I asked if she thought 50 percent was a little too much to ask of Wesley. “It is actually extremely low,” she said. “Look at recording artists—they have all these people around them taking fees. In the end, they get something like 3 percent. Besides, Wesley didn’t have to do any work. He wasn’t paying any money. If we didn’t cut the deal, we didn’t get paid. So how doesn’t he benefit from that?”
I decided to ask Diane what the secret of Wesley’s life story was—the piece of his bio they were hanging on to, to exploit for a book or movie. She exploded. “There was nothing. We were making it all up. It was gonna be taking some of the stuff—like a fictional-type movie—and just taking some aspects of it and try to sell that into something that would make money. He had fifteen minutes of fame. There was nothing more than that. Nothing.”
The next day, Mark invited me to his apartment-office in Tribeca. When I arrived at noon, the TV was tuned to NY1 with the sound off. Every ten minutes, the same B-roll of Wesley would flash onscreen accompanying a report about the lawsuit. After a quick tour of his memorabilia cabinet—featuring photos of Bruce Willis (Mark directed a promo for the original Die Hard) and porn star Taylor Wayne (“She’s a friend,” he said)—Mark showed me a producer contract from fifteen years ago he signed with a singer. “I’m not some con man who read about Wesley in the news and jumped on this,” he told me. Then he showed me the trademark certificate for the phrase “subway hero” in his name. “I don’t represent Wesley,” he told me. “I am a partner with Wesley. He doesn’t own any of the intellectual property. I do.” Divorcing Wesley from Mark, Mark said, would cut Wesley out of any deal.
Mark has already written a movie treatment, which he showed me—Wesley’s tale, tarted up to be a Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise vehicle. It starts with an ex–Navy man named Wesley who saves a stranger on the subway tracks when a terrorist named Abdul stages an attack and kidnaps his children. In this version, the kids are a boy and a girl, and they turn out to be secret agents. Then they have electronic devices implanted in their heads. Wesley foils the plot in the end—and gets the girl too.
“He sues, he doesn’t get paid,” Mark said. “I’m so happy he sued it’s not even funny! He’s done everything wrong. Every single thing. They think they’re rap artists, and when the time comes they’ll not pay the man and that sort of thing. And when the time comes, he’s gonna be broke. He can leave. But he has to pay.”
On my way out the door, Mark was laughing. “I don’t mind even getting slammed in the press. Getting slammed helps my material! Don’t be surprised if Wesley and I are having dinner tonight. We might be doing this for the publicity! Don’t underestimate me. Don’t underestimate me!”
It’s Easter Sunday, three months since Wesley jumped onto the tracks, and the whole family is gathered at Mary’s tiny apartment on 135th Street. Later, there will be a turkey, but right now, Keyon and little Wesli are wandering underfoot; Darius is singing in his fine tenor voice; Wesley is grabbing a cigarette in the hallway with Linda and Quiana.
Wesley’s getting used to being recognized everywhere he goes now. “When you’re in the public eye, you can’t be mean,” he says. “I love people, you know what I’m saying? That’s why I did what I did for that man that day.” There are still scores of requests for appearances and interviews, but he and Linda have set limits now: No more than one event, appointment, or interview a day. The rest of the time, Wesley can rest, be with his family, be anything other than the Subway Superman.
Short of Beyoncé’s walking through the door, the woman thing is on hold, too. “I’m in no rush at the moment. I’ve been in the Navy, so I know how to do without a woman. You just have to put it out of your mind till you hit port.”
With Easter supper waiting, Linda says she is focusing on the spiritual rewards of what Wesley did—what he taught us all. “Wesley grabbed Cameron—grabbed him, touched him, squeezed him. We don’t do that anymore. Computers, cell phones, Palm Pilots—we don’t touch. I think there’s a message in that—bigger than a movie deal, book deal, you know what I mean? There’s a human message for all of us.” Wesley says he too wants to use his fame “for some good.” He is thinking of starting an after-school program for kids in his neighborhood.