The Cyclist

In 1919 Sailor Pizzo rides handcuffed to a bicycle from LA to NYC as the result of an impossible bet.

Written by Matthew Pizzo

In 1919, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was at the height of his fame and popularity as a Hollywood actor. During a back-room card game in Los Angeles with Governor William Stephens, and Paramount Studios founder Adolph Zukor, Fatty proposes an outlandish bet that neither man can resist taking. Fatty claims a man can ride a one speed bicycle from Los Angeles to New York City handcuffed the entire time. In the age of dirt roads the bet was too good for the two powerful men to pass up.  

Fatty had an ace up his sleeve. The man that mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope had a keen understanding of men. His friend, Tony Pizzo was a sailor with the US Navy during the first World War and was recently married to a young actress at Paramount Studios. If anyone could accomplish the feat, it was Tony Pizzo. 

Tony was a daredevil who couldn't resist passing up a chance to test himself. Still enlisted in the US Navy, Tony requested leave to take up the challenge. The US Navy, looking for a way to increase recruitment after the war agreed to the leave request only if Tony would wear his sailor dress blues for the entire trip and furthermore keep them clean and neat befitting a sailor on a recruitment tour for the US Navy. Tony happily agreed. The Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Roosevelt agreed to meet Tony if he made the trip successfully (with the belief that Pizzo wouldn't get very far).

Handcuffed to his machine, Tony set off from the studios in 1919 with the blessing of his friends, but leaving his young pregnant wife behind. 

During the journey, Sailor Pizzo realizes what he is missing, the challenge of being a father and husband. Having traveled all around the world with the Navy and now across a country split between the decadent post war aristocracy and the struggling poor, Tony has an epiphany - continue to NYC or go back home. Along the way, his bicycle ride captures the attention of newspapers and the country as a whole as people of all walks of life come to support the endurance ride that nobody thought was possible. From product endorsements in big cities to lonely nights in the wilderness, Sailor Pizzo becomes an icon for what a simple man can do when he puts his heart to it.

Arriving in NYC to fanfare and acclaim at the end of 1919, Sailor Pizzo meets Franklin Roosevelt and is reunited with his friends and the makers of the bet. Happily, the best gift is waiting for him - Fatty has brought his wife and newborn son. 

Sailor Pizzo would go on to endorse products in France, the US and Canada. In 1920 he took on the challenge of going from NYC to LA roundtrip handcuffed on his bike in one year and was successful. In 1921, he traveled on the same one speed bicycle to each state capital and had each governor verify he was duly handcuffed to his machine. Each time he recruited sailors for the US Navy and continued to serve through WWII.