“Take Off to Freedom!”: Night Flight’s July 4th Special features Hulk Hogan & Rick Derringer

By on July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July from Night Flight, and today we thought we’d celebrate our country’s Independence Day by sharing with you a special vintage episode of “Night Flight” that aired on July 2, 1988, featuring videos focusing on our freedoms, in one way or another, including Hulk Hogan‘s memorable video for “Real American,” which was co-written by rock ‘n’ roller Rick Derringer. Read about it below, and also read what they’ve both been up to lately. “Take Off to Freedom!” is streaming over on Night Flight Plus.

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Hulk Hogan and Rick Derringer — who today both make their homes in the Sunshine State of Florida — are a couple of “real Americans” and both seem to have been enjoyin’ their good ol’ American freedoms lately.

We thought we might touch upon that today, since it’s a good day for all Americans to remember what the Fourth of July is supposed to be for, lots and lots of freedom.

We’d recently posted a popular blog — “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling”: In 1985, Hulkamania was runnin’ wild on this Saturday morning TV show — about our sports-themed episode of “Night Flight” (“Take Off to L.A. Rock”), which originally aired on April 9, 1987 and featured the memorable “Land of a Thousand Dances” video, performed by a stage full of celebrity pro wrestling WWE superstars who were called, what else?, the Wrestlers.

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Forgive us for repeating ourselves here a bit, but in that post, as we talked about some of the other songs that were also featured on the cleverly-named The Wrestling Album (1985), we also happened to mention that it featured Hogan’s and Derringer’s song “Real American,” which is the video we’re featuring here in our “Take Off to Freedom!” episode from July ’88.

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As we told you then, Rock ‘n’ roller Rick Derringer had become involved with the novelty album, which featured a number of wrestlers singing wrestler’s theme songs, the tracks which were usually blasting out loudly over PA systems while the wrestlers entered the ring.

The Indiana-born Derringer is of course known for singing the 1965 hit “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys and he originally wrote “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” for Johnny Winter and then rerecorded it a couple of years later with Edgar, but it didn’t become the classic rock hit until he recorded again, for his first solo album, which was titled — wait for it — All American Boy.

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Derringer also received a Grammy nomination for producing Johnny Winter’s brother Edgar Winter’s 1973 hit “Frankenstein,” and while he continued to write and record his own songs for his own albums, his career as a producer is probably where he made the biggest impact in his career.

As we told you, Derringer had originally intended his song “Real American” (co-written with Bernard Kinney) to be the new theme song for tag-team wrestling combo known as “U.S. Express” (Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo, who both appear in the video), but shortly before the album was released, Rotundo and Windham fled from Vince McMahon’s WWE to join the rival NWA — which stands for National Wrestling Alliance — and so Hulk Hogan adopted it as his new theme song.

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The ’80s were the era of the video, of course, and since this was the era of the Cold War (which was about to come to an end, sorta), then what better song to promote the album with than “Real American,” which is all about promoting American freedoms, and since Hulk Hogan often paraded around the ring holding up tiny little American flags, you just knew his video was going to be awesome.

And it is.

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In addition to the juxtaposed images of other various American icons — including George Washington, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy — the iconic Hulk Hogan appears in the video as the ultimate American fighter, defending the stars and stripes against some of his wrestling adversaries: the mad Russian Nikolai Volkoff and the evil Iranian, the Iron Sheik, who the Hulkster beat for the WWE World Championship in 1984.

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The interesting side-note about the Russian hat-wearing Volkoff, though, was that he had actually fled Russia and was not a fan of the Soviet Union at all — he’d been encouraged by fellow wrestler and promotional hit man Freddie Blassie to play the bad guy wrestler, a Communist sympathizer, and so the character was created entirely as a ruse for rube wrestling fans to watch lose to G.I. Joe American Hulk Hogan.

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Despite the fact that it’s Hogan who appears in the video, Derringer sings lead in the song, and Cyndi Lauper sings backup vocals but she is credited under a pseudonym, her alter-ego as “Mona Flambé” (she appeared in that “Land of a Thousand Dances” video in a brunette wig and sunglasses).

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In an excellent oral history about The Wrestling Album, published in 2015, Derringer would tell Rolling Stone magazine that “Real American” turned out to be a “double-edged sword.”

Derringer: “Of course, the song I’m known for best on that album is “Real American.” That song is becoming the new national anthem. I never intended it for the WWF; my partner and I who wrote it, when we listened back to that one, we actually cried.

