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Terence Michos walks from the parking lot wearing an aqua blue V-neck shirt, khaki pants and sunglasses.

From a distance, it’s hard to reconcile that the man headed toward you is, in fact, the actor who played Vermin in the hit 1979 movie “The Warriors.”

Gone is the baby fat in the face. The curly locks are missing. The shoulders are not quite as broad.

But when he gets closer, and he smiles, the disarming and mischievous face of the lothario that Michos once played is unmistakable.

At 61, Michos would be the envy of men half his age.

He’s fit and trim. His midriff is even more flat now than when he bared it while wearing the leather vest of the Warriors. And even with crow’s feet at play around his eyes, his face exudes a youthful vitality.

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Michos is going to need some of that energy on Sunday when he and other cast members gather for what promises to be a blowout reunion in Coney Island.

Expect to see a huge turnout of fans, many replicating the costumes of some of the colorful gangs featured in the movie.

Think of it as cosplay for hardcore junkies of “The Warriors.”

But what’s not to like about this gritty, of-its-era depiction of New York City at its nadir in the 1970s?

The movie, with its haunting nighttime footage set against a foot-tapping syntho soundtrack, was a safe way for non-New Yorkers to view the stew of the city’s graffiti-covered subways, runaway crime and the specter of street violence.

And for those who grew up in the city in that decade, it was a chance to glimpse real-life neighborhoods and subway stations on film while rooting for underdogs.

(The Warriors are falsely accused of fatally shooting a charismatic leader who, at a summit in the Bronx, seeks to unite all the city’s gangs. The Warriors then have to make their way from the Bronx to their home turf in Coney Island, all the while crossing through rival gang territory and being pursued by the cops.)

For Michos, the all-day appearance at “The Warriors: Back to Coney,” signing autographs and interacting with fans will be a throwback to the intense experience of what it was like to make the movie.

“It was a wild, wild grueling time,” he recalled of the filming, which took place at numerous New York City locales.

The crew filmed in the middle of the night and the physical demands on the actors were not for the faint of heart.

Those scenes of Michos and other members of the Warriors being chased by other gang members and running at a full-out sprint?

Scenes like those were shot over and over again, 20 or 30 times a night, to get it just right.

And the scene at the Lizzies’ hangout where a night of amorous adventure turns to gunfire and mayhem?

Michos was hurling himself over that couch 15 or 20 times – without the benefit of padding.

In fact, he said he did all of his own stunts, with the exception of when his character got thrown into the mirror in the subway station men’s room.

He recalled going with some of his co-stars, hat brims pulled low, to theaters where the movie was playing and watching as movie-goers erupted in cheers and excitement at the fisticuffs.

Laughing, Michos remembers seeing real-life gang members sitting in the theater and saying to their girlfriends: “I can fight, but I can’t fight like those guys do!”

Michos was relieved not to be recognized, lest real life imitate fiction and he and his co-stars be challenged to a brawl.

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Michos was 25 when the movie was shot. His co-stars were also young.

It was a time of heavy partying, Studio 54 and cocaine, he said.

But not for him.

“I was probably more boring than all the other guys on the set,” he said.

He would tell his movie mates: “‘I’m going home. You guys hold it together.’ I would be telling them about my relationship with God. They loved me. They wouldn’t bring me to their parties, but they loved me.”

But lest you think he was all a goody two-shoes, Michos was quick to note that he shared with his character a weakness for the ladies.

“That was always there,” he said with a grin.

For Michos, the role of Vermin was almost not to be. He’s got the hit TV show “Taxi” to thank with propelling him to “Warriors” fame.

Here’s what happened: The movie auditioned thousands and originally did not pick Michos.

The actor Tony Danza also tried out, and those doing the casting liked him, so he got the part.

Michos went home, had dinner with his girlfriend and cried.

While coming to terms with the rejection, he said he prayed. “I said, ‘Lord, I’m yours.’”

Danza got a starring role in “Taxi,” which pulled him out of “Warriors” and Michos was called back for a second audition.

The movie-makers settled on him for Vermin, who, while a lover, was also a fighter.

“I think it was a good role for me because I think the film was enhanced by that little comedic twist, those little jokes that lightened things up a little.”

