I don’t know about yours, but my life has been pretty crazy. I didn’t plan to have a crazy life, it just turned out that way.
I’ve ended up in some amazing situations, some absurd ones and some awful ones. I’ve lived an extraordinary life, but it was totally unplanned. I just fell through a lot of cracks and crevices and somehow survived.
I did have one plan. That was to have fun and enjoy life. Otherwise, life can be meaningless and painful. Fill it up with as much enjoyment as you can.
Who would have ever thought I would become an international sports celebrity, on the cover of Sports Illustrated, featured in Playgirl, guest on the Tonight Show and defendant in several petty criminal cases? Not to mention I was kicked out of several countries, chased by cops, and plaintiff in a protracted legal battle with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
But one of the most absurd things that happened was the plan to become a matador. It was not much of a plan, actually. It was an invitation to fight a bull in Mexico. It seemed like a fun idea at the time. I saw myself wearing the traje de luces – the outfit with the tight pants, the stockings, the flashy jacket, and the hat, which is called a montera, by the way. I believe the term “dressed to kill” comes from the matador outfit, no explanation needed.
My other thought on that costume was that I would look like a huge fishing lure out there in the sands of the bullring, waiting to be gored and gutted. The pages of “Death in the Afternoon” flipped through my mind. Blood in the sand, dignity in the dirt, that sort of thing.
But the idea fit in with my theory of living. It would be something I could add to my list. How this bullfighting venture developed is interesting, because it came from the sports editor of the San Jose Mercury News at the time.
We’ll call him Bob. We had developed a rapport and chummed around a bit. He came up with this absolutely crazy idea for me to go to Mexico and fight a bull. Why? I don’t know why. Do you need a reason?
My guess is that he was sitting around drinking beer with some sports writer buddies and they came up with the idea about getting an American to fight a bull. They might have made bets. I think they concluded I was the only one crazy enough to try it. So they wrote my name down on a cocktail napkin and I got the call.
Most sportwriters would never be so daring as to try it themselves. Too much work. Too much risk. Why do it yourself when you can watch others do it and write about how poorly they did it?
This had nothing to do with the shotput or training for it. It had everything do with testing your limits, taking risks and having a good time. So I agreed.
Also, the way it was pitched to me, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. It would be a free vacation south of the border. I would make new friends. There would be parties, drinking, women, all the appropriate fun trappings of life by my standards. Of course, I might make an enemy or two, since I couldn’t go anywhere without achieving that, but I never let that stop me.
Bob had contacts in Mexico in the bullfighting business. I don’t know how he came to have those, but he did. He might have written some stories about it or he might have been drunk in some Tijuana bar and met a bullfighter. Bob was not a bull fighter, but he was a good bull shitter. Most sports writers are. It’s a job requirement.
So I was to become a matador. Bob did all of the advance on this and set up a deal with the owner of a hacienda who raised bulls. He had set up a party with the owner of this hacienda and I was going to fight one as a novice.
It was not going to be a big, full size bull. It was going to be a young, smaller bull that they figured I could wave a cape at and then wrestle down to the ground if I had to. I had no idea about the veronica or the picadors or the banderilleros.
We drove down to Tijuana. The hacienda owner had a big party for us and I ended up dancing and flirting with his hot girlfriend – I think her name was Maria Consuelo Isabella Cortez. She was beautiful.
I can’t remember her boyfriend’s name, I can hardly remember the sports editor’s name, but I’ll never forget her. She had long black hair and wore a long skirt, low cut peasant blouse and high heels. We were having more fun than everybody else, so everybody else was watching us, including her boyfriend whose machismo apparently became offended. Let’s call him Pablo.
Once again, my innocent flirtations with a beautiful woman were instantly misunderstood. I wasn’t going to run off with her or try to get her into a closet or lift up her skirt, although those thoughts crossed my mind.
Pablo couldn’t get over how I, Brian Oldfield, the ugly American, had schmoozed his girlfriend. So he ended up calling off the bullfight and kicking us out.
So, there we were without a bull or a bull fight, tossed out on the street like so much basura. Back at the hotel in Tijuana, I pulled out a little weed and lit up. I was still on vacation.
Bob looked at me and said, “Oldfield, you are the only person I know who smuggles drugs into Mexico.”
I smiled. At least I wasn’t in jail.
By Brian Oldfield with George Houde