Almost everybody knows Randy Jarrett as “The Mattadoor,” which is not in homonymy with “the matador,” but the two terms are homophonic in the sense that they sound alike — and, considering “The Mattadoor” and “the matador” both skewer things, both have to do with a lot of bull and both fight — they are synonymous.
Matadors, of course, skewer bulls in Spain where the rain falls mainly on the plains. The Mattadoor, on the other hand, skewers philosophy, language arts, fine arts, physical and social sciences in the United States where lately, the rain falls mainly in the Appalachians — and when he speaks, the listener is left with the burden of discerning what is truth and what is bull.
Jarrett explained he picked up the moniker while he worked as a doorman at the Bald Headed Bistro.
“I was a doorman at the Bistro, opening the doors for people and greeting them,” he explained. “They got to coming in so fast, I had to open the door and let them come through like a matador does with his cape when a bull charges. Somehow they stuck that name on me.”
Allan Jones, who owns the Bald Headed Bistro, remembers a slightly different version of history. Jarrett was indeed the doorman, but his job description was expanded to include guarding the mat in addition to opening the door; hence, “The Mattadoor.”
Would Jarrett rather have a different nickname or is he satisfied with the one he has?
“My whole life is made up of aliases,” he said. “Really, I’ve been called a little of this and a little of that. They called me Little Man, Little WOOP, Short Ramp and I can go on like that. I’ve got a lot of aliases. When you’re little, guys pin them on you.”
Jones was a freshman and Jarrett was a sophomore at Cleveland High School when they first met as teammates on the wrestling team.
“He was a terror at 90 pounds. He weighed 86 pounds,” Jones said.
“You were a terror at 157,” Jarrett said.
“Yeah, but you were a bigger terror,” Jones replied. “He was winning the state championship his junior year 6-0 and the guy rolled him because he was so light and did he pin you, Randy?”
“Yes, I think he did,” Jarrett answered.
“And then his senior year he was ranked number one, but he had a little problem. He hasn’t told you what his problem is — ”
“Yeah, but we don’t won’t to put that in the newspaper,” Jarrett said.
“That was the first 40-ounce Colt he drank — while he was wrestling and got disqualified. He didn’t get disqualified for drinking. He got disqualified because he got a little white guy by the feet and started bouncing him (on his head) like a pogo stick. The boy got hurt — ”
“ — and I got kicked out — ”
“ — for unnecessary roughness,” Jones continued. “Randy said, ‘there is no way a 98-pounder is big enough to be unnecessarily rough on anybody.’”
Jarrett was born and raised in Cleveland. His father was Robert McMahan. His mother, Ruth Jarrett, raised him. Because he was little, his grandfather put the idea of becoming a jockey in his head. It was an idea he pursued soon after graduating from Cleveland High School in 1971. But he first went to work at Magic Chef, then Velvo Flour Company and finally as a sales clerk at JC Penney’s in the Cleveland Mall, the building that now houses the Campbell Center which is part of the Cleveland-based Life Care Centers of America.
“I stepped out after I graduated from high school and I followed the American Dream of riding racehorses,” he said. “After I left Penney’s, I went to Lexington, Ky., where I worked with livestock up there for three or four years breaking wild horses.
“By breaking wild horses, I kind of broke the wild spirit I had by using the simple words ‘take it easy.’ Sometimes I’ll tell my son ‘take it easy young man, take it easy’ and right now, he’s too easy, I think.
“That was the American Dream I had and it’s still alive for a lot of little guys like me,” he said. “I did that and I pursued it pretty good. I was pretty good at the sport, but I wasn’t comfortable at it because I could do better than what I was doing. I gave it about three years learning how to really ride one of these high-spirited horses and I was pretty good. I had a pretty good seat, but to take control the way I was supposed to, I wasn’t comfortable with it.”
Jarrett gives himself a “B” as far as having a good seat on a racehorse, but as far as riding, he barely gives himself a “D.” So, he decided to try freelance stable work, follow the horse circuit south from Louisville to Aiken, S.C., to Florida, and enjoy summer all the time.
“I got tied up with Mr. Jones. He and I was buddies back in the wrestling days and I decided to see if I could find some work for a little while until I could get my route together,” he said. “Time passed. Two years, three years, four and five years passed and before I knew it, I had eight or nine years with him.”
Jarrett said he began working in Jones’ yard, then graduated to painting, then as chauffeur and even took the helm of Jones’ 75-foot yacht. He has worked the mailroom, operated the shoeshine stand and almost graduated from cosmetology school.
“It was fun learning. I had to work on people, their anatomy of the body, I found that interesting,” he said.
So, during his lifetime pursuit of the American Dream, Jarrett has learned about the anatomies of people and horses.
“Horses have anatomy, too, you’ve got to understand them quite well,” he said. Horses, he said, “calms the being” of people with mental or emotional disorders. “Even in the penitentiary, in the correctional systems, they let them work with livestock. They give them an animal to take care of and these were cold-blooded — some of them were murderers or just plain old kleptomaniacs or whatever — they had a mental disorder and by them working with animals, it changed their whole attitude about life.”
The Mattadoor has exchanged his good seat on a horse for a good seat on a bicycle. He has a pickup truck that he does not drive because it is not a good seat.
“I don’t have a license right now,” he said. “Mine was taken away 10 years ago because of alcohol beverages and I never did get it back. I’m eligible to get them any I want to but I’m content riding a bicycle. It’s nothing to get in your car to go to work, but when you have to get up in rain, hail, sleet and snow, that’s something you really have to get dressed for and look forward to. It’s downhill to work, but on the way back home I have to work it some,” he said.
At 60 years of age, Jarrett still weighs less than 100 pounds and he says he has to eat well because he rides the bicycle every day and without eating, he would lose too much weight.
In addition to all the odd jobs Jarrett has done in his life, he is now a disc jockey on Jones’ community radio station. He started out giving stock updates because as Jones says, Jarrett’s guess is as good as anyone else’s.
“Yes, I’m on the WOOP radio station. I’m The Mattadoor. I didn’t think there was that many people that listened, but when you’re going through town and somebody yells out the window ‘matador!’ and then people will walk up to you and say you’re the matador,” he said. “I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, I’m just being myself.”
He is on in the afternoon with Fro’ Daddy and they just start “multituding words. He can multitude those words quite well. He’s my brother of another mother. He and I get along quite well.”
Jarrett says he would miss being on the radio for awhile, but “it wouldn’t take me long to overcome it because I’d find something else to do.”
People have sent him recipes for turtle soup and someone else brought him some canned opossum, which he placed in the window with other collectibles.
“I don’t think I’m going to jump on that too quick,” he said.
From horse jockey to disc jockey, Jarrett says he still has that American Dream 30 years after he took a temporary job offered him by an old friend and teammate.
“I never did make it back on the circuit so I’m coming to the peak of a career and retiring here,” he said. “It won’t be long until I go to the easy chair where I have a nice seat on the back porch.”