A Masshole in Full
If you grew up here, you know a Robbie Concannon: Tough. Funny. Big-hearted. Hard-partying. Frequently flirting with danger, or incarceration, or worse. But Robbie Concannon dodged the fate most guys like him meet. The unlikely tale of how the craziest kid from the neighborhood turned himself into a bona fide folk hero.
The first time I saw Robbie Concannon’s penis was in the early ’90s at a party on the top floor of a triple-decker in Southie.
It was one of those kill-me-it’s-so-hot summer nights, and you can plug in only so many air conditioners before the fuse blows and the house goes dark. When the lights came back on, I noticed the room wasn’t as bright as before; the lamp next to me had a pair of shorts covering it. Before I had time to think it through, a lean, curly-haired kid in his early twenties was standing there wearing nothing but sneakers and a smile. “Do you want to see the terrier?” he asked a group of young ladies. It was a rhetorical question, because he immediately turned away from the girls, tucked his junk between his legs, and bent over. So this was Robbie Concannon, the crazy kid from Dorchester I’d heard all about.
When I was growing up in Southie, there were really only three things we ever talked about: girls, sports, and some crazy stunt some kid pulled. There were lots of kids pulling crazy stunts in the Irish neighborhoods—that place unto itself centered in Southie and reaching into Charlestown, large swaths of Dorchester, and pockets of the South Shore. Hollywood has done a great deal to mythologize the Boston Irish Guy, building stock characters whose motivation is booze and drugs and crime. But the things that motivate the real legends in the neighborhood are far more benign—a simple desire to make your friends laugh, to entertain the troops, to be talked about. A guy’s reputation hinges on delivering bits of comic chaos. In this world of larger-than-life characters, Robbie Concannon was as big as they come. Every story about him seemed to top the last one.
“Did you hear about Robbie riding a bike into a party down the Cape naked with a mask and snorkel on?”
“I heard he rode a moped up the stairs of a party naked.”
“Sully told me he crashed his Camry into a sand trap on the golf course at Franklin Park.”
“You know he got kicked out of BC High.”
“And Providence College.”
“O’Connell told me he jumped out of the second-floor window at one of the Mods at BC on Marathon Monday, naked with a spaghetti strainer on his head. Then he went back into the party and jumped out four more times with the crowd chanting, ‘Robbie, Robbie, Robbie.'”
“I heard he trashed the airport in Bermuda and got kicked off the island.”
“I heard he was in a bar in town the other night, walking around on all fours like a dog and pretending to pee on people’s legs. He ended up having to fight the whole place. And he almost won.”
Robbie was a half-dozen years older than me, and I didn’t know him personally, but I’d occasionally seen him doing his thing. Once, I was hanging with friends on East Broadway when a car came flying down the hill from the courthouse. It was on the wrong side of the street and it looked as if nobody was at the wheel. Robbie had his head hanging out the passenger-side window and he was screaming. He screeched up in front of us, and when we looked inside the vehicle we saw his penis, and the fact that he was driving with his left foot. (The car was second only to the penis as Robbie’s favorite comedic prop.)
Driving from the passenger side was a signature Robbie move, as was playing with the radio and pretending not to notice the people he was driving toward, a trick that would send pedestrians diving into snowbanks. He also enjoyed pulling over on busy roads to do pushups or jumping jacks in the nude.
Robbie and his crew were all very good hockey players, arguably the greatest group to come out of the city; they were also world-class ball-busters who dragged menace in their wake. “Robbie didn’t hang out with any saints,” says his mother, Lorraine. As Brendan Walsh, who was part of that group and is now a Boston cop, points out, “The scariest guy in the room is the guy who doesn’t give a fuck.” None of them gave a fuck. They’d show up at a party, steal all the beer, beat up all the boyfriends, and take all the girls. Their actions were impossible to condone, and impossible not to laugh at. They were the older kids, and my friends and I idolized them the way the younger kids always will.
If you grew up around here, I’m certain you know someone like Robbie Concannon. And you probably know that what passes for funny at 18 can seem pathetic at 38. Those crazy kids—the truth is that a lot of them don’t turn out so well. The motivation has a way of changing, and the drugs and the booze and the fighting quickly get problematic. The cliché is that many end up dead or in jail, and there’s a reason it’s a cliché. I drifted away from Southie, went off to college, and stopped hearing Robbie Concannon stories. Last I knew, he was playing hockey in the minor leagues. If I’m being honest, I always feared the next Robbie Concannon story I heard would be the last.
But not long ago, I caught wind of what sounded like the craziest tale yet. Robbie was still nuts and still getting naked, according to the grapevine, but had become a full-blown celebrity in, of all places, Charleston, South Carolina. I poked around and found, among other things, a MySpace page where a woman lists her heroes as “Jesus Christ, Robbie Concannon, and the men/women of the military.” “He’s nearly worshipped in Charleston” is how the local Post and Courier has described that genteel city’s fascination with the Boston kid they nicknamed “Coocs.” Beyond wondering how it all happened, I got to thinking about whether Robbie was the same guy we’d adored in the neighborhood so many years ago. I figured I had to go see for myself.