86’d Stories: Rob Shapiro
Rob Shapiro, twin brother of comedian Rick Shapiro, has been kicked out of so many places he could record an audio walking tour of New York City and its surrounding area. Rick keeps it together much more than Rob, who is chronically homeless but always fun to run into. Rick, whose last job was as an unsavory uncle on the short-lived HBO show Lucky Louie, has a favorite gag about how he manages to maintain: “I don’t have a personality, I have side effects.” Although Rob didn’t feel in top shape, I was able to sit him down at the small bar upstairs in Mo Pitkins, on Avenue A, a place that claims to have been envisioned and created for neighborhood wits such as ourselves, but was probably aiming for a cut above. The Sunday night bartender was pretty nice, though, and I believe most of what Rob says here to be true – albeit slanted towards his own relative blamelessness in many of the incidents and affairs recalled. Who among us doesn’t try for the same retroactive innocence?
86ed: What’s the first place you were kicked out of, that you remember?
Rob: The first place that I got kicked out of that I remember? I had so many kick-outs where I didn’t know I had been ‘til the next day. Guys tell me, “Hey, you got kicked out of that bar last night.” But what did I do? I had thrown a chair out of the front window of the bar and I didn’t know it.
Anyway, the first time that I remember was when I was a freshman in college. I hated college bars and doing the shot games and all of that. I snagged a girl with my friends. They were all dorks. There were these hot little JAP-y college girls and one of ‘em liked me, right? I was shocked, so now I’m sitting with her and she’s making all these JAP-y plans with me, and I actually fit in for a minute with this college ponytail chick, you know what I mean? It felt really good. I get up and go to the bar, like, “Where’s the bartender?” Small bar like this and he’s not there? So I reach over and I grab a bottle of Scotch. All of a sudden I feel this arm around my chest, under it. It was this huge, big Italian bartender. He just carried me out, my legs swinging. I’m looking at the girl and she’s looking like, “ew.” I felt like one inch tall. Then he threw me out. And I’m sitting there going, “What’d I do?” So I go back in. He was like, “Get out. Get out. You never reach over a bar for a bottle.” I had left the bag I always carried that had my money in it –
86ed: There’s always something that you leave!
Rob: Yeah, Going Back In. I was such a cokehead and really tiny and all that. I went and got a cop to walk me back in and get my stuff. I’m such a wimp. (Puts on whiney voice) “There was this really big guy, and I just want my wallet.” That crew of girls never talked to me again. OK, so that’s the wimpy throw-out, that was the first time.
I was at Studio 54 when it first opened. My brother and I got in cuz we were twins and we were real small, cute, all that shit. I worked on Wall Street and so did some friends of mine. Their company was producing a Broadway show that this star was in. They said, “That girl there really wants you.” I’m like, “Oh yeah.” They go, “No, Rob…” I’m like, “She looks familiar,” and they go, “It’s Cher.”
It didn’t look like Cher. Cher’s tall and gorgeous and curvy and all of that. This girl was really petite. She looked like a little Jewish girl. I go over there and we’re talking. We’re making out and dancing and she says, “Do you know who I am?”
I said, “I don’t really care, we’re making out.”
She goes, “Good.” Finally she says, “Do you know who I am?”
I’m like, “Yeah, my friends told me. You’re Cher. You kind of look like her, but you’re not really her. Don’t worry about it, I know the scoop – “
She starts laughing and says, “I am Cher.” She was in this show on Broadway – Go Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
86ed: Oh right.
Rob: So, uh, we’re drinking, partying, and in my mind I’m like, “She’s not really Cher. This is a joke. They’re all little spoiled brats, preppy, whatever…”
So I’m drinking like crazy. We’re snorting up and drinking. All I know is, I woke up in the morning on this huge bed, in a huge, beautiful, mahogany room and it was a white, fur bedspread – mink. I looked over at this girl. I’m like, “Maybe it is Cher.”
I sit up to look, and all of a sudden I puke, all over the mink thing, all over the floor, I’m just puking, and she wakes up and screams, “Oh my god. Steve, Steve, now.”
I’m like, “What?” This huge black guy comes in.
I’m like, “What?’
And he goes, “Get out.”
And I’m like, “What?”
He says, “Get out.”
I’m like, “I gotta get dressed.”