I remember thinking “We have written the most patriotic song of all time.” We looked at it as a legitimate thing; we never envisioned it for the WWF, but when we came to be involved with The Wrestling Album, they asked us what songs we had, and one of them was “Real American.”

“At first, Vince wanted it to be the theme for the U.S. Express tag team, but they left or something, and all I know is that Hulk Hogan decided he was going to use that song.”

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“It was a double-edged sword, to be honest. Hulk Hogan was successful and very prominent, so because of him, a lot of people heard the song. But on the other hand, we felt we wrote this fabulous patriotic rock anthem – it’s one of the better songs I’ve ever written, probably – and we felt like, “Oh wow, we’re kind of throwing it away on this wrestler.”

Of course, since then, in some ways, it’s become one of the biggest records I’ve ever made… and I’m the guy who did “Hang On Sloopy” and “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.”

These days Derringer continues to play shows (seems like mostly outdoor oldies festivals of one type or another), and he has channeled or perhaps scattered his musical endeavors in a number of directions; we’ve read that awhile ago he was shopping around a demo of Christian music (featuring his family on backing vocals), and he had also started work on a smooth jazz album.

Real American smooth jazz, no doubt.

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Today, Derringer and family make their home in Bradenton, Florida, located about a dozen miles north of Sarasota, in Manatee County, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump in last year’s presidential election (56% of the vote).

Derringer — a Trump supporter — has recently gone on the record to describe how they he and his wife have been snubbed, insulted and abused, all because of their support for Donald Trump, by both (in his words) “the Hollywood left,” and by the entertainment industry.

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Years ago, after hearing that then-president Barack Obama — at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner — had played his song “Real American” when he was introduced, as if he were coming into the “ring,” and adopting the track as his own.

Derringer was offended that President Obama had used the song while belittling Donald Trump — who was also in attendance as you’ll recall — and didn’t like the way he needled Trump by unveiling his real U.S. birth certificate, which actually ended up being a clip from The Lion King. Obama sure was a funny president.

So, Derringer sat down and immediately began writing a new version of “Real American,” a modern-day re-make, but this one was intended to show Trump (not yet president at the time) and Barack Obama was the “real American.”

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Since he did not control the publishing rights to the original, Derringer was hoping that the re-recording of “Real American” (with updated lyrics promoting Trump) would “bring the nation together,” and actually transcend politics, but we’re not sure if the new post-9/11 lyrics — “When it comes crashing down, and it hurts inside / You’ve gotta take a stand, it don’t help to hide” — will capture the spirit of what it means to be a “real American” or not (perhaps it would have done better if it had been released during the first wave of patriotism that swept the country after September 11, 2001).

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The new version was “released” on May 28 2017, and Derringer began steaming it on his website site, and reportedly it was also sent to all the congressmen and governors to see if any of them are interested in using as a “rallying cry.” (We assume it was only sent to Republican congressmen and governors).

The new video for the song was debuted on Alex Jones’ “Info Wars” show — isn’t that the radio show that all “real Americans” listen to now? — when Derringer appeared on the show on May 30th. Wait, a radio show debuted a video? Yep.

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Alex Jones was not the host that day, and taking his place was Derringer’s friend, Roger J. Stone Jr., who is today the best known of the Trump associates under scrutiny as part of an F.B.I. investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidental election.

The onetime political consultant, full-time provocateur and author also occasionally makes personal appearances, to sell books he’s written (no, they’re not adult coloring books), often bringing Derringer along with him to perform his new “Real American” song.

Earlier this year, by the way, on January 9, 2017 — before Trump’s inauguration, if you’re keeping track — Derringer found himself in a little trouble with the government (the FBI, specifically) when TSA agents took him aside after he’d just stepped off a Delta Air Lines flight from Mexico in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The TSA agents asked to search his bags, and that’s when they found a loaded Kel-Tec 380 handgun and a magazine of twelve addition rounds in his handbag when he was going through a security re-check at the Sarasota/Bradenton airport.

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Derringer — obviously a fan of the Second Amendment to the Constitution: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” — had a valid Florida concealed weapons license, but federal law bans weapons on planes.

Derringer pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine, but said he’d told a federal air marshal that he kept his gun with him on commercial airline flights 30 to 50 times a year, and he’d never before had a problem carrying it through airport checkpoints.

