By Danielle Marie Mackey
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By Paul Friswold
The summer of 1999 was a tough one for St. Louis Blues enforcer Tony Twist. As popular with the howling Keil Center crowds as he was feared by opposing players, Twist asked Blues management for a bump in salary, from $725,000 to nearly a million. Not only was the raise request summarily rejected, but general manager Larry Pleau let Twist go.
The crowd-pleasing hockey player known as "the Twister" for his hell-on-ice exploits was 31 at the time and in the prime of his career. He'd spent six years with the club. But Pleau decided Twist was expendable and brought in a younger, more affordable mauler named Reed Low. "I was upset about it," Twist says of his release. "I was kind of depressed. I thought I had something to add to St. Louis. I still thought I was a marketable product, that there wasn't a better person for the job."
Later on that same August day, Twist walked out of his Creve Coeur home, mounted his self-built chopper and, hoping to clear his head, motored west on Olive Boulevard toward St. Charles county. While riding, he spoke for a time on his cell phone with April Nickles, the bar manager at the now-shuttered Soulard pub Mike & Min's.
Then, without warning, a car pulled out of a parking lot directly in front of him. "I flipped in the air, traveled about 50 feet and landed on my feet like Fred Flintstone," Twist recalls. "When I landed, I ripped through my boots, my pelvis broke, and I was completely naked. My pants, my belt, and everything else was gone."
The bike smashed into the side door of the car. Its wheels were still turning when an ambulance arrived minutes later to rush Twist to the emergency room at St. John's Mercy Medical Center. Massive internal bleeding forced doctors to wait days before operating on his pelvis.
Remembers Twist: "The doctor[s] told me that they couldn't put the blood in as quick as it was leaving, so if my blood count didn't improve they'd have to operate, and there was a very good chance I wouldn't make it."
He spent a week in the hospital, monitored around the clock, until his condition stabilized.
"My dick was this wide," gestures Twist. "But it was only this tall, because it had a tube coming out of it. I had every nurse on the floor coming in to check on my catheter. And I know they were laughing, because my balls had bounced off the gas tank. They were the size of cantaloupes, resting on top of my legs. I couldn't let them fall because of the weight. It hurt."
Twist left the hospital and spent the next month tethered to a wheelchair before returning for reconstructive surgery on his left knee. The painful realization dawned on him: He'd never play professional hockey again. "I was pretty damn sad," he says. "You never want to give up the game."
"It was very scary," says Jocelyn Twist, to whom Tony was married for nine years. "He'd been a big, strong, capable guy his whole life, and now he could hardly walk. When they told him his knee was destroyed and his career was over, it broke my heart even though I knew what I knew at the time."
What Jocelyn knew was that her husband was having an affair. While in intensive care, she checked Twist's cell phone's voicemail, expecting to hear from his parents, who were en route from Kamloops, British Columbia.
Instead, she heard another's woman's voice. It was April Nickles, the woman who, three years later, would become April Twist.
The Twists today reside on the outskirts of Defiance with Tony and Jocelyn's two teenage children. Their custom-designed home overlooks a vast swath of wilderness. Financially well-off, they own four bars in suburban St. Louis. When he's not managing his saloons, Twist spends his days coaching his son's hockey team, hosting benefits for the physically disabled and co-hosting the cable TV shows Chalk Talk and Gateway Restaurant Guide. Every summer he plays in Jerry Bruckheimer's celebrity hockey tournament in Las Vegas.
It seems that Twist has carved out a fresh new beginning for himself, as if a Zamboni had come along and smoothed away the rough ice of his past. But Twist's run-ins in the rink have been replaced by anguished fights with his ex-wife, legal wrangling with a bar patron and three individuals who filed and subsequently dropped restraining orders against him.
Twist's most public spat, though, involves Todd McFarlane, the comic-book artist who Twist sued in 1997 for misappropriation of his name. Though awarded a total of $39.5 million by two separate juries, Twist has yet to see a dime, and the case remains unresolved.
"It's exactly like what I did on the ice a war, a battle," Twist says. He's referring to the McFarlane case, but he could be describing numerous aspects of his post-hockey life. "It hasn't been a drain on me. If it's an emotional drain to go to battle, don't do it, because you're probably not cut out for the job."
