Penthouse Retrospective

by Charles Thompson and Allan Sonnenschein Originally Published: October, 1990

College Football History | 30 Years Ago This Month

After I broke my leg in the final game of the season, assistant coach Jim Donnan gave me a Nintendo game to keep me busy. Zarak came down to my room every night to play the game, and for about a week I’d been asking him to cut my hair. Every night he made an appointment for the next day, but when I went to his room, he said, “Oh, man, CT, I can’t do it today. I forgot about something I have to take care of.” I was getting pissed off at him because I paid him more than the other players. I knew he didn’t have much money and wanted to help him out.

Finally, Zarak promised, “CT, you come up here at seven and you’ll be the first haircut I give.” But when I arrived at seven, he was busy.

“What’s going on, Zarak?” I asked. “You told me you’d cut my hair first.”

Zarak shrugged and said, “Yeah, I know, but I can put your name on a list. You’re number six.”

“Six?” I screamed. “You ain’t shit, man. You tell me to come up here at seven and now you tell me this shit. For the whole fucking week you been promising to cut my hair. I come in here and you got five people in front of me. That’s fucked up. You know, Zarak, you come down to my place any time you want to play my Nintendo game. If I’m ready to leave my room, I let you stay to listen to my music, whatever.”

I went downstairs and Jerry was there with Rod Fisher, another teammate. Kori, my girlfriend, was in the bedroom studying. Jerry and Rod had been drinking. I was furious and Jerry asked me what the problem was. “Jerry,” I said, “why don’t you go upstairs and jump all over your homeboy’s ass and straighten him out. I can’t believe how he played me for a fool.”

Jerry said that he’d go up and get the whole thing squared away. While we were waiting for him to get back, we called to order a pizza. We were waiting for the delivery when the telephone rang and it was Billy Dykes from the team. “Charles,” he said frantically, “you better get up here. Jerry’s going crazy.” In the background I could hear screaming and cursing. I told Rod what was happening, and he agreed that we’d better get up there. I got my crutches and was limping out the door, when Jerry came flying down the stairs. Jerry and I used to call each other “Po,” short for protege, and when he ran into me he screamed, “Po, where’s the motherfucking gun? Where’s my gun?”

Weeks before I’d learned that he had taken Zarak’s gun. Jerry had gotten into a confrontation with some guy and was going to get the gun to shoot him. I took the gun away from Jerry and hid it in my car. That’s where it was when he asked me for it. I tried to stop him, but Jerry was wild, his eyes bulging. “Fuck you, Po, where are the keys to the car? I’m gonna bust a cap in that fucker,” he said, and rushed past me into the apartment to look for the keys. I hobbled in after him to get the keys first and hide them. Jerry had gone into the bedroom where Kori was, thinking she knew where the keys were. When he came out he saw that I had them and grabbed me. We started to wrestle for the car keys, and with one good leg I was struggling to keep my balance. Finally, he slammed me against a shelf and held me until I dropped the keys. Rod Fisher, who had a broken arm, was also powerless to stop Jerry. Billy Dykes had come downstairs and was standing by the door when Jerry rushed by, and though Billy’s a big guy, he took one look at Jerry’s eyes and did nothing to stop him.

I turned to Rod: “Rod, look, you gotta do something. Go down there and try to stop him before he gets to the car. He’s gonna do something stupid.” Rod agreed and went to the car, but he wasn’t quick enough and Jerry was soon on his way back, gun in hand. When he saw Rod he just flung him to the ground. Meanwhile, I went to the balcony and screamed up to Zarak on the third floor, “Jerry’s coming up with the gun. Bolt your door or go to another room, because Jerry ain’t the same!” I had seen Jerry angry and wild, but never so out of control that I feared for my own life. Zarak was acting as if the whole thing were no big deal. “Hey, CT, I know Jerry,” he said. “He ain’t gonna shoot nobody. He’s just putting on a big front. I ain’t worried.”

“If you had toured the players’ rooms, you might have thought yourself in an armory. Many of the guys had guns. The scene was an accident waiting to happen.”

By this time Jerry was running up the stairs yelling, “Where’s that motherfucker now? He won’t push me again.” The .22 was cocked. I hopped upstairs, and when I got to Zarak’s door Jerry was already inside screaming at Zarak: “C’mon, push me now, Zarak, you motherfucker.” He inched closer to Zarak and was a gun barrel away from him. Zarak knocked the gun out of Jerry’s hand, but he got crazier and dove for it on the floor. Another person in the room, Steve, a linebacker from California, tried to put his foot on the gun. Jerry got up from the floor, drove Steve into the wall, picked up the gun again, and started waving it, talking crazy like a wild man: “Push me now, push me now.”

The door to the room was open and I screamed at Rod to shut it before somebody walking by got shot. The way Jerry was waving the cocked pistol, anyone in sight was a target. Then things happened fast. Rod shut the door and at the same time I heard a shot and a scream, “Ah, motherfucker …” Holy shit, I thought, Jerry shot him. People who were in the other rooms came in to see what had happened, and there was Jerry sitting on the floor muttering: “I told that motherfucker not to push me any goddamned more. I told …” Rod got really scared and ran down the back way.

Sport to some. Abusive to the point of near slavery to others. Near to religion for even more. College Football checks all those boxes.

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