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Dawn Marie - Q&A
An interview by Mike Mooneyham
(conducted August 2000)

Dreams can come true. Just ask Dawnmarie Psaltis.

For as long as she can remember, she wanted to be an entertainer, but friends and family kept telling her she'd never do it.

"My folks wanted me to have a job, get married, have a house with a white picket fence, a couple kids, do what you're supposed to do."

Today Dawnmarie Psaltis is better known to millions of wrestling fans as, simply, Dawn Marie. She's one of the top valets in the business and she's living her dream as an entertainer.

And what about the naysayers?

"My father's now my biggest fan," she says. "Anyone who will listen he'll tell. Back then he thought I was out of my mind. But everything worked out. As long as you follow your heart, you'll always go in the right direction. Success isn't the amount of money you make. If you wake up in the morning and do what you love, that's success. I love my job. I love to entertain regardless of the forum, whether it's in the ring or on camera or on a stage. It doesn't matter."

The 30-year-old brown-haired beauty (she turned 30 on Nov. 2) was a Jersey girl who grew up watching the WWF and was a "huge fan" of such stars as Bob Backlund, Tony Atlas, Lou Albano and Roddy Piper. She says she was a mark then and admittedly is a mark now. She simply loves the business.

So how did a girl who, at the age of 22 was the director of an international real estate firm with a posh office overlooking St. Patrick's Cathedral, end up in a place like, well, Extreme Championship Wrestling?

"I left all that because I really wanted to be an entertainer," she says without even a tinge of regret. "It's something I had always wanted to do, and I couldn't give it up."

The turning point, she says, came when she stumbled upon a former beau while working a second job.

"It's a funny story. I've been on my own since I was 17 so I always had to support myself. I'd go to work during the day and work at a bar at night a couple of times a week. I ran into someone I had dated when I was around 17 years old. I remember going to a diner with him one day and asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He told me he wanted to be a professional football player."

She didn't take him seriously.

"In the back of my head, I said, `Yeah, right, what little boy doesn't want to be a professional football player?' Just like when I said I wanted to be an entertainer, people said it would never happen to me."

A later meeting with her friend produced a surprising result - one that would change her life forever.

"I ran into this guy and I hadn't seen him in years, and asked him what he was doing. He said he was playing professional ball for the Chicago Bears. It changed my whole life. Here he was, years later, doing exactly what he wanted. He was doing what he loved to do. The only difference was that he followed his dreams and I didn't. It totally changed the rest of my life."

She quit her job a week later and set out to become an actress. "My family went nuts. They went crazy," she recalls.

Her career then took an unusual route. Some acting and modeling jobs in New York led to a poster deal with a Florida company that led to her first foray into the wrestling business. She worked with Devon Storm (Chris Ford) ­ now WCW's Crowbar - and Buddy Landell in her initial ventures on the independent circuit, and credits both with helping train and mold her character.

"I had these two incredibly talented men who were willing to train me and help me," says Dawn Marie, who worked the indies for three years before getting her first big break with ECW two years ago. "I was just very lucky that I fell into a group of people that were very generous and kind and willing to help me, which isn't always the case. I was blessed."

Dawn Marie says her life - inside and outside the ring - is great right now. She's engaged to ECW performer Simon Diamond (Pat Kenney) and the two are planning to get married next year.

One of her toughest experiences in the wrestling business occurred earlier this year when Lance Storm (Lance Evers), a longtime friend and ring associate, announced that he was leaving ECW for a more lucrative WCW contract. She says the decision to leave ECW also was extremely difficult for Storm, and she realized that she wasn't making it any easier for him by begging him to stay.

Dawn Marie realizes that she, like Storm, could make considerably more money in one of the Big Two, but she also knows that she's still relatively new to the business and still in the learning stages. She also credits ECW boss Paul Heyman with giving her the opportunity.

