For 30 Years, I Believed My Best Friend Was Deceased … Until He Was Advertised As a Guest at a Pop-Culture Convention

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I sincerely hope a second part of this article is forthcoming, with a happy ending. For now, I am going to tread lightly, and not use my friend’s name in the risk of alienating him if he really is still alive.

I relocated to Los Angeles, California in 1989 from Brooklyn, New York to begin a writing career. Like so many others, I wanted to try my hand in Hollywood. I told my friend, who had similar goals but also a certain disability, that I would of course stay in touch and hopefully one day reach back to him with good news that would eventually help him join me on the west coast.

He had no money of his own and lived with his sister in a rented house in Canarsie. The idea was I would pay his way once I was able so he could begin a new independent life while plying his trade as an actor.

His journey would not be easy regardless of his locale, but a move would grant him a much-needed new start. He would have been, I am certain, particularly inspired by Peter Dinklage’s Emmy-winning success in “Game of Thrones” as Tyrion Lannister, and elsewhere.

Like Dinklage, my friend was a dwarf.

I met my friend during a professional wrestling event at a high school in Canarsie. He was working as a performer for the then-WWF (today, WWE), and I was writing for pro wrestling magazines to supplement my income as a special education teacher.

I was assigned to interview him, as he was the most pushed special attraction in the company at the time. We hit it off, and became close friends. I did not always understand him in the beginning — he was from another country and possessed of a thick accent — though after awhile we got used to one another’s speech patterns.

My other friends in the neighborhood considered us an odd duo. My girlfriend at the time enjoyed his company, but could not figure what we had in common. Still, he slowly won everyone over.

We would shoot pool near Brooklyn College with a group of buddies. I’d joke and tell him during difficult shots he needed to keep both feet on the ground. He’d tell me I was losing my hair when he ‘cheated’ and hopped on the table.

My other friends came to love the guy.

He appeared in a well-publicized low-budget feature film and asked me to help promote the project with the filmmakers. This was my first professional exposure to the world of movies, the industry in which I so hoped to make a mark, and I was immediately hooked.

We handed out promotional materials at a Whodini concert in Madison Square Garden, where we interacted with Mike Tyson and other public figures. Suddenly, I was in the mix, exactly where I wanted to be. I loved watching my friend work his magic. Those who attended the concert first looked upon him as a curiosity, then size didn’t matter once they spoke to him. My friend was self-deprecating and wholly professional at once. He saw his film as an opportunity; he would not do or say anything to jeopardize his new fortune. Following the concert, we attended a party in Harlem at the famed Apollo Theater.

The experience should have been a taste of things to come for us both, despite the obstacles. Following the film’s release, my friend became a semi-regular on a late-night television comedy-variety series based on a radio show.

Obstacles still presented, but his career was looking up.

I myself have since earned some success over the years. When I called him one day after a big script sale, to inquire about flying out and helping him set up shop on the west coast … his phone was disconnected.

I had read in a 1990 pro wresting newsletter that my friend had passed away shortly following the death of his sister. I was devastated. I had called and sent letters to the newsletter editor and several other outlets that reported his passing.

I had left the business. My attempts at finding answers were not returned.

The years passed, and though I had thought of my friend often I went on with my own life and career. I married in 2001. My wife said she would have loved to have had my good friend attend our special day.

Then one day this past year, in 2020, I was casually reading a pro wrestling-themed Facebook page when I noticed an advertisement for an upcoming pro wrestling convention.

My old friend was advertised as a special guest.

Surely, I thought, this had to be a mistake.

Once again, I called and this time sent emails to the organizers. I received no response.

It is not unusual for the pro wrestling industry to advertise names that have either been long-retired, or no longer alive. Perhaps the most egregious case was when late promoter Herb Abrams and since-deceased pro wrestler Blackjack Mulligan advertised “Bruiser Brody” as appearing in Abrams’ new promotion. Brody, however, had passed away years earlier.

I assumed this advertisement of my friend was more of the same, especially when I heard nothing in response. I moved on … for a few days. I had the urge to visit YouTube, to see if there was any footage of my friend signing autographs at a convention.

There was. Allegedly from 2010, though he looked like he had not aged in 20 years.

I searched further, and found a slide-show ‘obituary’ of my friend on the same site. However, several talkbackers in the comments section insisted the obituary should be removed, as my friend was still alive. Two claimed to be personal friends.

One of them claimed that his death had been erroneously reported, and he was found in a homeless shelter a decade following the original announcement.

I replied to the commenters, but yet again did not hear back.

However … on January 14, 2021, my birthday, I yet again had the urge to visit the internet and check to see if anything new appeared advertising my friend. There was nothing regarding unique advertising, but I found yet another YouTube entry on the ‘obituary’ page claiming new public bookings would soon be advertised for the former wrestler, and to return to this space soon for those listings.

Two days later, I am still impatiently waiting.

If my friend is alive, I expect those who know me and know to whom I am referring will show this story to him. They have been informed.

Should he be alive and see this, I will rejoice first, and compose a follow-up to this piece to formally rest this mystery.

And I will provide photos.

In the midst of our current volatile era, doing so would be a matter of personal resonance unlike any other.

Thank you for reading.

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Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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