Blow Up Some Llamas
A first encounter with Tony Twist can be intimidating at least, perhaps, for those who still remember his savagery in the hockey arena. Aware of the nervous awe he stirs, he'll quickly lighten the mood with a roguish comment.
"I don't want any dick-sucking in this interview," he says. "Go ahead and write it the way it is. I really don't care. I got nothing to hide. Well, I have a few things."
It is Friday before the Memorial Day holiday, and Twist and his fourteen-year-old son, Christian, are sealing the cut concrete that surrounds the family pool. As Twist applies solvent with an industrial sprayer, Christian spreads it with a roller. Both working shirtless, Christian lovingly refers to Dad as a "cracka," while Tony, with equal endearment, calls his son a "rat-fucker."
The 38-year-old Twist is tan, unshaven and, at 280 pounds, 20 pounds over his playing weight. His radiant smile is framed by scars on either side of his upper lip. As muscular as ever, he wears a sweat-soaked Bud bandana and gray shorts, which barely hide dozens of bruises, inflicted upon him by Christian's hockey team on a recent trip to Chicago. To create a "team-bonding experience," Twist permitted them to shoot a thousand paintballs at him, using only a hockey glove to protect the family jewels.
A handlebar-mustachioed man who identifies himself as "Buster Hymen" is also by the pool, shooting the breeze with Twist. Surveying the landscape beyond the property, Twist notes the fenced-in patch of grass where llamas from a neighbor's farm graze.
"You ever seen llamas mate?" Twist asks. "It's disgusting. It's incredible. They stick the female out there and they gang-bang her. I'm serious. I got up one morning and she's trying to run, and she's getting hit by every damn one."
"Let's blow up some llamas," suggests Hymen.
"We can. We have the technology," jokes Twist.
Located off a gravel road in the Defiance hills, the Twists' modern ranch-style house sits on five-and-a-half acres of land, with vistas of oak, hickory and evergreen trees as far as the eye can see. The family designed and built the house themselves, hauling in, says Twist, more than two million pounds of rock for the landscaping. The property is under constant construction. Next on the agenda is a controlled burn of the backyard grass to promote the growth of native wildflowers.
The home's main floor features a baby grand piano, a four-post bed with Roman pillars and a Kiel-style urinal in the bathroom. A full-size weight room and pool table are located downstairs and, in the garage, Twist parks his motorcycles and Kawasaki dirt bikes.
Twist says it's obvious why this pad is superior to the family's previous home in Holly Hills. "Would you rather live in the city, or would you rather overlook a valley with a bunch of trees, with no neighbors, where you can shoot your guns and beat your wife? I'm kidding."
In addition to the bruises and scars, Twist's body is decorated with tattoos. There's a white wolf, a Siberian tiger and a Native American tramp stamp, the same one he got for Don Schunk a few years back. Schunk, who recently sold his Bridgeton car dealerships, met Twist in the mid-'90s when his daughter and Christian played hockey together. A friendship and a veritable apprenticeship would emerge.
"I spent hundreds of hours sitting down at his car dealership," Twist says. "That guy is one of the most intelligent businessmen I've ever met."
"I come from a service-oriented background," says Schunk. "The environment he came from, it was kind of like, shoot first, and ask questions later. I would say I stirred a side of him that hadn't been stirred. He realized that if he was going to be in the business sector he was going to have to listen to other people involved whether he agreed with what they said or not and make sure that all parties were served in a fair way."
After his hockey career ended, Twist used his new-found business acumen to establish a mini-saloon empire. Not long after April opened the Havana Cigar Room in 2001, the couple debuted Twister's Iron Bar Saloon in Imperial, which Twist calls "a real testosterone fix," and Twister's Merchant Street Grill in Ste. Genevieve, which he describes as "softer, more local."
The Twists' business partner, Doug Walker, manages the Imperial and Ste. Genevieve joints, permitting Tony and April to focus on their latest undertaking: Twister's Pub and Grill, located at the intersection of Highway 94 and Wolfrum Road in Weldon Spring. The grill specializes in 16-ounce rib-eye steaks and pound-and-a-half pork steaks, grilled on a giant Southern Pride smoker.
