8 - Not one of the Hardy Boys
Back in the 70s as I was writing for Courier-Life, I did a couple of stories on Joseph Lauria, a bright and dedicated prosecutor who went on to be a judge for the family courts in NY. Through Joe, I met Michael Hardy, who was acting as a witness in an organized crime case. It would turn out to be a life changing encounter.
Michael Hardy, circa 1977
I met Mike long before I had any sort of psychological education. Looking back, I’d say he was a psychopath. A mixture of narcissism and anti-social personality disorders. With traits like grandiosity, entitlement, lack of empathy, impulsivity and a capacity for lying and violence.
I was young, naïve and ambitious. He was charming, with a sense of exciting menace under the surface. His girlfriend once told me, “The one thing about Mike is he’s never dull.” He boasted that Bugsy Siegel was his godfather, and initially claimed killing four people. One was allegedly in self-defense, in a Mexican prison. Others were part of his strong-arm work for the mob. I did a story and photos. Later the reported body count would grow to 19.
Mike was a few years older than me. I had grown up in a neighborhood where he had hung out and committed crimes. He ran with the older brothers of kids that I hung out with. The older brothers were more psycho. I would name a record store on Kings Highway (in Brooklyn), and he would talk about shoplifting from the place. Other stores he held up at gun point. Though his major source of money was robbing drug dealers. “They can’t complain to the cops.” I remember him boasting of carrying a machine gun in a guitar case with peace stickers on it. Or one time when we were out, he asked me to carry his backpack. I noticed how heavy it was and asked what was in it. He admitted it was a gun. I was wise enough to decline. Another time I went with him while he bought pot. He was smoking a joint like a cigarette and offered me a toke. I took a deep hit to be cool. The rest of our time remains a blur as the weed was far stronger than anything I had ever sampled.
Mike was clearly bigger than a Courier-Life story. And he told me that Nick Pileggi, a top organized crime writer, was wanting to do a story on him but was too busy. I thought it was probably b.s., but Mike gave me Nick’s home phone number and told me to call. I did. Pileggi was gracious, and I think impressed that I was coming to him through Mike. Though a lot of what Hardy said was b.s., there was no question that he was genuinely mobbed up. Since he was not Sicilian, he would never be a made man. But many of the most brutal thugs used by the mob were not Italian. Like Joe “The Baron” Barbosa and Richard “Iceman” Kuklinski.
And I jumped from Courier-Life to the big time: New York Magazine
Mike would come in and out of my life over the years. He subsequently got in a shootout with a small time Hollywood producer and was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. He allegedly used a copy of the article I had done like a resume, showing it to the producer as a credential. Not the way I’d like my writing to be circulated.
In 1985, he killed his wife. Accidentally, he maintained. Though burying her in the backyard did not increase his credibility. In 1991, he got 11 years for that crime. In 2005, he called and wanted me to capture more of his exploits for a movie. He said that the movie Father Hood, starring Patrick Swayze, Halle Berry, Diane Ladd and Adrienne Barbeau, was based on his plan to rescue his kids from foster care. Giving his claim some credibility was that Nick Pileggi was a producer on the film. Just hearing Hardy’s cheery voice on the phone made the hairs on my older and wiser neck rise. I told him I wasn’t doing writing anymore and we parted amicably.
Hardy died in 2016. My picture of him holding a gun would be used in his memorial photo.