Now, I know what you're thinking....that title has got to be hyperbole. It's not, but I don't necessarily expect you to believe that. Never mind, treat it as an anecdote - sit back, relax, and go with the flow.

It was a nice summer day in the mid-1980s. In New York City, the temperatures were warm, but not balmy, and a mild breeze was blowing. Sure, there was a bit of smog, but nothing to trigger your asthma. The city, as always, was a-crawl with tourists, and I was one of them. I'd spent half the day legging it across town - I prefer to see a city on foot, if at all possible. You get more of a feeling for places that way.

Since this was my first visit to the Big Apple, I was stopping at all the regular tourist spots. I'd already been up the World Trade Center (...), and I'd sailed around Manhattan on the Circle Line. Call me Joe Tourist.

An obligatory stop in NYC for any film fanatic is the Empire State Building, and it was a bonus for me that there was a boardgame-and-RPG specialty store right there in the same block. So, I stopped at the store first, then ambled on over to the ESB, and went up, all the way to the 102nd floor1. Like any country rube, I spent the next five or six minutes gaping in touristy awe. Even for the not-easily-impressed, it's an amazing view.

This rose soon proved to have thorns, however... two of them.

Places like the Empire State Building (by which I mean, places which have an associated legend or symbol), tend to attract a particular kind of scam artists. Basically, this confidence game consists of one trickster dressed up as the local mascot or symbol or whatever, and the other man equipped with an instant camera. The costumed con man approaches the marks in an overly-friendly way, hugging them and generally being very chummy. Then he holds them firmly and "poses" with them, as his partner takes a picture - whereupon the team demand to be paid for the picture. Most tourists, overwhelmed by the increasingly strident demands for money, opt to pay a fairly extravagant sum for a crummy Polaroid of themselves with a costumed charlatan.

You can see where I'm going with this, I am sure.

The scam artists operating on top of the ESB that day were using, for local colour, a gorilla costume - obviously intended to evoke King Kong. I was hardly impressed - I'd seen the scam before, in Germany2. These two, however, were very noisy, in that unique New Yorkish in-your-face way. After a while, they began to annoy me, and I decided to head down to the lower observation deck, on the 86th floor.

Once down there, I found my mood noticeably improved. The breeze was, as I said, mild, and viewed from the promenade, the city was lovely, in its own bustling way. I popped a coin in one of the tourist-type telescopes mounted around the promenade, and looked at the Statue of Liberty.

Such was the charm of the Lady of Liberty3 that I ignored the noises behind me. Tourists giggling, and a slight scuffling noise behind me, were my only warning (ignored), as I suddenly found myself enveloped from behind by hairy gorilla-costume-clad arms, while a voice yelled in my ears:


Yes, that's right, the gorilla-suited idiot from upstairs had come down, with his partner, to the lower deck, to work his scam there. Seeing me, he apparently decided to have some fun at my expense, so he tiptoed up to me from behind, and grabbed me, yelling his mighty simian roar.

I am absolutely certain that he didn't expect the response he got.

Without thinking4, I reacted. My right foot came down on his instep, and I took a half-step to my left, followed by a rapid three-parter with my right arm: knuckles to crotch, elbow to solar plexus, and elbow to soft underside of his jaw. I stepped away from him, as he started to drop to the ground, where he proceeded to vomit inside his suit.

It took no more than a second or two, and I guarantee you that no mentation was involved on the part of either party.

His partner, enraged, rushed up to me and began to loudly berate me, threatening me with all kinds of retribution. I could tell that he had no fight in him, though, so he didn't worry me. But, in true con-man style, he made the mistake of trying to turn the situation to his economic advantage. He demanded money, or he'd "press charges".

At this point, for the first time, I lost my temper. I took several rapid steps towards him (as he frantically back-pedalled away from me), yelling at the top of my voice that I was the injured party, I had been assaulted by his partner, and I was calling the police.

At the sound of the word "police", all the fight went out of him, and he picked up his partner and left the premises with what passes for alacrity when you're dragging a semi-conscious man in a gorilla suit liberally stained, inside and out, with vomit.

I wandered around the promenade, but the mood was spoiled - although I did get this anecdote out of it. With a certain sense of regret for the lost moment, I left the Empire State Building. I've never been back, but I hope to return someday, preferably on a day without gorilla-suited idiots.

That, then, is the true story of how I beat the crap out of King Kong on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Believe it or not.


1 Nowadays, I am given to understand that the 102nd floor tower observation deck is closed to the public - but back then, you could get up there, for an even more spectacular view than that provided on the lower deck.

2 If you're ever in Bad Harzburg, Germany, watch out for the local scam artists, dressed up as the city's bear mascot.

3 Honestly? I can be really cheap, when the mood strikes me. I could hear the noises behind me, but I could also hear the meter ticking away, eating up the viewing time that I'd paid for. That's the real reason I didn't turn around.

4 Years of practice. Enough said.

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