Twist says his transition from hockey tough to saloon proprietor has been a cakewalk. "I always knew I'd be successful doing something [after I retired]. I just didn't know what that something was."
Says April Twist: "The challenge for him is not being out on the ice and hearing people chant, 'Twister.' Because he was an amazing athlete, and whenever you have however many thousands of people chanting your name, anyone would miss that."
"I Wanted to Kill 'Em"
The legendary Wayne Gretzky amassed 2,857 points in his storied 20-year career. Tony Twist racked up about one one-hundredth as many, but he does best The Great One on one score: He spent twice as much time in the penalty box and in a career half as long. Those statistics are just fine with Twist. As an NHL enforcer, the job wasn't to score, but to ensure by force and the threat of force that the other team didn't rough up his team's star players.
"If you want to make sure your best player plays great every night, how do you make sure he's not hurt?" Twist posits. "You stick me on the ice and make sure that, if you fuck with him, I take your best player out. I took it very serious, and I became the best at what I did."
In a 1998 profile of Twist that appeared in Sports Illustrated, Austin Murphy wrote: "Although the nicest thing one can say about Twist's stick-handling is that he does not break the puck, it would be inaccurate to describe him as unskilled. It takes a special talent to stand on skates and beat someone senseless, and no one does it better than the St. Louis Blues left wing."
On eBay, one can still find tapes of Twist wailing on opposing skaters. Watch these snuff-style greatest-hits clips many of which feature spirited French-Canadian play-calling and you'll see a style evolution. Twist loses his mullet for a goatee, and trades his light-blue Quebec Nordiques jersey for the 'Notes' bright yellows and blues.
But his jackhammer of a right hand remains constant. Centrifugal force spinning the opponents like figure skaters, Twist tears off his jersey so his opponent has nothing to hold onto, grabs the other guy and smashes away. In 1995 Twist fractured Buffalo Sabres' enforcer Rob Ray's orbital bone.
"We didn't hold any punches back," Twist says. "I wanted to kill 'em. We had dinner the night before, but I still wanted to kill them. You got 20,000 people watching, another half-million watching on TV, and you have a job to do. This ain't the WWF here, boy."
Twist was drafted by the Blues in 1988. After serving a year with the squad's top farm team, the Peoria Rivermen, he made a name for himself at training camp by baiting established ruffian Todd Ewen. When Ewen refused to fight him, Twist flapped his arms like a chicken.
"The night previous, at the hotel," recalls Twist, "Coach Brian Sutter told us, 'You're here to do a job, boys. If you're here to score goals then score goals. If you're here to play goal play goal. If you're here to fight, you damn well better fight.'"
Briefly demoted back to Peoria in 1990, Twist knocked Milwaukee Admirals goalie Steve McKichan unconscious with a rough check. McKichan suffered a neck injury that shortened his career.
"He went up to play the puck, and I hit him with a body check chest-to-chest," remembers Twist. "I didn't hit him from behind or with a high stick. It was payback from his interceding in a fight the period before, when he smoked me in the head and cut me open. I went and visited him in the hospital in Peoria. I said, 'I'm sorry, man, I didn't mean to hurt you like that.' He goes, 'I knew it was coming.'"
McKichan took Twist to court anyway, winning a jury award of $175,000 for compensatory damages from the Blues in 1996. An Illinois state appeals court overturned the decision in 1998, however, citing hockey's "violent nature."
The incident, though, was cited by the Blues organization as justification to trade Twist to the Quebec Nordiques, as part of a four-man deal for Darin Kimble. In Quebec, Twist became known as a prize ice-fighter. After resigning from the Blues as a free agent before the 1994-'95 season, his star reached its zenith. In the mid- to late '90s, the Blues were one of the NHL's elite teams, and Twist's brutal poundings became staples of highlight reels. At the Kiel Center, Twist's jerseys were almost as popular as star player Brett Hull's.
"St. Louis is a blue-collar town, and they like somebody who goes to work every day and puts in a night's work," offers Twist as explanation for his popularity. "They enjoy the fighting. I didn't cheat anybody. They knew what I was going to do.
