THE WICKED KING WICKERListen Now
There was a time when New York City was dying a fast death. The slums were war zones, the government bankrupt and sputtering. Mobsters disassembled one another nightly and dropped hefty bags of mixed parts off the Canarsie pier. Gangs rumbled in the city’s playgrounds and ghost towns, each battle busted up by the sound of gunfire or a police siren. Co-eds were raped and sent home shattered. Wide swaths of real estate, former ghettos, were abandoned and left to the squatters. Times Square, once seemingly the center of the universe, had sunk into an odiferous septic tank, a choice of porn loops in a booth or somnambulant live sex shows continuous.
New York had crumbled into a city of ancient ruins where city-tough blades of sharp grass poked through each crack in the pavement, a city undergoing a so-called fiscal crisis but more a crisis of the soul, a city of routine muggings, vacant lots turned dumpsite, pocked and abandoned roads to nowhere, a city that President Gerald Ford told to drop dead, a city in which four murders a night was the norm, a city of scary shadows, vacant lots, sewer gas from a cracked manhole, a stinging rain of rust from tenement fire escapes, where pedestrians routinely dodged bell-bottomed angel-dust time bombs, where young savage baby boomers washed down black beauties with Rheingold out of a can, where each glance into the shadows was an assault upon civilized sensibilities, a derelict Big Apple, rotten at the core, with no signs of hope. In the South Bronx, ten square blocks per year, 5,000 housing units, were lost to arson—owners abandoned properties rather than pay the tax, often torching them at night to collect insurance—leaving block after block of charred hulks. “Fort Apache” they called it after the old western movie—where it looked like the bomb had gone off, nothing left but steamy brick streets and smoldering rubble. It was a ghost town inhabited only by clownishly uniformed soldiers of vague cause who moved like insects, who fought for worthless turf and pride and dignity through the smoke of despair.
And for a year, scariest of all, it was the city of Son of Sam, a terrifying specter of sadism and ritualistic blood sacrifice. THE WICKED KING WICKER: The Son of Sam Siege Upon New York City-Michael Benson