THE MAN, THE LIFE, THE EPIC
For several months now, loyal minions of JREZHS have been asking questions about incredible infantry member “Wild West” Winfrey, the mysterious man from Texas who kicks ass and takes an ungodly amount of names. How tall is he? What is his favorite album? Has he ever been involved with professional hockey? Well, we answered none of these questions but several of our own in an exclusive interview with “Wild West” Winfrey. Speaking directly from the crown of the Statue of Liberty, overlooking the majestic skyline of New York, Winfrey talked to us about his rise to power, finding true love, and fun times with Hunter S. Thompson and Cher.
Now let’s get down to brass tracks; why did you decide to become a zombie hunter? Was it the excitement? The money? The sheer unlimited danger?
Well, the zombie hunter calling came at an early age. My grandfather on my mother's side was an engineer. The train driving kind not the kind that builds stuff. I got to know him after he had retired from the TCR - Trans Canadian Railway. He was a writer at that point, dabbled in sci-fi and Mark Twain kind of stuff and he was a diabetic. Man, did he love Lawrence Welk music. He and I walked every Sunday afternoon. My mom would drop us off miles from town at the edge of a cemetery. He said he wanted to check up on his friends, which we did. Stopping at various grave markers for a brief moment then continuing on. He always carried this big walking stick with him, never let me use it but would always carve me one out of a fallen branch so I would stop bugging him about it.
One afternoon, a pretty, autumnal day we had passed thru the cemetery and were following the railroad tracks through the woods like we always did. He led me off into the woods and we stopped by a large pool fed by the creek. He told me he was going to lay down for a bit of rest. He was in his seventies after all. He'd been down for a while and I busied myself throwing rocks at stuff floating in the water when I heard the sound of leaves crunching, footsteps in the woods coming our way. I was a bit scared so I tried to wake him but he was seriously out of it. I saw this man shuffling toward us, with three others behind him. They were plodding right through the sticker bushes, not even trying to find the path we used. Then the smell hit me. I will never forget the smell. It was worse than old road kill on a hot day. That's what woke him up. My whole life I had known my grandfather as an old man. Everything he did was like an old man. He was slow in pace, told long stories that went nowhere, the whole thing. Once he caught the scent of these guys he was up, sprang like a feral beast. In a blink of an eye he was in a defensive posture and drew his walking stick up and pulled it apart. It was something like a katana but longer. In a low whisper he told me to get behind him and not to move. Terrified at not only the men approaching us but in his sudden cat-like movement, I did as he said. They came at us in a staggered line but seemed to have sped up a bit. He asked me if I could find my way home by myself. My voice shook when I told him I could.
"If I say run, you run. Got it, boy? Run home to your grandmother and tell her to call the number. Don't tell anyone else. Your grandmother. Got it?" he commanded.
"Got it, grandpa," I said, terror stricken.
What happened next took about half a minute. He sprang from his ninja crouch and took them all down with a couple of swipes of the sword. Their heads either came off or were sliced in two and their dead bodies crumpled to the ground. The walk home was interesting. I asked why he killed those guys and he said, "I didn't kill them, they were already dead." Then he explained what a zombie was and what he really did. He belonged to an ancient organization, older than the Free Masons and much more secretive. The Brotherhood of the Hunters of the Undead. You would expect a title that was more sexy, but that's what it was. He said they were founded in 752 BC and have been around ever since and will exist as long as the need is there. I guess I was initiated into the Brotherhood on that day but no one has ever contacted me. That was in 1967. Fast forward to 1993. I started my company UnDead Removal, LTD so I'm keeping the Brotherhood alive. I've been gainfully employed in zombie hunting as a profession since then. During those years between 1967 and 1993, I would hunt zombies when I needed to. Now it puts bread on my table and allows me to live in the style to which I've become accustomed. When the time comes, I will pass the torch to my son and daughter if she chooses.
2) How did you first come to hear of JREZHS? What attracted you to the group?
Sometime in the eighties I met Jim Rage. We were on a double decker bus in London and he was talking to everyone about zombies. Most thought he was a nut, a charismatic nut. I thought he was mocking me, not knowing who he was but thought he knew who I was. This was before the internet is what it is today so zombie hunters and their services were totally by word of mouth, and the word traveled in strange circles, I'm hear to tell you. JREZHS hadn't yet been born as far as I know but UnDead Removal, LTD was in it's hatchling stage. I filed the meeting with Jim away in my brain and went doing what I did. Fast forward to 2005, I got a computer and was searching for zombie information. JREZHS came up right after Rob Zombie. You know, he isn't really a zombie. After studying your habits I made contact. You guys have a certain panache. At times subtle, at times not (kill hammer!) but always 100%. I wanted to be part of this and here I am.
