By Nick Antosca
I haven’t been in a fight or been punched in the face in a long time. Not since probably elementary school. There have been times I wanted to be in a fight, but when you’re an adult, it seems like a terrible idea. Arrest seems bad, and the real possibility of death seems bad too. The closest I came in my technically adult life is one time in college when me and two friends were in a confrontation with a guy and one of my friends was dressed as a clown.
However, the first time I visited New York City as an adult, I did witness a horrific and visceral fight. I was at Odessa Cafe late one night with my friend Lexy (male, short for Alexander) who was from New York and was showing me around. The bar was reasonably crowded and one guy was causing trouble. He looked like Steve-O from Jackass, so I’ll call him Steve-O. He was getting into a fight with a guy in camo pants. The guy in camo pants was thrown out of the bar and left.
A little while later, Lexy and I went outside to have a cigarette or something. There were four or five large black guys just hanging out. There were also two white guys. One of them was Steve-O, and he was arguing with the other white guy, who was bigger and taller. Things seemed to be getting heated, so we went back inside.
Within seconds there was a ferocious banging on the door. We looked back and saw that Steve-O and the other guy were fighting. Steve-O quickly got the upper hand. He pulled the other guy’s shirt over his head and punched his head and neck over and over again. Then he threw him down in the street and stomped on his head — many, many times. A pool of blood formed.
The fight itself lasted maybe forty seconds. Maybe less. Within a minute or two, a couple cops raced up the street on foot — and proceeded to mace all the black guys standing around outside the door. Meanwhile, Steve-O staggered around drunkenly, pretty much unscathed. He tried to get back inside the bar but patrons inside held the door closed.
Pretty soon the police got it sorted out what had happened. Steve-O was taken away in cuffs and the other guy, who wasn’t moving, was taken away in an ambulance.
The next night, Lexy and I went to the Delancey, which had just opened that week. Lexy’s band, The Harlem Shakes, was playing a show there. The manager said, “We almost didn’t have the place ready for tonight. Last night there was a huge Vice Magazine party and it turned into a brawl. They tore the whole place apart.” But everything was fine and Lexy’s band played the show.
A few weeks later, someone sent me a link to a blog post. (I have tried to unearth this from the internet, but it doesn’t seem to exist anymore, or I’m not searching for the right things.) It was about the Vice party. It had photographs. It showed the brawl and the aftermath, in which huge cops dragged people outside. One of the people was Steve-O. He was pictured being held face-down, indignant, on the hood of a cop car. The last photo was of him walking into the night, shouting over his shoulder at indifferent cops.
The guy had walked from the Vice brawl right over to Odessa, where he beat a man half to death. He was involved in a good percentage of the violence in lower Manhattan that night. I wonder where he is now.
Nick Antosca is a novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. He currently writes for the JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón TV show Believe, premiering on NBC in 2014. His story collection, The Girlfriend Game, is out now, and his novella The Hangman’s Ritual comes out in December 2013 from Civil Coping Mechanisms.