"People say, 'Did you like playing hockey?' What an asinine question that is. You get to take a charter flight to a great city all the National Hockey League cities are great cities, except for Hartford, which was terrible and then they pay you to eat the best food at the best restaurants. You stay at the best hotels, and you play the fastest and, in my mind, one of the best games to ever be invented. The first and fifteenth of every month, they give you a paycheck. You think to yourself, 'Could this get any better?'"
220 Pounds of Mountain
Tony Twist may have learned his killer instincts from his grandmother, Ethel Twist, honored at the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Vancouver. Or maybe he learned from his grandfather, Harry Twist, the former welterweight champion of Western Canada.
Harry Twist turned pro as an eighteen-year-old shortly after moving from England to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He quit the sport altogether about five years later, after killing a man in the ring on two separate occasions.
"In those days, they didn't have the proper matting under the ring," says Stan Twist, Tony's father and Harry's son, who chose a career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. "One guy, he hit the mat too hard, and another guy [fell] out of the ring and hit his head on a theatrical prop, for God's sake."
Tony Twist was born in Saskatoon and spent most of his childhood in Prince George, British Columbia. "It was simple living, I can tell you that," he says. "We had hockey night at someone's house every day of the week. All the dads would try to outdo themselves, of course. Tie the lights up, and the next thing you know one of them is shoveling a friggin' penalty box out of a snow bank. We'd have the national anthem before every game."
Twist says he fought regularly as a young student. "If you didn't fight when you were in Catholic school, you weren't doing well." He says he was no bully, however, but an athlete and a standout student. His father notes that his son one year won a junior hockey team scholastic achievement award.
"I say this about Twister a lot: He's the type of guy that's smart enough to run a bank, but lot of times I think he'd rather rob it," says Kelly Chase, Twist's former teammate both on the Blues and on their Saskatoon junior-league team.
Chase calls Twist a "rugged" and "hard-to-handle" young man, prone to missing curfews. One time, when Twist was eighteen, he waited in the garage of Jocelyn's ex-boyfriend, a man Twist believed was harassing her.
"The guy popped the garage door open, closed it, got out of his car, and then, 'Uh-oh,'" remembers Chase. "Two-hundred and twenty pounds of mountain standing there. [Twist] didn't beat him up. He just grabbed hold of him and scared the shit out of him, and that's where it ended."
The NHL allowed Twist to harness his aggression constructively. But almost immediately after his hockey career ended, he started whaling on civilians according to his accusers, anyway.
In December 1999 Soulard residents Christopher O'Neal and his girlfriend, Christina Beffa, each filed orders of protection against Twist. He "struck me in the face [and] threatened my life" during a Christmas day incident, claimed Beffa, according to court records. O'Neal said Twist "[p]hysically attacked me on four separate occasions in one night [....] He knows where I live and said he would find me and kill me."
"It was a very aggressive verbal altercation, but there were no punches, no anything," counters Twist. "Why would you threaten to kill someone? If you're going to kill somebody, you don't threaten them."
O'Neal and Beffa dropped the charges in January 2000.
In 2003 Imperial's Vincent Ventimiglia accused Twist of beating him up at the Havana Cigar Room in Arnold. According to court records, Ventimiglia fingered Twist for "knocking me down," "mauling me" and "pulling my shirt over my head and punching like he does in the hockey ring." After the city of Arnold threw out his criminal case, Ventimiglia sought $1.5 million from Arnold and Twist in a civil case, which was also dismissed.
Twist denies punching Ventimiglia in the face and says the incident occurred after Ventimiglia called April and her mother "cunts."
"If I would have beaten him like I did in hockey, he would have marks on his face and would have never gotten up."
In February former Twister's Bar and Grill manager Steven Blakeney also sought an order of protection against Twist, claiming Twist threatened to kill him after he quit the saloon in January. Twist refuses to discuss the incident. April says her husband never threatened Blakeney and, further, that Blakeney was fired for inappropriate contact with female waitresses.
None of the three people who filed orders of protection against Twist could be reached for comment for this story. Blakeney, however, denied April's allegations to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter. In March he dropped his order of protection request without explanation.
