Leslieville Lives; Stories from the ‘Ville – Sweet Daddy Siki
The first time I had heard of Sweet Daddy was in 2011 when I was walking down Queen St. with an old beau – who pointed out the old wrestler pic of Sweet Daddy Siki that was on the side of the Duke, and stopped in his tracks. Who? What? He was surprised I had no idea who the man was, but I’d lived overseas for nearly 20 years. That’s my excuse, but admit that even if I was here, I don’t think I would’ve known of any wrestlers. It wasn’t until last year when I started attending some fundraisers at the Duke that I saw him. All I knew was that he held court at karoake there every Saturday from 4:00-7:30p.m. and that he was a well-known wrestler in his past.
When I sat down with him, two of the most soothing voices in the history of mankind came to mind. Morgan Freeman, waxing on about Zihuatanejo in the classic film Shawshank Redemption, and Barry White, that soothing bass-baritone voice from the 70s disco days. I was transported to both places listening to Sweet Daddy Siki talking in that slow, thoughtful drawl.
A gentle old soul now, Sweet Daddy is, in a word, sweet. When I asked him where he got the nickname, a wry smile snuck out. ‘One night a woman, who was sitting ringside during a match Montreal, called up and sang out, ‘Sweeeeet Daddy’. He laughs. ‘The next week she was there with some girlfriends, the chorus started up and the name just stuck’.
Born in Montgomery, Texas, Sweet Daddy, aka Regi Siki, was smitten with boxing first, then wrestling as a young boy. At the age of 16 he started training. After two years he was off to war. ‘Which one?’ I’d say. He laughed. You’re not gonna get my age ya know’. I tried several other tricks to find out how old he was, to no avail. He caught me every time. I did guess the Korean War but he gave me that poker face gaze. No tells. Again a simple search of this widely known icon will tell me everything I need to know, but apparently you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Interweb ;). I do know for sure he first started spinning disks at the Duke 20 years ago . ‘After I retired’ he said. What year was that? I ask. ‘Ha haaaaa’ he’d reply.
Sweet Daddy Siki was as famous as they come in his heyday. He moved to Toronto in 1961 and made it home. His huge fan base would converge on Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1960s to watch the serious wrestler with a fun side. Nicknamed Mr. Irresistible, he was a true character; sequined vests and all. He laughs about ‘all the ladies’ but his heart belonged to one woman, who he was married to for nearly 50 years. She passed away last year leaving him and two sons behind, both who are in the music business. Needless to say I couldn’t get their names.
‘So, I’m guessing you got pretty banged up out there in the ring?’. ‘Oh yeah. A lot of violence in those days. The game has changed now and it’s more for show but back then, it could get ugly’. His face is partially paralyzed from a hit back in the day, not to mention the many broken bones here and there along the journey.
The king of the ring won many championships, and continued wrestling into the 90s, also teaching/training the craft. He’s hobnobbed with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Wilt Chamberlain and Charlie Pride. A lover of music – he’s recorded a few albums – as well as wrestling, Sweet Daddy saw the end of his wrestling career as the beginning of his music one.
The next time you’re at the Duke on a Saturday afternoon, stop by the music machine and say ‘Hi’. He might’ve been a tough guy in his youth, but he is a genuinely Sweet Daddy.
*Later this year a book and documentary are being released on Sweet Daddy Siki. To learn his ‘whole’ story keep an eye out.