Man of Letters
Not that Foley is, by any measure, nonverbal. He is, after all, capable of forgoing ghostwriters and crafting his straightforward, accessible books himself, setting him apart from fellow WWF author The Rock. What's more, his latest unlikely literary triumph—written, he says, in two months "on planes, in hotels and on the kitchen table after the kids went to bed"—contains not only whimsical lists of his favorite roller coasters and water parks but also a reasoned defense of wrestling as family-bonding escapism. "His ability to convey his innermost thoughts and feelings is nothing short of remarkable," wrote a reviewer for the Sunday Gazette Mail in Charleston, W.Va.
Foley's upbringing on Long Island prepared him for both of his careers. His father, Jack, then the athletic director for a local school district, kindled his interest in sports, while mother Beverly, a retired government worker, "was a big reader and storyteller," says Foley. Mick began wrestling in high school and, while earning a communications degree from the State University of New York at Cortland, joined an independent wrestling circuit in 1986, grappling in armories and parking lots and making as little as $10 a night.
Signing with the WWF in 1996 and christening himself Mankind—a grotesque creation inspired in part by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which he had just read—Foley became a star. His infamous battles with the likes of the Undertaker and The Rock helped the WWF's TV ratings soar and earned Foley $1 million a year. Yet the stunts that were his signature ravaged his body and frightened his two children, son Dewey, 9, and daughter Noelle, 7. (He also has a 4-month-old son, Mick Jr., with wife Colette, 40, an ex-model he met at an-auto race and married in 1992.) "My kids," says Foley, "knew the difference between Dad doing his job and Dad getting hurt."
The multiple concussions, dislocations and broken bones he suffered have left Foley unable to walk without pain (two of his missing teeth were lost in a car accident). Still, says his father, "Mick is a great dad. The other day his knees were hurting from playing soccer with the kids." Retirement has also freed Foley to hang out in his Christmas Room, a permanently Santa-themed basement room in his 4,500-sq.-ft. Long Island home. "He's the biggest nerd of all time," confirms Colette. "It's like a little boy was dropped in a big, tough man's body."
And while he can no longer stow pencils behind one ear, Foley needs only a little peace and quiet in the kitchen to hammer out his next potential blockbuster, a novel. "There are better writers, and there are better wrestlers, but there's no better combination of both," he says proudly. "I'm the most successful wrestler-writer of all time."
Fannie Weinstein on Long Island