Teen Hostage Freed, Returns to Bedroom

DOWNERS GROVE, Il.  Since Friday afternoon Dottie Cavanaugh has been “a total wreck” as her husband Herb puts it, unable to sleep while the couple awaited word about their 17-year-old son Kevin, who was held hostage by a gunman at a pizza parlor.

“Z-z-z-z . . .”

“If anything had happened to Kevin, I would have never ordered pizza from that place again,” Dottie says as she dabs at her nose with a tissue.

Kevin was freed when a SWAT team rushed the gunman last night, however, and he and two of his friends emerged to the glare of television lights and cameras recording their reunion with their families.


“How do you feel?” one reporter shouted as the three boys were covered in blankets by firemen to ward off the chilly March night.

“Okay,” Kevin replied.

“How did they treat you in there?” another inquired.

“We’re gonna go do something.  Or not.”

“Okay,” Kevin’s friend Evan Smertz answered.

“Will you be glad to see your family?” a third asked.

“I guess,” the third boy, Todd Domerski, conceded.


Whisked home in a police cruiser, Kevin was hugged by his mother and dad, who spoke to this reporter as their son disappeared into his bedroom.

“We’re just so thankful he’s safe,” Dotty said through tears. 

“I’m sure he’s just happy to get back to his video games,” Herb added, shaking his head with a knowing smile.

“That was last year,” Dottie said.  “Now he watches MTV all night.  Or maybe Australian rules football.”

“I thought he got over that,” Herb responds, a puzzled look on his face.  “Right after he stopped playing the guitar.  Or was it the drums?”

The Cavanaughs ignorance of their son’s habits and interests was not dispelled as Kevin slept until noon, then appeared at the top of the stairs to ringing shouts of “Surprise!” as he is greeted by family and neighbors, eager to be reunited with him.

“Uh, hi,” Kevin says sheepishly, as he walks downstairs while texting a friend on his cell phone.

“Kevin, I made pancakes–your favorite,” his mom says, her voice choking with emotion.

“Yeah, uh, great,” Kevin says as he looks at his phone while his uncle Edward “Chic” Le Maistre slaps him on the back.  “Say, uh, I’m gonna go meet Todd and Evan, okay?” he says to his mom.  “You don’t care, do you?”

“Well, no, honey,” she replies, “if that’s really how you want to spend your first day of freedom.  But there are all these people here to–to see you.”

“I got it for being held hostage.”

“Oh, right,” he says, apparently embarrassed for the first time that he may have failed to demonstrate common courtesy to the assembled well-wishers. “If they leave any gift cards or presents,” he tells his mother with a serious look on his face, “say thank you for me, okay?”

Across US Sullen Teens Dump Family for Olive Garden

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.  It’s Thursday night at the Olive Garden restaurant here, and as the line snakes up to the hostess station, Emily Nilson is offering some helpful but pointed criticism of her daughter, Alicia.  “You need to pluck your eyebrows,” she says.  “That zit on your forehead just won’t go away, will it, sweetie?” she adds as she brushes her daughter’s bangs downward.

“Mother–please!” Alicia seethes through clenched teeth, then folds her arms across her chest to express in body language that she doesn’t want to talk about beauty right now.

The Nilson’s table is ready, and after they are seated, veteran bread-and-water man Tony DiFillipo appears to fill the glasses and drop off some rolls.  “Hey, Princess,” he says to Alicia.  “How’s my little beauty queen?”

“Your momma–she’s got a poker up her butt.  Stay with us!”

“Hi, Tony,” Alicia says as she smiles for the first time tonight.  “I’m okay–except for le genitori”–her parents.

“Eesa no gooda to notta respecta your momma and-a poppa,” Tony says in the bogus Italian stage accent that Olive Garden employees are required to use during working hours.  “Onna the other handa, soma-times these things don’ta work out,” he says with an arched eyebrow, a veiled threat to Alicia’s parents.

