with Vincent J. McMahon Sr’s WorldWide Wrestling Federation, the industry’s top promoter. McMahon Sr. shrewdlyknew not to overexpose the talent and made sure an appearance by “Andre TheGiant” was a special event. WWWF booked him for three visits a year toJapan, two to Australia, two to Europe, and the rest of the time into the majorarenas in the U.S. 

Guinness World Records estimated that the now 7’2″ / 370 lbAndre (dubbed “The 8th Wonder of the World”) was making $400,000 ayear. It was at the insistence of colleague, Gorilla Monsoon, that in order tomaintain Andre’s mystique, he must never lose a match by pinfall or submission.For the next 15 years, Andre won all but two matches – culminating with his bigfinish move of a scoop slam and sitting on his opponent.

Hollywood took notice and Andre was castas “Bigfoot” on a hugely popular two-part episode of The Six MillionDollar Man (“The Secret of Bigfoot”) in 1975.

Lee Majors remembered:

“We had this scene we were out in the woods and he throws me about 10yards and then he’s supposed to take a big run and jump up and land right ontop of me. He throws me and I’m laying there and it’s a sunny day and thesun is in my eyes. All of a sudden, this dark cloud appears and he blocks thesun. I’m closing my eyes and waiting to be pancaked, and he did not even touchme. That’s how good he was. Those professional wrestlers are something else.That was one time I really thought I was going to get it.” 

Majors also hired Andre to work on his later seriesThe Fall Guy. Andrecontinued to make occasional TV and movie appearances in the late ’70s / early ’80s. 

As a set for theBigfoot episodes, Universal Studios built a massive tunnel on theirbacklot.  This tunnel has since been a staple on the back lot tram tour. It has shown up in several TV shows and now has been repurposed with scarabs for The Mummy. Bitch still makes me sick.

Andre fatheredone child, daughter Robin, born in 1979.

Andre’s home was a 160-acre ranch in Ellerbe, North Carolinawhere he raised horses.

He loved his horses and he loved his beer…lots and lots ofbeer. His friends often reported that he would drink several cases of beerduring the day, an estimated 7,000 calories in daily alcoholic pleasure. A closeassociate swore that Andre once finished 156 beers in one sitting. Big Man, Big Thirst,big.

Due to awkward and painful traveling accommodations on long roadtrips His management had a private trailer built for him with a raised ceilingand oversized couch. In this relative traveling comfort, Andre would consume acase of beer every 9 minutes. He reportedly treated his friends well,and always picked up the bar tabs and dinner checks.

After WWWF became WWF and was led to primetime TV exposure byVince McMahon Jr, Andre had his biggest showcase with WrestlemaniaIII in 1987. The main event was Andre vs. Hulk Hogan. The show drew thefirst million-dollar gate in wrestling history, set a pay-per-view record thatlasted a decade, and set the all-time indoor attendance record for a liveevent. 

78,000+ people packed Detroit’s Pontiac Silver Dome and watched HulkHogan lift and body slam the Giant. His rematch with Hogan two months later,broadcast live on NBC, attracted 33 million viewers, making it the most watchedwrestling match ever. The star wrestler torch was passed to Hogan and for awhileHulkamania ran wild – and Andre took a much desired and needed rest from thering. 

Hulk Hogan claims thatAndre’s wrestling moves included “checking the oil.”  In anattempt to throw off/startle his opponents, he pressed a finger on the opponentsbullseye.  Hulk said, “His fingers were HUGE!”

During his semi-retirement years from wrestling, Andre wasoffered and accepted the role of “Fezzik” in Rob Reiner’smovie The Princess Bride (1987). Andre was well liked on set andoften kept fellow cast members, Mandy Patinkin and Carey Elwes, out drinkingnightly and returning to set with colossal hangovers. Reiner tried to get Andreto leave the actors alone, but Andre was going to have a good time at anycost. Andre’s bar tab for his month-long stay at the London Hyatt duringthe shoot was reportedly just over $40,000.

In 1989 Andre was arrested for assaulting areporter in Iowaouch.

As the years passed, walking became harder for his size andwrestling was out of the question. He retired to his NC ranch. 

In 1993, Andre was in France where he had recentlyattended his father’s funeral. He stayed at the Hotel De La Tremoille

  

At some point on January26, Andre lumbered up these stairs to his room, never to be seen aliveagain.  

At some point during thenight, Andre died in hissleep of heart failure at the age of 46. According to Andre’s friend, FrenchieBernard, “He was lying in his bed when they found him.  He just wentto sleep and never woke up.”

I have had good fortune. I am grateful for my life.If I were to die tomorrow, I know I have eaten more good food, drunk more beerand fine wine, had more friends and seen more of the world than most men everwill.”

A funeral was held, after which he was cremated. His friend, Frenchie, on horseback, scattered the 17 pounds of Andre powderaround Andre’s ranch in NC, according to Andre’s own wishes.

I believe this is an image of Andre’s coffin.

Andre is not over. He is immortalized in the popular street art sticker/stencilof his likeness which was created in 1989 by artist Shepard Fairey(attending Rhode Island School of Design). The “ANDRE THE GIANT HAS APOSSE” poster took off with skater / hip hop culture who plastered theimage all over the east coast and eventually nationwide in the UnitedStates. After a 1994 lawsuit threat from Titan Sports Inc, Fairey alteredthe image – removing the wrestler’s name and adding the word OBEY. The Andreface/Obey poster image can now be spotted around the world – and recently OBEYhas become a clothing brand.

Andre’s ranch, complete with cremains, wasauctioned off in November 2013.

Here is a video tour of the house and land.

 

Rest in Peace, Sassypants.

By Mark Langlois

Thank you, Dixie, foryour fine research, death certificate and photographs.

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