Dawn Marie, who has two years left on her ECW contract, says she realizes that she has a limited shelf life in the wrestling business. She continues to work on her acting career, taking classes during the week when she's home and looking to direct her acting skills toward daytime or TV movies. She says she'll never give up her fascination with being an entertainer.

The following are excerpts from an interview Mike Mooneyham conducted with Dawn Marie in July.

MM: How does the immediate future look in ECW, and how do things look with USA?

DM: I don't care where we are. I just try to stay to myself and mind my own business. You can't predict anything. We might not even wind up there. I know I'm here for the next two years.

MM: Are you satisfied with your current position?

DM: Paul's been pretty good to me. I not making what I'd be in WCW with Lance or in the WWF, but it's a living. I'm not starving. I'm still young in the business and have so much to learn.

MM: How did you break into the business?

DM: I used to do a lot of acting and modeling in New York. I did this poster deal with a poster company in Florida. I was a fan. I watched in the early '80s. This was in '94. I said to myself: I can do that. That would be great. I can create this character. I can be like Miss Elizabeth, which shows you how totally ignorant of the business I was. Comparing myself to her was absolutely ridiculous. This promoter called Cousin Luke called me. I was only kidding. He called in a favor. I put my foot, my ankle and everything else in my mouth this time. I went out there and created this character. I absolutely loved it. It may sound corny, but the moment I went through that curtain it was the most unbelievable feeling. I just knew. This is what I have to do.

MM: So you got involved on the indy circuit?

DW: I started looking for work on the independents. I kind of got involved backward. I fell into it. Usually you should be trained and have a background in wrestling, and I didn't. I was lucky enough to meet up with someone at that show who worked for another independent who was looking for someone for Devon Storm (Chris Ford). What a wonderful man. What an incredible person - inside and outside the business. I explained the situation to Chris. He helped me. I was really lucky right from the beginning. Chris protected me. He knew I wasn't there to try to find my new husband. I loved it, but I didn't understand what I was loving about it. I just knew I wanted to be there. He was very patient with me, and we became really good friends. We worked together for about four or five months. I was really lucky in that I got to work with tremendous talent in the business. I was so lucky. I went from Devon Storm to Buddy Landell. I worked for Buddy. There was a group of us who used to travel everywhere. We used to do two or three shows a week with this little group of people. I got huge amounts of experience immediately. I managed Buddy Landell, and he was just so generous with all of his knowledge. He taught me how to act inside the locker room, how to act outside the locker room. He was just so wonderful. I later went to Lance Storm. He and Steve Corino used to be tag-team partners. I managed them the last year of my independent career. I had these two incredibly talented men who were willing to train me and help me. I worked for Maryland Championship Wrestling with Corporal Punishment. I was just very lucky that I fell into a group of people that were very generous and kind and willing to help me, which isn't always the case. I was blessed. I was on the indies for almost three years. I'll be in ECW two years in August. I still don't know what I want to do with my life when I grow up.

MM: How did you get involved with wrestling? Were you a fan as a youngster?

DM: I was a fan in the early '80s. My father, grandfather and uncle were huge fans of wrestling. Being a girl I stopped watching, doing the girlie thing. I didn't watch again until I got involved. So I was completely blind to the business. I was blessed because I literally fell into it by accident. So I had to play catch-up. But I work very hard now because I always felt it was disrespectful because afterward I saw how many years people put into it, and I didn't know. I just felt I had so much to catch up to. Even now I feel I am totally a student of the business. Even when I'm home I watch tapes and shoot interviews because I feel I can never learn enough to keep up. I go to the ring once a week and train by my house. You've gotta try.

MM: What was your first exposure to the business?

DM: I grew up in New Jersey watching the WWF. I was a huge fan of Bob Backlund. Tony Atlas, Captain Lou (Albano) and Roddy Piper. My first match ever I worked with Tony Atlas and Jimmy Snuka. I haven't run into him since. He was very nice and very patient with me that night. I was so thrilled when they told me that I would be working with him. I watched him in the early '80s. I was so nervous. I've become great friends with Jimmy Snuka. He was like a father to me on the independents. He's a wonderful man. My favorite was Piper. I want to meet him before he retires or I'm out of the business. I totally want to meet him. We're all marks. I'm a huge mark. That's why I'm here. But when you stop being a fan you stop learning.

