Everything in this book is based on real events, except those that aren’t. Some of the names have been changed. Others are compilations of various people. Still others are simply the best we can remember. Many of the people discussed herein have, over the years, become fine, upstanding family role models. Others are still finding their way as they make their journey through life.
Berwick Court Publishing Company
Copyright © 2012 Kevin Theis and Ron Fox.
All Rights Reserved
Cover design by Paul Stroili
Touchstone Graphic Design
Cover photograph by Johnny Knight
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012937244
January 8, 1982
Deerfield Beach, Florida
The first time I ever spoke to Donny, I lied to him. And all he did was ask my name.
Minutes after the Rocky show comes down and I'm standing in front of him practically kicking dirt clods, staring at the floor and sweating, I was so nervous. I had no idea what they'd want me to do before letting me join up. Was there a waiting list? Did I have to go through some kind of initiation? An elaborate, painful hazing ceremony that would leave me smarting in my hidey-hole? Who knew?
All I wanted was in. Whatever this was—this trippy, freaky, fucked-up thrill show I'd just witnessed for the past two hours—this was for me.
Yeah, it was weird. Absolutely. Way weirder than I thought it would be, even. But not granny-in-her-bra weird. It was 16-year-old-girls-in-fishnet-stockings weird, so hey, sign me up. If they wanted me to spit-shine shoes for a few months in order to get in the club, bring it. I got a rag. Let's go.
By the way, I was doing this—this signing up thing—without prior approval. The Mom hadn't yet given me a thumbs-up on this plan and I was taking a pretty big leap of faith that she would be cool with it. But, deep down? I wasn't too worried. Basically, it amounted to an irresistible trade-off: If she gave me permission to join the cast, I would guarantee that she would know exactly where I would be every Friday and Saturday night. What parent of a 16-year-old boy doesn't want that? Besides, she wasn't the “say no” type. I knew a few of them. Bitch moms. I didn't have one. Thank God.
So there I was, ready to set pen to paper and enlist. All I needed to know was: Where's the recruiting officer?
When the show came down and the lights bumped up, I felt a surge of panic. It was urgent that I find this person now. Before they
left the theater for the night and my chance was blown. Working against the flow of traffic, I elbowed my way to the front of the theater and approached a girl from the cast as she was packing up her gear. She was one of the minion-looking types in the dark jackets.
“Hey, listen, what do you have to do to join the cast?”
She glanced up at me disinterestedly. “Talk to Donny,” she said and went back to stuffing sequined costume pieces into a bag. Upon closer inspection, this girl was practically spilling out of her top. How could she even stand up straight?
Focus. Pay attention. She gave you a name. “Okay, Donny.” I looked around. “Who's he?”
She jerked a thumb at a guy toward the front, murmured, “That's him. Can't miss him,” and strolled away, swaying on her heels.
I turned and there he was. The biggest, meanest looking badass I'd ever laid eyes on. Two-seventy if he was a pound, and brother, was he a pound. Six-three and huge. Hair that practically shot out of his head. Arms like anacondas. Leather biker jacket, combat boots and a wallet strung on a chain that latched to his belt.
But the headline was size. This guy was gigantic in every conceivable way. Big like the U.S.S.R. was big. Jupiter big, get the picture?
I almost bailed out right there. Who needed this? I was not much inclined to make the acquaintance of a guy who looked like he could pop my head like a zit if I ticked him off.
But as I thought about retreating, I took another look around at the cast members as they swirled around me in a happy flurry of post-show activity. They were finished for the night, packing up and heading home but, even though the movie was over and the lights bumped up full, they hadn't lost their energy. They were still connected—talking, laughing, carrying props and costume pieces out the door.
They had purpose. Each of them seemed to know that they were a part of something that was bigger than they were and, clearly, they looked forward to the weekend for reasons that had little to do with simply sleeping until noon. Seeing the contented looks on their faces was all it took to straighten my spine. Whatever I had just seen, whatever this thing was, it seemed absolutely necessary that I become a part of it. In a way, I already was. The Rocky
heroin had entered my bloodstream and I was hooked. I just needed to figure out how to get my weekly fix.
This, unfortunately, involved going through a gatekeeper who looked like a mountain crammed into a pair of denim trousers. And not a friendly mountain, either. More like the windswept, snow-capped K2 of human beings.
Gritting my teeth, I approached Mount Donny with what I hoped was a confident spring in my step. He was dealing with someone else as I walked up, so I had to wait to catch his eye. I had nothing but time. Finally, he seemed to notice me loitering and turned his bulk to face me.
Now, at this point, I wish I could say that there was thisâ€¦I don't know...electric charge when he first laid eyes on me. You know, one of those “Where have you been all my life?” moments, like he'd been waiting for me to show up. Hoping for my arrival. I could have been the Rocky messiah for all I knew. The Chosen One.
Turns out, not so much.
“You here to join up?” he said. Kinda bored, really.
I nodded. Speaking wasn't required yet, apparently. Which was good.
“What's your name?”
I paused. And no, not because I temporarily forgot my name in all my flustered nervousness. This wasn't a sitcom, for fuck's sake. I knew my name. I just didn't want to say it.
Here's the thing: I had always wanted a cool name. A funky, kickass name. The kind of name that girls scream while they're clawing at your back. Like that.
My name, sadly, was anything but cool.
Kevin. Jesus. Could you get any more Irish Catholic dork than “Kevin”? I sure as hell didn't think so. Girls don't scream “Kevin” unless you spill something hot on their laps. Kevins didn't get their backs clawed. Ever. I wasn't about to hang that moniker around my neck.
So what did I do? I lied.
“Jack,” I said. “I'm Jack.” And immediately thought: Oooooh. Good choice.
Jack, see, that's a name. Jack commands respect, awe and admiration. The backs of guys named Jack are a goddamn mess, all the clawing.
Jack is also a no-nonsense, rebellion-is-my-business type of name. An “I had a bowl of anarchy for breakfast. What did you eat?” name. It says, “Listen up: I'm not John. John is what my parents named me, see? The real name is Jack. Don't forget it.”
Donny? He didn't blink. He probably knew plenty of Jacks.
“Okay,” he said, and then mechanically recited: “You start off as a Transylvanian. You know who they are, right? The Time Warpers?”
I nodded dumbly.
“Great. Here's the drill: black jacket, white shirt, black pants. Be here at 11 next Friday. And bring five bucks. See you then.” He had barely looked at me and already he was done. Walking away.
I was jolted by his response. I had been expecting...something. Some resistance. At least a sense that joining up was an honor. A thing to be earned. Was he saying that just anyone could hop on board? I had to stop him.
“Wait,” I called out. “You mean...just show up? That's it?”
Now he looked a little annoyed. “Yeah. Black jacket and pants, white shirt. Bring five
bucks. We'll walk you through it. See you then.” And he was gone.
Like he never expected to see me again. Like he'd forgotten me the second he turned his back. Like he'd been through this a thousand times before and seen idiots like me promise to show up the next weekend and then...pffft...disappear forever.
Which was, the more I thought about it, probably, entirely, completely true.
But still. The event had seemed so...unimportant. I mean, I didn't necessarily want a fanfare or for someone to roll out a red freakin' carpet but...some kind of “Welcome aboard” would have been nice.
No such luck. I'd come for information, I'd gotten it and now I was being shown the door.
So, for now, there was nothing left to do but...go shopping.
Black pants. Black jacket. White shirt.
See you on Friday, Donny. You won't forget me after that. Know why? That's right:
I'm Jack, motherfucker. I'm the guy you don't forget.