The Duff's Celebrity Golf Tournament still was a sizable event on the summer party calendar in 1983. Jim Lupient chaired a committee and decided there should be an area where fans could gather to watch celebrities being interviewed.
Lupient recruited Ken Resnick, an Edina product then working as a TV reporter in Rochester, to ask the questions.
"One of the guys I interviewed was our wrestling legend, Verne Gagne," Resnick said. "He thought it was a good interview. And by chance, Gene Okerlund had gotten hired by Vince McMahon, and Verne had an opening for a TV interviewer. And that's how I got started."
Resnick took the job with Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA), stayed until 1986 and then spent a year-plus working for McMahon's WWF (now WWE).
"Killer Kenny'' made dozens of close friends among the wrestlers, many now gone. The latest death to hit Resnick very hard was that of Adnan Al-Kaissie, "The Sheik," who died earlier this month in Minnesota.
"One of the most interesting people ever, and one of my best friends," Resnick said. "He had a nice condo in Hawaii and spent a lot of time there. He had memory problems and was brought back here, and this is where he died."
Al-Kaissie was a legend in his homeland of Iraq before he arrived on the U.S. pro rasslin' scene. His high school classmates included Saddam Hussein.
"That's the honest truth,'' Resnick said. "Adnan and Saddam were classmates. He came here to go to college. He started in pro wrestling in 1959, and in 1971 — with the blessing of Ba'ath Party official Saddam — Adnan brought pro wrestling to Baghdad.
"It was supposed to be a series of three matches against Andre the Giant, set up so Adnan would win the first, Andre the second and, of course, the local hero the third. But the fans believed so thoroughly and were so rabid, there was fear what might happen if Andre would win a match ... so they only wrestled once.''
Al-Kaissie's age was listed at 84 by all sources when he died.
"I'm the one guy who knows he was older than that," Resnick said. "I was booking him a flight from Hawaii for a promotional event where he would get a nice check. I said, 'I need your real birthday.'
"He hemmed and hawed and said, 'What it says ... 1939.' I told him, 'Adnan, with all that's gone on in recent times, what do you think the odds are they'll let a guy who looks like you on a plane with a wrong birthday on his profile?'
"He said, 'Well, it might be the same date in 1934.' "
Part of the buildup for Al-Kaissie was that he was a man of incredible wealth he had accumulated in Iraq.
"He met a young woman from outstate Minnesota, romance ensued and they were due to be wed," Resnick said. "The local paper found out, and there was a front-page story that this hometown girl was going to marry one of the wealthiest men in the world.
"This myth created for wrestling made it all the way to the engagement notices."
The Sheik, in truth, was close with a buck.
"The AWA had signed up to be part of a pudding eating contest for charity in Minneapolis," Resnick said. "No kidding ... pudding. All our stars were in, but Sheik kept saying, 'No.'
"I'm driving him someplace and saying, 'You have to do this.' Finally, he agrees and then says with his thick Arab accent, 'The pudding … it's free?' "
Sheik's greatest marketing came when he recruited Jerry Blackwell to the cause of bringing the "world championship" home to Baghdad. Blackwell dressed in a sheik's robes and became Sheik Ayatollah Jerry Blackwell. Al-Kaissie also used his immense wealth to ''buy" Ken Patera's managerial contract from Bobby Heenan.
Later, with McMahon and the WWF, he was General Adnan and recruited Sgt. Slaughter for the pro-Iraqi heel turn.
"Wasn't great for Slaughter's reputation, but Vince filled a lot of arenas with matches against Hulk and the Ultimate Warrior, as America's defenders," Resnick said.
Resnick had quit the AWA after the infamous WrestleRock 86 in 1986, which reeked of Gagne's desperation as McMahon was stealing his stars.
"Blackjack Lanza was working for Vince and conned me into going to New York for an interview," Resnick said. "I went into Vince's office. He started asking me about my mustache, basically wondering if I'd cut it off to get a job on TV with the WWF. I said, 'I can do that.'
"Vince reached in a drawer, handed me a razor and shaving cream, pointed to the bathroom and said, 'You're hired.' "