By Hollis James

In 1979, years before Krush Groove caused real-life movie-theater gunplay and ages after Virgil took literature on a violent Odyssey, an NYC-based movie was released that took America by the throat and spit in its eye. Rather than the first salvo of a new cinematic renaissance, The Warriors proved to be the last gasp of the freedoms founded by the new Hollywood's raging-bull mavericks. The simple tale of a small gang from Coney Island who have to fight their way back home from a meeting two boroughs away after being mistaken for assassins, The Warriors initial stir of publicity created a slow-burning ember of pop-culture cool that is finally ready to burst into a 25-year-anniversary pyre. With director Tony Scott now hard at work on an ill-fated remake slated for 2006, the time is right to revisit the original real-live bunch from Coney. You hear me, babies? Good.


Roger Hill (Cyrus): What have you heard about Cyrus? Magic… whole lotta magic? He's the one and only? You heard right, brothers. With all due respect to Earl "the Pearl" Monroe, Cyrus was the real Black Jesus. From his name (Christ = Cyrus) to his Christ-like pose after being shot to him and his disciples wearing robes, he's our Jesus allegory. Hell, he even looks about 33. A Faulknerian "Joe Christmas" of the streets, Cyrus tried in vain to preach to the wrong choir and it cost him his life. In Sol Yurick's novel, as befits a man with no microphone speaking in a park, most of the gang members don't actually hear Cyrus's now famous speech. It's passed along second- and third-hand from one gang to another—not unlike Jesus' speech in The Life of Brian. This better explains why some gangs might not like what they "think" Cyrus is saying and want to kill him. Also in Yurick's novel, each gang emissary is required to bring Cyrus a gift: a wrapped gun. Talk about a death wish. In any case, this fact in the book explains how the pistol-packing Rogue makes it into the park, yet it butts heads with the film's "no weapons" policy. Ask anyone about The Warriors, and the only constant everyone recalls is Cyrus's speech. Hell, even Brit-crap poseurs Pop Will Eat Itself sampled his "Can You Dig It" for their best single. His speech—not conk-powered hair-straightening—is Cyrus's true legacy.

Dorsey Wright (Cleon): Dorsey never got his doo for introducing the doorag into cinema history. The Warriors' mutually respected leader, Wright's Cleon stood poised to kick every single Rogue's ass until—thanks to the Gramercy Riffs—he became buried in a sea of elbows of fury. Looking for wardrobe omens of bad career moves? Jamie Farr would meet a similarly sad doorag-clad end, career-wise, in Cannonball Run two years later. Anyone who's ever caught The Warriors on television knows that there's a different beginning to the flick featuring Cleon laying down the mission while his worried girlfriend looks on. It happens in the early morning and Director Walter Hill later decided that he'd rather start the film in darkness and work towards light for the film's climax. A great decision, but the early morning start is still a cool scene that deserved to make the sadly Spartan DVD extras. Dorsey's cinematic fall from street grace was swift, as just two years after The Warriors, he played lowly "Gang Member No. 4" in Milos Foreman's Ragtime. Ah, well, at least he got to stay in New York.

Michael Beck (Swan): Director Hill said that the studio forced him to veer from Yurick's ethnically righteous novel and cast a white actor as Swan. If Swan had to be a white guy, Beck turned out to a four-alarm cream-dream of a choice. Whether it's having the balls to stand up to a power-hungry Ajax or the speed with which he lays the pimp hand down on Deborah Van Valkenberg's Mercy, Beck was armed with enough bitch-slap in his holster for everyone. It might seem strange to anyone who witnesses Beck's powerful presence in The Warriors, but his best post-Warriors work was in dramatic TV-movies. One would think Beck might have been able to write his own ticket after this star-making turn, but as to the fickle finger of script-choosing, Mike said it best himself: "The Warriors opened up a lot of doors for me. Then Xanadu closed them."

James Remar (Ajax): Blessed with looks comparable to a lovechild of Edward Furlong and Iggy Pop, James walked the walk and talked the talk with cool assurance. Hands down the baddest Warrior in the bunch, Remar's Ajax wasn't simply ready for a fight, he was spoiling for one, which made him the most believable character out of a group of actors "playing" at being a badass street gang. Aside from being a gifted actor who brings something indefinably real and unique to films as diverse as Cruising and 48 Hours, James has a smoldering intensity bordering on rage that made lines like, "I'm sick of this running shit!" and "You don't get it—I like it rough" all too authentic. Though last seen in sickeningly saccharine-soaked vehicles like Renaissance Man and Sex & the City, James still manages to walk on water no matter what dreck he's cast in. It's Ajax's world. Us wimps are just living in it.

Marcelino Sanchez (Rembrandt): The littlest Warrior—who looked too fragile to live—is dead. Puerto-Rican-born Sanchez passed away in 1983 after a brief battle with cancer. Rembrandt might be considered the soul of the movie—an afro-laden Radar O'Reilly, sensing trouble in the form of the Turnbull A.C.'s, The Lizzies and The Rogues long before his compatriots. Named Hinton in the original novel The Warriors is based on, Rembrandt was written as a sort of girlish man-boy. Tasked with "hitting everything" so that people would "know the Warriors were there," Rembrandt was more than just window-dressing. He was walking proof that everyone finds a family in a gang—even a gentle graffiti artist who's built more like a Lizzie than a Warrior.