MM: Where did you attend college?

DM: I went to NYU Business School. It was a business school that NYU ran. I used to be a director of an international real estate consulting firm. I was 22. They took me right from school. I just was not happy. I quit my job. They thought I was nuts. I was right under the president of the company and had a beautiful office overlooking St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was gorgeous. I left because I always wanted to be an entertainer.

MM: What was the reaction from your family when you told them you were getting into the wrestling business?

DM: My family went nuts. They went crazy. They wanted me to have a job, get married, have a house with a white picket fence, a couple kids, do what you're supposed to do. My father's now my biggest fan. Anyone who will listen he'll tell. Back then he thought I was out of my mind. But every thing worked out. As long as you follow your heart, you'll always go in the right direction. Success isn't the amount of money you make. If you wake up in the morning and do what you love, that's success. I love my job. I love to entertain regardless of the forum, whether it's in the ring or on camera or on a stage. It doesn't matter.

MM: Have you and your fiancee made plans?

DM: We haven't set a date yet because things are so chaotic. It's sort of my fault, too, since I don't know if I want a huge wedding or a small wedding. We live as if we're married. Everything is together. It's as if we're married, we just didn't formally get married. We get along really, really well. What saves us is that we were best of friends before. We were literally inseparable for a good year and a half, and then we started dating. So our relationship is exactly the same as it was before. We just live together now. This October will be two years (that they've been dating). He just negotiated a contract for another couple of years. Paul has plans for him now. He's been using him a lot on TV every week.

MM: Ever think about working for WCW or the WWF?

DM: I'm completely happy with what I'm doing here. It's not that I would or wouldn't leave. When Lance left, WCW was interested in me also. They wanted the package. I have two more years left on my contract here. I try to learn from other people's mistakes rather than my own. You're only as good as your word in this business, as well as you're only as good as your last performance. They go hand in hand. I have two more years here. Paul's good to me. I have a lot to learn. I feel I need another two years here to learn what I need to learn. Just to have that comfort level and to completely understand what's going on. I have a good idea. I think I'll have more of a forum to learn here than if I went somewhere else and just got thrown into the fire. I'm totally confident in myself that if I were thrown into the fire that I would do well, I but I know deep down inside that I need to learn more and I wouldn't be 100 percent comfortable. I have to be true to my word. I'll look at other options later.

MM: What kind of effect did Lance Storm's decision to leave have on you?

DM: That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my career. My second hardest was working recently for the first time. The second hardest thing I've ever had to do was walk out of those curtains with out him. I was doing a guest referee. I was terrified to the point where I called him on my cell phone as the music was playing. As much as I absolutely love you, I hate you right now. That's exactly what I said. He started laughing. We were so close. I think that's why we had such great chemistry, because we truly were such good friends behind the scenes. If you saw one, you saw the other. People who didn't know about Pat and I thought that Lance and I were really together. When he first started talking about leaving, I would tease him and say, you can't leave. You're not allowed to leave. I'm going to be wrapped around your ankle. I'm going to drag you back. Then I realized I was putting a lot of stress on him. But I was only joking. I only wanted the best for him. And I saw as the weeks went by that I was putting more stress on him because he was taking me seriously. I pulled him to the side and said listen Lance, whatever your decisions are, I'm your friend first. I will support your decisions 150 percent. Whatever you have to do I'll stand by you. Even now I call him once or twice a week. It was very hard. I was with him my entire professional career. So to walk out there without him was really scary.

MM: What plans do they have for you in ECW?

DM: I would lie if I said I wasn't worried. I have no idea. They don't know. I hope so. The more I'm off the more nervous I get. I'm terrified. I just hope it's someone who wants it as bad as I do. I would rather go with someone who's brand new and no one knows about. Even if I had to start with a fresh slate in opening matches. I don't care. I would rather be with someone who is hungry and wants it as just as much as I do.

