Lita Works Hard Outside Ring, Too

Montreal Gazette – July 15, 2001
By Dave Stubbs

Hundreds upon hundreds of them came to the Molson Centre box office yesterday morning, in midriff-baring tank tops or windbreakers, sandals or sensible shoes, funky shades or tinted bifocals, hair dyed out of fashion sense or apparent necessity.

By 8:30 a.m., 90 minutes before the eight wickets opened, there were a few hundred people already queued in Windsor Court, including the handful who had slept at the door overnight.

But one who surely stood out was the elderly woman in a black T-shirt that featured twin lightning bolts, a sinister skull-and-crossbones, and the words “Stone Cold Steve Austin: 100% Hell Raiser” on the front and “Bye-Bye Jackass” on the back.

As she did for every man, woman and child who stopped at her table, Amy Christine Dumas smiled warmly at this earnest woman, gripped her hand in greeting and in a fluid stroke signed “Lita XXOO” on the magazine the woman offered to be autographed.

Lita, Amy Dumas’s alter-ego, is one of the biggest stars in the World Wrestling Federation, and for 85 minutes yesterday, as tickets went on sale for the WWF’s Sept. 4 Molson Centre gala, she charmed her fawning fans.

Dumas posed for photos and signed hats, pictures, shirts, posters, videotapes, calendars, CD liner notes, even her own stomach in a provocative WWF magazine centrefold, sending each worshipper joyfully on his or her way with a “thanks for coming” or a “merci beaucoup.”

She wore a T-shirt decorated with three cartoon angels, the sleeves cut away to reveal her finely cut triceps, and purple checked pants tied with a pink sequined belt.

To her left was Pat Patterson, a Montreal native wrestling legend and current WWF executive, who more than once signed his name for a fan who was gushing: “Remember when you wrestled so-and-so 30 years ago at the Verdun Auditorium?”

Only near noon, as she walked back to her block-long limousine in the Molson Centre garage, would she discuss her whirlwind visit.

“I enjoy sessions like this because I get a chance to make eye contact with people,” said Dumas, who flew into Montreal late Friday night from her home in North Carolina, and jetted out yesterday afternoon to Albany, N.Y., where she was to wrestle last night.

“I’ll never do an interview during an autograph session. I don’t want a kid who’s been waiting in line for an hour to get in front of me for just these few seconds and not have me look them in the eye – just have a signed piece of paper handed to them while I’m talking to a reporter about the town I’m in.”

In fact, she’d call a starstruck child or adult back for a handshake when they had stumbled away, having traded faculty of speech for an autograph.

It’s for this reason, and probably because she’s the ultimate in elaborately tattooed, raven-haired cool, wearing risque, shredded tops and two-sizes-too-big pants to the ring that expose more than just a hint of her thong, that 26-year-old Dumas is hugely “over” in this business, wrestlespeak for someone who has colossal fan appeal.

“Lita” will be one of the headliners at the Sept. 4 show, a pyrotechnic-rich, earsplitting, nostril-burning, live-to-tape production of the hugely popular TV show Smackdown!, seen on cable here each Thursday on WSBK and The Score. The Montreal taping will be telecast continent-wide on Sept. 6.

Dumas counts her blessings every day, having reached these dizzying heights only a couple of years after having discovered the business. The native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had been studying for a career as a schoolteacher, playing music in bands on the side, when she fell hopelessly in love with televised wrestling, especially the acrobatic Mexicans, who often sail so high they should file flight plans.

So she poured her life savings into a 1998 trip to Mexico, spending six weeks absorbing the unique culture of Mexican wrestling and being cast as a manager before the cash ran out. Dumas eventually returned to train there, and in Chicago, North Carolina and Nashville, and to work independent promotions with the now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling, only to fall deeper into debt.

Her dream almost crushed, she finally enrolled in former wrestler Dory Funk’s renowned Funking Conservatory training camp, and her abundant athletic skill and charisma caught the eyes of the WWF in the spring of 2000. Dumas has been on a rocket ship to the wrestling stars ever since, teamed with the popular Hardy Boyz tag team and involved in challenging, often outrageous sketches that make professional wrestling a modern-day, entertaining soap opera.

The demands on her time, and her body, have kept pace with her heftier paycheques; Dumas will do another autograph-signing in Trumbull, Conn., this afternoon, hours before another arena show, then will wrestle in Providence, R.I., tomorrow (after first meeting with children for a learn-to-read program). She’ll wrestle in Boston on Tuesday, before she attends the Wednesday launch of her own videotape at WWF New York, the company’s Times Square restaurant.

Yesterday at 11:30, having signed autographs non-stop for nearly 90 minutes, she finally excused herself, her bladder having given out before her pen.

When she returned for her final few strokes of Lita XXOO, Amy Dumas might have seen the wide-eyed teenager in the WWF T-shirt that read: “Would You Please Shut the Hell Up.”

By now, long gone from the Molson Centre, the elderly lady wearing Bye-Bye Jackass was clutching an autographed photo — and perhaps even considering a tattoo.

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