Compassion still lived beneath the public face of the raunchy, angry gangsta. On Oct. 14, 1993, he made a last-minute flight from New York to Aberdeen to visit Joshua Torres, an 11-year-old fan dying of complications from muscular dystrophy.
The meeting was private: no television cameras; no live broadcast by the radio station that had helped set up the meeting. Shakur spent 30 to 40 minutes with Joshua. He held Joshua's hand, talked to him, cried with him. Then, he was gone, and within two hours, Joshua was dead.
"When I told him Josh passed away, he was like, 'Aw, man.' He was pretty emotional," says Sgt. Abdul-Hakim Torres, Joshua's father. "I was really shocked that he stopped what he was doing, got in the jet and came down here to visit my son. Just like that, Bang! It happened."
But increasingly, Shakur's humanity was crowded out by the violence he seemed to embrace. On Oct. 31, 1993, he was charged with shooting two off-duty police officers in Atlanta. Though the charges were later dropped, Shakur was arrested again two weeks later for sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman in a New York hotel room. The following year, Shakur was shot five times in an apparent robbery in New York. He wound up recovering from his wounds at Riker's Island, where he served eight months for the sexual assault.
In Baltimore, his friends greeted the news of Shakur's death on Sept. 13 in Las Vegas with sad resignation. They know the entertainment industry, how it can bend you, trap you in your own creation. They are wary of selling themselves.
"It's my opinion that he sought out fame and fortune and there was a price to pay, and I'm not sure there are a lot of us who wouldn't do the same thing if offered," says Bloom, reflecting on the dizzying arc of his friend's career. "I am now just getting started with my career, and Tupac has risen, fallen and died."
Up in New York this past weekend, Bloom saw a fresh graffito on the side of an abandoned theater as he walked along Houston Street. There was Tupac Shakur, crudely drawn, a spray-painted inscription reading: "Live by the gun. Die by the gun."
Pub Date: 9/21/96