MM: How about New Jack?

DM: I'm not diving off of any thing. These are old bones, trust me. Who am I to judge. Everyone asks me how can you walk around and do T&A all night. It's my job. New Jack is a wonderful man. I just hope he gets better real soon. He was one of the first few people when I first came here and probably the most welcoming to me. He has always been very protective of me. He's been very good to me.

MM: How is the atmosphere at ECW?

DM: It's a nice place. You definitely know where you stand at all times. People can say what they want to say about Paul. I only know how he treats me. He's been a wonderful boss and even a better friend. Paul just has this gift of seeing something in you and pulling it out and giving you this confidence when you think you can't do it. He makes you feel comfortable that you're able to do this or that, and he also makes you feel comfortable that if you screw up, it's OK. That's a lot more comforting than knowing you can do it - that knowing if you fall on your ass, he's not going to fire you. It makes me go out there and want to prove that he's right. I would never want to disappoint him. He's gone way beyond the call of duty as a friend. There was a time when I having some personal problems and he was right there. I think if an opportunity came from somewhere else and I really wanted to go and felt it was something I needed to do, I honestly think he would support it. For some people, there's just nothing else you can do somewhere, and you have to go some where else to rejuvenate your career.

MM: How did you get along with Tammy Sytch?

DM: I'm a big fan of Tammy. I really don't have anything bad to say about Tammy. She was very good to me when I first came here. I came in opposite Tammy. She was very smart in high school and had a full scholarship to go to college in Florida. She took a ride with Chris, her high school sweetheart, and he was going to drop her off. But she decided to stay with him and go to Smoky Mountain. Unless you're in the business, people don't really understand the sacrifices you make in your life. Tammy was very young, and she sacrificed a lot. To make opposite against someone she had never met and never heard of was a gift. And I can't ever thank her enough. I don't know what's going on. You hear a lot of things. I hear a lot of things about me that aren't true. And I'm not saying that the things they're saying about her are or aren't true, but I know that as long as I worked with her, she never allowed any personal problems to enter the ring, and that's all that matters to me on a professional level. It's sad when anyone ruins their lives or don't reach their potential. But everyone has choices. We all have the same choices in life. It's the choices you make that make you the person you are. I have nothing bad to say about her. She was always wonderful to me. She was always patient with me. When I first came to ECW, she would critique me, she would watch me, she would follow me and she would help me. Obviously I'm going to be a product of the people who helped me. She was a huge influence on me in ECW. I can't fault the girl if her problems are as bad as I've heard. I feel bad for her. I've always offered my friendship no matter what. I've never ever had a problem with me. She never was caddy with me, she never was rude to me, she was nothing but helpful to me. I've heard stories, but she was never that way to me. I would think she would have been that way to me being that we were rivals in the ring. But she gave me her name, so I feel that when she gave me her name she gave me everything she worked for. So I can never thank her enough.

MM: How about Francine?

DM: We're kind of opposites right now, but I don't really have a problem with anybody. I just stay to myself and do my own thing. I just feel like you can't expect everybody to be like you. Just accept everyone for who they are. Everyone's not going to be like you or thing the way you do. It's like chocolate and vanilla ice cream. There are going to be some personalities you like, and some you don't. But just move on. That's what I try to do.

MM: How long do you plan on staying in the wrestling business?

DM: I'm very realistic, and being a woman in this business, I don't have the amount of time the men do. I probably have a good five years left, and then they'll be throwing me out for the next new young thing. It's the reality. I'm not jealous or envious, that's just the life span of a woman in this business.

MM: Would you like to pursue a full-time acting career at some point?