3) Is it true that you fight zombies clad only in a leopard fur print Speedo? That’s pretty extreme.
In the beginning days of UnDead Removal, LTD (UDR) I would go out in the leopard print Speedo. Sleek, startling, unforgettable. It became a trademark of sorts. Regardless of the weather, or the occasion, I was in the Speedo slaying the undead. I wore it to the company picnic, remember? The Church of Death disaster - ranks right up there with 9/11 in my book as one of the many crossroads we come to. When the C O D struck and everyone was killed I woke up under a smoldering pile of picnic table cloths, burned weenies and other debris. I found out the Speedo was burned beyond decency so I cast it aside. Luckily I had a pair of trousers on underneath. Aside from some dirt and ketchup they were unharmed. What kind of monster puts ketchup on a hot dog?
4) Any funny stories back from when you just started zombie hunting?
There are some funny stories but probably only funny to me. A few months ago, I got an email from some contacts in west Texas. Zombie sightings in the Big Bend National Park so I fired up Spike and drove all night to get there. I got there about four in the morning and parked on a rise, overlooking this ghost town in the park. It used to be a mining town or cowboy camp or something. Anyway, it looked like something out of a Scooby Doo cartoon. Man, do I hate Scrappy Doo! Talk about jumping the shark!
The sun was going to be up in an hour so and I wanted to get this over with so I started making some noise to draw them out, if they were there. Not too long after that I caught the scent and saw them coming out from behind a ramshackle building. Two of them. I got out my crossbow and took aim. I don't use firearms because I can't legally get them since I'm not from here. I aimed and let loose the bolt. It struck one through the temple and pinned it to a telegraph pole. Here's the funny part. The other one turned to look at the first and I heard it moan but it sounded like "Hunh?" Then I fired again and pinned it to the same pole, through the chest. I moseyed down there, admiring many things about that moment. One - the sunrise over this deserted town. It was inspiring; I'm here to tell you. Second - two more zombies down. And third - my aim from 200 meters away.
I approached the targets and the one I had pinned through the chest was still trying to walk. It cracks me up every time I tell this story. It is still trying to walk and bite me! I drew out my crowbar from it's custom made sheath and teed off on it's head. It split open like an over ripe melon. I thought, "Man, I wish my grandfather was here to see this. He would be proud. I need a cup of coffee. It's a long drive home."
5) Do you favor any particular zombie hunting weapon above all others? Is there one piece of zombie hunting gear you’d never want to be without?
My favorite weapon is, without a doubt, Charlene. That's my crowbar. A meter of hardened steel and something you don't want to be on the business end of, I'm here to tell you. She's never failed me and inspires me to be better than I am. When you're close enough to use a crow, you're close enough to be killed so it's very motivating. Now for a ranged weapon, I use Betsy. She's my crossbow. I named her after David Crockett's long rifle, which served him well until it didn't. 150 lbs of pull, fires a 14 inch titanium bolt at 500 feet per second. I'm good for 250 meters on a stable target so far. I hope to get better but I may have to get another because I think Betsy's maxxed out at 250 meters. I would have liked to have my grandfather's cane sword but he was buried with it.
6) So you’re from Canada, then? I was born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1962 on the only summer day we had that year. Canada is perfect except for the weather. Very cosmopolitan. I had a mailing address there until 1990 when I moved to the States. I married an American woman in 1991 so I'm one of you now, for the most part.
7) I understand that back in the day you used to be a real bad hombre until the love of a good woman turned you away from the dark path. Care to give any details to your fans out there?
Let's revisit the 70's for a minute. This is a long story but we've got time, right? I got caught up in the disco scene. It isn't something I talk about that much because of my philosophy today. Being an excellent dancer and a mere teen at the time, I became the Canadian poster child for decadence. So young and full of dreams yet I wasting it on women, drugs, and expensive clothes and sunglasses. That's what the local paper declared at the time. I have to tell you, it was a lot of fun. I made my first trip to the States to do a country wide discotheque tour. I met all the shining stars of the day. Andy Warhol, Faye Dunaway, Mick and Bianca, Hunter Thompson, Cher! You name it, I met them. I kind of strayed from the path of the Brotherhood, but I still killed when I needed to. I think that is where the "bad hombre" status you mentioned came from. We all come to a crossroad. Robert Johnson said that. Not to me but he said it to someone. It's true. I was at another of many crossroads. Years went by in a blur and I found myself in Japan with no money, a revoked visa, and a pile of parking tickets. I stole aboard a freighter headed for home. I survived that long sea voyage eating mahogany carvings from the Philippines and drinking Sapporo beer. Nothing clogs up your pipes like mahogany; I'm here to tell you. We docked in Vancouver, BC and I walked back to Ottawa. Along the way I met this young lady, a few years my junior. Both of our lawyers have said it would be a "good idea" not to mention each other's name as there a few legal issues and hurt feelings to hammer out. But that aside, she was getting her start in the music biz, having just come off a TV show filmed in Canada and was putting out a record. I toured with her, many small venues, etc. We were introduced by a mutual friend and it turns out she had heard of me. Remember what I said about the word traveling in strange circles? This was one of them. One thing led to another and we were in love. I mean really in love. Her career was really beginning to take off and we toured the States, where she was getting a huge following. We stopped in Kansas City for as gig and there I met the woman I would marry. Intense love at first sight. I immediately left the tour, met Katie's parents, and in 1991 we married. In 1996, our daughter was born and in 2000 our son was born. In 2001 we moved to Texas to escape the winters, and along with it I brought UDR. Katie doesn't disapprove of UDR but wishes it was something not so dangerous. Erin, our daughter, has other interests but Leo, our son, wants to be like me. He's good from 25 meters on his crossbow. I haven't given him a crowbar yet. He won't be ready for close quarters battle for a few years yet. He hasn't made a kill yet but has been on a couple of hunts with me so he knows what I do. He will be ready when the time comes.