He pulls me out of the bed. He lifts me –– I’m always getting’ grabbed –– he lifts me up. I’m naked, He throws me down a flight of stairs, and another flight of stairs, and my clothes come flying down. Another guy, at the foot: “Out now.”
I said, “I gotta get dressed.”
Another guy had the door open and he pushed me out on the sidewalk. I was pushed out, naked, and my clothes came flying out after me. I’m sitting there. To this day I don’t know if I fucked her or not – but all my friends were like, “Wow, you went home with Cher.”
I’m like, “Yeah, and I puked all over her.”
“Did you fuck her?”
“I don’t know, but I puked all over her.”
The Village. They trusted me, liked me, whatever. Eventually every bar, every coffee shop on 2nd Avenue, I was not allowed in. Every deli I bounced checks to –
86ed: You got 86’d out of a lot of places on 2nd Avenue?
Rob: Yeah. I’d walk with different girlfriends, at different times. She’d go, “Do you want to eat at Veselka?”
“No, no, I can’t.”
“Do you want to get pizza there?”
“No, no, I can’t.”
“Do you want to get a drink here?”
“No, no, I really can’t.” I’d have to go to these tiny, really obscure places.
One night we were really drunk, we ran out of booze. She goes, “We’ll go to the bodega to get some beer.” I look up, “Uh oh. I can’t go to the bodega, I owe them mo – bounced a check.” Then one day, I’m walking down the street, this car pulls up, and this guy with a bunch of jewelry on, a guido-looking guy, goes, “Come over.”
I go, “What?” and he belts me. I go flying. I have to go to the emergency room. It turns out my brother had written a bad check to him for a thousand dollars.
Rick has one where he was walking down the street on a first date with this beautiful girl and this black ‘Vette pulls up. The guy gets out and yells, “Hey Shapiro!” He turns around, and the guy belts him.
I got a phone call from my mother. “You gotta come to the emergency room.” Rick’s lying there with his broken nose and black eye. My sister’s there and my dad. They’re all giving me dirty looks. I’m like, “What?” And they go, “You know what.”
I was Mr. Playboy at the time. I’m like, “What happened? They beat you up?”
Rick said, “Some guy yelled ‘Shapiro’. I thought it meant me. He thought it was you.”
I’m like, “Who?”
He goes, “I dunno, some guy, real big blonde guy.”
I ask, “Black ‘Vette’?”
He goes, “Yeah.”
Oh shit. That was this guy Mitch. I was screwing his girlfriend. Anyway, so Rick, he got belted.
86ed: Have you ever got kicked out of anywhere while you were sober?
Rob: Oh yeah, my first three years sober. I was a mooch. I was broke. As a matter of fact, the first three months, I mugged some people. I would share at meetings: “I still stick people up, what’s wrong with me?”
This guy was like, “OK, no more mugging. Here’s a bike chain and a bag. You have a job.” And I was a bike messenger.
I remember I had to make a delivery to an optician-ist’s place. I go in. Nobody’s there. I go, “Hello? Hello?” I saw a wallet and a watch and I grab them and run out.
I go back to work and he says, “You stole from blah blah blah.”
I go, “No.” They had it on camera.
I used to go up to where the offices were, and I’d steal a pen. Whatever I could steal I’d steal.
86ed: Let’s see, Second Avenue, anywhere Midtown? Anytime when it really unfair, like you know, it really wasn’t your fault –
Rob: Yeah, there are, there are a lot of ‘em, I don’t remember.
86ed: How ‘bout L.A.?
Rob: Oh my God, that’s a different story. I got kicked out of everywhere when I hit bottom in L.A. I was a crackhead. I just thought, “Look, I’m a nice guy.” I didn’t realize that everywhere they look at you like you are a crackhead, you know.
I got kicked out of a Starbucks at the strip mall by a guy who was a wannabe cop. He owned this kind of weapons store across the street. I’m at Starbucks and he goes, “You, out!”
I’m like, “What’d I do?”
He goes, “Out.”
I’m like, “What?”
He goes, “You didn’t do anything. I just don’t want you here.”
And I said to the girl behind the register, “I always have coffee here. I have money. I’m buying coffee.”
She goes, “I never saw him before.”
I’d always joke around, make her laugh.
