Zaire Paige Not Only Played a Movie Killer, He Became One in Real Life.

This is how he squandered his big chance to go straight.

Eastman rehearsed Paige's lines with him as the two drove over the Williamsburg Bridge to an audition space in Chinatown. It was Eastman who later gave Paige his first check from the movie—it was for $2,700—and remembers Paige hugging him.

"That kind of affection is not demonstrated ordinarily by people like him," Eastman says.

He didn't have to do much to sell Paige to the film's producers. Fuqua says that he was convinced Paige was right for the part of Man Man as soon as he saw him audition. While he auditioned others, the director tells the Voice that he kept coming back to Paige, whose picture he'd put up on the wall. "You think you can act?" he remembers asking the young man. Yes, Paige replied confidently.

Fuqua was impressed. "He is a kid who obviously comes from a violent world. . . . He just fit the bill. He had no fear in his eyes."

Paige had actually grown up in Park Slope, known more for strollers than for gang-bangers. He and his five younger siblings were raised by their grandmother, Bettie Paige, in a neat apartment in a historic apartment building on Sterling Place. Zaire's mother, Stephanie Ayeni, was around only occasionally.

"She was still young and running around thinking about the party life," Paige says of his mother in interviews at Rikers Island. "So I think that's why my grandmother felt that it was in her best interest to take custody."

Paige's grandmother, Bettie, is a clerk at the city's Department of Environmental Protection, and she ran a tight operation. "I was overbearingly strict," she says.

Bettie's grandson, however, had trouble in school, moving from P.S.282 to P.S.11 and then to the Hanson Place Seventh-Day Adventist School in Fort Greene, which both she and her grandson refer to as "Catholic school" despite its Protestant affiliation. "I put him in Catholic school because I wanted him to have opportunity, go to college, and be around more affluent people," she says of the Hanson Place School, which is just three blocks away from where the murder occurred years later.

Zaire was smart and social—an easy talker and a natural leader. As a child, he earned a brown belt in karate. He attended church regularly. He was also a serious collector: He preferred Marvel Comics, and laminated his collection of basketball cards, with limited editions of NBA players like Penny Hardaway, Michael Jordan, and John Stockton. When he became a teenager, he worked at the local Met Food and Pathmark, bagging groceries to earn money for the newest Nike sneakers. Bettie calls her grandson a "man-child," because he was athletic and loved to explore. Every day, she recalls, he would eat a raw egg that he kept hidden in his dresser drawer. "Men took to him," she says. "He was the kind of boy that a man would have loved to raise."

In eighth grade, Paige was expelled from the Hanson Place School for stealing a female student's wallet. "I was just attracted to money," he admits. "I always used to get in trouble in school so they were always attempting to kick me out." His grandmother, who was paying his tuition, was so upset that she sent him to stay with his mother in Brownsville.

Paige, who hadn't known much beyond the world of Park Slope, says that it was then, at 13, that he was introduced to a different life in Brownsville: "staircase smoking, cutting classes, and, you know, doing the regular teenage stuff, feeling on girls and flirtin'," he says. "It was just a whole new environment."

Working at his godfather's flower shop and attending Acorn High School, Paige split time between his old life in Park Slope and his new one in Brownsville. He made friends, discovered an affinity for rap music, and chased after girls. "I [saw that] the girls wanted to have sex with the dudes that was cutting classes, dudes that was smoking weed. I just ended up falling into that atmosphere."

After being caught stealing a phone from his godfather's flower shop at 13, Paige turned to small-time hustling. "I started selling weed and doing petty robberies, like snatching something from somebody," he says. "Didn't nobody turn me on to it because I had my mind made up that I needed money."

Paige began hanging out with Crips members, and his mother says she saw him changing. "Suddenly, it was like, everyone wanted to hang out with 'Za'," she says, using the nickname his friends use. Paige began hanging out in front of the bodega at Riverdale Avenue and Legion Street, a notorious drug corner. He started to make music videos and appeared in a series of battle-rap video installments made by local production companies called "Smack Videos" and "The Product."

Eastman saw Paige's growing popularity and power. "I know Zaire from when he was a kid," he says. "I knew what kind of talent he was, and what kind of phenomenon he was, as a street entity—a street superstar. Ultimate power in your environment—that's what this is. This is a country inside of a country." Friends and family also say that Paige was generous with his money.

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94 comments
OnQue
OnQue

What the story doesn't tell was that Lethania Garcia was a hit man that killed a lot of people. It may not have been the right course of action but Ziare did what LAW ENFORCEMENT didn't do! The bogus ass cops knew all about what the lil bastard was doing but they didn't care.... The lowlife deserved every bullet that went into his body...

 Brooklyn22
Brooklyn22

Smh yall ppl always takin crazy like really..what if it was one of ya ppls!!!Hold ya head ^^ boy

Dvs
Dvs

A well written story that tells the facts in fluid fassion about lost opportunities. Hang in there little brotha "Zaire", be a force for positive Change.

Stephanieayeni
Stephanieayeni

4 all u haters talkin bout gud 4 him did u ever think t wat u c on tv is real. maybe a dirty ass cop framed him?

Eve
Eve

I love you Zaire you'll always hold a special place in my heart hold your head and have faith........ FUCK ALL YOU HATING ASS BITCHES!!!!

Wwwt
Wwwt

disrespectful are you serious? nigs are ruining this whole fuckin country, thats whats disrespectful jackass

Dulcelanthony
Dulcelanthony

Damnnn. dat was my nigga..I knew Z since elmentary..dats fuked up.