Twist laughs at the idea that an anger-management class might do him some good. "Just because you're accused of something," he says, "doesn't mean you did it. If there was any merit to any of it, I would have been punished."
"He's a big, intimidating guy, and I think when he growls a little bit, people get scared," speculates Kelly Chase. "Plus, he's not the type of guy to massage the situation. Maybe he doesn't always handle things in the right way, but a lot of times people overreact. Smart people don't go and get in his face for no reason, unless they're looking for trouble."
With its steel tread-plate walls, tables made out of giant Red Bull cans, and signed Goodfellas, Sopranos and Casino posters, Twister's Bar and Grill is designed very much in its namesake's image and tries, with mixed success, to appeal both to a beer-chugging college crowd and the fine-diners from distant St. Louis suburbs.
Besides the giant slabs of smoked meats, chef Jimmy Bommarito's menu includes calamari "steak" pieces cut into strips rather than rings and deep-fried artichoke hearts, both appetizers big enough to serve as main courses.
On a recent Wednesday evening, Twist's trademark tornado logo and a Z107-7 [107.7 FM] van greet visitors to the St. Charles County strip-mall location. By 10 p.m. the grill has stopped serving food and the speakers blast ridiculously loud Top 40. With hordes of young women blitzed on free booze, Ladies Night's popularity is rivaled only by "NASCAR Sundays," when racing action dominates the joint's ten screens and patrons who purchase a 120-ounce "vessel" of beer get a free pizza.
The eatery-cum-nightclub is sandwiched between a Mexican restaurant called Tequila and the future home of the Monkey Bar & Restaurant, a "dance club/martini bar/restaurant/sports bar." Its proprietors include Chris Brockmeyer, who also co-owns the Vault, a Central West End nightclub that gained notoriety last year when it hosted a "Girls Gone Wild" party.
In February Twist tried to sink the Monkey Bar, arguing before Weldon Spring's board of aldermen that its owners would bring a lecherous element to the mall. The board thought otherwise and the club is scheduled to open later this year. Somewhat surprisingly, Brockmeyer holds no ill will. "Tony's been very helpful," he says.
On the dance floor at Twister's, frat guys in ball caps pursue blondes in tube tops and denim capris, while the green-eyed, full-figured April Twist does the books in the back office. "Since my [waitresses] dress promiscuous, I also do the same, because I couldn't ask them to dress one way, and me to dress any different," she says. A calm but firm manager, dressed tonight in an aqua micro skirt and black heels, she works Tuesdays at the Havana Cigar Room but otherwise spends the most of her waking hours at Twister's Bar & Grill, bartending, waitressing even scrubbing toilets.
"Most bars that open up have many investors, and if they lose it's not that big of a deal," she says. "So that's why Tony and I work so hard to make this successful, because if we lose, we lose huge. Half of what Tony had was taken from him by his ex-wife. We're trying to rebuild what he lost, which was a lot."
Like April, Jocelyn is blond and striking. She works as an account manager with a local public-relations firm, currently promoting a new, Chesterfield-based junior hockey team called the St. Louis Bandits, which is owned in part by Kelly Chase and Brett Hull.
Jocelyn says that being married to a professional athlete was difficult and, like many athletes' wives, she often worried about being cheated on. She sometimes resented being stuck at home with the kids while Twist lived it up on the road. Still, she describes her ex-husband as a romantic partner and a good father and says their marriage, by and large, was a happy one.
"I just think we just got married way too young," says the 41-year-old Jocelyn Twist. "Tony was a father of two by the time he was 22 years old. I never thought the marriage was bad, but its dissolution was probably best for everyone, except the kids."
Without offering specifics, Twist counters that their union was miserable for much of its nine years. He claims his ex-wife has not been a responsible parent since the divorce. "We don't get along," he says. "She's not good people. She's fucking up with my children. She never sees the kids."
"I see them as often as I can," responds Jocelyn. "Being in PR, I work a lot at night, and he moved them out to Defiance."
The kids live with April and Tony, Jocelyn says, in part because she is a Canadian citizen, here on a short-term visa. If she can't get it renewed, she may have to return to Canada in a year.