He goes, “Get out.” All of a sudden all these security guys from the mall are standing there. And I’m like, ‘I didn’t do anything, I have coffee here, every morning –“
86ed: That’s what rankles…
Rob: And you get this punch in the stomach, and all week it’s like: I’m gonna blow that place up. I’ll think of something, I’m gonna slash tires.
86ed: Remember that time in L.A. when I was staying at the, I forget what its called, gay hustler hotel, The Coral Sands. I went to the strip mall Starbucks and I saw you, and–
Rob: Did you stay at the Saharan? Oh my god, the Saharan!
The Saharan –– when my girlfriend would come by, she’d drive up from San Diego, you know, when she’d recover from her drugs. I was still homeless. She would pick me up, wherever I was, and we’d go stay at the Saharan.
Well, one day she drives in to pick me up. We go into the Saharan, and this big Pakistani behind the desk goes, “Out.” He goes, “I don’t want him here. He’s a loser!”
And she was the crack-whore. She got me hooked on crack. So anyway, we had to leave but I kept walking through the place, sneaking up, trying to figure out what I was going to do to him.
Oh, I got the good one! This is the one that hurt. This is the one. I was getting clean finally in L.A., alright? Going to meetings, had clothes on again, the whole thing. I had an apartment. My girl comes over again from recovering in San Diego. She moves in with me. That night, she vanishes for two days – crack, the whole thing. I get a call from the Emergency Room of whatever hospital it is that’s near the mall. I go and she’s there with tubes in her and a black eye, frail as hell. She had smoked crack and gotten beaten up. She calls me over, and she’s crying. I’m sitting on a stool kissing her hand. The doctor walks in and he shakes her hand, and he goes, “Oh, Andrea, I’m Doctor blah blah blah” And he goes, “Who are you?”
“I’m Rob Shapiro.”
He goes, “Oh. Okay. Andrea, I’m gonna look at your chart.” And to me: “Could you leave for a minute?”
So, I’m sitting out at the nurse’s station, right? He comes out and goes, “I want you to leave.”
I said, “What did I do?”
He said, “You’re ruining her life.”
I said, “That girl’s hooked on crack. I get her clean. My friends get her clean. She lives at my house.”
He goes, “You know what? C’mere.”
He has me walk back into the hospital room and he says, “This man is beating you.”
She says, “No, he’s not.”
I said, “No, I’m not.”
He says, “It’s obvious. You’re beating her, and I want you out of this hospital. If you’re anywhere near her, I’m gonna have you arrested.”
She goes, “No, I love him,” and she starts crying.
And he says, “Look, I want you out, and if you’re anywhere near her, I will have you–“
I said, “Why don’t you ask her out? That’s what you really want. You wanna, you wanna fuck her.”
I wasn’t allowed by the hospital for a week. I wasn’t allowed to see her and I didn’t have the means to get a lawyer. She comes out and goes, “Rob, that guy was coming on to me constantly.” Turns out, he’d come by and like, kiss her on the neck –
Bartender: Doctor Kildare!
Rob: Yeah. And oh, I have another one. Fifteen years before that, I was 28. I was goin’ out with this girl, Miss Teen Texas. I didn’t know she was hooked on heroin. She was snorting it. I was in love with her. She moves into my place. I come home one night, and the bathroom door’s locked. I’m like, “Patricia, I’m home,” and I don’t hear her.
“Patricia!” ––and the door’s locked, so I kicked in the door, and she’s lying there. She’s slit her wrists. So I said, “I’m calling the police.” 911 and all. She gets up. There’s blood all over. She had hacked herself up with a double edge.
She grabs me: “Don’t call the police.” There’s blood all over the phone, and all over me.
I said, “You’re alive.” We started to make out, and I said, “Look, I’m getting an ambulance.”
She said, “You’re not.”
And I pushed her away and said, “I’m calling the ambulance.”
That’s the first time I’d experienced THAT kind of a thing, I didn’t know to not call an ambulance or whatever.
The cops show up ‘cause I said she was trying to kill herself. I said, “She’s in there.” The EMT had already been there and said, “She just needs to have her wrists taped. We’re gonna take her to the emergency room.”
I go in with the cops. The cops look at her – I mean she was gorgeous: weird, kind of Farrah Fawcett – weak frail, sad eyes – real Blondie. They’re looking, and the cop says, “Wait.”