He said it’s not unusual six times a day to hear fans recite their favorite pieces of his dialogue back to him:

“Those cats were some desperate dudes.”

“I got the big one.”

“I’m sick of waiting for trains.”

His sense of comedic timing was nowhere better on display than in the tense moments leading up to the brawl in the men’s room.

Mercy, played by Deborah Van Valkenburgh, objects to being led into the restroom by the Warriors’ warlord, Swan.

“Wait a minute,” she says. “I can’t go in there. It’s a men’s room.”

Vermin’s retort is “Are you kidding?” but Michos said the line lacked punch.

So he delivered the line but also improvised.

“I just reached out and grabbed her and she went flying and the house came down.”

He grew up in what was then a much more rural Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

He was interviewed at a playground and recreational field in the Town of Poughkeepsie in his old neighborhood.

He pointed to the field and recalled how he and his friends would play ball and use a beer can as first base, an empty beer case as second base “and, if we found one, a dead skunk for third base.”

It was a community of IBM and Central Hudson workers, professors and doctors. Growing up, he had no ambition to be a member of a gang much less exposure to one.

Still, Michos described himself as a punk.

“I had a chip on my shoulder. If people talked to me wrong, I hit them in the nose, hit them in the face. I hit teachers.”

He was raised Catholic but was less than observant. (He recalled being an altar boy and pilfering the sacramental wine to try to get a buzz.)

He said he had a spiritual awakening in the year that “The Exorcist” was released. Michos said he was fearful — “don’t ask me why or how” — of becoming demonically possessed.

“One night the presence of God came into my room and totally transformed me in a way I could never, ever imagine.”

He said he became a whole new person.

“I committed my life to Christ,” said Michos, who is a pastor at an evangelical church. “I tripped and fell a number of times but I picked myself up and I press on towards the mark.”

Michos, who enjoyed a career on stage and in TV, turned his attention from acting to being a husband and father. He and his wife have four children, including one who is developmentally disabled.

For 16 years, he served as a news director and anchor for a cable TV station that covered the Hudson Valley and then was communications director for former U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth in her Washington, D.C., and district offices.

Now, among other things, he does political consulting.

But for better or for worse, Michos will long be remembered as Vermin.

He said he remains close to his castmates and has appeared at numerous reunion events but none that have caught on like the one taking place on Sunday.

He described the first time they got together in more than 20 years: “The minute we saw each other, it was like nothing had passed, not a beat had passed. We get together and we just care about each other.”

And as for the movie’s appealing legacy?

“We were likeable bad guys,” he said, citing a comparison of “The Warriors” to “The Wizard of Oz”: It’s all about trying to get home.

Yeah, we can dig it.

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Oh Rats! A Subway Stare-Down That I Lost

What creature would roam underground, scurrying from point to point through an intricate network of tunnels — dank, dirty and dingy — tirelessly trudging in claustrophobic surroundings?

I know them as New Yorkers. And they rule the subways.

For a long time I was one of them. Today I fondly think back of my days underground — and over ground when on the El — from the safety and sunshine of Florida.

But there is another New York inhabitant that is the true ruler of the subway, especially its tunnels.

This New Yorker has many cousins in fields, landfills and building basements and is an abomination born of the darkest of crevices – The Subway Rat!

This monstrosity is no ordinary rat. Its above-ground cousin shares similar disgusting traits, such as its almost cat-like size, hideous teeth and fur and voracious appetite. Did I mention it’s as big as a freaking cat?!

The New York Subway Rat has all those traits and exponentially raises it a few degrees.

Many New Yorkers never get to see one of these monsters.

They are the fortunate ones.

I am a New Yorker who faced one and lived to tell the tail…um…tale.

My commute back in the late ’80s was on the No. 6 train from Parkchester in the Bronx to the Garment District near Seventh Avenue. (No self-respecting New Yorker ever called it Fashion Avenue.) But the No. 6 doesn’t go to Seventh Avenue in the Garment District.

I would get off at the 42nd Street Station and then take the Shuttle to the West Side.

I would always go to the first car, not because I wanted to watch the passage through the tunnels from the front door, though I often did.