Lynne Thigpen
(Radio D.J.):
Owner of the sexiest lips to ever say "boppers," Lynne passed away under undetermined circumstances in 2003, leaving that live bunch from Coney with dead air that is impossible to fill. Equal parts narrator and karmic dungeon master, Lynn's close-up lip-lock and action-paced voice-over kept the boppers bopping and sent the word of every defeat. Lynne's second-most identifiable role came in the educational melodrama Lean On Me, playing Leonna Barrett, mortal enemy to Morgan Freeman's bat-wielding principal Joe Clark. Perhaps Lynne was tempted to bark at Mr. Clark: "I'll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a Popsicle."

Deborah Van Valkenberg (Mercy): Equal parts slut and saint, Deb played up every teenage boy's sick dream-girl fantasy to the hilt in her movie debut. Though she got her start in the Broadway production of Hair, we all know her as Ted Knight's brunette daughter on Too Close for Comfort. Though Mercy's introduction to us in The Warriors is as subtle as Jm J. Bullock's line readings on Comfort, it's impossible to take your eyes off Deborah as she slowly chips away at Swan's (and our) defenses. Talk about an upgrade from whoring around with the Orphans! This talented actress dropped off the big screen for a while, concentrating instead on challenging TV roles. But her fortunes turned around thanks to charming, indie comedies like Free Enterprise and Chasing Destiny. Hey, if you were gonna resurrect your career, wouldn't you start with roles opposite Bill Shatner and Casper Van Dien? Okay, fine. Laugh all you want. But you're gonna have to meet Ted Knight in the afterlife and answer for those jibes—and it will not be pretty! Ted and his heavenly pals may even pull a train on you. Hell, you look like you might even like it.

Tom McKitterick (Cowboy): If the Warriors were Monopoly pieces, Cowboy would be the thimble. And nobody wants to be the thimble. He gets wasted by the Furies, seems to be armed with only one weapon (running!) and has an aesthetic that belongs more in the Village People than the Warriors. If you haven't guessed it by now, the character of Cowboy isn't in Sol Yurick's original novel. He was another Caucasian compromise imposed by the money men in Hollywood. What's that, Cowboy? "Hey, so wuz we!" Uh, yeah, exactly. Thanks for the 10-gallon memories, shit-kicker.

Thomas G. Waites (Fox): Possessor of the highest IQ in the outfit, Fox walks that fine line between battle-tested soldier and chartered accountant. Waites left The Warriors halfway through filming due to a prior commitment, which worked out fine since a body-double would have been used anyway for his subway death scene. Look closely and you'll see the stunt man running a 50-yard dash crouched in an exaggeratedly camera-shy perp-walk. Waites' early departure from filming didn't apparently sit well with director Walter Hill, as Waites isn't even listed in the film's final credits. Waites didn't waste any time growing a full beard for his appearance in 1980's The Thing. Though a respected and in-demand actor of both stage and screen, Waites found trouble with the law again with a stint on the "prison-sex-as-rehabilitation" series Oz.

David Harris (Cochise): Look at who's soldiering the middle for our boys, and you'll find the ethnic enigma known as Cochise. This mixed-heritage-laden, prideful gladiator is tasked with being heavy muscle, and that's what he brought to his next few roles. After The Warriors, David found success in the Robert Redford film Brubaker and the military drama A Soldier's Story, and it looked like he was primed for a big time career. Then poor David—like so many actors before and after him—met the ultimate Hollywood kiss of death: being cast in a Whoopie Goldberg vehicle. In David's case, the aptly titled Fatal Beauty was fatal to his career, and he quickly rocketed to the straight-to-video graveyard in bombs like Black Scorpion and Dish Dogs. The inexplicable downturn of David's post-Warriors career has Cochise asking the eternal Native American question, "How?"

Terry Michos (Vermin): If The Warriors were The White Shadow, Vermin would be Salami. He's white, horny and in charge of making sure the gang gets where they need to go. Being that he looks roughly 10 years older—and 20 pounds heavier—than any other "kid" in the film, Vermin's claim to fame is a freeze-frame moment when his stunt double gets thrown against the subway bathroom wall and shatters the mirror. Well, that and having more hair on his chest than every gang in the film combined. These days Terry's a newscaster in upstate New York. What's that, Terry? Say again.... "The Baseball Furies dropped the ball, made an error. Our friends are on second base and are trying to make it all the way home. Film at eleven."

Brian Tyler (Snow): Snow's job? Carry the radio. What's so funny? How's an inner-city gang supposed to fight their way home without the latest tunes by Joe Walsh and Mandrill? Now maybe some of you had a big Jackson-5 afro. And perhaps a few of you have worn your hair parted down the middle. But how many of you actually had a Jackson-5 afro that was parted down the middle? Something tells me Snow is the only one with his hand raised. Brian Tyler never worked again after The Warriors, and, although I can't prove casting directors' later indifference was follicle related, his hair-brained hybrid sure didn't help Brian's chances.

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