When writer Stas Wnukowski met his old friend Jacqueline 'Mama' Stallone at Warsaw airport recently, they quickly became nostalgic about the time when Sylvester 'Rocky' Stallone knocked out Stas's two front teeth.
When I saw her exiting Customs at the airport, all the memories came rushing back. I hadn't seen Mama Stallone in many years. After the hugs, kisses and perfunctory presentation of flowers, she grabbed my ponytail, gave it a gentle yank and said, "Sylvester told me, just last year, that you and he stole the car and went to Medford . you two devils you . and let me see your teeth."
Now, dear readers, you're probably asking yourselves what exactly is going on here? Who is Sylvester? What car? Where is Medford? And why my teeth?
Well, the story goes like this:
When we were at school we called Sylvester Stallone "Mike", because we didn't know his real name. And, looking back on it, I can see why he wanted to be known by the nickname of Mike. You see, there was a cartoon character called "Sylvester the Cat" who talked funny - and so did Stallone. Teenage boys, being what they are, we would have crucified him with ridicule for sure, teasing him for his name and the funny way he talked . just like Sylvester the Cat.
Well, anyway, one day Mike Stallone and I decided we wanted to do some fishing. There was a creek that ran near our homes, but we had fished those waters so often there wasn't an inch on those banks we didn't know like the back of our hands already. In fact, we had nearly fished all the fish right out of that creek and so we wanted to try our angling skills in new waters.
Mike's parents had a summer cabin at Medford Lakes in New Jersey, but it was too far to travel by bicycle, so we resorted (or rather I should say, Mike resorted) to "borrowing" his Mom's car for a few hours - unbeknownst to her, of course. As it turns out, her knowledge of our "borrowing" the car wasn't made known to her until last year, when her baby, Sly, finally admitted it to her.
We borrowed the car and went fishing. Sly and I were having a great time skimming the edges of the lake in his Mom's canoe, as snapping turtles and water moccasin snakes came out of the reeds to investigate what was passing by their domain; and, the large mouth bass were taking everything we presented to them (popping plugs, plastic lures and fresh night crawlers). Everything was "cool" until the canoe tipped over.
Now, I'm not afraid of too many things, but one of those things is snakes. I wanted out of those waters and I wanted out fast. It didn't matter that I would lose my fishing equipment, or Sly his mother's canoe. The only thing going through my mind was that I was about to be bitten by every snake in Medford Lake.
I don't think Sly was afraid of snakes, and even if he were, I'm sure he was more afraid of his Mom finding out about us using her canoe - or rather, losing her canoe. He wanted to save our fishing equipment and his mom's canoe, so he stayed in the water and began tossing the stuff onto the bank. As I was happily hauling myself onto land, I could see fishing rods and tackle flying overhead. And then I heard Sly yell out, "Look Out, Stao!" I turned just in time not to get an airborne canoe paddle in the back of my head. Instead, it hit me square in the mouth and my two front teeth dropped into my hand.
Sly was upset! I was shocked!
"Are you OK?" he asked with true concern. I'm not so sure it was for my well-being - but for his. In those days, if you hurt Stao, Stao might hurt you.
"Yeth," - that's how you pronounce "yes" if your two front teeth are missing - "I'm OK," I said.
"Hey man, I'm sorry."
"No (expletive deleted) problem."
"What are you going to do with those teeth?" said Sly.
"I'm thertainly not going to put them under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy." That's "certainly" without two front teeth, by the way.
"Give them to me then. I know what do to with them".
And so the man who would later go on to become Rocky and Rambo, stuck my two front teeth into the deer's head that hung over his Mom's fireplace in Medford Lakes, New Jersey.
Just a postscript to the story - on our way to Jerzy Bystrowski's car (Editor-in-Chief of this magazine) in the airport's parking garage, Mrs. Stallone jokingly suggested that I hire an attorney and sue her son for damages. "Now he can afford to pay you," she said. We both laughed.
Anybody know a good lawyer?