My principal reason for taking that spot was logistical.

The 42nd Street Station back then had a supervisors’ booth that had long been abandoned.

But the structure was still there and at the mouth of the tunnel, it jutted into the platform forming an inverted “U” from the front tunnel entrance. To either side of the “U” there was a narrow walkway that went right up to the tunnel’s mouth.

Since this walkway was always empty, no one would stand there to wait for the train and I could exit from the first car onto the platform without bumping into anyone waiting to come in.

It saved me a few milliseconds, and if you know a New Yorker’s morning commute, every fraction of a second mattered.

For months I exited the car without ever looking. Until one day…

Sniffing around this secluded platform, at the height of morning rush hour, just inches away from where I was about to plant my first step was a Subway Rat.

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He was this big: I am holding my hands out at least three feet apart!

I froze mid-step.

Average rodents will typically scurry away when confronted by a human. But this is Subterraneous Verminus Rodentus we are talking about here.

This — this thing — stopped sniffing the ground, swiveled and stood on its freaking hind legs!

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I was still frozen mid-step, and five cars away there was probably a conductor watching this exchange and wondering who would win, and more important how quickly, because he needed to get the train moving and close the freaking doors!

This New York Subway Rat knew who was boss. He was!

After a brief stare-down, it lowered itself and slowly, deliberately, walked to the tunnel and out of sight.

I exited the train, turned left and got the hell out of there.

I lived to tell the tale. But often I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t froze and if I had quickly used my soccer skills to kick that bigger-than-a-football-size vermin into the subway car before the doors closed.

Oh the pandemonium that would have created!

But I’m certain the rat would have landed on its feet, killed some passengers and slowly walked off the train and into its subterranean realm.

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Riding the Rails: All Aboard!

Germany summer 2011 143

The  older I get, the more I have come to appreciate the phrase “boys and their toys.”

It is an allusion — not always flattering — to men’s affinity for things mechanical or on wheels.

I never really inhabited that territory.

Cars? Meh.

Boats? Nah.

But short line railroads? Now you’re talking!

I can recall as a kid going to Old McDonald’s Farm in Connecticut and Catskill Game Farm in New York and riding their mini railroads and being enchanted. Or bringing my sons to the Bergen County Zoo in New Jersey and riding the rail it has there.

And as an adult, I’ve enjoyed the trips along the Delaware & Ulster Railroad and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.

So I was captivated to see in The New York Times a story headlined “Riding the Rails in the Bronx.

The story explored this group that wants to put small open-air cars on tracks that are abandoned or seldom used.

When I posted a link to the story on Facebook, I called out the About Men Radio posse and suggested we should do this.

“Would so get our own car,” I wrote, “drinking, smoking, cussing, cellphones all permitted, and ride the wide open rails!”

My suggestion was met with immediate enthusiasm from the AMR crew.

Why?

Boys and their toys.

I mean, c’mon, the idea of riding in one of these old work rail cars, called a speeder, along the open rails of the Bronx?!

Suh-weeeet!

We could outfit it with a couch, a boom box to play 80s tunes and a wet bar! It would be a man cave on rails!

Before you ask “Does your train of thought have a caboose?” let me tell you why such personalized rail cars like these excite me: Because they do exist and I’ve ridden one!

I have cousins in Germany, some of whom live in Langeness, one of 10 halligs in the world. A hallig is an island without dikes that floods almost completely.

When the floods come, these hills become islands. The roads are impassable and they have to wait for the waters to recede.

One hundred year-round residents populate Langeness, which is made up of 18 big hills where the homes and farm buildings are perched.

You can take a ferry to reach the hallig but the most fascinating form of transit is a motorized rail car called a lorrie.

Think of a lorrie as a shed with bench seats that can seat six and that you can put on railroad tracks.

The lorrie line, which is three miles long, crosses land and sea and each inhabitant on the hallig has their own.

On the lorrie line, there are no radios, no track signals and no control tower.

For a kid who grew up on the No. 6 Lexington Avenue subway line, riding the lorrie was an immense treat.

It reminds me very much of what these rail enthusiasts hope to achieve in the Bronx. To which, all I can say is: Good luck to them and all aboard!

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