He had to hurt people before they hurt him, to prove who he was. He got high from smashing people’s faces in. John was 14 years old when he first started smoking drugs, 15 when he joined a gang, and was kicked out of five schools by the time he was 16.
By age 27, married with a baby boy, he was lured into working for the local gang kingpin. The money and power was worth the danger and fear, he thought. Indeed, he gained power, rising through the gangster ranks. Always looking over his shoulder, he constantly feared for his life and those of his wife and young son.
True fear, he learned, was the sound of a bullet whistling past his head. John is the main character in Let Me Up, a gritty play presented to students Surrey’s Queen Elizabeth Secondary last week. But the main character and his drug-fuelled, violent, frightening journey isn’t entirely fictional.
The drama is based on the life of Joe Calendino, a former full-patch member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Like John in the play, Calendino was on top of the gang world, trafficking drugs, raking in big bucks and living the high life. Until his so-called friends turfed him. He got deep into drugs himself, snorting cocaine, further alienating his family and finally hitting bottom. Crack-addicted and hovering at a gaunt 140 pounds, Calendino was killing himself. It was then Const. Kevin Torvik came into his life.