Twist became a U.S. citizen after marrying April, whom he met a few months before his motorcycle accident. At the time, she was a 22-year-old manager at Mike & Min's and didn't care a lick about sports. She didn't even recognize the Blues enforcer when he came in. Whatever the case, they clicked.
"He just caught my eye and I caught his eye," she remembers. "It was really bizarre, sort of like a fairy tale, because most pro athletes don't leave their wives for a bartender."
Jocelyn doesn't blame April for breaking up her marriage: "If it wasn't April, it would have been someone else. We were growing apart."
The Twistelli Tempest
Had Tony Twist and Todd McFarlane gotten to know each under different circumstances, they might have become fast friends. They're both former professional athletes who once called Kamloops home. McFarlane played center field there, for the Seattle Mariners' farm club, in the early '80s.
An über-sports fan famous for paying $3 million for Mark McGwire's 70th home-run ball, McFarlane amassed a fortune creating comic books and action figures (including ones for Napoleon Dynamite and members of the rock group KISS). A hotshot illustrator at Marvel Comics for eight years, McFarlane left in 1992 to start his own company, Image Comics. McFarlane's departure was widely publicized and caused quite a stir in the comic-book industry. McFarlane took with him a handful of other talented Marvel illustrators, and the company lost $137.6 million in market value overnight.
The trouble started in 1993, when McFarlane wrote the character of Antonio Twistelli into Spawn, once the number-one selling comic book in the nation. The character's nickname was Tony Twist. McFarlane, a self-avowed "arrogant psycho," later admitted Twistelli was named after the real Twist. A minor player in the series, Twistelli was depicted as an obese mob boss, a brutal and arrogant figure who orders the torture and death of the comics' main protagonist, a former CIA assassin named Al Simmons.
Twist says he first became aware of the Twistelli character after receiving a tearful call from his mother. "She was really upset, crying, asking me why I was a part of it. I said, 'Mom, I have no idea what you're talking about.'"
McFarlane named a number of his Spawn characters after NHL players, including Twist's all-star Quebec Nordiques teammate, Joe Sakic. (Al Simmons played second base for the Kamploops ball club.) Only Twist pursued legal action, though, suing McFarlane in 1997 for misappropriation of his name and defamation of character. The latter charge was soon dropped. He also sued HBO which had televised an animated version of Spawn that featured the Twistelli character and the two parties settled out of court in 2001 for an undisclosed amount.
At the first McFarlane-Twist trial in 2000, Twist's lawyers argued that McFarlane used Twist's "persona" without permission, and that the Twistelli character caused him to lose endorsements, as well as public-speaking and broadcasting gigs.
McFarlane's lawyers argued that the character was insignificant and that Twist himself was not famous enough to suffer financially from the comics. The Twist team benefited from the vice president of a nutrition-supplement company in Colorado, who testified that the firm reneged on a deal to make Twist their pitch man after learning about the way his namesake character was portrayed.
The jury awarded Twist $24.5 million dollars, the sum of the past, present and future damages they believed had been inflicted. When the trial ended, a jubilant Twist signed autographs for the jurors.
The Missouri Supreme Court, however, determined that the jury had been given incorrect instructions and ordered a new trial, where Twist would prevail in 2004, receiving a judgment of $15 million.
The 2004 decision was upheld by the court of appeals this year. McFarlane's defense team has since petitioned the Missouri Supreme Court to review the case. If it won't, they vow to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"This thing is like the Energizer bunny," says Twist. "It keeps going and going and going."
Twist's Clayton attorney, Robert Blitz, is confident that the court will reject McFarlane's petition, and says the next six months could well bring final judgment $15 million, plus 9 percent interest accrued since the second jury returned the verdict in 2004. Jocelyn would be entitled to half of the award.
Blitz gives Twist much of the credit for the legal victory.
"Tony is obviously an imposing figure, but he's a very gregarious guy, and he's one of the most naturally bright people you'll meet," says Blitz. "And because of that combination, he made a wonderful witness in this case. I would think the jurors were immediately attracted to Tony. He understood the material, understood the case. No lawyer came close to even laying a glove on him."
In 2005 Todd McFarlane Productions, the comic-book arm of McFarlane Companies, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Efforts to reach McFarlane at his office in Phoenix were unsuccessful.
