Why New York City Used To Scare Me To Death.

There I was, laying on one of those “avenues” or numbered streets, as the blood from my crushed skull pooled up on a manhole cover.  My arm was broken in two places, my kneecap busted, and I had internal bleeding.  This is what happens when bat wielding maniacs from one of the boroughs find an outsider trying to cross their “turf.”

I was twelve years old, born and raised in sunny Southern California, and had never been farther East than Colorado, but I knew that this was going to be my fate if I ever happened to go to New York City.

I didn’t always feel that way about the Big Apple.  My perceptions of the city were completely formed by how I had seen it depicted on TV or in the movies, and it seemed like a gritty, fast paced, but fairly benign place as far as I was concerned.

I knew that this was where the Mafia was, but they only seemed to “whack” each other, not nice “civilians” like me.  I heard that you could get “mugged”, but even that seemed only to happen to socialites who went down the wrong side street after leaving a night of opera at “The Met.”

Then one Sunday afternoon, everything I though I knew about New York City changed in a horrifically fascinating 92 minutes.

My mother had dropped some friends and I at the local movie theater to watch some saccharined up kid’s movie like “The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again,” however we had different plans.  Once inside we looked to see what other movies we might sneak into instead.  As I scanned the marquee board one title jumped out at me…

The Warriors.

“Hey, let’s go see that movie, it sounds cool,” I told my friends.

Thinking we were going to see some movie about war or perhaps Indians, we slipped into the theater, popped our feet up on the chairs, and got ready to cheer for the good guys and yell at the bad guys.  Instead we got hit in the face with cinematic a two-by-four.

I’m sure to native New Yorkers this movie seemed like a comic book send up of their city, but I felt like I was watching a real-life depiction of a feral and out of control world, as alien to me as the surface of the moon.  I was scared by what I was seeing, but at the same time I could not look away.

Then came the scene that literally filled me with a speechless terror.  The “Baseball Furies” scene. (Start at 46:08).

There were a lot of movies that scared me when I was a kid.  I remember jumping out of my seat when I saw “Alien” and having that weird creepy doomsday feeling after watching “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  But with both of those movies there was a disconnect with reality because they were science fiction based stories.

They were the movies you enjoyed getting scared by because you knew that they were fantasy.  I mean I wasn’t really worried that a small alien creature would burst out of my stomach or that a pod would sap my body in order to create a clone.

The Warriors provoked a different type of “scared” in me as what I saw in the movie seemed like a “real life” danger; something that could actually happen to me.

And those Baseball Furies…..what in the name of all that was holy were they about?

I got that gangs might wear clothing that associated them as a group, but what sort of sick, twisted individuals (even by gang members standards), went so far as to put on evil clown type makeup, dress in a full baseball uniform, and use the symbol of our national pastime as a weapon?  These guys were not just into petty theft and upsetting old ladies; they wanted to seriously fuck some people up.

This movie, and that scene in particular, gave me serious nightmares for a number of years.

I’ve since traveled to New York City a number of  times, each time enjoying my trip tremendously and not once was I shanked by some colorful but dangerous malcontent.

Every few years I hear rumors that The Warriors is going to be thrown on the funeral pyre of movie remakes but I pray it doesn’t happen.  Some things you just don’t mess with.  It may not be Casablanca or The Godfather, but to that twelve year old Brian, it was a brilliantly twisted urban allegory that can’t be improved upon.

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  • DaveyNC

    “Warrioooors, come out to play-ee-aaayyyy!”

  • just go to Katz’s deli and order a pastrami on rye with mustard. that will cure all your fears of NYC

  • Mike Adamson

    My favorite scene as well. I was a little older when I saw it because I remember sneaking into the drive-in with my gaggle of distinctly unWarriors.

    Good times