Tomato Can Blues

Charlie Rowan’s life reads like something ripped out of Cohen brothers screenplay: a small town cage fighter fakes his own death to dodge debts owed to drug dealers and gun smugglers before robbing a mom and pop gun shop with only a hammer and a plastic batman mask. 

The Fight for Charlie took place March 9. Ring girls sold raffle tickets to a crowd of about 1,000. A young fighter declared from the cage that he was dedicating his bout to Rowan’s memory.

“Thank you for helping us raise money for Charlie Rowan’s family,” a promoter wrote on Facebook after one of the benefits. “Thank you for letting it all out in the cage for us.” He added that Rowan was “there with us in spirit and would have been very proud of all of you!”

Less than two weeks later, a Gladwin gun store was robbed.

When Scott DiPonio, the fight promoter, saw the suspect’s mug shot on the next day’s news, his stomach dropped. It was the late Charlie Rowan, back from the dead.

While faking his own death, Charlie Rowan hid in a small bedroom room upstairs for the entire duration of his own memorial service. From there he could hear all his friends and family members (including his three children) crying in the living room bellow. What an asshole.

The next day DiPonio drove to Gladwin to pay his respects to Rowan’s family. When he got there he saw “young kids and grandparents crying,” he told the Associated Press. “I thought for sure Charlie was dead,” he said. “I mean, these people were hysterically crying.” Before he left, he gave the family $150 for expenses.


[In prison Charlie] goes over the whole strange story, step by step. He finds himself returning to the fake memorial, and the sounds of people sobbing for him.

“I didn’t realize how I impacted other people’s lives,” he said. “I don’t hold myself in high regard. I’m not a good person, I’m not a good dad and most of the time I’m not a good son.”

He thinks about his girlfriend, Rosa, and wonders whether they’ll ever be together again.

“It’s like … ” He struggled to get the words out. “It’s like we just died.”

The full New York Times article by Mary Pilon (with illustrations by Atilla Futaki) is well worth the read. Peter Rugg of Vice’s Fightland also covered the story here.

The Death and Life of Charlie Rowan, Vice Fightland (August 16, 2013)