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Exclusive: Rockstar, Designer Duo Billy Corgan and Chloé Mendel Spill the Tea on ‘Adventures in Carnyland’


The American Dream is alive and well.

Hard work, determination, initiative, and a relentless pursuit to do better each day are key ingredients to success that are juggled by those striving to find a balance between work, family, and creative endeavors. For some, that means being many things at once while serving as a hub for several spokes that should seemingly never intersect, but they are all connected.

For William Patrick “Billy” Corgan and his wife Chloé Mendel, family forms the hub with offshoots into music, fashion, art, sports entertainment, entrepreneurship, and more.

Billy Corgan’s Adventures in Carnyland, a new, 8-episode unscripted series from director/producer Brian Volk-Weiss and Nacelle (The Toys That Made Us, Down To Earth with Zac Efron, and the upcoming Biker Mice From Mars), drops the curtain for a look at how Corgan balances life as the driving force behind rock icons The Smashing Pumpkins (Pumpkinworld) with work as a wrestling promoter and owner of the National Wrestling Alliance (Carnyland) while being a dedicated father in the midst of planning an epic wedding to his longtime love, Chloé. 

Ahead of the series’ streaming debut on The CW App, I caught up with Corgan and Mendel — Lake County neighbors here in Northern Chicagoland — via Zoom for a conversation about rock, wrestling, parenting, and how the series came together.

Source: Nacelle

The Genesis

According to Corgan, someone from Nacelle reached out a few years ago about the idea of making toys inspired by the legendary National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), current home to reigning World Heavyweight Champion “The Over Man” EC3 and Women’s World Champion Kenzie Paige, among a stacked roster that also includes Violent J of the Insane Clown Posse managing Ruffo and Yabo, The Brothers of Funstruction.

“We had a Zoom meeting, and by the end, Brian [Volk-Weiss] says to me, ‘Hey, did you ever think about making a reality show?’ I was like, ‘No way man, I tried that once and it didn’t go so well,’” Corgan says. “And he chased me for a year, to his credit, and he talked me into it.”

On paper, Corgan explains, doing a show about the merging of worlds didn’t make much sense, but there was something special there, fueled by his drive to return the NWA — an organization with a 75-year legacy — to its former glory.

“I so badly want people to understand why we’re doing the NWA that I was willing to open my personal life up a bit because I think a lot of people don’t understand what it is that we’re actually doing,” the lifelong wrestling fan says. 

For Mendel, wrestling has been something of an acquired taste, played for fun in an early clip from the show in which she, alongside Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and others, explains that it’s not quite her thing while Corgan declares “No one in my life cares about professional wrestling … except Jack,” the band’s bassist.

“When I started dating Billy, Resistance Pro [Wrestling] was in our life, and we were going to indie shows, so I always knew that wrestling was going to be a part of my life,” Mendel recalls. “When he acquired NWA, it became even more real. Naturally, when you go to shows and start seeing more of the world, you can’t not love it. There’s just something fun about it — the crowd cheering, the characters, and the storylines — it’s heartwarming and good entertainment.”

Mendel says that she now takes her friends to NWA events.

“I hope that people will just go to a show and see how fun it is,” she says. “The talent and athleticism are incredible … and I talk about the improv so much because I’m so impressed that they can be told to go in a ring for six minutes and make it interesting. The cheering and the booing — I love the booing. I just want the bad guys to be booed so hard. That’s what I love.”

Video: Toy aficionado Matt Cardona faces off against Billy Corgan

When Worlds Collide

While hanging out with the carnies on the road with NWA is a career itself, the GRAMMY-winning Corgan is still traveling the world as the frontman for one of the greatest rock bands of the past 30+ years. Following the release of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts (2002/23), a sequel to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)  and Machina/The Machines of God, the band is ready to go back on the road for a European trek next month after which they’ll return home for a North American run with Green Day and Rancid on The Saviors Tour. 

Video: The Smashing Pumpkins – “Beguiled”

So how do the audiences of Carnyland and Pumpkinworld intersect?

“Not much at all,” Corgan says. “When I started getting into wrestling, a lot of my fans did the big eye roll, like ‘Why are you doing this?’ But over time, I’ve built credibility with the music fanbase that what I’m doing on the wrestling side is really important to me and I’ve pursued it in a credible way. So now they sort of see it as an interesting curiosity and it’s very Pumpkinlike in that if you know anything about the band, it’s gotten into a lot of stuff through the years that people don’t understand, but over time it takes on a life of its own. I think the audience has grown to understand that wrestling is just part of the Pumpkins’ world now.”

Source: Nacelle

Of course, some of this is now in the past tense, captured by cameras and soon to be explored.

“The show really addresses that existential question of why does a rock star want a wrestling company and what responsibility fans of the music have to pay attention to this other endeavor,” he explains. “Why should they care, and why is it important?”

Mendel adds that the Carnyland side is “very on-brand for the Pumpkins.”

“Do what you love and don’t give an F— about what anybody thinks. That’s a great life lesson,” she says. “This shows that Billy’s passionate and he’s been criticized for it, and he doesn’t care. What we’re doing is great, and we want people to follow their passions and not be afraid of what someone else might think.” 

Source: Nacelle

Spinning Plates and Finding Balance

Rock and wrestling might score most of the press but the work behind the scenes involves Corgan and Mendel as small business owners balancing their own family — including kids Augustus Juppiter and Philomena Clementine — while looking out for the best interests of their employees, many of whom have families of their own.

