by Tony Nigro
He stood utterly still, and I tried to remember what that way of standing reminded me of. And then I knew. Charles Bronson stands like a pit bulldog. He somehow manages that kind of balance with only two feet…. So symmetrical is he that it is impossible for him to make an ungraceful move, and it is from that symmetry that his bulldog balance comes.
I only recently began reading the writer Harry Crews, and man, do I feel like I was missing out. My introduction was his 1975 essay for Playboy, “Charles Bronson Ain’t No Pussycat” (quoted here and republished in Blood & Grits as “The Knuckles of Saint Bronson”). It is nothing short of perfect in form and function, describing the actor in vivid detail and making me want to actually be, simultaneously, Harry Crews and Charles Bronson.
The trestle was very uneven, with crossties and broken rock. But Bronson, coming across it, could have been walking over a ballroom floor. He came as smoothly as a model with a book on her head. And he never looked down. He never does. No matter how rough the ground. And yet his feet unerringly to the place where they need to be. No bounce. No wobble. No hitch in his gait. But he does not glide. Or float. He seems to be suctioned to the earth, growing from it, joined to it even when he’s moving over it. And as he comes straight toward you, you see that his center of gravity is very low in his body. Truly, his center of gravity must be in his cock or directly behind it.
So punchy and manly is the prose that I can’t think of another writer suited to write about, or meet with, Bronson. Except perhaps another Florida resident, Papa Hemingway, but he was long dead at that point. Thankfully, Crews co-opted some of the Hemingway style, which today resonates with the Internet’s Chuck Norris hyperbole.
He does not smile. He rarely does, and when he does, it looks like it hurts him.
But men make hyperbole as they also make myths: to impress, scare, seduce, and record truth.
There is no such thing as an awkward silence around him, because you come to understand early on that silence is his natural state, or so it was with me, and I was content to sit and listen to the rhythmic clack of the train wheels and watch him burn up cigarettes, which he does with a certain single-mindedness. He does not chain-smoke, but almost, and has since he was nine years old.
Would that magazines still published this kind of stuff, and that Hollywood still employed guys like Charles Bronson.