Derringer had gone down to Cancun on January 5, clearing security in Sarasota, Florida, with apparently no problems, before flying to Atlanta and then to Cancun.

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Before coming to Atlanta, Derringer was also apparently stopped by Cancun security for having excessive liquids in his bag, and Derringer said that at no time did Cancun security officials mention anything to him about having a gun in his carry-on bag.

At the time of his arrest, his manager and the drummer in his latest version of the Rick Derringer Band, Kenn Moutenot, said “It was just a mistake, a simple human mistake,” adding “Nothing like it will happen again, not even a water pistol.”

Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, told the Associated Press, that the person who missed this in the screening “was terminated” (we think he just means fired).

He added, “This is one where it got through, and the person did not do what they’re supposed to do or trained to do.”

WWE Hall Of Famer Hulk Hogan has recently been in the news too, of course. He’s usually in the news for something these days.

In 2012, Hogan filed a lawsuit in Florida against Gawker Media, the publisher of the Gawker website, who had posted portions of a sex tape he’d made with Heather Clem, who at the time was the wife of Todd Alan Clem, a radio personality known as “Bubba the Love Sponge.”

Hogan — who used his real name, Terry Bollea, in the lawsuit — had talked about being videotaped having sex with Heather back in 2006, without his knowledge or consent, with Heather Clem when he appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show.

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Hogan/Bollea told Stern that he’d slept with Heather with her husband’s blessing, and encouragement, because he was so burnt-out from the trauma of his coming divorce that he finally gave in to Heather’s “relentless” come-ons, noting how she kept “kept going down that road,” stopping by his house to “just to say hello.”

Cuckold husband Alan Clem testified in the case, Bollea vs. Gawker, that he’d burned a DVD (so, not actually a “sex tape,” then, huh?) and he’d Hogan’s name on it, then filed it away in a drawer.

The 30-minute DVD contained about “ten seconds” of explicit fucking.

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On October 4, 2012, Gawker editor AJ Daulerio somehow got his hands on the DVD and published a two-minute extract, including those raunchy ten seconds of Hogan and Hogan’s best friend’s wife.

Hogan/Bollea sued, claiming invasion of privacy, infringement of rights, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, while Gawker’s lawyers asserted that they had the freedom of the press on their side.

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By the way, since today is July 4th, we should remind you that the First Amendment of the United States states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Hogan/Bollea sought $100 million in damages, and in March of 2016, the Florida jury found Gawker Media liable and awarded Bollea $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

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Three months later, Gawker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and they were sold off to Univision Communications (which partly owns satirical news site The Onion) who then shut down Gawker.com.

Then, on November 2, 2016, Gawker reached a $31 million settlement with Hogan.

By then, Hulk Hogan had already used some of that settlement payout ($1.6 million, to be exact) to purchase the house right next to the one he already owned, a four-bedroom, two-bath 2000-square foot beachfront bungalow in Clearwater, Florida.

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In this recent Youtube interview with The Top Rope blog (recorded just a few days ago, on June 27th, 2017), he talked about his rise to superstardom in the professional wrestling business, his new Netflix “GLOW” series — that stands for “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” by the way — and how he almost had a big career in the music business, and even applied to join Metallica early on when they needed bassist.

Hulk Hogan: “Before I ever got into wrestling I was a studio musician. Up and down the east coast, finally came back to Florida and got the Bad To The Bone band together. Ten years, that’s all I did up and down. So I finally came back to Florida, and when you’re in high school there’s like ten different bands, right? So when I got back, I grabbed the best keyboard player, I played bass, I got a good lead guitar player, and we had Ruckus, the band, we were getting ready to go national. We were ready to go national and open up for Blackfoot.

To make a long story short – one guy just got married, and another guy’s girlfriend is about to have a baby and doesn’t want to leave. And I said ‘Are you kidding me? After all this time we’ve been together, we got this huge break to open for this national act and we got all our original stuff ready to go -‘ and they wouldn’t go. I said ‘That’s it! I’m done with you guys! I’m quitting, I’m going to be a wrestler!’

(H/T: Wrestling Inc. and The Top Rope)

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If you’d like to see some actual vintage ’80s-era wrestling that may or may not feature Hulk Hogan, check out our collection over in our Wrestling category over on Night Flight Plus! Have a Happy July 4th, and don’t forget to remember today to “Take Off to Freedom!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.