ALTER EGOS Johnny Hickey's had a half-dozen aliases since his Oxy-dealing days.
Shane Mauss thought he recognized the cute blonde walking through the lobby of his hotel. Or perhaps he was just daydreaming — these things happen to comedians on the road.
The next face Mauss saw, though, was unmistakable. It was Johnny Hickey. A fast-talking tattooed Charlestown native with a tough brogue and checkered past, he used to sometimes work security at a comedy club Mauss used to play back in Boston. Mauss would have recognized his small but ripped frame and chiseled 'do anywhere. The blonde, he realized, was Hickey's girlfriend.
"OH MY GOD — IT'S JOHNNY HICKEY," Mauss broadcasted across the lobby. "What the hell are you guys doing here?"
The meeting was a bit awkward. About a year earlier, in 2007, Hickey scored Mauss and some other Boston comics a show in Las Vegas — but then disappeared without giving them contracts or plane tickets, let alone an explanation. There had been some bad blood. Still, it was still nice to see a friendly face in Indianapolis, so Mauss invited the couple to his show that night at the Crackers Comedy Club. He even gave them his room number — though only reluctantly, after Hickey asked.
A half-hour later, Mauss heard a knock on his door. As he had feared, on the other side of the peephole was his old acquaintance, by himself, holding a fistful of bottled beers. Mauss hesitantly turned the deadbolt. Hickey walked in, passed his friend a Blue Moon, and told him to sit down.
"My name isn't Johnny Hickey anymore," he said.
"I can't tell you everything, but I got involved with the wrong people," he told Mauss, whose face twitched between surprise and fright. "You just compromised my identity. I have to report this to my people, so you probably won't hear from me again. Just be careful — any minute now a couple of black Suburbans are going to pull up and take me away from here."
"In all honesty, I didn't know if he was going to kill me right there," says Mauss. "He said he had to get the hell out of there right away — and I didn't even believe him — but that was the last I ever heard from him. It's one of the strangest experiences of my entire life — in the least I thought that it was one hell of a story to make up just to cover your ass for flaking out on a comedy show."
Still, he had to wonder. At the Comedy Connection, the Townie regularly spoke about big plans to shoot and star in a film about his past as a thief and drug dealer. But these claims about black Suburbans were out there. Even for an animated ex-con like Hickey.
'THE STORY OF A LIFETIME'
I first met Hickey five years ago. He'd contacted my editor about his film project, and the story seemed worth checking out. A former drug dealer and addict, Hickey had seemingly pulled his life together, and wrote a screenplay called Oxy Morons that truly frightened me. I've been around hard drugs for a long time, but OxyContin was a different beast. Dozens of Hickey's friends and family members had overdosed on opiates, and his autobiographic script attached faces to statistics I'd only read about.