Mario Lopez and Me, Then
A.C. Slater Screech Zack
Lopez Diamond Gosselaar
It's a funny thing, funny weird and not funny haha, that during the years of taping of the show 'Saved by the Bell', I was the only one who was called by their show name both on and off the set. While it may not have seemed like a big deal to anyone else, it was too me and so I spent much of the time with a chip on my shoulder. While it may not have appeared as such in my role on the show, I was pretty much in everyone's face during our down time. Then came the day I mouthed off to Mario Lopez. I should have suspected something was up when he and Mark-Paul Gosselaar invited me to go work out with them. I wanted to belong so bad I never gave it a second thought. As they say in today's vernacular, my bad.
It all started during the taping of an episode where Mario's character, A.C.,
was to wrestle a girl. I mean come on, how realistic was that going to be.
Mario seemed to be taking it all in stride until he read the script and found
out he was to lose. Oh man, his ego took a major hit and me; well I couldn't
help taking advantage of the situation. My mouth always did run faster than
my brain. Anyway, after the scene had been shot a couple of times, I saw him
in the workout room, pumping some barbells they kept handy just for him to
get pumped up before some of his more muscle exposing shots. He was sitting
on a bench, curling some amount of weight over and over again.
Walking over, I asked if he needed any help. He looked at me but didn't say a word, he just kept pumping that iron. His bicep was expanding and falling with each repetition. He finally stopped and dropped the weight to the floor. I couldn't help but see how the lifting exemplified his veins and muscles, the blood coursing hot and strong through his body. "Need that to beat the girl, huh," I said, which was the wrong thing to say at that particular moment. He was up in an instant and in my face, his fist wrapped tightly around the material of my shirt, holding me so my toes barely touched the ground. "You're dead, or at least you'll wish you were," he said, holding me helpless for a few seconds before thrusting me backward. I tripped on my own shoelaces and fell to the ground. He simply walked away. I didn't give it another thought at the moment though now I realize I should have.
Shooting of the material for the next weeks show had just wrapped up. It was late on Friday and as I was just finishing up playing on one of the video machines the studio kept around to keep us amused in our down time.
Gosselaar came up to me. "Whatcha got going tonight, Screech," he asked? I just shook my head in the negatory, not belonging to the in crowd. "Wanna work out with me and Lopez?" I took a long, hard look at him. After all, I wasn't exactly the workout type. In fact, I was waiting for him to break into laughter. Only he didn't. He just stood there waiting for my answer. "Sure," I said finally. "Great. Come on." Without another word, he headed toward the lot gymnasium.
As we entered, the large room filled with an assortment of machines and weights was dimly lit and appeared empty. Well, except for Lopez who was over in one corner doing a military press with some undetermined amount of weight. Gosselaar walked across the room and the two greeted each other. Lopez even threw me a head nod. I followed Gosselaar into the changing room. It was lucky I had included some shorts and a tee shirt in my clothes bag that morning. Gosselaar was changed and out of the room before I barely had time to unzip my bag.
Gangly and undeveloped, I slid into my clothes, taking a moment to imitate a body builder in the large wall-sized mirror. Boy was I a sight. I giggled to myself as I followed Gosselaar back to the weight room.
I no more than stepped out the door than Lopez was on me. Admittedly, he caught me by surprise but I truthfully could have done little to defend myself even if I had been ready. "Come on, let's wrestle," he shouted at me. He locked his muscular right arm around my head and with no effort, threw me to the ground. His rock-like bicep tightened against my neck, cricking my meager muscles. "Ow, that hurts, Lopez," I managed to choke out. He merely tightened his grip. Suddenly he changed positions, pulling my head and legs in close, locking me in what he called a cradle. Gosselaar tapped on the mat. "Pinned," he yelled out. "Score: Lopez one; Screech nothing." Lopez let me up, jumping to his feet, imitating Rocky and making crowd sounds. I stood up, feeling just a little unsteady.
Again, before I could react, he dove in, sweeping my legs out from under me, driving me down hard on my back, knocking the breathe out of me. His legs interlocked with mine while one of his powerful arms snaked around my neck. Another slapping sound on the mat and Gosselaar was yelling, "Lopez two: Screech nothing." This one had been a grapevine. As we both stood up, Lopez grabbed me in a bear hug, heaving me in the air as he compressed my ribs. I pounded on his shoulders trying to free myself but I knew it would do no good. He let me go just short of my losing consciousness. I was woozy on my feet as he danced around me, shadow-boxing. "How about some boxing, Screech," Lopez asked? I shook my head no. "Okay then," he replied. "Hold him Gosselaar." Without warning, I was grabbed from behind, my arms locked painfully behind my back. "We'll do it my way." That's when the first blow hit my gut just above my belly button.
I was pretty sure I was going to be sick but that didn't make any difference to Lopez. Having hit me once, his fists flew like an out of control windmill, each blow like a small detonation, creating a crater in my skin. As his fist pulled away, the crater would disappear, leaving only a red spot to designate where the explosion had occurred. He wasn't necessarily trying to hit the same spot each time but when he did manage to, it hurt doubly so as his knuckles sank in deeper, the muscle already weakened by the previous hits.
Did I say muscle? Here I was just a skinny, thin-framed boy being pounded by what I viewed as a behemoth of muscularity. My torso was incapable of stopping his fists and as the torrent of blows continued, I began to slump, unable to hold myself up any longer, even with Gosselaar's help, who still held my arms locked behind my back. I would have begged Lopez to stop but I couldn't seem to gain enough breathe to make my vocal cords work, other than to release the occasional moan or groan.
I think I actually started to list to one side, like a sail boat being buffeted by a strong wind when I heard Lopez say something to Gosselaar. The hold on my arms was released and I almost collapsed. Only Gosselaar prevented that from happening. He was simply repositioning himself, placing me in an abdomen stretch, my head locked behind his arm, his legs entwined with mine, stretching me back, exposing my already punished gut to more torture. It only took brief moments for this changing of position and Lopez started up again. When I had been standing up straight, his blows had sunk into my muscle and underlying organs. But now that I was stretched out like an ironing board, it was like he was slamming into a thin piece of plywood, each blow vibrating through my skeletal structure from head to foot. I knew that the right combination of blows would snap me in two like a twig.
Within moments of this second barrage starting, my full body weight, little that it was, was being totally supported by Gosselaar. Because of the position of my head, I could no longer see Lopez, only feel his fists as they continued to pummel me, and hear his breathing as he snorted each time he hit me. My own breathing was ragged and inconsistent. By this time, I was pretty sure I was going to die.
"You know, Mario," I heard Gosselaar say. "Maybe he's had enough. You've done a pretty good job of messing him up." The blows stopped though I wasn't sure why. In the shape I was in, I really couldn't get my mind around it. Gosselaar let me go from the hold he had me in. I'm not sure how, but I managed to stay on my feet.
"Why don't you shut up before I turn these on you," Lopez replied as he stepped up chest to chest with Gosselaar.
"I'm just saying "
"I know what you're saying," Lopez interrupted, "and I said to shut up." The room grew quiet. They were trying to stare each other down, their fists clenching and unclenching. And that's when I spoke up again at the wrong moment, saying the wrong thing.
"You hit like a girl, Lopez."
Before Gosselaar could do anything to protect me, Lopez jumped forward, ramming his knee right into my groin. My battered and bruised body collapsed on the floor, the pain so much more intense that the battering I had just endured. Lopez stomped out of the room, a sound I never knew I would appreciate so much.
"Aw, Screech. You and your big mouth," Gosselaar said as he manhandled
me into a fireman's carry. I had no reply as I had fainted dead away.