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
MONSTER KODY WOULDN'T DO MANY BOOK SIGNINGS. In September 1995, he was paroled, his first time out of prison since Monsterwas published. He was supposedly a new man, with the new name of Sanyika Shakur and a new line of work -- he had a contract with Propaganda Films to consult on a screenplay based on his book. Five months later, the police pulled him over while he was driving near his home. They found a gram of marijuana in his car. A week afterward, parole officers arrived at his home to search for narcotics and administer a drug test. Shakur ran out the back door. For the next three months, he was a fugitive.
One of the people to hear from him in that time was screenwriter and filmmaker Tom Wright, who had made the documentary about Kershaun. "It was the most bizarre juxtaposition," Wright recalled. "He was calling because he wanted me to help him surrender -- he was afraid otherwise he'd wind up getting killed by the cops -- but at the same time he was calling me to get advice about how to write his screenplay!" Shakur peppered Wright with professional questions: Should he sketch out scenes on index cards? Was it a good idea to use a lot of voice-overs? Did you write the dialogue before or after the plot outline? Wright encouraged him on the phone, while at the same time trying to get him to surrender to the police. "I kept saying, 'Kody, man, you've got bigger problems than that!'" But looking back now, Wright saw that the on-the-run script consultation made a certain perverse sense. "It was very sad, but in an odd sort of way, it was his salvation -- because he cared enough about maintaining his own image to stick around. All he had was this vision of himself, and thankfully, it did not include his demise."
A few days after the conversation, the police finally arrested Sanyika Shakur. They found him on a front porch in South-Central, seated before a line of about 10 people bearing pens and paper. He was signing autographs.
On a Saturday morning a year and a half later, Shakur, again on parole, was sitting in his girlfriend's living room, wringing his hands and looking nervously at the time. The clock's hands were moving much too fast. Soon he would have to leave for the audition. He had agreed to try out for a part in The Bouncer, a feature film about "the toughest bouncer in Los Angeles," according to the advertisements of Bulletproof Productions. The film's screenwriter and director, Stuart Goldman, had invited him to the casting call, which was just down the road ã at House of Champions, a martial-arts and kickboxing studio. "What are you so worried about?" Felicia Morris' mother asked, looking at the kneading hands. "You're already a ghetto star. Now you're going to be a movie star." Shakur stared at the floor morosely. "I don't know," he said. "Movie star, that's a whole other realm."
We drove over to the audition, Shakur clutching a copy of the casting-call flier. "Think You're a BADASS?" it said in huge letters. "Let's Find Out . . ." When we pulled into the parking lot at House of Champions, scores of beefy men were lined up out the door and around the corner. Shakur surveyed the crowd and visibly cringed. "Oh man, look at these guys." He gazed out at the sea of bulging biceps. "This is just what I was worried about. I haven't been working out enough. I'm too small."
As it happened, Shakur's build was of no matter. The casting call was only a gimmick to generate media attention that, in turn, might generate financing for the film. "I tried to set up a publicity stunt," Goldman told me. "I was going to stage fisticuffs and then have a pal of mine who's an undercover cop arrest someone. But the owner of House of Champions wouldn't go for it." Goldman was disappointed, but he still had one card left to play: Monster Kody. "I'm thinking I could use him for the publicity." Goldman already had some ex-gangsters on display: On the judging panel that day were two former "high-ranking gang members," he informed me. "I'm just one of these guys who likes hanging around with tough guys. It's a man thing. Men want to be acceptable to gangsters." That impulse had already netted him interest from Mickey Rourke. "Mickey Rourke's hung out with Tupac [Shakur]," Goldman said. "When I called him about the film, he said he wasn't really interested, but when he heard about Kody Scott, he got all excited. When I said I actually met him, he was fawning over me. He said if ever there was a project, this is it. He compared Kody to Billy the Kid, a real gunslinger."
At the House of Champions, so many men had showed up that Goldman gave up on even the pretense of an audition, instructing everyone just to turn in their résumés. Monster Kody exhaled a great sigh of relief. As he was getting ready to leave, Goldman hurried over: "Your book is so amazing. We could work together on a script." They agreed to get lunch.