Superstar Billy Graham Made It Big in Wrestling -- Now the Steroids That Got Him There May Be Killing Him

Page 8 of 8

Graham's children are from a previous marriage. He claims his ex-wife turned the kids against him, especially his oldest son.

"He had his name changed from my legal name of Coleman to her maiden name. Legally changed. That's heavy," he says, getting animated. "It bothers me that now that he's an adult, he can't bury it, like my daughter Capella, the adult. She buried the fact that her father was on the road. She grew up."

Graham's son came to Phoenix in 2010 to visit him. "He heard I was broke and that my liver was real bad. So I invited him to bring the kids to [L.A. in January]. They only live 80 miles from the [fan convention]. I said, come over to the Hilton [so I could] meet the grandkids, man. One of them has seen some pictures of me, their grandfather. He's 9 years old, or something.

"He was 80 miles away. Eighty miles! Eighty miles in L.A. is nothing, brother."

The son and grandson did not show.

Asked why Valerie left him, Graham explains that she was stressed about his health problems, then adds that she hates it when he is around female wrestlers.

"She says all they are is strippers. I agree that's all they are. That element of the divas always being around . . . really bugs her."

Valerie laughs when told this. "That's just so funny: 'She hates the divas!'"

No, she says, she did not leave him because of any of that. "It had nothing to do with his health." If it did, she says, "I wouldn't still take care of him."

She adds, "If I talk about the reasons for the separation, it would be a derogatory thing. I don't want to hurt him."

It hurts them both, they say, when she drops him off at his place after taking him to the doctor. It hurts that she will not hug him, for fear of giving him false hope that they will get back together.

Valerie says he has changed, that he used to be much happier. "I think he's angry at himself for all the mistakes he has made," she says. He used to enjoy sports, she says, but now he rails about how overpaid athletes are.

"He literally is one of the best people I know, in his heart," she says. "He wants to be good. He isn't very good at it. But he wants to be good."

The day after she spoke with New Times, Billy Graham sent an e-mail to the newspaper announcing that the interview had inspired Valerie to take him back, which she confirms.

"We have a lot to work through, but I think we need to try," she writes. "[We have] lots of years invested."

Graham adds later, "It's called sacrifice. Everybody gives a little, and it works."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gregory Pratt
Contact: Gregory Pratt