Alicia is part of a growing phenomenon across America; sullen teenagers of the “baby boom echo” generation who have sought sanctuary among waitstaff and kitchen help at Olive Garden, the Italian restaurant chain whose slogan–“When you’re here, you’re family”–appeals to youths whose high-pressure upbringing results in frequent disputes and intra-family sniping.

Alicia disappeared for a week last November before the Nilsons obtained a court order forcing her to return to the family home.  “It was terrible,” says her father, Lloyd, an executive at an insurance company.  “All that pasta–she gained ten pounds.”

Runaway teenagers get together in comfortable group home-like Italian setting.

Three tables over, seventeen-year-old Charles Barker, whose parents are hoping he’ll get into one of two Ivy League colleges at the top of his list, buries his head in his entree when his father peppers him with questions about his essays.  “Dad, I don’t want to talk about it all the time!” he snaps as Maria della Famina appears at their table.  “Wassa matter?” she asks in a display of warmth that the chain’s “hospitaliano” policy requires staff to display, if not feel.

“He won’t shut up about my Harvard and Penn applications,” Charles says, a bit mollified by the waitress’s friendly tone.


“You no need to go to college!” she says, gesturing broadly with her hands.  “My brother Gaetano, he no go to college–he’s inna crushed stone business.  My father, Giuseppe–he no go to college.  He make-a good-a living in hees-a shoe repair business.  Fugeddabouta da college–do whatta makes-a you happy!”

A look of enlightenment comes over the young man’s face.  “You’re right,” he says, half to himself, looking off into the distance.  “I’d like to take a year off, learn how to make stained-glass windows.”

His father, sensing trouble, looks desperately around for the owner, then spotting him at the cash register, yells “Check please!”

Teen Girl Ends Solo Sail, Mall Rat Dances On

NATICK, Mass.  California teen Abby Sunderland has ended her quest to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, but Tyler Brogan, a 17-year-old high school junior in this suburb west of Boston, says  she remains an inspiration to him and his friends, who have proudly appropriated the term “mall rat” that disgusted adults mutter when they see them loitering in the area’s numerous shopping centers.  “When I heard what that girl there was trying to do,” he says as he wipes a trace of Straw-Banna smoothie from the corner of his mouth, “I knew I had to go for my dream too.”

Abby Sunderland

So Brogan swore that he would parallel Sunderland’s quest by playing “Dance Dance Revolution,” an aerobic-video dance game, in the climate-controlled comfort of the Natick Mall, an upscale shopping concourse here, until she landed.  Now that Sunderland has abandoned her journey, Brogan says he will continue to dance as a tribute to the inspiration Sunderland provided to directionless teens like himself.

Dance Dance Revolution

Child welfare authorities have reacted with alarm, saying a boy Brogan’s age should not concentrate on a single form of physical activity, and should be in school.  “I don’t know what their problem is,” he says.  “You only have to go to school 180 days, and there’s like almost 300 in a year, right?”

In training

Brogan still hopes to become the youngest person to do something really stupid over a long period of time in a shopping mall, the record for which is currently held by Todd Brandnewjetski of Downer’s Grove, Illinois.  Brandnewjetski drank a large Orange Julius smoothie for 215 consecutive days in 2004 before dying of dehydration after contracting sudden-onset diarrhea.

Dance Dance Revoluton is the leading video game in the mall rat rhythm and dance genre.  Players stand on a “dance platform” in an arcade and attempt to hit colored arrows with their feet to musical and visual cues while mall patrons stand outside and laugh at them. Players are judged by how well they time their dance steps to patterns presented to them, and are pummeled by members of their high school football team when they leave.

“I wish I could get a date so I’d have somebody to dance with!”

Brogan subjected himself to a rigorous training routine to prepare for his epic journey, logging a half-hour of dance time every morning and afternoon last summer.  “A lot of people say what I’m doing is dangerous,” he says with a sly smile at a gaggle of girls who eye him as they pass by.  “They don’t know what dangerous is until they’ve tried the sausage and pepperoni cheesy crust pizza at Papa Gino’s.”

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