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"Yep," Bruso replied.
"Bruso, you can't fool me with a name like that, you greasy wop!" Turino chuckled.
(Anne laughed over the phone: "He's not Italian." Bruso comes from Brousseau — Anne says their ancestors were French Canadian.)
Turino came up with the idea to have Bruso make a "thank you" video to post online for anyone who donated at least $5. "Might as well give them what they want," Bruso says. He took out the PayPal receipts Turino had printed out for him: One guy from Philly had sent $15, asking Bruso to chastise a friend for staying in with his girlfriend instead of going out with the boys.
Bruso put on his full Epic Beard Man voice: "Cut him loose from the titty," he said to the camera, and Turino cracked up, later saying, "That's gonna go huge on YouTube!"
While Turino wanted to make money for Bruso, more people saw ways of making money off him. Several T-shirt sites popped up, only one of which cut Bruso a check. In the days after the fight, Washington appeared on the news, created her own Epic Beard Man T-shirts, and signed away nonexclusive rights to her cellphone video to an agent who wanted to farm it out to blooper shows. Matt Loughran, a North Beach resident and green office consultant, knew Bruso from his San Francisco days, and approached him about managing him and producing some T-shirts. Bruso offered him 33 percent of the profits; Loughran kindly shaved his take down to a more standard 15 percent. Loughran says he sent a video of Bruso to Howard Stern and made some follow-up phone calls, but Stern hasn't bitten yet.
Then there's Terry "The Fridge" Burton, a 6-foot-5 former Army medic and bodyguard for North Beach strip club owner Sam Conti. Burton, a mixed-martial-arts fighter, wanted to impress his team by getting a photo of Epic Beard Man, so he found Bruso's address through a bail-bondsman connection and staked out the Altenheim for three hours. Burton got his picture, but thought there might be other ways to market Bruso's larger-than-life persona. (He filmed Bruso expressing his support for gay marriage: "Let the gays sperm on each other.")
Bruso signed a "life-story contract" with Burton and his teammate and business partner, Ryan Villarante, who soon after signed a co-manager agreement with Loughran and Burton. Three managers? "Tom's a lot to manage; he needs three," Burton says. Soon after that, a producer and a writer from Los Angeles (who recently collaborated on the spoof The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It) arrived at the Altenheim to sign Bruso to a $6,000 contract for exclusive rights to his life story, guaranteeing him 10 percent of the profits from any future production. The writer, Craig Moss, says that the producer, Todd King, discussed the main tenets of the contract with Bruso, but Bruso was more interested in getting paid: "He said, 'Let's get this over [with] so we can buy my bag of weed.'"
Bruso says he went through the money in about a week, smoking pot and handing out large bills on the street (and flashing the money in interviews with random people that were later posted on YouTube). He even offered a wad of cash to former Supervisor Aaron Peskin to run for mayor after spotting him in Caffé Trieste. (Peskin turned him down.)
The managers didn't even find out about the $6,000 deal until the money was all gone.
I'm in the hole, bro," Burton told Loughran, as Bruso dug into a chicken parmigiana his managers were treating him to at a North Beach trattoria. "No, we're in the hole for sure," Loughran said, chuckling.
The three managers had taken Bruso out for his birthday — his 63rd, according to an expired driver's license; his 68th, if you believe everything he says on YouTube — and tried to both indulge and protect the uncontrollable. Bruso had decked himself out in sneakers and a fire-engine-red suit fit for a pimp, and scurried into doorways to smoke weed he said Loughran had slipped him as a birthday present. He brayed at women in passing cars, "Tarzan wants Jane!" Taking stiff but quick strides that left his managers struggling to keep up, he passed the old haunts that had stay-away orders against him — Saints Peter and Paul Church, Washington Square Park. He yelled obscenities into bars he'd been kicked out of more than once. A couple of male fans dribbled out of Columbus Cafe to greet him on the sidewalk.
"AC Transit!" one yelled. "We're just talking about you tonight. We're worried about you over there in Oaktown, man. ... You're high profile. We were concerned."
"Hey, hit first, talk later!" Bruso said.
"Oh, shit, man."
"Hey, ladies, how are you tonight?" Bruso asked some passing women, who replied with a faint-hearted "Fine." "I'll see you on the rebound, okay? Maybe rock and roll on Friday?"
"He's like a rock star right now," one of the Columbus Cafe guys said.
"What's with the entourage?" another asked.
The managers took Bruso into Little Darlings strip club and offered him dollar bills to tip the dancer gyrating in a thong onstage, but Bruso's claims of being a snake turned out to be all talk. He refused the money ("No, I ain't goin' out there!") and parked on a couch against the wall, saying he wanted pizza. He later explained to his managers, "I respect women. I'm not a pervert. I get plenty of poontang, man. I got plenty of girls waitin' in line." Burton just laughed.