Jeanie Clarke has a remarkable story to tell and in her new book "Through the Shattered Glass" she has told it. Heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measure this is a must read tale which we at Royal Ramblings have been given the privilege of reviewing for you.
If you are lucky enough to meet Jeanie Clarke, you will likely find yourself instinctively drawn to her. Warm and kind, she has a disarming smile, is down to earth and continues to cut a striking figure. It is little surprise that she reached infamy in the wrestling world as 'Lady Blossom' the valet to 'Stunning' (and inspiration behind the subsequent moniker for 'Stone Cold') Steve Austin.
And yet, in spite of her many wonderful qualities, Jeanie Clark was not born of happy circumstances. The introductory chapters of her book are marked by a terrible sadness. From alcoholism to attempted molestation, loneliness to abandonment her childhood years were incredibly challenging. Despite the melancholy, the story of her early life is both incredibly well written and readable. Each chapter paints a vivid picture of what it was like to grow up without wealth in a British seaside town.
Arguably the most likely audience for "Through the Shattered Glass" is the wrestling fraternity and fear not, sports entertainment fans will not be disappointed. We learn of Jeanie's introduction to wrestling by a friend's father, her chance encounter with Chris (later 'Gentleman' Chris) Adams and get to experience the excitement of her romance with Adams whilst simultaneously and vicariously living out the backstory of British wrestling at its previous height, through her words. We follow the entrepreneurial Clarke as she establishes Adams fan club. We see her achieve moderate fame before she hits 20, learn about her work with the UK's 'Joint Promotions' and we follow her journey with Adams to the US to work for the NWA. We learn of the lows in struggling to find work and the highs of tag-team success. There is even an encounter with Hulk Hogan and Sylvester Stallone! From Perro Aguayo to Jerry Jarrett, all the forerunners of the American, Mexican and Japanese wrestling worlds make an appearance in the book.
Like any good wrestling angle, the drama continues but tragically in Jeanie's life it is far from make believe. Again there are marked peaks and troughs. From the joy of her daughter's birth to unfaithful partnerships and painful concessions, from business success to the grueling reality of life on the road we are taken through the highs and lows of her fascinating backstory. The book is peppered with contributions from some of the biggest names in wrestling. From Shane Douglas to Missy Hyatt, they all reflect on their impressions of Jeanie and provide context for the scene she is setting. The insight she gives, in particular to WCW, drugs and the wrestling lifestyle is penetrating and unique.
From the unhappy acid trips and paranoid gun toters we are catapaulted to a zenith in Jeanie's rich and varied life. We are introduced to Steve Williams/Austin and are treated to great detail about their burgeoning professional and personal relationship. We get to relive Jeanie's headline singles bout managed by none other than Paul Bearer(!) and follow her work with Austin through the US wrestling territories. We follow her on the path to WCW and the Lady Blossom role through interviews with Dusty Rhodes and friendships with Terri Runnels. We are given the inside track on her marriage to and early life with Steve Austin and the joy of their daughter's birth.
There is much fun to be had in the anecdotes (thank goodness Stone Cold declined the name 'Fang McFrost') and origin stories (we learn where Austin 3:16 came from) in the book. In addition, there is great backstage insight. We learn about Vince McMahon's role in securing Jeanie's home and Stone Cold's views on Owen Hart. There's dinner with the Undertaker and a visit to Wrestlemania amongst other tales.
From there though, again, we are pitched into trouble and then darkness. From dodgy accountants to family division, Jeanie finds herself fighting to keep positive. As her relationship with Steve Austin deepens, the impact on Jeanie of his career is ever greater . Be it his initial lack of progress, detailed intricately in the book, or his introduction to Paul Heyman and runaway success, Austin's life and Clarke's are perilously intertwined.
It is not long before she begins the descent into drug hell. Lonely and in an unhappy marriage, faced with local racism and overbearing relations, Jeanie becomes vulnerable and loses control. In a frankly difficult to read but brutally honest section of the book, she explains what she did, the impact it had on her and on her family. From crashing cars to being sectioned, from overdoses to seizures, Jeanie leaves nothing to the imagination. Death, divorce and dis-ownership. Psychosis and abuse, she lays herself bare on the pages of the book in what is a remarkable and heartbreaking confession.
And it is in the final chapters of the book that we return to the light. We learn Jeanie has sought to use herself as channel to tell the story of her less fortunate friends and it is in this endeavor that she has found strength. There is an uplifting and inspired catharsis which sees her set the record straight on her relationship with Stone Cold and face her faults and demons head-on.
And so whilst Jeanie Clarke has written the fascinating, inviting and brilliant story of her life perhaps what is so inspiring is what one finds between the lines. Behind the anecdotes and the insights, behind the storylines and the drama is the tale of a lady who has been dragged relentlessly from high to low but whom has never bowed to ego nor given up from a fight. Who has seen the best in life and sought to embrace it and the worst in life and decided to face it.
Its the best wrestling book we've read. You should read it too.