The Johnny Lawrence Story

Johnny Lawrence owned the universe in 1984. The universe was, to him, the wealthier part of the San Fernando Valley (and not that shithole Reseda) but it was his first and, he hoped, last horizon. High school was a non-stop carnival of Cobra Kai karate classes, make-out sessions with Ali (his hottie girlfriend), and doled-out skull-bashings to any spindly nerd crossing his swaggering path.

But his universe flickered senior year. First, Ali dumped him. Then, a skinny, olive-skinned New Jersey asshole named Daniel LaRusso appeared. Worse, it looked like he and Ali were flirting, hooking up…right in front of him!

He and his Cobra Kai buddies tuned up LaRusso as best they could. At first on the beach, and then a night-time knuckle-session outside the high school’s Halloween dance. Johnny had been smoking some righteous ging, and for a second felt like he might actually be able to kill Daniel. Hadn’t his Cobra Kai instructor always said, “An enemy deserves no mercy?” There were times, when he was deeply stoned, that Johnny wished he were a cobra. All sleek, and smooth, and leathery. Beyond speech and remorse, and kept in a crate.

And hadn’t his father always admonished: “I will move you so far the fuck away from this town if I ever see you back down from someone smaller than you”? The old man, with his grey hair, bulgy eyes and pot belly, holding sway over a car wash empire that had made him a multi-millionaire. Johnny loved, feared, and hated him.

So Johnny fed his father an elaborate lie about being jumped by eight Mexicans when he and his crew were stopped mid-thrash by LaRusso’s only friend – a pudgy, sawed-off Asian maintenance man.

But that maintenance man was the last thing to go wrong for Johnny that year. He took LaRusso out to a junkyard and imparted some kind of ancient Chinese ass-kicking secret to the goddamn shrimp, and in the end it only took a single Crane Kick to shatter Johnny’s San Fernando Universe.

His father, sickened and mortified, immediately moved Johnny to a new school, forcing him to finish his senior year under the name of “Greg Tolan”. He also forbade Johnny to practice any martial arts. Heartbroken, but paralyzed with fear of his father, “Greg” took to mindlessly hoisting cafeteria tables, taking a perverse thrill in seeing people and food spilled onto the ground.

What was this new, sexual charge he felt? He was a bad boy making a big messy-poo, and seeing things splash and make a stainy-wainy made him want to be punished, paddled, humiliated. He didn’t like thinking too deeply about it. But he was happy.

For a while. Because sure enough, another skinny, olive-skinned boy hove into view. He even looked like Daniel LaRusso (even though he dressed like Elvis Costello). This new kid seemed more…delicate. Feminine. What were these feelings?



It was too much for “Greg”. At a beach dance (another fight on another beach), he threw the Daniel LaRusso look-alike into the ocean. But his satisfaction was short-lived. The new kid’s wigger friend knocked “Greg” unconscious with a single punch.

Back home, Johnny’s father was apoplectic. His summer before college was a confused series of non-starts. He dated the bulimic girl next door before dumping her from a safe distance when she took a family trip to Europe. Then Johnny’s father packed him off to college, where he went under the name “Chaz”. The smell of the sea haunted him, and he quickly took up diving as a sport. Splashing into the water, over and over again. Diving headfirst into oblivion, like he’d always wanted to.

But goddamit, here was yet another olive-skinned, dark-haired little wimp in his life. Was his life ever to be free of gawky shrimps? This one didn’t even give Johnny the courtesy of beating the shit out of him. He simply took his girlfriend away, like it was the third act of some badly-written comedy, where the writers simply needed the little shrimp to hook up with the impossibly hot older girl. It made no goddamn sense. And then, as if the gods had become tired of pissing on him and had decided to start shitting, the shrimp’s grey-haired father (the spitting image of Johnny’s own dad) defeated him in the diving finals, doing a ridiculous dive called the “Triple Lindy”. It was as if his own father had finally, publicly, rejected his spawn, painting Johnny’s defeat in the sky in a series of mid-air somersaults.

Johnny dropped out of college and drifted to Los Angeles. He wandered into a pawn shop to see if there was an old karate gi he could buy. The burly man behind the counter told him he might have something in the basement. Johnny followed him, not even hearing the whistle of air as the leather sap crashed against his skull and his world turned black.

They cut out his tongue and dressed him in zippered leather, making him look like a mutant cobra. They sodomized the memory of every olive-skinned, dark-haired shrimp from his mind forever, and for that he was grateful. The store owner and his mascara’d security guard friend, light years away from his distinguished, hated father, became his new family.

When they woke him up to watch over their newest prey – a bald, intense boxer who they left tied up while they “partied” with his gangster buddy, he was no longer “Johnny Lawrence” or “Greg Tolan” or even “Chaz”. He was “The Gimp”. His life consisted of his box, the protein shakes they fed him through a straw, blaring 50’s rock ‘n’ roll and his monthly Handi-Wipe bath. That’s why he started screaming, tongue-less, when the bald boxer worked himself out his straps and made his escape. And when the boxer sent a crashing right hand into The Gimp’s melon, Johnny’s last thought was a sincere thank you to the laughing gods that at least it wasn’t a goddamn Crane Kick.