Hulking dad opens new doors

Name's the same, but singing's all hers

September 16, 2004|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,SUN STAFF

You could tell it wasn't an ordinary day at Wal-Mart by the number of people milling about clutching Hulk Hogan stuffed dolls and wearing "Hulkamania" T-shirts.

A crowd of about 200, including curious store employees, gathered around a makeshift stage in the electronics department of the York, Pa., store on Tuesday to get an up-close glimpse of the legendary pro wrestler. On this day, however, the "Hulkster" was merely the warm-up act.

Hogan's teen-age daughter, Brooke, was the main event. An aspiring pop singer, she is hoping to lay the smack down on the music industry the way her father did in the ring.

"This is bigger to me than slamming Andre the Giant, bigger than beating up Vince McMahon," Hulk Hogan announced to the crowd in his familiar, over-the-top voice, "because Hulkamania's going to take a little rest. It's time for Brooke-amania."

Brooke then hit the tiny stage - blond and statuesque at 5-foot-10 plus 6-inch heels - and performed four songs from her coming debut CD, This Voice. She'd perform again a few hours later at the York County Fair, continuing a nearly two-month tour across the country to promote her first single, "Everything to Me."

"We've been on a radio tour, which means that we're pretty much just roughing it, knocking on every single door and begging people to play the song," Brooke says. "And pretty much all of the radio stations have been real sweet and supportive."

Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a father who's an iconic figure in popular culture. Ads promoting her appearances read: "Brooke Hogan, introduced by her father, Hulk Hogan."

The advantages of being Hulk Hogan's daughter aren't lost on Brooke, who was born Brooke Bollea before assuming her father's stage surname.

"It definitely opens up doors and it really gets you farther, but it's also a double-edged sword," says Brooke, who adds that she's "too much of a girlie girl" to follow in her father's footsteps in wrestling. "People want you to prove yourself twice as much. They're like, `OK, you've gotten this push, now let's see what you've got.'

"But it's part of who I am and I'm not ashamed of it. Most people would die to have Hulk Hogan as a dad."

For his part, Hogan, who rarely wrestles these days but insists he isn't retired, says he is more than happy to do whatever he can to help his daughter's career. "We're doing a grass-roots deal, brother," he says of Brooke's tour, "and I'm in it with her. If I wasn't, you'd have to buy a ticket to see me at Madison Square Garden, but now you can come to any Wal-Mart and see me sitting on the back of fertilizer for six hours. I'll load the equipment, do security ... "

When Hogan, 50, mentions security, he isn't kidding. He says she is not allowed to date, and when he introduces Brooke at her concerts, he delivers a stern message: "To all you guys out there, I want you to know my daughter's only 16, so you're going to have to get through me."

Hogan, who has a cameo appearance in Brooke's music video for "Everything to Me," used his celebrity status to land the special Hulk Hogan, Stage Dad on VH1 this summer, and there has been talk of expanding it into a reality series. He also makes any licensing and merchandising deals involving his daughter, and has arranged for her to be booked on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live once This Voice is released early next year.

The biggest door that he opened, though, was the one to pop music impresario Lou Pearlman, the mastermind behind the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. When Brooke was 13, Hogan arranged a meeting with Pearlman, who thought she had talent but needed to continue developing her voice. Two years later, he signed her.

It was a dream come true for Brooke, who says she "has been singing my whole life" and lists Stevie Wonder as her biggest musical influence, followed by Jessica Simpson, "because she has great morals and she has a real voice."

Brooke says the clincher on her career decision was, strangely enough, watching her father at the 2002 WrestleMania pay-per-view extravaganza.

"My dad wrestled The Rock," she recalls, "and I heard the people screaming and saw just how much they loved seeing my dad perform. It gave me chills. I had already experienced the adrenaline rush of going up on stage. I was like, `Why not just try it?'

"Of course, all parents are going to be like, `Oh she wants to be Britney, because every young girl does.' But I knew it was more than that."

Hogan says he "was hoping it would be a passing phase, like the dance lessons or the ice skating, but it didn't go away. By the time she was 13, I took her seriously."

Being taken seriously is important to Brooke, who co-wrote half the songs on her album and plays piano and guitar. She wants it known that, unlike her father's profession, there's nothing fake about what she does.

"I actually sing," she says. "There's no lip-syncing whatsoever. Everything is live and it's real. It's not fake."

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