Tony Millionaire has some stories to tell. Two of them bear retelling. One is about the time his apartment on Mission Hill was firebombed, back in his MassArt days. The other concerns his rather inadvertent connection to Ronald Reagan’s retaliatory bombing of Libya in 1986.
“I was living with a bunch of drunken college students in a house on Mission Hill,” he begins. “The neighbors were very leery of us all because of the parties we had. One day we had a party, and I went to the butcher shop and got some animal heads. I got a cow head, a sheep head, and a pig’s head. And I made a sculpture out of them using windshield-wiper motors. I hooked it up so there was this crazy sculpture that was dancing around. A meat sculpture.” The morning after the festivities, it was cleanup time. “I took the heads out, because they were getting smelly, and threw them over a fence.”
Perhaps predictably, the neighbors did not take kindly to this. Later that day, sleeping off his hangover, Millionaire awoke to a loud explosion. “A bomb went off in our stairway. Blew out the windows in the stairs. It didn’t hurt anybody, but the whole house filled up with smoke, and everybody ran into the street. One of the neighborhood teenagers walked up to me, and he said, ‘Get the hell out of our neighborhood, Tony Millionaire .’ ” Then the kid socked him in the mouth and smashed his front teeth. (“Actually, I had dentures, but he broke those.”)
Later, the kids came back and broke all the windows in the house. “I went over to a friend’s place, and she got a telephone call saying, ‘If you don’t get him out of there, we’re gonna firebomb your house, too.’ ” So Tony Millionaire got in a car and drove straight to Virginia, where for three weeks he lay low.
Years later, Millionaire was living as a squatter in Berlin. One night, he was walking home with some friends from a party. He was wearing a tuxedo. He was drunk. Suddenly, they noticed a burning building, flanked by fire trucks. “We were like, ‘Wow! What’s going on in there?’ ” Unbeknownst to him, it was the La Belle disco, which had been bombed by Libyan terrorists, killing three people, two of them US soldiers. (Less than two weeks later, Ronald Reagan would retaliate by raining missiles on Tripoli.)
“There were police and American soldiers everywhere,” Millionaire says. “My friend had a camera and wanted to get some pictures. But we couldn’t get near it. So I said, ‘Just follow me.’ I started screaming, ‘My wife! My wife is in there!!!’ I ran past the soldiers and the German policemen, and I ran right into the building and started lifting up a big piece of concrete, screaming, ‘Help! My wife is under here!’ The American soldiers grabbed me. ‘Come on buddy, come over here. Everything is gonna be all right. What’s you’re wife’s name?’ I said, ‘Sally!’ ”