View Full Version : The Zito/Jean-Claude fight

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Sam Browning
10/30/2003 9:36pm,
This is Chuck Zito's version of the notorous incident between Jean-Claude Van Dumb, oops Van Damme and himself on February 5, 1998. For us martial artists who find Van Damme over-rated its a really funny story. If anyone out there is a Van Damme supporter please feel free to post his version of events. Zito, a supporting actor on HBO's OZ, is an ex-con, Hell's Angel's Club Officer, body guard to the stars, and boxer and martial artist. We start the action of page 270 of Chuck's book, Street Justice.

"I first met Jean-Claude in 1992. He'd been a legitimate martial artist at one time, a black belt who had competed successfully in Belgium . . . We were introduced at a beauty pageant sponsored by Hawaiian Tropic. . . . When the week ended Jean Claude asked me if I'd be interested in working as his personal bodyguard and I accepted. But it became apparent to me fairly quickly that our relationship wouldn't last. . . . I just didn't hit it off with him the way I usually did with my clients. . . When you're spending that much time together, you have to develop a certain rapport and I never felt like I had that with Jean-Claude . . . . For one thing I didn't like his demeanor, his attitude. I'd worked with some of the biggest stars in the world and most of them made a concerted effort to put other people at ease. They were comfortable with their celebrity, and they didn't wield it arrogantly. They were nice to the small people who crossed their paths . . . in other words they seemed to realize how lucky they were.

Jean-Claude, on the other hand, acted like the world owed him something. He wasn't gracious. In fact, sometimes he could be downright mean. I was accustomed to working with stars who were considerate of other people. Being with Jean-Claude made me uncomfortable, so, after a few weeks, we parted ways. There was no big scene, no fight, nothing. It was a mutual decision . . .

We ran into each other one night at Scores, an upscale New York strip club where I like to hang out. I was sitting there, eating my steak, minding my own business, when Jean-Claude walked in with Mickey Rourke and a few of his buddies. I figured, Hey life's too short; why hold grudges? So I went over to Jean-Claude, pulled up a chair, and said hello. Right away he copped an attitude.

"Hey . . . Chuck Zi-to," he said, barely making eye contact. Now, I know my last name so it as pretty obvious that he was trying to be an asshole. But I decided to stay away from him. I didn't want or need any trouble. A little while later, though, I was approached by a guy named Frankie, one of the clubs bouncers, who had seen me talking with Jean-Claude. "Hey, Chuck," he said. "Why are you wasting any time with that prick?" [Zito] "What do you mean?" [Frankie] "I just heard him talking about you in the bathroom." [Zito] "what did he say?" [Frankie] "I asked him for an autograph and he told him we had a mutual friend--Chuck Zito. And he started laughing, saying you had no heart, **** like that."

I knew the bouncer and trusted him. There was no way he was lying. So I pulled my chair next to Jean-Claude, looked at the girl wriggling in his lap and said, "Sweetheart, do me a favor. Take your shoes for a walk." She got up and left, leaving me and Jean-Claude sitting just inches apart, staring at each other. We were surrounded by other people, but the music was loud, the place was jumping, and I'm not sure anyone realized we were on the edge of a brawl. "Jean-Claude, were you just talking about me in the bathroom?" He didn'y respond at first. Then he slowly removed his glasses, tucked them into his breast pockt, and leaned even closer; and I thought, why the hell is he taking his glasses off? Unless he wants to fight.

[VD] "Yeah, So what?" [Zito] "You tell Frankie that I had no heart?" [VD] "Uh-huh." I didn't want to disrespect the people who owned the club, and I didn't want to disrespect Mickey, who came in with Jean-Claude. [Mickey is a former Zito bodyguarding client] But I couldn't let this go. In all honesty, I have to say that I was amazed Jean-Claude was being such a jerk. So I gave him one more chance to explain his actions. "Why would you say that?" I asked. He lowered his head. "Because you're full of ****." Shocked I reached out and grabbed him by the arm. The music was blaring and I'd misheard him. "Excuse me, Jean-Claude. Did you say I'm full of ****." [VD] "No . . . I said you're fucking full of ****!"

And with that I hit him--twice. A straight right and a left hook. Bam-bam! [ed: where's pebbles?] Jean-Claude's chair flipped over backward, and he landed in the lap of my friend Kevin Lubic. As Jean-Claude tried to scramble to his feet, I started screaming at him. "You fuckin' scumbag! I got no heart? You got no heart! This ain't the movies asshole; this is the street and I own the fucking street!" I started hitting him with everything I had. Jean-Claude barely evene tried to fight back. He just tried to shield himself. When he covered his head I hit him in the body. When he covered his body I hit him in the face. It went on like that for about thirty seconds, until the bouncers jumped in, Mickey jumped in, and all my buddies jumped in and pulled me off off Jean-Claude. He was tossed out of the club and I left on my own --quickly--before the police arrived. I went straight to the hospital, because even though he hadn't landed a punch, I'd managed to hurt myself. I could my hand throbbing. Sure enough, X rays showed a broken bone."

