Legendary former Daily News columnist Pete Dexter has a new book out. His legacy will surely precede his upcoming visit to Philly.
"I don't really think he knew what he was doing that night," says Rosati. "I told him later, 'You can't go into somebody's neighborhood when they're mad at something you wrote and expect them to treat you nice.' I said, 'Pete, you come from an educated neighborhood. You're not used to violence the way they're used to violence.' We come from the other side of the tracks, where people start arguing and then they start punching each other."
Most of the people who've written about Dexter have focused on the assault without having read "In Tasker, It's About to Stop," the column that caused the drama.
Published Dec. 9, 1981, the piece focuses on an increase in drug dealing in Grays Ferry. Dexter praises the community's antidrug efforts, and writes this: "A couple of weeks ago, a kid named Buddy Lego was found dead in Cobbs Creek. It was a Sunday afternoon. He was from the neighborhood, a good athlete, a nice kid. Stoned all the time. The kind of kid you think you could have saved."
Though Dexter never specifies a cause of death, in some retellings, like the review of Paper Trails that ran in The San Francisco Chronicle, the kid is a homicide victim.
"I was bringing my mother home from where Buddy was buried," says Tommy Lego, the kid's brother. "And my other brother was on the steps when I was getting my mom out of the car, saying, 'You have to read the newspaper.'"
The column broke his mother's heart, so Lego, according to his account, called Dexter and left a message. The columnist called back almost immediately.
"You wrote something about another junkie dead in the neighborhood," said Lego. "You gotta print a retraction."
"No," said Dexter. "I'm not going to do that."
Lego asked Dexter for his sources. Dexter said no to that too.
"I know you," Lego told him. "But you don't know me. What if one day I come into Dirty Frank's or Doc Watson's and I sit down next to you and we have a few beers, and all of a sudden, you won't know where, you won't know when, I turn around and beat your head in."
"Maybe I'll come see you," replied Dexter.
Lego told him he worked at Dougherty's, a bar at 24th and Lombard. Around 8 p.m. Dexter walked inside.
"Are you Tommy Lego?" he asked the man behind the bar.
"Yeah," replied Lego.
"Do you know me?" asked Dexter.
"Yeah, I do."
"Can I sit down and have a beer and talk to you?"
Lego, 5 foot 10, was then in his mid-20s and about 250 pounds. "Yeah," he replied. He poured Dexter a beer.
"There's nothing I can do," Dexter said as he started drinking his beer. "I can't retract this story."