Can You Dig It? The Warriors Movie Reunion Is Coming To Coney Island

Can You Dig It? The Warriors Movie Reunion Is Coming To Coney Island
The Warriors gang
The Warriors gang at Coney Island, their home turf. (Photo courtesy of Gareth Jones/The Warriors Movie Site)

If you’ve watched the film, you know the scene. The Warriors have been framed for murdering Cyrus, a rival gang leader, and Luther (played by David Patrick Kelly, well-known for his portrayal of Jerry Horne in Twin Peaks) and his gang The Rogues are out to get them. The thing is, Luther is the one who did the murdering.

Luther and the Rogues slowly drive through the streets of Coney Island in a graffiti-covered hearse. They are hunting for The Warriors. Luther is clinking three beer bottles together and chants in a haunting, rhythmic taunt: “Warriors, come out to play-eee-yay, Warriors, come out to play-eee-yay…”

But it’s the Warriors’ movie of course, (is a spoiler alert necessary for a film from 1979?) and they triumph on the Coney Island beach. Luther is dead. And Coney Island is still their turf.

Fans of the film The Warriors will soon be able to join their favorite gang on home turf. Billed as “The Last Subway Ride Reunion,” the event will take place Sunday, September 13 from 10am-11pm at the Surf Pavilion (3029 Stillwell Avenue between Bowery Street and the Boardwalk) on Coney Island.

Prepare to geek out, because you’ll have the opportunity to meet cast members, attend panels, join or watch a costume contest, hear from film director Walter Hill, listen to live music, and watch the film among the devoted.

And purchase a Warriors leather jacket, of course.

Swan battles Luther
Swan, leader of the Warriors (Michael Beck, foreground, left) and Luther (David Patrick Kelly, holding gun) rumble in the last scene. (Photo courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution)

Based on the 1965 novel by Sol Yurick of the same name, The Warriors falls under that category “cult classic.” The film boasts huge devotees — think a smaller enclave of “Trekkies.” Cult classic is often code for an artistic work that didn’t garner much respect at its beginning, but then has developed a reputation over time. And this film certainly fits that bill. Janet Maslin penned a mixed review from The New York Times but lauded its cinematography: “The film is as handsome to watch as it is preposterous to listen to, full of gorgeous nocturnal city images that splash blaring neon colors against filthy, rain-slicked gray.”

The Warriors was filmed in a grittier New York, at a time when riding the subway in the middle of the night was an invitation for danger, and being hunted through five boroughs by rival gangs didn’t seem so preposterous.

The New York City subway system is a character unto itself, as the Warriors race from the Bronx back to Coney Island. Enthusiasts of the film will point out that Brooklyn subway stations were often used as stand-ins for ones in Manhattan. As an example, a scene that took place on the Upper West Side at the 96th Street station was actually filmed at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station (an excellent description of the filming sites for the flick is available).

When the cast members were filming the movie, they certainly had no idea how audience members would respond to the film.

In a conversation with Michael Beck, the actor who played Swan, the Warriors’ leader, he recalls the moment when he realized the film had become an obsession for some.

“The penny dropped for me when my son brought one of his high school friends back to the house,” he said. “He took one look at me and said, ‘Holy shit, you’re the guy from The Warriors!'”

Michael Beck
Michael Beck, pictured in 2015, played Swan, leader of the Warriors. (Photo by Tony Maddox)

Eric Nyenhuis is the actor, director, and producer behind The Warriors reunion. He also is an unabashed fan.

“The group of actors love each other, and this bond just doesn’t happen often,” he explains. “The cinematography and story are incredible. And I think it has a universal meaning. Homebase is always homebase. Going home is your comfort zone.”

Beck also speaks of the deep bond felt by the actors. “The film was shot mostly in sequence of the story. When we arrived at Coney Island, we really felt that we experienced something together. David Harris — who played Cochese — is the a godfather to my children. Debra [Van Valkenburgh, who played Mercy] is a dear friend.”

Swan and Mercy
Swan (Michael Beck) and Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh). (Photo courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution)

Also significant is that the reunion is going to take place at a very different Coney Island than the one from 1979. Nyenhuis recalls just how different New York City was at the time.

“I grew up in New Jersey and I was going to a lot of matinees at CBGB. I remember going through Port Authority,” he said. “The tourism bureau was handing out survival guides to tourists.”

Beck remembers how “[Coney Island] was pretty rundown. But it was cool. I loved the Wonder Wheel. We were filming in an iconic location and I wanted to take in the whole place. This was our turf.

“I’ll never forget filming the last scene,” added Beck. “Walter [Hill, director of the film] told us to keep walking and that he’d let is know when to stop. And that’s what we did. Just walked on the beach. We just kept walking.”

Beck also recalls the Baseball Furies, a gang wielding bats, wearing pinstripes, and sporting grotesque make-up. They resemble characters from A Clockwork Orange if they put on New York Yankees uniforms.

“The fight sequences with the Baseball Furies took over two weeks,” he said. “It was grueling but very gratifying.”

Six of the original Baseball Furies will be part of the reunion event.

Tickets are available to purchase for $25, which provides you with access for the entire event. The ticket includes live music by Queens’ seminal hardcore punk band Sick Of It All with special guest Gotham City Mashers. You can visit The Warriors Reunion website for schedules and merchandise.

Jerry Hewitt as Thurman, The Baseball Furies leader
Jerry Hewitt as Thurman, The Baseball Furies’ leader (Photo courtesy of Gareth Jones and The Warriors Movie Site)

Early on in the film, Cyrus — just before he is murdered by Luther — addresses a huge crowd of gang members. Uniting the gangs with a rousing speech he cries out, “CAN YOU DIG IT?”

And fans of the film respond: Yes. Yes, we can dig it.

See you at Coney on The Warriors’ turf.

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