I first contacted Master Legend a couple of months ago after watching the HBO documentary Superheroes. The only person who had mentioned Orlando’s superhero before then was my friend Matt. He had read an article in Rolling Stone about him and insisted I track him down for an interview.
Thanks to Google, there he was on my computer screen. A picture of a middle-aged man and his cape flying proudly behind him. He stood strong and proud. “Master Legend: Orlando’s real-life superhero,” it said. I was dumbfounded. How could two characters like ourselves coexist in the same city for twenty years without knowing each other? Everyone who lives in Orlando knows it’s a small, big city where everyone knows everyone within three degrees of separation. It’s the rule (at least that seems to be the rule when you’re diving head first into the Orlando dating pool) and yet somehow this superhero snuck his way into a national publication and on to the big screen while no one was looking. If anything, that’s a magical feat upon itself. Kudos ML.
To set-up this interview, I emailed strange listings on googled websites until finally someone replied with Master Legend’s personal email. Within a day he sent me his phone number. It was a month before I called him. I needed time to build up the courage to say, “Hi. Is this Master Legend?”
On the phone he told me about his recent Orlando Sentinel cover and how he felt like the HBO documentary took advantage of him drinking one beer and made him seem like an alcoholic. He assured me he no longer drinks, and that he was going through a depression back then, and that he’s a good guy and soon he has to go get some cracked up teeth fixed. And this all happened before I could formally introduce myself.
Master Legend is practiced. He knows he has a story to tell and it’s obvious he’s told it many times before. Based on my research, his story is very consistent. The morning of this interview he was suppose to call-in to XL106.7 and talk to Johnny on his morning show. His phone blocked Johnny’s call and the interview never happened. He said he felt terrible. To show that he’s dependable and that the morning goof wasn’t his fault, he still wanted to meet me after 8pm to clear the air.
He wanted to meet at Gino’s pizza, the very same place he took the Rolling Stone writer. Due to noise, we walked down Pine St. hoping to find quieter spot for interviewing. Along the way he made friends with a NY Sergeant Fire Fighter, a two-year-old and the two-year-old’s family. He passed out business cards to those he encountered, as if they were presents. He did not leave out the two-year-old. “Find me on Facebook,” he shouted to anyone within reach.
Eventually we landed at the outside tables of Bullit Bar. He faced the street, I faced him and the brick wall backdrop. We were interrupted three times in twenty-two minutes by ML fans. I’m sure many more fans walked by pointing and staring. After all, he was wearing tights, armor, a helmet, sunglasses and a cape–just another Wednesday night for a real-life superhero.
Jana: Describe a typical night for Master Legend.
ML: It depends on where I’m at and the territory. If it’s in my Winter Park area, it’s usually a quiet night because I’m scouring the streets making sure no evil comes back. Long ago, there was all kinds of stuff going on… all kinds of crackheads and people burglarizing everything. I fought them off one by one. When the cops couldn’t do anything, myself and The Justice Crusaders ran ‘em out of town and now I just keep the town clean.
When I come to Orlando, downtown, I walk the streets and help the homeless people. I look for anyone who might be getting attacked. If someone gets attacked, I will jump into action!
In your opinion, what makes a superhero?
You wanna try to do something above and beyond what the average person is doing—that’s one thing that makes a superhero. And you gotta have the heart and spirit, that’s the main thing.
When it comes to being a superhero a lot of people say you must have super powers. A lot of guys out there will say they don’t have super powers. I say they haven’t tapped into it or they don’t believe in such things. But, I, myself am the superhero Master Legend that has super metaphysical abilities.
Is that something you were born with? Or is it a choice that you made?
It’s both for me. I was born with a veil and died the moment I was born.
What do you mean a veil?
It’s a membrane over your face. It’s pretty well known through the ages. Anyone born with the veil that survives without being suffocated is gifted with certain abilities. I suffocated, you see. The doctors brought me back. They brought me back! It all depends on the color of your veil too.
What color was your veil?
What does that mean?
I can see spirits and stuff like that…
[A stranger from New York interrupts us to have his picture taken with Master Legend. He recently has seen the HBO documentary and is a fan of ML’s.]
That happens a lot.