There are still some hurt feelings from the Canadian singer. I wish her continued success but she needs to get over it. I mean, that was 17 years ago. She knows how to contact me. I'm willing to overlook the restraining order.
8) Can you describe the rigorous training you had to undergo in order to reach the fighting mastery necessary to kill zombies?
My training regimen is, at this stage, all mental. My body is in perfect order, my mind needs constant sharpening so it doesn't loose the edge. I tried the vegetarian thing for a few years but it led to a chemical imbalance so I'm omnivorous. I eat anything I want. Once I lived on Fritos and chocolate chips just because I wanted to. I get a maximum of 4 hours of sleep a night. I work out on clowns between jobs. There are many clowns in Texas. You would think there was a ranch that breeds them. Texans love clowns but they have no idea how dangerous they are. The Baxter Black training program is great if you can find ninjas. Instead of plunging my hands into sand and rocks, I use cactus. Toughens them up nicely, yet they are still gentle to caress a baby's cheek and not cause too much discomfort.
9) Would you rather have moose antlers or eagle talons?
If I had to choose between eagle talons or moose antlers, that is a tough one. I've known many a moose in my time and they are fierce fighters. Definitely command your respect. Eagles, I've come to like them since I've moved to this country. You know, Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird. I can't really choose because I could wear either one. I don't often wear shoes or hats.
10) In your opinion, what’s the best movie staring Lance Henrickson?
Lance Henrickson. I once went into a 7 - 11 he was working at and bought a Yoo-Hoo from him. Was I surprised to see him later in the movies. I told him, "Do something with vampires in it." He did. The film is called Near Dark and it rocks. Not the image that vampires need to have put out there. Someone should show them for the vile bastards they are.
11) Now, you’re still operating in the American southwest while the rest of JREZHS is still trapped in Paris, France. Has this made things difficult for you in recent months?
Since you guys are stranded in Paris I have been fine. Business as usual for the most part. Wild West is a self sufficient machine. As long as you guys are safe, I'm without worry. I would be there on a moments notice. All you have to do is send the signal in the usual fashion. I'm glad, by the way, you gave me the handle Wild West. Before that, as you know, I was known as El Speedo and embroiled in another lawsuit. This time with the Speedo people. Something about copyright infringement and not "portraying the image they so diligently have created." Soon as I adopted the new name, they went away. I do miss having you guys over to the compound for dinner like we used to. I'd like to get back into that once you return.
12) What is the sound of one hand clapping?
As I mentioned earlier I met Hunter Thompson when I first came to the States. We stayed in constant contact for the rest of his life. When the phone would ring at three in the morning I knew it was him. I stayed at Owl Farm a few times and he bunked here a few times. I always called him Thompson and he always called me Mike or Mikey Boy. Michael is my middle name. My other middle name is danger. (Laughing) I asked him why he called me Mike and he said everyone called me Steve but I didn't act like one. I never figured that one out. Anyway, we were at this soirée one night at Richard Gere's place. Gere was going on and on about Buddhism and the Tibet and the Dali Lama. You know, I'm good with that but he wouldn't shut up about it. Thompson kept baiting him - so did I. After all we had been into the juice and taken our medicine. We wanted to get a real response from him, not some dogma crap.
"What would you do if I put a gun to your head right now, Ricky Boy?" Thompson asked.
"Go invisible," was Richard's calm replay.
Thompson cuffed him hard across the cheek. Gere, for a moment looked stunned and afraid. "Why did you do that?" he asked, rubbing his face.
”I wanted you to hear the sound of one hand clapping."
I really miss that guy.