I was born at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn and was raised in their apartment at 14 Butler Street. Located between Court and Smith Street in Cobble Hill, our street was truly a piece of South Brooklyn history and, in my mind, remains a place where the ghosts of yesteryear forever wander. The 76th Precinct was directly across the street from my home, right next door to St. Francis College, both of which were sandwiched between the tenements where most of our friends lived. It was a prototypical melting pot, the Irish and Italian families on my side of the street facing the largely Puerto Rican families on the other side. We lived in peaceful (though boisterous) co-existence, kids playing and raising heck from sunrise to sunset for years until the city tore down the tenements to make way for a public school.
I was the original 98-pound weakling, and it was only my genius intellect (my best IQ score was in the 150’s) that helped me survive my childhood. There were lots of gangs out there ranging from the Black Diamonds (black leathers and switchblades) and the Ambassadors (high school kids) to the Butler Boys and the Douglass Street Gang, local equivalents of the Bowery Boys. The big kids adopted me as their mascot but I gravitated towards kids my own age, who admired me for my overactive imagination.
I played with toy soldiers until I was nearly ostracized by my peers, which included the Yodels and the Reyes brothers. They coerced me onto the streets where I tried to find a way to reconcile my childhood fantasies with the burgeoning reality of street life, which my friends were embracing far more swiftly in our approaching adolescence. I finally found a way through my first love that would continue to define my entire life: pro wrestling.
I was all about TV serials and comic books, but when I caught my first glimpse of the superheroes of the ring, fantasy became a sordid reality in which I found myself…time and time again. At first I was Bulldog Bruiser (a combo of my fanzine heroes, Bulldog Brower and Dick the Bruiser), then for a short time I was Killer Shark. The ability to sell such a character among my peers was, in itself, an astonishing event, but it was part of my evolution as a showman. Broadway Turk Superstar didn’t come along until a couple of years later.
(To be continued...)