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Bostonians sharing their memories of MIT class of '87 grad Tony Stark

Posted by S.I. Rosenbaum  May 3, 2013 10:45 AM

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It's a little-known fact that, long before he was Iron Man, Tony Stark studied -- and partied -- right here in Boston. Even as a skinny 14-year-old freshman at MIT, Stark was a little bit larger than life. Chain-smoking and sporting a tragically '80s haircut, he was often spotted around town -- in fact, by the time he graduated in 1987, it seemed like everyone had a Tony Stark run-in to recount.

Whether he was executing one of his legendary hacks at MIT, stage-diving at a metal show at the Channel, or picking fights across a chess board in Harvard Square, Stark left an indelible mark on the city; we can only imagine that the reverse was true. After all, he still wears his class ring. As the third installment of his biopic opens in theaters this weekend, we asked some Bostonians to share their memories of Stark's time in the Hub. (And if you have your own Tony Stark story from back in the day, please share it with us in the comments.)


Tony was definitely around the scene back then. This older guy Devon was kind of a metal mentor and did a zine called Hatchet Job. One of the issues had an interview with Post Mortem and you can clearly see a young Tony Stark with a dirt stache in the crowd.

Devon also swears that a huge skinhead from New Hampshire was close to pounding Stark at a Wargasm show at the Channel, but I think that's a spicy one as he tended to exaggerate and there weren't many skins at metal shows.

-- Anthony Pappalardo, author of Radio Silence: A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music and Live ... Suburbia!


I saw him a few times at the chess boards near Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square. There was this guy down there, a chess master, and you could give him five or ten bucks and he'd play you a game. A couple of times I remember [Tony] breezing in and throwing money on the table, and kind of wiping the floor with the guy.

I remember he always did this thing - in the chess world, it pisses people off if you take your knights and face them outward. Tony was one of those guys. He'd put the pieces down a little off center, too, and that would really annoy people.

He wasn't a regular player. He would just come waltzing in, and it seemed to me that he just needed to beat somebody. Like how someone else might just need to have a cup of espresso - he just needed to see somebody lose, and then he would be okay again. He'd win the game, and then move on.

-- Scott McCloud, cartoonist, Lexington native and author of Understanding Comics

One time he was at the Channel, up in the mosh pit, and then the bouncers threw him out on his head. It was one of those all-ages shows and ppl were going crazy - or maybe not all-ages, because he had money, so he could get the best fake ID. Anyway, the Channel's bouncers were known for playing rough, so when a bratty kid starts moshing and tries to stage dive, they had him out in the back parking lot. He made such a fuss - said his daddy was going to close the place.

He was probably drunk; he was into the hardcore scene, but wasn't straight edge; he liked to party too much. Of course, after they threw him out, he just came back. No one really knew him, he was just a rich kid. Everyone wanted him around, though, because he'd always bring something fun for the party.

I remember him at after-parties on Thayer Street. He was up later than anyone else. But you could always get a ride home with him, because he always had a car.

-- Clea Simon, feline mystery author, former Boston Globe copyeditor and Boston Herald rock critic

I arrived at MIT at the very tail end of the 1980s and Tony Stark's time there had already become the stuff of legend. I don't know what I heard more about - his reputation as a gifted scholar, ramped up even above MIT's already high average intelligence level, which I heard plenty about from other faculty members, or his reputation as a playboy and rule-breaker, which was certainly part of what I heard about Stark from the students at Senior House where I was housemaster for many years.

Some students are larger than life - they leave a trace across the entire campus, and people talk about them well after they have left the building, so to speak. Stark was one of those people. I've often wondered if the "Iron Man" nickname might be traced back during this period, when he had a reputation of being able to drink even the most hardcore student under the table.

And don't get me started about the hacks that have been ascribed to Stark through the years. I have heard all kinds of claims about what Stark put on the great Dome to the ways he rewired the elevators in the Green Building. They can't all be true, can they?

-- Henry Jenkins, former co-director of MIT's Comparative Media Studies program and author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide

Tony Stark could not be reached for comment on this article.

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