With the weight of two men, Andre the Giant could have been famous for his size alone.
You don’t have to be a fan of wrestling, whether it be the sporting kind or the entertainment kind, to identify Andre the Giant. Possibly the largest professional athlete to ever compete in any sport, the late Giant has a legacy in height and girth that will live on forever.
The most memorable personality in the history of wrestling was born in 1946 in a farmhouse in France as Andre Roussimoff. It is largely reported that Andre reached 6’3″ and weighed 200 pounds by age twelve and stood seven feet tall with an average weight of 450 pounds in manhood. In an odd way, it is accurate to say that there are quite a few men throughout history that are over seven feet tall but most of them weighed only about half of Andre at his peak. Promoters often stretched his height to 7’5″ and it is part of his lore that his Grandpappy Roussimoff was 7’8″.
Andre’s love of beer is well known and stories abound about his drinking habits. Some may seem far-fetched, but his friends often reported that he would drink several cases of beer during the day, an estimated 7,000 calories in daily alcoholic pleasure. A close associate of his has sworn that he once finished 117 bottles of German beer in one sitting. This massive intake of alcohol can be considered a drinking problem- not that he would drink too much, but how do you get drunk if you so desire? Friends of Andre report that on the rare occasions he felt like tying one on that he would go straight through three fifths of vodka.
His never ending quest to quench his thirst was only equaled by his bottomless appetite. Andre once told the story of one night in a small restaurant where he was so hungry he ordered the entire menu to be brought to him one dish at a time. “It took me four hours to eat it all” said the giant.
But he was not what you may define as gluttonous. Most agree that even in his wrestling garb he looked enormous, but not necessarily fat. Once, Andre found that his weight had reached an unacceptable 540 pounds. He decided to put himself on a strict diet of only one meal per day and no alcohol. In four weeks he dropped 80 pounds.
Andre started his wrestling career as Jean Ferre and only later changed his name to match his stature. But perhaps the “Gentle Giant” was the most appropriate nickname for the Frenchman as Andre loved children- and not the same way that Fat Bastard does. Children would swarm around him when he would walk down the street.
When enevitably confronted by some drunken ne’er-do-well in a bar that wanted to take a shot at him, Andre always spoke first and tried his best at peace, only using his mighty force as a last resort. Andre was also known as a ladies man, mostly in the sense that he had a way of conveying himself as a cuddly teddy bear.
From cuddly teddy bear to alien Sasquatch… Andre appeared in perhaps the most memorable episode of The Six Million Dollar Man ever as a misunderstood Bigfoot that battled Steve Austin in a bionic wrestling match that is stored in the minds of all of us who were seven years old in 1975.
He appeared on several other TV shows in the seventies and eighties but his favorite and best known role is that of Fezzik in Rob Reiner’s instant classic The Princess Bride released in 1987 (“You are the brute squad.”)
Billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” (King Kong, The Panama Canal and Las Vegas also hold this title) Andre suffered from acromegaly, the Greek word for “enlargement” and a hormonal disease that commonly causes growth throughout a lifetime. The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and the fire in the engine of this energetic, monolithic man burns no more. His giantism led to a heart attack and his early death in 1993.