Words by Danni Levy
It’s a Friday afternoon on Clearwater Beach, home to Hulk Hogan’s famous Hangout. The Hall of Famer is no longer ubiquitous just with wrestling, as he spreads his wit, charm and awesome arms around every fan he meets.
Swing by the Hangout, you can enjoy bottomless drinks, live entertainment, karaoke and unbeatable diner-style grub with the former WWE star well and truly at the helm. On Monday nights, despite the Hangout website warning fans, it’s not a meet and greet, he shows up to represent.
The guy is way too modest.
As Hulk turns 70, his physique could shame most 30-year-old gym goers, yet he immediately deflects his attention from himself in a gesture that would appear synonymous with how he uplifts every one of his admirers.
“We have to change your name since you’re here,” he begins as he welcomes me with a warm, palpable smile. “Danni’s cool, but from now on, it’s “Yo D,” or maybe we can go with “D Mania.” We settle for “D Mania” as our Friday afternoon chat heads straight into sixth gear.
“Tonight and every Friday, we have a beach party here,” says Hulk. “My son, Nick, is the DJ, and they play all the electronic music, so it goes crazy.”
I can’t help but turn my attention to the bottomless drinks menus adorning every window sign, table and bar top. I’m aware Hulk no longer drinks alcohol.
“I’ve had a lot of practice drinking because I wrestled for about forty years, so those guys have a beer every once in a while,” he jokes. “But about seven months ago, I decided not to drink any more alcohol. I was at a New Year’s Eve party and saw a bunch of stuff that I didn’t condone or like. I saw myself in this environment, and I went, “You know what? I don’t know how I got here, but I’m done.” It was just that one thing.
I was around people who believed and behaved differently from me, and I just said, “I’m out.” It feels much better to be so clear-headed. I’m no longer tempted to drink alcohol. I don’t have an addictive personality. I mean, with anything. It can be business or people or alcohol or drugs. When I’m done, I’m done.
“I’ve had certain wrestlers look at me in the face and go, “If you don’t have a drink with me, you’re not my friend. Well, I am your friend, but I’m not going to drink with you. What are you going to do about it?”
Sometimes wrestlers are a little intimidating. I have a lot of friends who like to party, but they no longer try to push alcohol on me.”
Hogan’s endless pursuit of adventure recently led him down a path led by those he describes as “The Royal Rumble,” although he admits he wasn’t immediately receptive.
“Ric Flair, Mike Tyson and the founder and president of Carma Holdings, Chad Bronstein introduced me to CBD,” he reveals. Those three came at me like “The Royal Rumble.” I didn’t have a chance.
“At first, I was confused because I’d never used CBD. I didn’t understand the health aspects of what it can do for you as far as energy, sleep or getting off hard drugs or pharmaceuticals slowly and winding down are concerned. It took me a while to figure it out because I am a little slow. I had to do a lot of research and do my due diligence. I figured this was something that really would benefit a lot of people that needed help – and I know it will.”
Together, “The Royal Rumble” added “Hogan’s Health” to their family of brands. Its products aim to help enhance health, wellness and recovery. Having faced twenty-five major surgeries in the past decade, Hulk can now vouch for the benefits of CBD firsthand.
“I had doctors writing me prescription after prescription, and all of a sudden, it became a vicious cycle. I was hitting the pain pills hard because I’d had to endure twenty-five procedures, including ten to my back, facial operations from being kicked, knee and hip replacements and abdominal and shoulder surgeries.”
“There was a period of time, about five or six years ago, where I was in crazy pain to the extent I couldn’t even function. When you have back surgery, it takes a good year for your body to recover, yet they were cutting on me every four months. I needed pain meds at that stage, that’s for sure. But once things started to wind down, they continued giving me the same meds. It got to a point where I’d recovered from the tenth back surgery, and the pharmacy would call me and say, “Your prescription’s ready,” and like a dog chasing a bone, I’d go pick it up.
“Then, finally, I just looked at myself and said, “I’m not in pain. I don’t need this. My body hurts from all the wrestling injuries, but I’m not in this excruciating pain that I can’t live with.” But then the CBD took me to a place where my joints don’t hurt so much when I wake up. When I pick weights up, I don’t have to do four or five sets before things start to become clear. I can tell as soon as the CBD hits my system, it calms everything down. The inflammation instantly went away with CBD. Usually, my wrists are swollen like crazy by the end of the day. Now they’re fine. I noticed an immediate change as soon as I started on it.”
Hulk hopes his products will help wean people off opioids, other prescription meds and even hardcore drugs.
“We’ve found CBD is a logical alternative to prescription drugs that helps people to wind down slowly,” says Hulk. “I’m really focusing on helping people with their health, whether that’s guys coming back from the war, hardcore drug users or people who’ve got themselves into the prescription trap following illness or anxiety. CBD is amazing for sleep and can also help overcome alcohol abuse.”
Since January, Hogan has shed forty pounds, taking him from 300 to a ripped 260.