That’s okay. What is your superhero quality?
There’s plenty of qualities there. Mainly, I care. That’s the biggest quality I have. I could sit back like other people I see in this world who only worry about themselves, but that’s not me. I’m trying to make a difference. And I’m willing to do anything to do it. I’ll do dangerous stunts—whatever it takes! Just to help out people.
Have you ever heard the story of the Human Fly? It’s a story you should check out sometime. He’s one of my hero’s. Marvel made a comic about him way back in the day but it was short lived. I think you’d really like the story about him. He helped out a lot of sick kids by doing dangerous stunts. And that’s what I’m willing to do too.
How do you find the courage?
After my second death. When I was a teenager I died a second time. I suffocated. Both times I’ve died by suffocation. But the paramedics brought me back! And when I came back the second time I had these special visions. People think I’m nuts when I tell them that. But I’ve shown people what I can do over the years.
Tell me more about these visual powers. Do you see colors or what?
I see spirits and demons in the metaphysical world. I know a lot about energies. There’s these energies that are sometimes evil and I can see them. Something else I do is see inside of people very well. I can read into their very souls.
What do you see inside of me?
I won’t go into all of that right now. That’d be a long thing… and I don’t think we have that kind of time. But I want to help ya.
Fair enough. How did you come up with your costume?
It’s emerged through the years. I’ve always liked armor and protection. And my colors are chrome and black. The silver is like the light shining through the darkness. That’s why I like silver. Silver is the color of purity.
What brought you to Orlando?
Over twenty years ago, I got tired of Louisiana. The town was bad and I was gettin’ sick of the place. So I decided to come here. Some friends told me to come on down to Orlando. So I did. They said they had a job for me and a place to stay. But they didn’t. I was homeless the day I set foot in Orlando. I had to fight my way through it. I got jumped and beaten up pretty bad. My face was fractured in, my wrist was broken, stitches to my head—and I had real good, long hair back then too. They stitched my head up at Orlando Regional Medical Center and had to cut my hair. Luckily, it’s back now. Thank goodness. No bald spots or gray hairs at forty-five.
What do you like/not like about this city?
It’s what I don’t like about many places—the rich people have so much while more and more people are suffering on the streets. There is money being made off of the homeless people. The money that’s suppose to go to them hasn’t been helpin’ one bit or else I wouldn’t have to be out here handin’ out jackets and blankets and food and water and socks and shampoo and soap and toothbrushes and toothpaste and everything I do.
I like the cops, but then I see they have to uphold certain laws that I don’t like. Like, when the jail gets a little low on prisoners, they randomly find homeless people to throw in the jailhouse. I have that filmed. They don’t know it. Some of my spies and The Justice Crusaders…
[A couple walking by interrupts us and asks Master Legend to take a photo with each of them. He is quick to get up and greet them, and then kindly poses for more pictures.]
A lot of times people want to take pictures with me but I don’t think they really care what I do. Anyhow, The Justice Crusaders are jumping into action with the video cameras. You see, the jailhouse industry—as I call it—make $150 a day off a homeless person or criminal or whoever it is. That’s how much tax payer’s pay—$150 day. I’ll tell ya what. There’s a lot of people out there that could use a room. There are places all over that’ll rent a room for $100 a week no problem. Now, for $100, maybe even $75, you could have all the homeless off the streets for a week. Instead, all that money is going to the jailhouse industry. You see what I’m talkin’ about? They have to keep all the jail rooms occupied. It’s kind of like a motel.
[A homeless man interrupts us and asks Master Legend for some goods. ML tells the man he has no handouts at this time. The man asks him what he’s doing out on the streets. He says he’s watching the city, but that’ll he’ll be by later with water and snacks. The man slaps ML five and keeps walking.]
How is the crime in Orlando?
It’s nothing compared to Louisiana. Louisiana was really bad. I don’t think anyone will ever realize what I went through there. They don’t scare me, I’ll tell you that. You don’t go around like this and be afraid of ‘em, ya know? I try to avoid the trouble if I can. But if they want trouble, they’ll find out who I am—Master Legend Kungfu Master.
Do you really know Kungfu?
Yeah! I was trained by a real master.
