—In an effort to promote her Make The World Write contest, Terri Runnels gave in depth information to Jim Varsallone of Miami Herald on the early days of her career. Published on Sep. 24, 2008 titled “Terri overcame assault, robbery to star in WCW, WWE”, Terri gives interesting accounts of being robbed and sexually assaulted in her attempts from make it as a small town girl in a big city…
Terri Lynne Boatright Runnels is known for her wrestling personas from Miss Alexandra York in WCW to the more famous Marlena in WWF and diva Terri in WWE. Her rise to wrestling stardom included some major bumps in the road, especially during her pre-wrestling time working for CNN in Washington D.C.
Involved in a sexual assault and a separate incident of a purse snatching, Terri, a make-up artist at the time, decided ‘D.C.’ was not the place to be.
”Basically, after all that, I told CNN in Washington D.C., I had to go,” she said. “After those two things, I thought, `I’m not supposed to be here. You know what. I’m getting eaten alive in this city.”’
She returned to Atlanta, home of CNN, where she became a beautiful star in 1990 in WCW and later the real-life wife and cigar-smoking director of WWF star Goldust (Dustin Rhodes), before helping launch WWE’s divas.
It’s been an interesting journey for the small-town girl.
Terri, 41, grew up in Live Oak, in north central Florida. Hopes and dreams, she aspired to make it in the big city.
‘My friend, Vicki Johnson Watchulonis’ mom owned a make-up company and clothing store,” Terri said. “Vicki was a tom boy, a wheelie popping chic like you had never seen in your life.
“It’s almost like we were with the wrong parents. My mom could care less about make-up. Vicki could care less about make-up, but I loved it — the hair, the make-up, the clothes.
Vicki’s mom owned a clothing and make-up store in Live Oak.
“So I worked for her mom literally since I was 13 in the whopping metropolis, Live Oak.”
After graduating high school, Terri moved to Atlanta, attending Bauder Fashion College.
”I was 17,” she said. “I was going to be a fashion merchandiser/fashion designer, go to New York and then use that to pave my way to become this wonderful, famous actress.”
The dream cut short.
”Well, my father stopped paying for my college, and mom didn’t have the money to continue supporting me,” said Terri, who currently lives in Gainesville, Fla. “I returned to Live Oak, and I worked for the local newspaper, setting up ads, laying out ads. After about three months, I went, `No. The world needs me. This is crazy.’
‘I called one of my old professors and said, `I have to get back up there in Atlanta. What can you do for me?’ She said, ‘Well, the place I get my hair done needs a receptionist. Would you be willing to do something like that?’ I said, `Anything to get out of this little town [Live Oak, population 6,000]. Yes.’
“So I went back up to Atlanta to a chic place, Williams Salon, an awesome salon. I was the receptionist. I swept floors, folded towels, cleaned-up, anything and everything.
‘[Reporter] Susan Lisovicz of CNN was in one day, and I was washing her hair. I said, `Who’s in charge of make-up at CNN?’ She said, ‘Ramona Horton.’ I must have called Ramona Horton everyday for a month. That’s a good lesson in tenacity. Don’t ever stop.
‘Finally, she said, `Sure, come in for an interview.’ She made me show what I could do, and she hired me that day. The rest is history in terms of make-up.
“Of course, Jim Crockett was running his wrestling promotion and doing TV out of Ted Turner’s studios there on Saturdays and Sundays, and working with them, doing make-up, was part of my job.”
Terri worked hard, and people liked her.
”It was chutzpa and me believing I was meant for bigger and better things than my small town,” she said. “I then went to Washington D.C. to work for Larry King, CNN.
“The reasons I left Washington D.C. were because I was sexually assaulted, and another time I had my purse stolen from my car and no one, no one there did anything to help.
‘I was gassing up at a gas station, and the piece of crap reached into the back of my car, grabbed my purse and started running. I’m surrounded by men who are filling up their tanks. I was the only woman who was putting gas in my tank. Not one of those men did anything, and I’m screaming, `Help me! Help me! He got my purse.’ They just looked at me like what do you want me to do.
“So, I started chasing the SOB through intersections, through traffic. I chased his butt. It was night time. The cops came. They ended up finding my purse — no money — close to where I chased him. When I got back there, I wanted to kill every man who just stood there like a jabroni.”
