Pro wrestling legend is suing media outlet Gawker for publishing intimate video footage
Hulk Hogan took the stand in court on Monday to testify in his $100 million lawsuit against Gawker, covering a variety of topics during his time on the stand.
Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) filed suit against Gawker after the news and gossip outlet posted video of the wrestler having sex with the wife of his friend, Florida radio DJ Bubba the Love Sponge (real name: Todd Clem).
The wrestler claims that his privacy was violated by the publication of the tape. Gawker, meanwhile, claims that its publication of the video is protected under the First Amendment.
During his time on the stand Monday, Bollea, dressed in a black bandana and dark suit, was questioned about his childhood ambitions such as music, and his humble beginnings in wrestling.
During his testimony, Bollea also discussed the physicality involved in pro wrestling and the nature of his Hulk Hogan character, which he referred to as “the all-American guy” and “larger than life.”
He also discussed fans’ requests for autographs and selfies, noting, “I pride myself on not turning my fans down.”
The wrestler sought to distinguish his wrestling character from his actual personality, noting, “Terry Bollea is a normal person; wrestling is his job.” He went on to call himself “pretty soft-spoken to a fault.”
Bollea added that he is currently not friends with Clem, but he went into detail about his past relationship with Clem. The wrestler said that when he first heard Clem on the radio, he “could not stand him,” and he characterized Clem’s on-air personality as “nasty” and “overbearing.” However, Bollea said, he came around when he discovered that Clem was respectful when not in character on air. Bollea recalled Clem being with him and his father as his father drew his last breaths.
“I believed in my heart he was my best friend,” Bollea said of Clem.
Bollea also recalled Todd and Heather Clem’s persistent attempts to get him to have sex with Heather.
“It caught me off guard when they first approached me,” the wrestler said. While he knew that they had an open marriage because Clem had mentioned it on his radio show, he told the court, “I actually took it as a joke for quite a while.”
Bollea said he eventually relented in a vulnerable moment, after unsuccessfully trying to reconcile with his wife Linda.
“I just let my guard down … I thought those people cared about me,” he said.
Bollea, who said he had sex with Heather Clem “three, maybe four” times, recalled that the first time he had sex with Heather Clem, he showed up at the Clems’ house. After a “group hug,” he said, Heather led him by the hand to the bedroom, with her husband giving Bollea a condom.
Bollea said he first became aware that there might be a video years later, when TMZ contacted him about some stills from the footage.
When he discovered the existence of the tape, and that Clem had told his wife that the tape would pay for their retirement, Bollea said, “I felt numb,” adding, “I went into a spasm.”
Asked how the publication of the sex tape has affected him, Bollea responded, “It’s turned my world upside-down.”
“I was completely humiliated,” Bollea said, adding that the incident caused him to reaffirm his belief in Jesus Christ, after he drifted away from that belief.
On cross-examination, Bollea admitted that he made untruthful statements during interviews when he stated that he had seen the sex tape.
“Pretty much I was on autopilot,” Bollea said of his mindset at the time.
Gawker issued a statement, saying, “Today in court we heard Terry Bollea state that he’s in character as ‘Hulk Hogan‘ virtually 24 hours a day (whenever he’s not home is the way he put it).” Gawker added that Bollea acknowledged “that as ‘Hulk Hogan‘ he regularly takes ‘artistic license’ and does not tell the truth.”