The book is Chuck Zito with Joe Layden, Street Justice, (St. Martin's Press, New York, 2002), pp. 270-273. Chuck's website is www.chuckzito.com I recommend the book strongly and look forward to the martial arts tapes which he is planning to release which I suspect will contain a lot of good tips for using boxing in street fights.

10/30/2003 10:23pm,
I don't think Van Damme has ever come out a face saving version has he ?

He has done interviews in the last year or so though talking about bad drug addiction problems which could help to clarify his total cockhead behaviour.

10/30/2003 10:29pm,
Zito IS a major badass biker dude.
Boxer, Karate, the works.
I believe his story for 2 reasons, he hit Van Damme first, that is how it is done.
Second, on eof the bouncers that was there was in Toronto a few years ago, he told us the same thing, word for word.

Sam Browning
10/30/2003 11:46pm,
I don't know if VD ever offered his own version of events but I assumed given his previous boneheaded behavior that he would come up with his own spin on event, it would be refreshing if he hadn't

10/30/2003 11:56pm,
Good story!

10/31/2003 1:12am,
Good story indeed...

10/31/2003 2:13am,
he sucked punched van damme in a strip club and beat the **** of out him. who gives a ****? i'm not a fan of van damme, but really, who is impressed by this crap? van damme has the right to be an asshole to people, that doesn't give chuck zito the right to beat the **** of of him. van damme probably had a fuckin' boner from the stripper anyway.

if you're going to fight and brag about it, you should at least be sporting about it, unless it's in self-defense.

10/31/2003 3:00am,

10/31/2003 3:55am,
That's the version I heard. I think it's pretty much taken as the truth.

I think VD was on coke at the time, that, and the fact he got taken by suprise by someone he had just blatently insulted to their face, makes him an idiot.

10/31/2003 4:48am,
van damme probably had a fuckin' boner from the stripper anyway.

BWAHAHHAhHAhA! yea probably would have been hard to do one of his ballerina looking kicks with a stiffy. he'd have to fight with boner-fu!

Sam Browning
10/31/2003 12:06pm,
Yes Jenfucious, VD was sucker punched and that didn't require much skill, but he did go out of his own way to cause trouble. While legally Zito was in the wrong, (it wasn't self defense) the story also reveals a lot about VD who as a prominant film star is unfortunately viewed as a representive of our community by those outside it. I also don't agree with you that people have an unconditional 'right' to be an asshole, (would it fall under Amendment I of the bill of rights i.e. freedom of speech?) because there is a 'fighting words' exception to the first amendment. I don't think that VD had reached that point, but Zito could have certainly called him an asshole and left it at that. I do feel a bit of satisfaction at seeing VD getting called out, and provided the story because of that reason and because its informative concerning VD.

10/31/2003 12:17pm,
SB - I know you are a lawyer but,

... there is a 'fighting words' exception to the first amendment.
I don't think so. Not in the first amendment or the constitution.
Laws have been made since that address harmful or inciteful speach but they are misdimeanors.

Now for Jenfucius;

Yes what Zito did was wrong but if you can't understand why he did it ... I doubt we can explain it.

10/31/2003 12:24pm,
There's a cartoon on Chuck's website of him kicking VD's ass. http://www.chuckzito.com/cartoon.

10/31/2003 12:29pm,
Way to post the link genius...


Matt W.
10/31/2003 12:32pm,
Eh, I'm not impressed. I don't even believe VD is much of a legit MAist, but that story makes Zito sound like the a-hole. And it also sounds like High School bragging.

For what it's worth, a coupla friends of mine ran into VD in a bar in New Orleans about 8 years ago or so. He was pretty drunk, but happily signed autographs for them and even posed for a coupla pictures.


Sam Browning
10/31/2003 12:33pm,
Okay, Poet, the text of the 1st Amendment to the Bill of Rights (which is a part of the US constitution) does not mention the fighting words exception or other limitations on speech calculated to incite violance or public disorder. But U.S. Supreme court dcisions do mention such exceptions to the first amendment which gives the states leway to pass such laws as you mention ,imposing criminal penalties on certain forms of speech or physical expression. (burning a cross, on the road in front of someones house) I'll do a word search tonight and find a case or two.