You Say It’s Your Birthday

Photo: Marni Horowitz/Courtesy of Penguin Group

Just before midnight on January 21, 1998, then–federal prosecutor Stanley Alpert was forced into a Lexus on 10th Street and Fifth Avenue by three teenagers. They held him overnight in Brownsville, and when they discovered January 22 is his birthday, they offered him pot and prostitutes. The next day, they released him. Alpert wrote a book about it, called The Birthday Party, which comes out this week. He spoke with Ben Mathis-Lilley.

Why didn’t the investigators believe you’d really been abducted at first?
The details were far too absurd. The notion that someone gets kidnapped—and then offered sexual favors and marijuana? They thought I was buying drugs and got rolled, or I was cavorting with prostitutes and got rolled, or I was at a gay party in the West Village and then needed to explain my absence for 25 hours.

Do you wish you’d refused to get in the car with them?
[Long pause] I wish I hadn’t gotten in that car. They grabbed me on the street, they stuck a large automatic machine pistol in my gut, they stuck a pistol in my face, they blindfolded me, they hustled me to some place, they put me down on a mattress, I overheard phone calls where they say they’re getting a guy to go watch my father’s apartment and break every bone in his body if I don’t cooperate. Some prostitutes showed up.

Did you ever relax?
Eventually they calmed down. They had sex with the girls, they smoked pot. The next day, I had a turkey sandwich that they bought. The sensation of absolute terror abated somewhat. Of course, it revived itself toward the end, when I thought they were going to shoot me.

But then they dropped you off and you stumbled into a pizza store whose manager didn’t want to let you use the phone.
That subway hero shows it’s not a fair stereotype, but I think telling someone that you’d been kidnapped and receiving a look of absolutely no concern is a unique New York City experience.

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You Say It’s Your Birthday