What Does The Sheik Say?
Page Magen and his twin brother Jian are much more than executive producers for the upcoming documentary film The Sheik.
They've known The Iron Sheik almost all of their lives and consider the man an uncle. Alongside running their successful company Magen Boys Entertainment, the twins arrange personal appearances and business dealings with the WWE Hall of Famer. And they've played an essential role in giving Sheik a second career being a social media phenomenon in recent years.
Recently, I spoke with Page -- a fellow alumnae of Thornhill, Ontario - about the film that will debut at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival this month, as well as what it has been like dealing with one of professional wrestling's most outrageous and beloved personalities.
Canadian Bulldog : First of all, can you tell us a little bit about how you and your brother first became involved with The Sheik. Is he an actual blood relative?
Page Magen: My parents lived in Iran and my dad growing up was the number one table tennis ping pong player in Iran at the time. And The Iron Sheik was the number one wrestler in the country, let alone in the world at the time. So they’d hang out with each other. People hang out with people who are in their class or worlds, and they were in this sports complex type of place where all the top athletes trained. They became best of friends and over time, they lost touch for five or ten years or so when they both moved to different countries.
The next time they reconvened was when we were two, three years old. My parents just put us in front of the TV because that was the only form of entertainment back then, and we’d watch whatever was on. Wrestling was on, and the man on television that was in Iranian garb or Arabic garb, was screaming on television in Farsi. So my mom ran in and was like “What the hell is this? Oh my god, that’s your dad’s best friend!” not knowing that he’d made it really big on television. And to be on TV is always exciting for someone, but back in ’83 or whatever, you’re on TV… holy shit, that’s huge!
Fast forward, my dad kind of got reconnected and they were coming to (Maple Leaf Gardens) every two, three months back then. Next thing you know, my mom and dad invited The Sheik with all these bad guy wrestlers would come to dinner at our house every two months. So Volkoff, and Big John Studd, and Jake The Snake, and Bobby Heenan and Macho Man – these guys would come to our house for dinner! It’s pretty ridiculous.
CB: So how did that transition to becoming the business manager for all the things he does?
PM: We got hooked at an early age – anyone would, right? So as we started putting events together with our business, and putting wrestling shows on and stuff, we realized that it was very rare to be one of the good guys in wrestling. Meaning… everyone was always being stiffed, or everyone was always mispaid, there were a lot of no-shows or cancelled dates; we found that these wrestlers would always be on guard. (But) we were always there to make it work, these guys were our heroes; we loved working with them.
So with The Sheik, we kept finding that he kept coming back to us and confiding in us with opportunities and situations and we just kind of embraced it because, he was our hero; he was the guy that we loved more than anyone. And we started building a closer bond.
CB: I’ve seen so many -- and been to a few of the events and public appearance you’ve done with him over the years – how is he to deal with off-camera? Is he a different Sheik?
PM: The Sheik is The Sheik. Like anyone, some days you’re quiet and some days you’re loud. We respect and appreciate that, because when he goes off and when he yells, it’s not like he’s a mean person. He’s very passionate. So he’s kind of instilled this passion in us; he’s instilled this “gold medal champion” or “go fuck yourself” in life attitude. And it’s helped us build a mentality of “we’ve got to be the best”.
So when he does those Iron Sheik rants, we embrace them. We love them. I’ll be in a hotel room at 3 in the morning in New York and he’ll yell at me because there’s only one beer left. And he’s not an alcoholic, but it’s just because “How can a king have no beer?” And to us, it’s like “Okay, that’s a good point. I’ll take that.”
CB: What’s either your best or your craziest story dealing with him, because I’ve read about some pretty crazy things?
PM: That I’ve been a part of? We were at the Grammys once, and every human being that you’ve ever dreamt of was there. Bono, Mick Jagger, Alice Cooper, Billy Joe from Green Day, Dave Matthews, Beyonce, Celine Dion, Tony Bennett, Jonas Brothers, L’il Wayne, Jamie Foxx… and they’re all surrounding us, as though we’re more important than they are.
Jamie Foxx, whom Sheik had no fucking clue who he is, is with T-Pain at the time and is talking with The Sheik, “My brother, I love you.” And The Sheik says to him “Can’t you fucking see I’m fucking busy?” All he’s doing is fixing his headgear.
The guy is like “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and (Sheik) goes “Do me a fucking favor and go find me two fucking cold beers!”These guys say “Oh my god, I’ve gotta find these beers.”
You have two of the biggest performers in the world at the time like peasants, running around for The Sheik. And then when one of the beers comes back and it wasn’t cold…. in front of everyone – and I remember The Jonas Brothers were talking to Tony Bennett and they stop because “what the fuck is going on over there?”, The Sheik is freaking out explaining to them what the purpose of cold beer is. “Why is the cold beer more important than the jabroni warm piss beer?”
I’ve got so many other situations where he wouldn’t even know it was Justin Timberlake or Mario Lopez, he would say “Take my plate and please put it away” – he would think they were waiters.