Do you have a day job?
I’m self-employed. A lot of people don’t understand that I still have obligations. I keep myself self-employed in case there are certain situations that people do need me. Like, I have an award from Orange County Sheriff’s Department for my ability to help during hurricanes. When that [kind of stuff] happens, I can’t worry about asking for the day off. So I’m self-employed, even though times are a little tougher these days as a home repair expert, property manager. I also do professional tree climbing.
How many hours a week do you spend as Master Legend?
I’m always Master Legend with or without the suit. The suit doesn’t make or break me. I’m always Master Legend, that’s just how it is. It’s who I am. I throw on the suit at times, but there’s no act or anything. I’m always ready for action.
What do you say to people who don’t take you seriously?
I don’t have time to waste on explaining myself. I don’t even care, really. I’m too busy trying to save the world.
What’s been your favorite mission?
I guess one of my favorite ones was when I had to fight the evil child molester and his crackhead gang. I had to take care of them all and put them out of business. They won’t be selling any crack rock anytime soon, and the evil guy won’t be molesting any little girls. Knocked his teeth out. Broke a bone right here in my hand doing it.
That leads to my next question. Have you ever been injured on superhero duty?
Plenty of times. Shot twice. Broken bones. Broken ribs. Concussions. Broken up teeth. Broken fingers. Broken knuckles. All kinds of stitches and bangs, a couple slices and slice wounds, it’s what you get when you’re professional fighter.
Now that you’ve been in Rolling Stone and recently featured on the HBO documentary Superheroes, you’ve gained quite a bit of attention. How has that affected you?
It’s good. I want everyone across the world to know superheroes are everywhere. Then sometimes, it aggravates me. A lot of times people want you to do everything for them. I can’t do everything and work my regular job. I have to turn down magazines. They wanted me to write a book and I turned that down. You can’t be there for everyone. And sometimes they get mad at me and think I’m being mean. That’s one thing I don’t like about all this. People expect too much out of me. That’s what happens.
I don’t live with mommy and daddy. Sometimes people get false impressions that superheroes do. My daddy killed himself when I was fourteen and my mom disowned me when I was fifteen. I’ve been on my own ever since.
Do you feel like you’ve been portrayed in magazines and in the documentary in a way that’s fair?
They don’t tell the true story. The tell part of it, a skim of the surface, but at least they’re getting the word out there. They just want to do what entertains. There are things I would like them to know about me, some of the more serious stuff. I make the videos so people can see me helping others, and I hope it encourages them to help others too.
Have you made any money from any of it?
Nope. It only takes money out of my pocket all the time. Rolling Stone never paid me anything. HBO never paid me anything. And as for all the other radio shows, people think they pay me, but they don’t. So I collect all kind of expenses just trying to not let people down. No one ever thinks about that. I’ve gone to places where they don’t even have a cold water for me to drink, and they expect me to talk forever.
How is Master Legend’s love life?
There’s a lot of women who wish they could be with Master Legend, but they don’t know the truth about it. It’s not all fancy times. And I’m not the millionaire they think I am. I try not to hit on women as Master Legend. I just take pictures with them. I had a girlfriend a while back and she died. I haven’t been with no woman since.
What are your dreams?
I want to start veterans’ hotels all across the United States. I also wanna help disabled people get off the streets. No homeless veteran’s or disabled people on the streets and then I’ll work from there. This guy from the swamp is going to show the entire world how greed is stoppin’ people from offering a helping hand. I got plans that’ll fix all these problems.
What advice would you give the world?
The world needs to see what’s really going on and take off the blinders. Stand. Unite. And fight to take back what’s rightfully ours.
How do you want Master Legend to be remembered?
Master Legend will never have to be remembered like he was dead. I’m known all over the world so I’m pretty much immortal. And it’s not just being known but I have done so many wild things. I have no fear. It’s like I can’t die.
If something did happen, and I became missing somehow, remember me as the guy who helped carve the way for many other superheroes. I’m proud I’ve stood strong against evil.
*Interview Date: September 21, 2011
To keep up with Master Legend, like him on Facebook. Or go downtown to Gino’s pizza any given night. It’s his secret interview meeting spot.