Though Twist says the suit has "always been about principle" and not money, many Spawn fans and armchair legal critics were astonished to learn that a player who garnered modest-paying endorsements in his playing days actually won $15 million.
"Twist should be honored that anyone chose to loosely name a character after a nothing hockey player like himself," wrote one furious blogger. "And, secondly, even if he was defamed, is this 2nd-rate goon's character worth $15-mil?"
McFarlane's lawyer, Michael Kahn, says the case has "triggered a surprising amount of First Amendment alarms from legal experts around the country."
"That's the 'Chicken Little' defense," replies Blitz, adding that "right of publicity" the ability to market one's own name and image is at issue in the case, not the First Amendment.
Should the big check finally arrive, Twist has no plans to retire. "The devil finds work for idle hands, and I don't need the idle."
On a recent evening, Tony Twist decides to take in some Soulard action. And that can spell trouble. Whenever he's out on the town, men try to fight him and women try to sleep with him. Says April Twist: "Some drunk punk comes up to him and says, 'Oh, I'll take your bar, Twister, hit me.' I'm like, 'Tony, remember where we're at.' And Tony just looks at them and laughs."
As to the women vying for Twist's attention, she adds, "I'm very secure in my relationship, and if all of these blue-collar people paid his salary for all of those years, I'm not going to be a jealous wife. That girl probably had season tickets to the Blues and made him what he is today. I look at them and I'm like, 'Those women really, truly, are in love with my husband.'"
Clad in a yellow, short-sleeved collared shirt, with his hair spiked, Twist puts down a couple pints of Jägermeister and Red Bull and pays by peeling off bills from a wad of cash. He then climbs into his diesel-powered 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 and makes a beeline for the Sidney Street Café, the type of upscale establishment he'd like to run someday.
"You've never been to Sidney Street? The food there is un-friggin'-believable. When you're in the restaurant business, to have a line of people waiting, on a freakin' Tuesday are you kidding me?"
He saunters in and kisses the hand of the matronly female server. "Don't tell April about that time you and I slept together," he tells her.
"I've kept quiet all these years," she replies with a smile.
"You're so good at that. Thanks, babe."
Appetizers including dumplings and lobster turnovers are followed by Twist's entrée: snap peas, potatoes and carrots surrounding a wasabi-encrusted steak. "This isn't rare, it's very rare," he says. "You gotta run it by the fire, wipe its ass, cut off its horns, and that's it right there."
After digestifs of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a ten-year-old tawny port, Twist takes a call from a buddy named Doug Bruno who's out on a first date with a bartender from Twister's Pub & Grill. Twist meets them back at Molly's, where they'll have a few cocktails.
Bruno, Twist's longtime riding buddy, tells the story of his own brutal accident. In 2002 he flipped his Ford after falling asleep at the wheel. Twist came to visit him regularly at St. Anthony's Hospital. He met Bruno's parents on one of those occasions and took the opportunity to share some uncomfortably personal details of his own ordeal.
"He talked about how he flipped over the car and, when he came to, realized that he's naked from the waist down," recalls Bruno. "And he looks at my mom and says, 'That would be OK, if I was hung like a horse.'
"My dad goes, 'Would you like some coffee? I'll go get some coffee while you guys talk.'"
"My dad cares nothing about sports, fucking zero," Bruno continues as Twist gets up to use the bathroom. "But after meeting Tony in the hospital, he's watching Channel 11, every hockey game to see if Tony's on there. They ask me about him, always."
When Twist returns, he's uncharacteristically silent for a few minutes as he leans back on the heels of his chair. His relaxed demeanor calls to mind Jeff Bridges' character in 1998's The Big Lebowski, the Dude, who manages to maintain an improbable calm, despite a steady swirl of adversity.
Unlike the Dude, however, Twister relishes confrontation, be it fighting for his name in court or confronting disrespectful bar patrons. The only thing he craves more is attention, which is why he gladly suffers autograph hounds even those who are continually interrupting his nights on the town.
"I enjoy it," he says, after signing a napkin for a young woman. "Why wouldn't you? You go out one day, and people don't want your autograph. What does that say about you?"