CB: That definitely qualifies as crazy. Let’s talk a little bit about the film itself. What can you tell us about it that maybe would show wrestling fans what they wouldn’t know about going into it?
PM: If you’re a wrestling fan… wrestling fans have seen wrestling documentaries, but talking about the inner workings of The Screwjob, or this and that. The Iron Sheik is a wrestler, he’s a wrestling guy, but he was also an Olympic wrestler, he was a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran. He also had flee the country, and he was also a Greco-Roman wrestler, and he lived through all these different wrestlers dying.
He’s had his own personal demons and he’s had a resurgence. There’s a lot of layers to this, that when you go online, you just see The Sheik on Twitter, you think it’s just that. But there’s so much more depth to this man.
And you look at all the people who are in the movie – The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Jim Ross – these guys are busy people, and they’ve all dedicated minutes to explaining what kind of impact he had on their lives, what kind of impact he had on the world of professional wrestling.
It’s deep, it’s real, it’s got emotion to it, and for the new fan, I think they just see him as “Sheiky Baby” and “break your back”. And I think, who gave him the right to speak so powerfully? He earned it, and we’re showing you he earned it. We’re showing you what this man has gone through for him to question if “You’re the real”. Because he knows he’s the real, because he’s fucking earned that moniker. He’s earned it!
CB: I know it’s coming to Hot Docs in Toronto later this month. What’s the plan after that? Are you going to have him appear at, like, Cannes or that type of thing?
PM: We have a theatrical release, Canada-wide. We’re probably going to bring it to a couple of other festivals in the States. But we’re doing something special, and it’s going to be a direct download component for his fans, because he wants his fans to have the ability to watch the film in real-time versus waiting…
At sheikmovie.com, there’s a pre-buy option that’s going to be coming up very soon in which there will be some great perks that come with the pre-buy, exclusive stuff for his fans.
It’s a very affordable film and it’s going to be so that the world can watch it at the same time; we’re not waiting nine months for the DVD after the theatrical release. The only other person who’s done something like this is Louis CK. And in The Sheik’s words “If fucking Louis fucking CK can do it, then The Iron Sheik can do it any day of the week.”
CB: Obviously, you and your brother have been lifelong wrestling fans, and what I do on my site is what I call, merchandise and memories from years past. With this movie and things like WWE Network now, are we getting to the point where there will be more of a focus on retro wrestling instead of the current product?
PM: It’s been 30 years since the big boom of mainstream wrestling and I find that the audience has grown up. There’s a lot of guys who can say they were at, or they watched WrestleMania 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…. I was at 6… with that in mind, they have got to cater to a wider scope.
It does go back to the simple wrestling model in the carnival days, where you had to have the big man, the small man, the midget, the ladies and the kangaroo – it’s no different now, but that’s with the age demographics.
So they’ve got to appease their audiences, whether it’s for a minute here, or 26 minutes there, they’ll know who’s tuning in for Daniel Bryan and who’s tuning in for that Sergeant Slaughter three-minute vignette. So you’ve got to trust that they understand the analytics of doing it.But I do think that, no matter what, they have to listen to the audience. And they are. You watch it now, and it’s more than it was two to three years ago – there’s always that legends thing going on, there’s always a little segment happening to spike it up a little bit.
CB: You hit on it before, but one really what I’m amazed with is much of a social media phenomenon (The Sheik) has become. I know he’s done advice columns, and it’s funny because I’d written a parody about that “Dear Sheiky” maybe six or seven years ago….. But is that actually him doing all the Tweets and Instagram pictures or does he have, like Nikolai Volkoff or someone doing that behind the scenes?
PM: Sometime he’s doing it, sometimes he’s not. He’ll call it in and say “I’m watching Oprah, she’s a dumb bitch – let everyone know that.” Sometimes we’ll say “Mrs. Doubtfire is out there, what do you think?” because we’re talking about it, and we’ll know his opinion on it. And then when we’re with him for the Instagram and stuff like that, he’s active.
We also have a great number of things that go out there where we focus on what’s important for him and what needs to be identified for each post.Each post is very important to The Sheik. He’s got a lot of meaning in each one. He may have 13,000 Tweets or whatever, but each one has a whole lifeline to it that he treats very seriously.
CB: And just lastly, because I see all the time all the things you and your brother are up to, is there anything wrestling-wise that we can help to promote here on Canadian Bulldog’s World?
PM: We’re going to be doing a Hall of Fame dinner soon, that’s going to be in September, with our good buddy Greg Oliver at Slam! Wrestling, we’re trying to restore that type of wrestling. I’ve got Duggan, Virgil and Beefcake in town right now; we have a big stag that we’re organizing tonight.
And we’re the Canadian distributor for the Jim Ross barbeque sauce – that’s going to happen soon. So we’re selling it at our Belly Busters locations, and we’re going to have an online sale option, too.
CB: Wow, that sounds great. Looking forward to the movie! Thanks for your time today.
PM: Thank you.
The Sheik debuts at Hot Docs in Toronto on April 26. See sheikmovie.com for details.
Page can be followed on Twitter @Pagemagen