Brownsville, PA (Population: 2,313)/Fayette County (2020 Election Results: +33 Trump)
Miles Driven: 253.27 (3,214.36 total)/Top Speed: 83.7 mph/Cups of Coffee: 2 (31 total)/Lowest Gas Price: $4.99/Number of States Visited: 12
Lodging: Not a single Bates Motel to be found in Brownsville! Alas, I retreated to the Hampton Inn and its plush comforters and rooms smelling like cucumbers and chlorine.
Located somewhere between Toledo and the edge of the Universe, this mysterious region produced some of wrestling's finest talent in the 1970s and '80s--the Ultimate Warrior, for example, and the dominant tag team Demolition, comprised of Ax and Smash (I dare you to listen to their theme song and not start tapping your foot and flexing your biceps).
But it turns out Parts Unknown is just a little village in the town of Brownsville, Pennsylvania. And that's where I found myself today, hot on the trail of Bill Eadie.
Coming around a bend amid the forested hills of Southwestern PA, I was greeted by the sight of a bucolic town of grey stone buildings and teal-colored steeples along the Monongahela River. Brownsville was once a hub for steel and coal mine workers, but with those industries' collapse and a devastating flood in 1985, the resilient town has had an uphill battle for relevance.
While I will be meeting up with Bill Eadie later on the trip, I wanted to get a sense for the place that formed him, long before he was covered in face paint and silver studs on black leather. When I texted him to ask if he still knew anyone I might speak with in his home town, he wrote back: "I really don't know. It has been years since I have been there. Sorry."
But that only made me more determined.
I pushed open the doors of a boxy stone building with high ceilings next to the downtown amphitheater, recently built thanks to a grant raised by local high school students. I was immediately seized on by two women eager to help.
"Welcome in to the library, what can we do for you?" the older one practically sang.
The library was completely empty (and near closing time). The older one, who worked the front, had bangs and big hair that tumbled down her back, mom jeans, and a wore sandals. She and her colleague, who turned out to be the library director, both moved here from West Virginia.
"Some people complain and say, 'no one who works in the library is from here anymore.' We met our husbands in West Virginia and moved up here. That's how they came to have a couple of hillbillies running the library," she says, cracking both of them up.
When I tell them I'm here to research Bill Eadie, the famous wrestler who grew up here, I'm met with blank stares. But luckily they have a closet stuffed with all the old Brownsville High yearbooks. In the musty, yellowed pages of 1964, I find Eadie's crewcut and piercing blue eyes along with this blurb: "Enjoys watching Jerry Lewis on T.V...can be seen with Tom, Bob, Rich, and Joe."
So, Tom, Bob, Rich, and Joe, I'm coming for you.
I am on a nine-week road trip, driving 16,000 miles around the country for my next book, The Six Pack, to be published by Hachette in 2024, about myth vs. reality in pro wrestling and the true identities of 1980s WWF wrestlers.