Video: George 'Animal' Steele recalls life in Detroit

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
George "The Animal" Steele talks about growing up in the Detroit area in the YouTube video.

Wrestling legend George "The Animal" Steele recorded a riveting one-hour video about his wild and crazy life, which began and was shaped in Metro Detroit.

The video was posted to YouTube on Friday, a day after his death at the age of 79 in Florida.

Steele, born Jim Myers, started the video with a laugh.

"If you're watching this," he said into the camera, with a big grin, "I am dead and I am with Jesus. Bye-bye!"

Steele wrestled from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, with occasional cameos in more-recent years, first becoming famous in what then was known as the World Wrestling Federation (and today is World Wrestling Entertainment).

In his life-and-times video, Steele recalled his first fight, at the age of 11 or 12, when he went to a park across the street from his house, bringing water for the other kids.

After the kids drank most of the water, they took what was left and dumped it over his head. He went home crying to his mother, who took him back to the park.

Steele's parents had long told him not to fight, because he was dangerous, so much bigger than the other kids. On that day, though, Mom changed her tune.

There were 10 to 15 kids to start -- "that were filtered down to me and my Mom," Steele said. "That was my first success in life."

Later in his teen years, Steele recalled, he would go down to Detroit just looking for a fight. That was his thing.

He was teased growing up because of his bout with dyslexia. He couldn't read "Run, Spot, Run" in kindergarten like the rest of the kids. He failed the second grade.

"Kids would laugh at me," Steele said. "Here I am having a struggle in reading and writing."

Steele eventually got diagnosed, and went on to get the education his parents always wanted for him.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State, and a master's degree from Central Michigan before going on to teach and coach football and wrestling at Madison Heights Madison High School.

Early in his teaching career, though, he turned to wrestling to supplement his income, and became a hit in the WWF, first as a "heel," or bad guy, before becoming a fan favorite, with his bald head, hairy body, limited vernacular and artificially-colored bright green tongue.

Steele was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995, and the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame.

He was born April 16, 1937, and grew up in what then was Royal Oak Township, and what now is Madison Heights. His parents built a home around the time he was born.

"Used nails and lumber, but the good thing is we had good indoor plumbing," Steele said. "First one in the neighborhood.

"That was a plus, as I look back."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tonypaul1984