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Ron Fazio's biceps bulge in knotted clumps. His skin is a scabrous stew that bubbles up and boils over. His left eye dangles from its socket like a sprung jack-in-the-box. He's not what you would call nondescript.
Fazio isn't always such a looker. He has just done himself up as the Toxic Avenger, the lump-faced environmental crusader he plays in a series of schlock horror films. A few years back, Fazio was a strike-breaking tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles. He showed up at games, but he didn't catch anything. "My football days are over," he says wistfully. "I know I can never be a hero in Philly." So he's content to be the first environmental superhero from New Jersey.
Before turning Toxic, Fazio's movie character was a geek janitor who unwittingly dived headlong into a steaming vat of green radioactive glop. He emerged as a Mr. Mean Genes able to leap fairly tall buildings with a running start. Clad in a pink tutu and armed with his trusty mop, the mutated mensch fights corruption and foes of the environment in mythical Tromaville, N.J., a town that proudly bills itself as the Toxic Waste Capital of the World. It's all good, clean fun in the low-grade Lew Grade tradition of Troma Inc., a cut-rate, New York City-based studio whose releases practically bypass theaters on their way to video stores. Troma expends its best creative energies on splashy titles: Surf Nazis Must Die, Rabid Grannies and A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell are but a few.
Like Toxie, Fazio, 28, grew up in the Garden State. And grew. And grew. By the time the University of Maryland offered him a football scholarship, he was 6'5" and 235 pounds. He had clamped on his first pair of shoulder pads at the age of eight, a few years before he saw Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. "My affection for the monster was instantaneous," Fazio says. "I liked the fact that he was huge and ugly and that he was made out of body parts."
Like toxic waste, Fazio has had a habit of getting quietly dumped. The Dallas Cowboys let him go after the 1985 season, which he spent on injured reserve thanks to a broken hand suffered in the preseason. The Eagles dropped him after the '86 preseason, but he signed on with Philadelphia as a scab during the '87 lockout. He lasted until the lockout ended. Fazio still holds a grudge against Buddy Ryan, the Eagles' coach. "Buddy didn't deal with people as people," he says. "After all the replacement players were let go, he didn't even come out of his office to say goodbye."
Fazio, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., was bouncing around Manhattan as a nightclub bouncer when he heard about the Toxic casting call early in 1988. The fact that he had never acted apparently did not trouble Troma. "I was the right size," Fazio says humbly.
And his stint in the NFL helps motivate him. In his most recent movie—The Toxic Avenger III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, released in November of 1989—Fazio gutted a psycho who had machine-gunned an old lady in a wheelchair. "In my mind, the bad guy was Buddy," he says. "By ripping him apart and jumping rope with his innards, I was, in a way, avenging my release."
The Toxic Avenger's popularity continues to grow. He will soon introduce a line of toys and comic books, and a fourth film, Mr. Toxie Goes to Washington, is in the works. "Someday I hope Toxie will experience the ultimate revenge," Fazio says, as foam forms at the corners of his mouth. "He'll grab Buddy Ryan by the collar, drag him to the top of Veterans Stadium, toss him in the air and drop-kick him to the 50-yard line. After that...."
We'll leave the rest to your imagination. As Boris Karloff once said, there are some things it is better not to know.