Prior, Terri was sexually assaulted.
“I lived in an apartment complex in a very well-known college complex close to the University of Maryland. Even though I worked in D.C., I lived 20-25 minutes out of the city. A friend of mine, Stacy, who went to the University of Maryland, just returned from class.
“Before the pool opens, you would sun bathe on the lawn. What happened was the pool was closed for a week. So everybody would lay out on the lawn to get a tan.
“I was actually one of the few people living at the complex who was an adult and working. I was not a college kid.
‘I said, `Hey Stace.’ She said, ‘I’m going to put my suit on. I’ll be right back out.’ So I’m expecting Stacy to come back out, and I had been laying there probably two hours.
“Now, the majority of my family was in law enforcement, and something in me, I don’t know if it was God or what, but hours before Stacy got home, as I was laying there on my back, there was a landscaping guy who had been doing some work.
‘Something in my brain said to me, `If you had to give the cops a description of that guy, what would you tell them?’ I looked at him from head to toe, everything about him, profile the guy. I didn’t know why I did it, but I did it.
“So what. Whatever.
‘Well, I had turned over on my stomach, so now I’m sunning my backside. All of a sudden I feel this hand push down on me. I’m thinking it’s Stacy being funny because I’m expecting her to come right back out. With his hand holding me down, I said, `Stacy, what are you doing?’ I went to turn over, and the hand held me down harder [and he sexually assaulted her].
‘I will never again wonder how I will respond. It was the most visceral thing. I got up and started chasing him. My child [Dakota] could tell you that she doesn’t hear me say ugly words. I’m not the cursing type of soul. The only thing that would come out of me, just a guttural, visceral response — and it was over and over again as I was chasing him — was, `I’m going to kill you [expletive].’ I chased him over a fence onto the interstate.
“The kicker of the story is I had to be at CNN by 5 a.m., very early in the morning. I had to do morning shows and the Larry King Show in the afternoons.
“I made friends with every cop where I lived [prior] because I was so concerned about my safety because it was still dark at that hour. So I asked them if there was anyway that they could meet me at the apartment complex. They didn’t have to get out of their car. They could just sit there, so I could walk from my apartment to my car, just to make sure I was OK. I was not in a bad neighborhood, but I was just very cautious.
“The police were called after it happened, and when they found out it was me, they all knew me, and they went crazy. They were like, `Of all people for something like this to happen to, the girl who is always cautious.’
“I told them everything I had seen because I had looked at this guy, but I had no idea the guy was about to assault me. I knew everything about him, even the color of his shoelaces, what kind of watch he had, his hat, his eyes, everything.”
Because of her intuition and strong will, Terri saved many women.
”They found him, and they arrested him,” she said. “He had raped so many women. He had assaulted many others. It was because of my description he was finally caught.”
• Because she cares about people who are hurt, abused or wronged, Terri wants to continue helping others.
Make The World Write, an international writing contest created by Terri, affords a hard-working, good person, a family, a non-profit corporation or a company a chance to win her Florida home and $100,000 to make the world a better place.
”I’m thrilled to see the positive response to the contest, and how it’s inspiring others to create dialogue about what they would do to bring the global community together,” Terri said.
“While there is a $200 entry fee, I do not want people to go above their means in order to participate in the contest.”
The Make The World Write contest focuses on the skill and passion of the writer. The winner will receive Terri’s beautiful four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a stunning pool complete with waterfalls, a hot tub and a playhouse, workshop or whatever you choose to make it, plus $100,000 for the winner to use at their discretion. She hopes the majority will be used toward whatever the winning essay depicts.
Entries should be postmarked by midnight Sunday, Oct. 5, Terri’s birthday. She will award the winner on Thanksgiving, Nov. 27.
”What better time to award someone than on Thanksgiving,” she said, “a time when we are all thankful for our blessings, whether great or small.”
A minimum amount of entries must be reached for a winner to be determined. If the number is not reached, entrants will be refunded their entry fee minus a 20 dollar administrative fee.
To participate in Make The World Write and for information, visit MakeTheWorldWrite.com.
• Visit theterrirunnels.com.