“The last time I weighed this much, I was in ninth grade; that’s before you go to high school here in the United States,” he jokes. “It wasn’t an intentional goal. I just said, “Let’s see what happens,” because when I was drinking alcohol, I’d leave Hogan’s Hangout after Monday night karaoke with a belly full of beer shots and liquor, then go home and sit in front of the TV with popcorn, ice cream and chocolate. I’d completely swell up. I used to look like I’d been training chest and back after a food and drink binge on a ton of carbs, alcohol and sugar.
But as soon as I quit drinking, I had no desire to eat junk at night, and the weight just started falling off me. In actual fact, I wish I’d have lost it more slowly because when your arms are really big and shrink up two or three inches, you have loose skin on them. I didn’t think it was going to come off so fast.”
To maintain his impressive package, Hulk trains six days a week in his home gym and sticks to a diet he describes as “very boring.”
“I train six days a week, and I try not to miss workouts,” he says. “I may miss one day a week, but the gym’s in my house, so there’s no excuse not to go down the elevator. I don’t even have to walk downstairs.
“When it comes to diet, I’m very boring. Everything in my refrigerator is all organic. In the morning, I’ll eat a huge piece of raw tuna and a filet steak with broccoli in my little convection oven.
“Lunch is pretty much the same. I have a lady prepare me plain chicken strips. She makes this crazy agave nectar with wasabi in it. I’m hooked on that for lunch and dinner with spinach or asparagus.
“When you eat good food all the time, then you visit one of the five-star restaurants here on the beach and order a Wagyu steak, you go home and say to yourself, “Ah, my food at the house is better.””
As I continue to absorb the ambiance served by quite possibly the coolest hangout I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting, Hulk casually drops in the fact that he’s largely responsible for the exponential global success of music mogul Simon Cowell, albeit through extremely sad circumstances.
“Simon Cowell originally came to the US to help me with a wrestling album, and he never left,” he reveals.
“I was in Wembley Stadium meeting Make-A-Wish Kids with Mr.T and Michael Jackson. One kid, in particular, was in really rough shape. The EMTs were with him, and he was on a stretcher. His body odor had a smell to it that I hadn’t smelled in a while. His parents were freaking out. I knew he was in trouble. I said my goodbyes and gave him a huge hug and kiss. I organized a nice place for him and his family, Ringside at Wembley Stadium, and it was all roped off. I went to wrestle, and I kept looking and looking, and the kid wasn’t there. When I came back from wrestling, I said, “What happened to the little fan out there?” And they told me, “Oh, the kid passed away.” I felt compelled to do something as a tribute right away. My manager Jimmy Hart, “The Mouth of the South,” used to be in a band and had a couple of number-one hit songs here in the States. We stayed up all night together and wrote twelve songs for the kid’s family.
“Jimmy knew somebody from Select Records, and they got a hold of Simon Cowell. He produced a little album for us, and it went number one on Billboard for eight weeks. We donated the money to the family. Then Simon came back to me and said we needed to do the song with a band called “Green Jelly” and something called “I’m The Leader of the Gang,” a Gary Glitter song. That did really well on Billboard, too.
“When I returned to the States, I had a crazy idea. Since I was still wrestling, I might make music here too. So I grabbed Cindy Lauper and Rick Derringer and a bunch of people, and we recut a ton of songs. Simon came over and helped produce the wrestling album. Then he came back and produced the second wrestling album, “Piledriver,” and he never left. He stayed here, and he became this monster producer. He’s the nicest guy in the world. He plays a tough guy on TV, but he’s a real sweetheart. We’re still great friends to this day.”
Hulk fills the gap left by the absence of wrestling, which he confesses he misses dearly, with a penchant for classic cars.
“I love American muscle cars,” he says. “Currently, I have twenty. I buy them and do them up. I try to get them as close to their original state as I can. I don’t buy a bunch of crap. Anything I buy, I want to be able to make perfect. Then if I sell it, I want to make money on it because it is a business to me. Sometimes I’ll go a little crazy and put a little too much money in. That’s stuff I have to keep. I can’t let it go. I have all the new cars, too, the Dodge Demons and the Hellcats.”
What’s next for the Incredible Hulk?
It would seem as if there truly is no stopping him…unless you’re “the Nature Boy”!
“Our good friend Ric Flair put my back out last year,” he explains. “I have a hard time walking. I went and had a myogram done this week because they’re talking about back surgery number eleven, which I truly hope I can avoid. The problem goes from my tailbone all the way up to my shoulder blades. They say above the hardware, there are a couple of vertebrae that are bad. That was my fault because I did some crazy stuff in Australia with Ric right after I had back surgery and messed them up. I’ve been praying the disc is not touching the spinal cord so I can avoid going under the knife again. It’s just hard to walk a distance. I start doing the hunchback walk if I walk too far.
“Right now, I’m enjoying life on the beach, playing the bass for fun when my daughter Brooke comes to visit, working on my cars and partying hard and sober. Life is good!”