DM: Right now I'm working very hard on my acting career. I take classes during the week when I'm home. I'm working with an agent. I'm really trying to do some daytime soap stuff. I would love to do daytime soap when I'm home and wrestling on the weekend, so when I'm through with my wrestling career I have something to go to. I would like to direct my acting career toward daytime or TV movies, not trying to be a movie star or do huge films. I definitely want to be an entertainer. If you're an entertainer at heart, it's something you have to do all the time. It's like an artist who needs to paint on canvas to feel complete. I feel like an entertainer needs to entertain in some form to feel complete. It's something that's a part of you and you can't change it. You're either born an entertainer or you're not. I was born to be an entertainer and I love to do it, and unless I'm doing it I'm not going to be happy.

MM: What do you feel about the content of the shows?

DM: Some of it probably not, just because I know I'll probably be a strict parent, because that's how I was raised. I don't disagree with what's going on. I think it's fine. This whole TV rating is a little ridiculous. It's up to the parents to be in charge of what their children watch.

MM: How about if you were a mother?

DM: I don't know. I'm not a mom. I don't disagree with it because I'm doing it. I don't feel it's morally incorrect. Everything evolves. Your regularly talk shows went from Donahue to Rikki Lake. Is it bad? No, but everything changes and everything evolves. You just have to go with it. I try not to judge things or judge people. If I were a parent, I might watch it with them. Steve Corino brings his son around all the time. What a wonderful little boy, and he's so smart. Steve's a single dad. His son loves Triple H and X-Pac and all those, but he knows not to say certain things. He's not allowed to say it. He enjoys wrestling, so why deprive him of that? I think that's a great approach. It's up to the parent to teach kids responsibility.

MM: What's your take on Ric Flair?

DM: No one can touch him. He's the greatest. I have never met him. I would love to meet him. I am the hugest fan. Pat used to make robes when he was younger. He idolized him. Oh my God. Both of us. What's not to say about him. Just listen to him talk. You can't take your eyes off the TV. He's such a charmer. Even if you don't watch wrestling, you know who Ric Flair is. He just has such a presence about him. He's the idol of everybody in the business. He seems like a very good family man. I've never heard anything bad about him. He is wonderful. Just think of all the talent he's seen come in and go out. It's amazing. You can't hold down talent. I'm a huge Kurt Angle fan. I love Kurt Angle. I think he's unbelievable.

MM: Which three wrestlers would you most like to meet?

DM: Ric Flair, Roddy Piper and Lou Albano.

MM: How are things at home?

DM: Pat and I really try hard to separate the character from the real person. When I' home, I'm Dawn. When I'm on the road, I'm Dawn Marie. That's why even now I still go to college. I take one class a semester during the week just because I love to read and I love to learn. I like to be somewhere where no one knows what I do and no one cares. The kid next to me is talking to me simply because it's Dawn sitting next to them. I really enjoy that. I don't ever want to lose sight of who I am. Pat and I have a better chance because we don't drink, we don't do any drugs, we don't go out. We do a show and come on back. Even at home we don't even drink wine with our dinner. We're very against it. We're very home-oriented. That's how we like to live. We're just very simple. We live a very, very, very simple type of life. We try to be very down-to-earth. When we're home we don't even talk about wrestling. We have a rule: now wrestling in the house. We don't discuss wrestling or our job at home, unless something is upsetting us and we need to talk about it. As much as I love it, I don't want it to be my entire life. It consumes your whole life because you have to go to the gym, design your outfits, going to the ring. But when we're home, we sit down at the table and eat dinner. We don't drive nice cars, not because we can't, we just don't like to. We're very simple people. I'm not into expensive jewelry and that kind of lifestyle. I was raised by my father, who was a zoologist. While most little girls would go on vacation to the beach, my father would take me to the mountains and the woods, and we'd do hunting and camping. So I'm very earthy, very much like a tomboy. Who would think that? I'm very introverted in my own personal life. I'm not the kind to have a lot of friends around me. I'm the complete opposite of what you see in the ring. It's my extroverted side. It's my inner demons. I lead a very boring life. Both of us are into doing yard work. We're building a house up in the Poconos. We're buying this lot and building a small house in the middle of nowhere.

 

 


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