I say, “Alright.” They look at me and the cop handcuffs me. “What am I doing?”
He goes, “Shut up and wait.”
“Am I being arrested?”
“Just shut up.”
Now they all go in the bedroom and I’m handcuffed. I go over to the door and listen. I push the door open and look in. They’re looking at her modeling portfolio, and they’re sitting by her. “So how long you been into modeling? You’re a pretty girl. What’re you doing with a piece of shit like him.”
And I’m sitting there like that, hearing all of this. She’s like, “I love him. He’s not what you – This had nothing to do with him. I’d been smoking heroin and…”
They go, “No, that guy’s a loser. We see guys like him all the time.”
One of ‘em was like – and I’m hearing all this – “When you get better, we’ll all go out. We’ll hit the bars. We’ll do all this stuff.”
And I kick the door open, I’m like, “What the hell’s this? You guys gonna gang bang my fucking girlfriend?”
They come out. They unhook me. “You’re not arrested, but keep your mouth shut.”
The ambulance takes her, I’m supposed to get in, but they won’t let me get in. They won’t let me ride in their car; I have to take a cab to the hospital. The hospital makes me wait in the waiting room for like an hour. I finally sneak over to the door where you can see through – it’s only a hallway. What do I fucking see? She’s sitting on a cop’s lap in the gown that has no butt, you know what I mean? With his hat on, and he’s pecking her on the cheek, and he’s bouncing her! She had been raped a lot and incested. She thought sex was – was a language. “Hello, how are you? You can bite my neck, whatever.”
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t fucking believe it. A few weeks later, we’re back together. I have a place, the whole thing. We’re walking down the street. We’re sick of being broke. I had been mugging people. Whatever, she’s the one who taught me how to mug people. I’ll tell you that one another day. Anyway, we’re walking down the street, she grabs a lady’s purse and runs for it.
I didn’t realize she was gonna do it. Everybody starts running after her, and I don’t even know what to do. Do I get the purse? All these guys are running after her, do I stop them? I’d started carrying a switchblade because we used to do this thing where she’d walk outta the bar with a guy, and I’d grab her and I’d put the blade up to her. Anyway, I get the switchblade and I stop and I say, “Everybody stop!”
Everybody’s looking at me and I’m like, ‘Now I’m in trouble’. Instead of just running, she goes, “C’mon Rob, let’s run.”
I said, “Give the fucking purse back.” I didn’t know. This was all new to me.
She’s like, “What?” She throws the purse back. We start running. This guy pushes her. She slams against a window. The window breaks, cracks. She’s got blood coming down, alright? I grabbed her and say, “Everybody, the lady got her fucking purse back! Just go away.” And people are just kind of slow motion in the moment. We’re running and there’s a taxi. He’s just sitting there and we get in.
Long, long story short – I take her to get her ear stitched. She was in there an awful long time, alone with one doctor. We get home. She gets a lotta calls from that day on, and I’m like, “Who keeps calling?”
I follow her one day. She went on a date with the doctor. Then she finally confessed the doctor had been calling her, asking her out for dinner.
I got one more. Before all that, I was a lifeguard in Belmar, New Jersey, right, and I had won like ‘sexiest lifeguard’ – it was a whole big contest. We all had to wear Speedos. All I remember was getting drunk and making out with girls. The next thing I know I’m getting woken up, you know that 3am voice: “Ho, uhn uhn uhn.”
I’m like, “What?”
He goes, “Get outta here.”
“There’s still people–“
And he goes, “You passed out.”
“I always pass out, so what?”
He goes, “Get out.”
And I’m like, “But you know me–“
He goes, “Rob, get the fuck out.”
I’m like, “Why? Why?”
He goes, “You stink.”
I stand up. I had crapped my Speedo, all over the seat, my legs, everything.
He’s like, “Just get out, Rob. You’re a loser!”
And then I got cleaned up and everything.
The next day, I’m at work, life guarding. I go back to the bar and they won’t let me in. They were my best friends, the bouncers, everybody. I go back a couple nights later and they’re like, “We won’t let you in.” They go, “Rob, you took a shit on a chair. Not – allowed – back.”
And I’m like, “So I passed out and my ass opened up…”
I wasn’t allowed back in the bar, but people would come looking for me to hang out.
86ed: That’s pretty good.
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