Wrestling with dyslexia: It's a good guy's cause

June 20, 1999|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Sun Staff

Professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page isn't a bad guy. He just plays one on TV.

The former good guy of World Championship Wrestling "turned heel" recently. Outside the ring, though, Page sheds his villainous image for a charity of his own creation: Bang It Out for Books, which provides books and educational materials for kids at schools in need.

Page himself (real name Page Falkinburg) has struggled with reading all his life, and discovered only as an adult that he was dyslexic. The Sun caught up with Page last week at autograph sessions to raise money for the charity in Baltimore (donations stay in the communities where they are made).

What was it like having dyslexia as a child?

When I was a kid, no one knew what dyslexia was -- I just thought I was bad at [reading]. I'm not totally dyslexic where I see things backward. I'd mix the words up and I'd always turn numbers around. When I'd read out loud in class, the kids would read along and they'd start laughing. It's a horrifying thing for a little kid to go through.

When did you know that you had dyslexia?

My wife [Kimberly, who has a master's degree from Northwestern University but works as a dancer at WCW events] is the one who told me what my problem was. I was reading out loud and she said, "Read that again." She was reading right along with me and she said, "Baby, you're mixing the words up."

How are you doing now?

Better. I read for my first time out loud in public last Christmas. Before I knew I was dyslexic, I just couldn't figure out why everyone else was just so much better at it than me. Because there's nothing I can't do. I've done the impossible in wrestling -- going at the age I did [his mid-30s] from being a wrestling manager to a color commentator to a wrestler to being a top guy to a world champion -- no one has ever done anything like that. And now I'm overcoming this, slowly but surely.

Not only are you reading and helping kids read, we understand you're also writing -- a book about your life.

The book's called "Positively Page" and it should be out by the fall. Some of it's funny, some of it's sad and some of it you just go, "God, what did he do next?" I've had a great life.

When you speak to kids, can they separate you from the character you portray in wrestling?

I think some of them can. A lot of them just see us as stars now because I'm not just a wrestler. I just did a move for TBS called "First Daughter," I've been on Jay Leno seven times, "Hollywood Squares," "Regis and Kathie Lee." On my Web site (www.ddpbang.com), I tell my fans I'm playing a bad guy now. I know you love me. Now, love to hate me. Do not cheer the bad guy -- please.

With pro wrestling's recent surge in popularity, there has been some criticism that the product has become too violent and the stunts have gone too far. Do you think things have gotten out of hand?

I don't think the stunts have gone too far, but I think there's a huge difference between [the two pro wrestling shows -- Page's WCW and the rival World Wrestling Federation]. One is family entertainment and one is not. People ask me why I don't go to the WWF. Well, for starters, then I couldn't really do all the things I do for kids. I couldn't tell them to watch our show, because they shouldn't.

What are your plans after your career as a wrestler is over?

"Positively Page" is the next level. I'm going to be the biggest positive motivational speaker on the planet. Tony Robbins, move over. And hopefully, this movie will turn into something for me. I'm not wanting to be an actor, but if it happens, great. Actually, I am an actor.

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