Comedian Colin Quinn brought his Block by Block YouTube series to Hell’s Kitchen and walked the streets with his old friend Mickey Spillane. Here are some highlights of Spillane’s memories of the neighborhood — and his battle with wrestler André the Giant.

“Back in the eighties, and you got to remember Colin, but people don’t realize this — Hell’s Kitchen was one of the worst slums in the country,” said Mickey Spillane, reminiscing about his neighborhood.

Mickey Spillane Colin Quinn
Mickey Spillane (right) chats with Colin Quinn as they walk down 9th Avenue. Photo: Colin Quinn YouTube

Spillane is walking with his friend Colin Quinn, recalling tales of his youth in the rough Irish neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan.

“There were only three neighborhoods listed on the national list of slums. And the South Bronx in the seventies didn’t even make that list. Hell’s Kitchen did,” Spillane said.

The pair were strolling down 9th Avenue on a summer’s evening. The avenue looks much the same as it did when Spillane was growing up decades earlier. Spillane credited his uncle, Jim McManus, with keeping much of 9th Avenue intact. As the Democratic district leader in Hell’s Kitchen, Jim advocated for protective zoning laws to prevent massive redevelopment.

“My family moved into Hell’s Kitchen on 49th Street between 9th and 10th in 1891. So I’m the sixth generation to be born in the same building,” he told Quinn.

Colin Quinn
Comedian Colin Quinn brought his YouTube series to Hell’s Kitchen. Photo: Ilona Lieberman

As they passed along 9th Avenue, Spillane pointed out where his grandmother’s old liquor store, McManus Liquor, used to be. He told a story about how during the 1977 blackout, the local drunks protected it from being looted.

“When the blackout came, you remember they looted the whole city? But my grandmother’s store didn’t get looted because all the drunks and winos cashed their checks with her and had their money in there. So they stood guard outside my grandmother’s liquor store to make sure nobody broke in. So they wouldn’t take their envelopes,” Spillane said.

Further down 9th Avenue, Spillane pointed out more places from his childhood — the apartment building of his first girlfriend, the local bars and where his dad’s bookie friend Spider used to sit.

Spillane also pointed out a bar named after him — Mickey Spillane’s, joking that he “really put the silent into silent partner” there with his friend Richie Friendly. The bar has been open for more than a decade in Hell’s Kitchen.

Mickey Spillane’s bar has been on the corner of 9th Avenue and W49th Street for over 10 years. Photo: Phil O’Brien

As they walked along W47th Street toward 8th Avenue, Spillane began recounting the story of an epic brawl on his 19th birthday.

“It’s a Wednesday and I just turned 19, so it’s my birthday,” he recalled. Spillane was out celebrating with his brother Robert, just 17 at the time, and friends Joey Van Ness, Bernie Vaser, Tommy Walsh and Michael Rosso. They ended up at a gritty bar called The Savoy.

“The Savoy is where the fight happened. And the Savoy is on 47th Street, between 8th and Broadway. So one more block up,” Spillane explained.

While using the tiny bathroom, Spillane had an encounter with an “enormous, ugly man” — André the Giant (a famous wrestler).

Andre The Giant Wrestling
Mickey Spillane’s opponent — André the Giant. Photo: Wikipedia/Public Domain

After returning to his friends at the bar, one of André’s associates grabbed Spillane’s backside. “And I’m 19. And back then it led to a fight; nowadays, it’d be a compliment,” Spillane said.

Insults and punches were thrown. The massive wrestler André attacked Spillane and his brother. Friends came to their defense, smashing André with chairs and throwing punches.

“He throws us off. And the other guys — now you got to remember, it wasn’t just André, there was a couple of other people. I’m fighting somebody on the side, thinking André’s still going to kill my brother,” said Spillane.

The battle raged on until the cops arrived. But in an unexpected twist, André didn’t press charges and the young brawlers were released.

Though bruised and battered, the night out wasn’t over. “Most people at that point, we said, OK, that’s night. I’m going home. We went to another bar,” laughed Spillane.

You can watch the full episode on Colin Quinn’s YouTube channel below. If you remember bars like Tyson’s, Sonny’s, The Blarney Stone, Half Moon Saloon and Amy’s Pub — you’re in for a trip down memory lane!

YouTube video

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