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Strange Bedfellows: Caruso Recalls Heller

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Strange Bedfellows:  Caruso Recalls Heller

Politics makes strange bedfellows, and so does the boxing world.

The low bar to entry, which combines an admirable merit based system along with a trapdoor mechanism for gifted bullshitters, means that you come across an excess of fascinating characters within this vocational sphere.

Vince Caruso is such a character; the New Jersey born man has been in and out of the sport since the 90s, mainly as a manager. His gift in communicating, with vigorous passion, has opened doors for him, as when he was within the Marco Antonio Barrera insider posse, which would have barred less perseverant and loquacious players from partaking.

Caruso is a character who attracts other character; he was a pallbearer at the funeral for Jerry Heller, a music mogul who passed away on Sept 2, at age 75.

Caruso, last seen in the boxing scene helping guide France based Nadjib Mohammedi to a title shot against Sergey Kovalev, spoke to NYF about Heller, who he regarded as a mentor.

“I first met Jerry the day after Eazy E (a member of the iconic rap outfit NWA) picked me up from LAX in October of 1993. Eazy got me on a Saturday, set me up in one of his houses on Sunday and I was at Ruthless Records (which he Heller co-founded with Eazy) office Monday morning at 8am sharp. Of course, no one was there yet as it was the rap music business…not known for early office hours! I was nervous like you would not believe. Around 8:30, Jerry came in. Now, up until this point, I had only seen Jerry on “Yo! MTV Raps” or MTV news. So imagine my surprise when in walks this tall older guy with white hair, a leather jacket with a huge 8 Ball logo on back and sweatpants that had one leg pulled up (that was the hip hop style back then). I'll never forget what he said.

“Hey guy, you must be Vinny, Eazy called me Sunday and told me to expect you.

“Wow.

Not even a week removed from a DJ job making $200 a week at a small college station in Colorado, to having Jerry Heller say he was expecting me. That is just how crazy my life is. We immediately formed a strong bond. He introduced me to Terry Heller, who at the time was doing music videos for the hottest hip hop and R&B acts. (Terry now owns a restaurant chain called “Plan Check,” located in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills areas) and we are still like brothers today. Jerry and I talked all day. Everything from the groups he repped before N.W.A. (Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, Credence Clearwater Revival) to Cleveland organized crime figures (Jerry was born in the Shaker Heights area of Cleveland) that he personally knew. He also loved boxing, as the entire Ruthless family were friends of Don King. Don would fly Eazy and Dre to fights and would always speak with Jerry by phone, especially when Don was involved in promoting the Jackson 5 reunion tour.”

(See what I mean about the bedfellows concept?)

“Ironically, while I was on my anti-Al Haymon rant when Mr. Haymon made his entry into the fight game, it was Jerry who called me and said that Mr. Haymon was, is and always will be a friend to Ruthless Records. My rhetoric changed gears the very next day from negative to positive when it came to Mr. Haymon. If Jerry said you are solid, then that is exactly what you are. Jerry NEVER judged people. He could have lunch with a Hollywood powerhouse like Irving Azoff, then strike up a 15 minute conversation with the valet parking staff of the restaurant. Personally, he would lift my spirits when I was down or felt defeated. He trusted me enough to give me his Jaguar to go and take his mother Hilda food shopping. He would tell everyone I was one of the most loyal people to ever walk through Ruthless' doors, partly due to my constant defense of him against the untruths told in the movie “Straight Outta Compton.” I am currently involved in his lawsuit against Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy's widow, all who are listed as writing credit on the movie. That really broke him in the end. He was so upset with the way he was portrayed in that film we all truly believe he died of a broken heart. He never was fired by Eazy, nor did he ever mislead any group member with their finances. He did whatever Eazy wanted. Never did he take liberties. Eazy, who died in 1995, was the real captain, Jerry just used his Hollywood muscle and power to make it happen for all of N.W.A. Sadly, to my knowledge not one member of the group has reached out or made a public condolence for Jerry's passing. The lawsuit will still continue, with Terry Heller taking lead now that Jerry is gone. Funny…you knew Jerry loved you if he told you to fuck off and hung up on you. He was like a college guy who loved to haze freshman. That was the Jerry we all love and remember. I am still beyond belief that the Heller family considers me just that…family. When I was asked by Terry Heller to join the procession as family, I was in disbelief. According to Terry, this is the regard that Jerry Heller held me in. Family. Ironically, we buried Jerry on Eazy's birthday. If that doesn't prove God's intervention, I don't know what ever will. The father/son-like team of Jerry Heller and Eric “Eazy E” Wright are finally together again.”

Editor/publisher Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the thought to be impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live since 2017. He now does work for PROBOX TV, the first truly global boxing network.