By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
IN A CULTURE OF ORNAMENT, MANHOOD IS DEFINED BY appearance, by youth and attractiveness, by money and aggression, by posture and swagger and "props," by the curled lip and petulant sulk and flexed biceps, by the glamour of the cover boy, and by the market-bartered "individuality" that sets one astronaut or athlete or gangster above another. These are the same traits that have long been designated as the essence of feminine vanity, the public face of the feminine as opposed to the private caring, maternal one. The aspects of this public "femininity" -- objectification, passivity, infantilization, pedestal-perching and mirror-gazing -- are the very ones that women have in modern times denounced as trivializing and humiliating qualities imposed on them by a misogynist culture. No wonder men are in such agony. Not only are they losing the society they were once essential to, they are "gaining" the very world women so recently shucked off as demeaning and dehumanizing.
The old American male paradigm can offer no help to a man competing with ghostly, two-dimensional armies of superathletes, gangsta rappers, action heroes and standup comedians on television. Navigating the ornamental realm, much less trying to derive a sense of manhood from it, has become a nightmare all the more horrible for being virtually unacknowledged as a problem. At the close of the century, men find themselves in an unfamiliar world where male worth is measured only by participation in a celebrity-driven consumer culture and awarded by lady luck. There is no passage to manhood in such a world. A man can only wait to be discovered.
WHEN HE WAS 11 YEARS OLD, KODY SCOTT BEGAN TO "PUT in work" with the Eight-Tray Gangsters, a set of the infamous Crips that dominated his South-Central neighborhood. Putting in work meant raining violence and retribution on his set's "enemies," who eventually became mostly other Crips in a rival set, the Rollin' Sixties. "This was my 'rite of passage' to manhood," he would write in the best-selling Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, and he took it seriously, seeking to distinguish his passage with a particularly brutal brand of violence. "Revenge was my every thought. Only when I had put work in could I feel good that day; otherwise I couldn't sleep . . . And I was a hard worker." In 1977, a 13-year-old Kody stomped on a robbery victim for 20 minutes, then abandoned the comatose man in an alley. For this "work" he earned the moniker "Monster," borrowed from the word the police on the beat that day used to describe the sort of person who would commit such an atrocity. On New Year's Eve, 1980, 16-year-old Kody was ambushed by the side of the neighborhood Western Surplus store by three young men who emptied a six-shooter into his stomach, back and limbs at point-blank range. The Eight-Tray homeboy who was with Kody at the scene turned and fled before the first shot was even fired. Hospitalized for two weeks, Kody miraculously survived.
Kershaun Scott followed his older brother into the Eight-Tray Gangsters. By the time Kody was shot, Kershaun had already "put in work," and had claimed the gang name "Li'l Monster." The two brothers had grown up close; they were only 18 months apart in age and shared a room. That fraternal closeness became a stand-in for paternal care after their father moved out of the house and, as the years passed, dwindled as a presence in their lives. The abandonment was a terrible, unexpected blow to Kershaun. "I was his favorite," he recalled. "Our relationship growing up was fantastic." Kershaun's favored-son status contrasted starkly with that of Kody, whose very existence was a perpetual reminder to Ernest Scott of his wife's reputed dalliance with a football star, former L.A. Rams running back Dick Bass. The sons recall that when Ernest Scott struck out at his children, which he did increasingly as tensions mounted in the house, he saved his most punishing blows for Kody. Kershaun, on the other hand, said he was never hit. In the first few years after the divorce, the imbalance continued: When Ernest Scott came to pick up his sons for a weekend of movies and restaurants, he often left Kody behind. Then, in about 1975, the paternal visits ended. "He just stopped being our father," Kershaun said.
On New Year's Day in 1981, with Kody clinging to life in the hospital, his body strung like a Christmas tree with IVs and breathing tubes and sensors, Kershaun prepared a mission of retribution; as Li'l Monster, the duty fell to him. For the mission, he needed guns, and he knew where he could get one. "For as long as I can remember, my father carried a .38 on top of the dash of his blue Pinto, in a brown paper bag." His father also had a 12-gauge shotgun and a 20-gauge pump. "He gave me the shotguns and $50 and told me to bring the guns back when I was done. There wasn't much conversation. The whole visit took 10 minutes." Did Ernest Scott try to stop his favorite son from committing murder? "All he said was, 'Be careful,'" Kershaun replied, his hands balling up with anger at the memory. "I think it was because in his heart, he realized he had ceased being my father, and had no rights."