The fantastic Ox Baker was a world-renowned pro wrestler and one of my childhood heroes. He became a good friend and unofficial mentor when I broke into pro wrestling in my early twenties on the East Coast. Ox was extremely generous with his time and deep knowledge of the game. He was a master of ring psychology. He helped countless newcomers learn the ropes and make their marks through the years.
One thing that impressed me most about my famous friend was his total commitment and dedication. He loved being on camera and entertaining live audiences. He was a consummate showman who always gave one hundred percent. Ox was an old-time pro who embodied the principle that “The Show Must Go On!” I met up with him once at an autograph signing in a tiny video store in suburban New Jersey. Only a handful of people showed up that night, but Ox Baker gave it his all, regaling them with stories and performing as though he was playing to a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden.
I am certain those in attendance never forgot the experience.
Ox was also a terrific cook and prepared incredible meals for the other wrestlers – on a hot plate he carried in his travel bag. I think he knew more ways to cook eggs than any human being on this planet … and his Five-Alarm Chili was hands-down the best I've ever had.
When his wrestling career was over, Ox had the good sense to publish a cookbook. Like its author, Ox Baker’s Cookbook was special and unique. On the opposite page of each recipe, he included a story about a wrestler he cooked it for – and who particularly enjoyed that dish. Brilliant.
Though he grew up on a quiet Missouri farm, Los Angeles was one of his favorite places. He was intuitive enough to appreciate the myriad opportunities Hollywood has to offer. While most talk about rejection, Ox Baker saw opportunities. He spent a great deal of time here and filmed several movies, most notably the John Carpenter cult classic Escape from New York, in which he battles Kurt Russell in a futuristic dystopian gladiatorial match.
One day, Ox found his way onto the CBS lot on Beverly Blvd. He was selected to be a contestant on The Price is Right with Bob Barker. Back in those days, it was unusual to see a wrestler on television performing in a different type of setting. Nowadays, it’s become commonplace, but Ox Baker’s appearance on the hugely popular game show back in 1981 was truly an iconic moment in show biz history – and especially so for wrestling fans. As usual, my old pal made the most of it and stole the show.
That’s what I call The Ox Baker Technique. It’s the creativity to criss-cross platforms
and share your gifts with the world in a unique and different way than people may normally expect. It's a function of being so comfortable in your own skin that you can be yourself in any venue – in publishing, the culinary arts, on a movie set, or a network game show. This is a valuable strategy for actors. Think about a skill or interest you have – or would like to develop. Find a way to demonstrate it – and then document the action with a photo or video clip. Maybe you’re an actor who can draw, paint, or play the ukelele. Maybe you’re a gifted horseback rider, poet, or tattoo artist. Maybe it’s your speaking ability, dance moves, or cooking style that sets you apart.
Whatever your gift may be, always remember that someone in this world needs what you have to offer. Take it from the fantastic Ox Baker. You don’t have the right to keep your gifts and talents to yourself.
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