Wedding Televised : The Sliwas: Bound in Fight Against Crime (2024)

Guardian Angel leaders Curtis and Lisa Sliwa live in a paint-chipped and cluttered apartment on Manhattan’s lower East Side.

Tin foil covering the living room ceiling guards the couple from falling plaster, and a baseball bat propped against a wall is a weapon against the parade of rats that crosses the room. The narrow window affords a view of a brick building an arm’s-length away, and at night mice tap out tunes from beneath the walls. Sometimes, the plumbing works.

“People think we live on Park Avenue, we have a Swiss chalet in the summertime and we’re socking it away,” the 31-year-old Curtis Sliwa said in his Rocky Balboa accent. “We have become masters of taking a buck and stretching it in 10 different directions.”


Although Lisa Sliwa models for such fashion magazines as France’s Elle and a handful of beauty books and physical fitness publications, the estimated $20,000 to $30,000 she will earn this year helps pay the $219 monthly rent and bankrolls her husband’s travels across the country.

“I don’t see it as a sacrifice,” she said. “I see it as a trade-off. . . . I get tremendous recognition. It’s like the whole city is my family. . . . I model. I can pick up a phone and go to any club in Manhattan and be treated like a celebrity. . . . I’m no Mother Theresa.”

It was in 1979 that Curtis Sliwa, a one-time Delivery Boy of the Year for the New York Daily News, decided to abandon the fast-food outlet he was co-managing for a life fighting crime. Always a maverick, he had once crusaded against environmental blight by collecting tin cans on his front lawn and was kicked out of his Jesuit high school for fighting a dress code.

Raised in the blue-collar Brooklyn community of Canarsie, the idea of crime prevention somehow “stuck in the back of my medulla,” he said. “It was ingrown.”

The Sliwas met when Lisa, transplanted to New York from an upper-middle-class suburb of Chicago, barged in on the Guardian Angels’ Bronx headquarters to offer her services. Although a martial arts expert, the willowy Lisa, with her blazing dark eyes and model’s cheekbones, looked anything but Angel material. In short order, she proved otherwise.

Working in an art gallery by day and patrolling at night, the one-time pompon girl began to share Curtis Sliwa’s fanaticism about fighting crime. She gave up her job and became the Angels’ best advertisem*nt, traveling from city to city.


“We grew closer by being apart,” she said. “We got to the point where it was so intense for us . . . we could understand each other.”

Enters Wrestling School

The couple began to look at the Angels “almost as if you had children,” Curtis Sliwa said, “and your responsibility as a parent is to make sure that child has at least a fair chance in the world, and that’s going to take years.”

The two married in a televised wedding ceremony in 1981 without ever having a date. Atop their five-tiered wedding cake was a miniature bridal couple attired in red berets.

Four years later, with travel separating them five days out of every seven, they have yet to take in a movie together. Both still go on Angel patrols, but most of that is done apart as well.

Creating a splash earlier this year when she announced she would become a professional wrestler, Lisa Sliwa made good on her pledge last month when she became a student at the South Carolina wrestling school run by Fabulous Moolah, the women’s titleholder for the past 20 years.

“It’s a way to raise money,” she said. “I think it’s a great way to show you can be strong and be feminine at the same time, which I’ve tried to do in a lot of things. . . . Right now, women are a freak attraction (in wrestling), like dwarfs. “


Although most of the New York media attention paid to the Sliwas these days goes to Lisa, it is Curtis who is most often accused of being a glutton for publicity.

“Curtis is a very, very smart fellow, and Lisa is a very, very smart woman,” observed one New York state official. “But he had a personality change. He went from being very humble to being an egomaniac. Lisa, on the other hand, has remained very level-headed. For Lisa, there’s a real bond, a real love. Lisa really loves these (Angels).”

Speculation on Run for Office

Not surprisingly, there is speculation that the flamboyant Curtis is gearing himself for a try at public office or a career in movies.

“I’m always saying if I ran for office, I’d beat the pants off of anybody I’d run against,” Curtis Sliwa said. “But mavericks tend not to do well on the inside.”

As for movies and other get-rich ventures, Lisa Sliwa said, “Maybe we will make a movie in the future, or I’ll write a book. But we’ll still be doing what we’re doing. . . . I know we’ll be following through on the work we’ve already begun.”

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Wedding Televised : The Sliwas: Bound in Fight Against Crime (2024)
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