“There’s no fantasy about it, it’s working hard and grinding,” Mendel says. “[Balance is] time and employee management, which you see a bit on the show, and navigating working with different characters and being understanding and compassionate people. That’s how I see us leading our lives — building businesses that have ecosystems that have our values.”

One of those businesses is Madame ZuZus, a plant-based destination in Highland Park, Illinois, offering fine tea, live music, and curated retail experiences. In addition to serving as CEO of Madame ZuZus and leading marketing for The Smashing Pumpkins, Mendel directs operations for House of Giles, a luxury fashion brand founded by her father, designer Gilles Mendel. 

“Between our four businesses, we employ more than 200-250 people at any given time, not necessarily consistently, but that’s a lot of different personalities to juggle,” Corgan adds. “The core of that is leading by example, and we try to be two of the hardest working people in the room, and nobody can fault you for that.”

That work ethic played well as a response to critics that Corgan says thought he may have been “a tourist” in the wrestling business. Once they saw that the work was getting done, they changed their tune. 

“You have to roll up your sleeves and hustle,” Mendel says, noting that sometimes she and Corgan have to jump in where help is needed to get things done.

Source: Nacelle

The Kids’ Adventures in Pumpkinworld and Carnyland

So what do Augustus Juppiter and Philomena Clementine think about mommy and daddy’s adventures?

“I have to pre-screen all the NWA Powerrr shows that go out, so my kids will jump into bed with me at 6:30 in the morning and we’ll watch the episodes,” Corgan explains. “They know some of the wrestlers personally, behind the scenes, so we’ll talk about who they know and how they know them, and then they’ll critique the work and give me feedback on the show. And then the other day we had an NWA Chicago show, which is the regional version of NWA here, and my son came with me as ‘go to work with daddy.’ He was with me from 5-11 pm, working with the talent, organizing the show, and talking with wrestlers, and trying to charm ‘em all. We try to include our kids in everything we do, and I think they understand more than you might think that they do because it’s always around them.”

Source: Nacelle

The all-encompassing vibe means exposure to multiple creative worlds.

“It’s not abnormal that one day the kids might be sitting down talking to someone who’s famous in the fashion business and the next it’s someone in the rock business and then it’s professional wrestlers. When you’re 8 years old… it reminds me of my friend Natty Neidhart [WWE’s Natalya] who told me about when she would go to her grandfather, Stu Hart’s house, and Andre the Giant would be at the table.”

James Zahn, Billy Corgan, and Chloé Mendel discuss kids and Alice Cooper via Zoom

And you never know who might be at the table, no matter where you are.

“Bringing this completely full circle,” Mendel says, “We had breakfast in L.A. with Alice Cooper and our son asked if he was Jesus Christ! ‘Is that Jesus, he’s real?!”

“Our kids are convinced that Alice Cooper is Jesus Christ,” Corgan confirms with a laugh. “We have a picture of Alice with our children and the look on Alice’s face is priceless because he knows he’s taking a picture with two kids that think he’s Jesus Christ. And that is life.”

Source: Nacelle

So is there an overarching message to Billy Corgan’s Adventures in Carnyland?

“To me, the heart of the show is just following your dreams,” Corgan says. “I was told repeatedly not to get into music, including by my own father, who was a musician. So when people tell me not to get into wrestling, it’s kinda weird because it made sense to do it over here but not over here. I think it’s never too late to chase your dreams down.”

Billy Corgan’s Adventures in Carnyland is available on The CW app beginning May 14, 2024. Episodes of NWA Powerrr are streaming now.

Source: Nacelle

Throwback: Smashing Pumpkins, Davenport, Iowa 1994

From 1992-1996, I made a life-changing detour, temporarily relocating from Chicagoland to the Quad Cities. While living in Davenport, I launched ZTV — a local cable show that in retrospect plays like a proto-YouTube affair in which a teenage kid (me) sat down with some of the top rock acts of the era for exclusive interviews.

While I landed some big guests on the show (Faith No More, Megadeth, etc.), one I tried to get and didn’t was Smashing Pumpkins. Still, I did attend the band’s concert at the Palmer Auditorium on March 25, 1994. That concert turned out to be legendary as the band, touring in support of Siamese Dream, would tease additional material alongside performing “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness a full 19 months before the album’s release. After the show, my friends and I had the good fortune to meet the band outside the venue where a couple of them signed my copy of The Peel Sessions.

Earlier this year, a remastered live concert recording surfaced on YouTube and it’s well worth a listen. Check it out!

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James Zahn
James Zahnhttps://www.therockfather.com
James Zahn aka The Rock Father is the founder and publisher of The Rock Father Magazine, and also serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, and Senior Editor of The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider. Zahn is an Illinois-based writer, media personality, commentator, director, actor, adventurer, raconteur, and overall pop culture and toy enthusiast. James is frequently called upon for expert commentary on the toy industry and has been seen on or quoted in Yahoo! Finance, CNN, FOX Business, MarketWatch, Forbes, NBC, ABC, CBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The NY Post, The Chicago Tribune, PopSugar, Fangoria, Starlog, and many more. He has been involved with business, entertainment, and media for more than 30 years, with a passion for music, film, retail, and publishing. Follow James on Twitter @TheRockFather. Email him: james@therockfather.com

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