Dert
Dert

fuck that nig nog, he was given a oppertunity that he didnt deserve and he fucked it up like a typical scumbag nigger

SpkTruth2Pwr
SpkTruth2Pwr

Very good article written on unfortunately sad circumstances. I am a bit perturbed by the ignorance with which some people are commenting on this entry. Its clear the young man missed an opportunity to get out of a destructive life style - but calling him dumb or a monkey is unnecessary and disrespectful.

whiteyshardwork
whiteyshardwork

not only did zaire play a dumb nigger in the movies but he was one in real life too

mr y t
mr y t

another monkey headed to the zoo

Mischa
Mischa

excellent and well-researched article. i love how it didn't try to draw big generalized conclusions about street life or gangs, or pretend to have the space to adequately deal with the drug war, or youth in america's cities, or any number of large, abstract themes. it told a story, a poignant story, and it told it honestly, neither sugar coating nor demonizing. bravo.

Jesusiscoming
Jesusiscoming

Funny how loads of people take pride in showing there TRUE racism based on this article!! That is why I am SOOOOOOOOOO HAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPYYYY that this world is going to hell!!! Because ALL You who think you are BETTER than this dude, will be burning right alongside of him in HELLL!!!! Believe That!!!!! Trust me...It IS COMING! Judgement Day!!! And it's About time For ALL You HaTting SATAN Worshipers!!! Because he is the FATHER of ALL Evil, all sin and ALL THINGS HATE!!! MAY YOU ALL GO TO HELL WITH HIM!!!

AFFF
AFFF

ONCE A NIG NOG ALWAYS A NIG NOG

OG
OG

Jail is easy!!!! As you could see life is hard on the streets, not in jail!!!! It obvious this dude gave up a long time ago with his loyalty to a street gang and not to his seed!!! He was to blinded to see the blessing in front of him and not wise enough to walk the path of a man! Eff going back to B-Ville for the true story! Eff the background and all the problems!!! I grew up in Fort Greene when Myrtle ave was called Murder Ave! Don't believe me lets go back 25 years when they were busting off every night!!! You don't see me blaming anyone or making excuses. I do cuss my own people for being Ignorant!! Enough let's get back on target!!!! His next film should be Brooklyns Dumbest because he was dumb enough to fall to the ignorance of the street !!!!

Ffff
Ffff

just another nickle and dime bootlip gone to prison

Ssss
Ssss

who cares? just another dirty little nig nog shooting another dirty nig nog. good riddence

Babbabooey
Babbabooey

we all just laugh when one nig nog kills another nig nog tommorow will be funny in some citie im sure

Dgoodine4
Dgoodine4

That just part of the story village voice you need to come back to brownsville and get all.

Fort Greene
Fort Greene

Great article.

His grandmother's refusal to acknowledge his guilt is heart-breaking. I wonder about his 5 siblings and his own child. Such a sad story, such a sad reality. Whenever I see defendants' families in court with matching t-shirts and vocal protestations of innocence, I wonder where they were while the defendant started on the very long road to the final crime that got them put on trial.

I remember the day of this shooting, as I live two blocks away. I am glad that he got a 107-year sentence. He truly is a danger to all civilized members of society as his judge said.

Alex Pilewski
Alex Pilewski

I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

nigs get a life
nigs get a life

nobody cares about nigs killing nigs dont you people get it?

Snnn
Snnn

whats funny is that every time one of thease blacks kill each other ,no one even cares, we just throw them in the garbage like a little chimpmunk or something . only chimpmunks are actually cute, people like chipmunks, people dont like niggers, ha ha ha

Hurdgurdydude
Hurdgurdydude

Another retarted lack of research by the village v. Where can I find the 74th precinct? Anyone? Idiots

Dass
Dass

What a typical dumb nigger

cobbster
cobbster

It is all too bad .......... in the end one crazy decision chooses are next path. Salvation is always at the door ........ what we do next chooses are destination.

Wwwy
Wwwy

just another dirtbag nig nog

Eve
Eve

SHUT THE FUCK UP BITCH YOU SOUND STUPID

goham.mj
goham.mj

hay im in los angeles im from criminal gangster crip in brooklyn .i lost contact with my east coast niggas but i know za.my name  is L.A. if any one from da set get at me ......jigga b. maino. havoc . holla at ya  boy

 

Smacked out here in the ville
Smacked out here in the ville

thas my godbro.. i havent seen him in 3 years and now this happens fuck the police u heard im gonna see this nikka in like a week

ask your mom b otch
ask your mom b otch

i guess you is a dumb knickle dragger too if dat be yo nigga yo, silly monkey

Dert
Dert

fuck you too monkey

Ohyeu
Ohyeu

good, ill be toasting marshmellows on the flames bitch, bababooey bababooey howard sterns penis

Sdf
Sdf

SPOKEN LIKE A TRUE RACIST....AYMAY OUYAY IEDAY onEday!!!

CCB
CCB

OG, I know what you talking about... I grew up in Marcy Projects and I remember when Myrtle Avenue was called "Murder Avenue" I remember going to Cumberland Hospital before they finally closed it view the body of a friend shot in Fort Greene park. I remember my cousins telling me not walk back to Marcy on Myrtle Avenue. Walk on Park Avenue... I feel for this guy... He has know idea what a blessing he has blown... It will all come to him when he gets older and he realizes that his life was worth more than what it has become. I am really praying for this brother... What a waste...

SpkTruth2Pwr
SpkTruth2Pwr

I'm crying over here. Yawn. A pre-schooler has more insight and better remarks. But thank you for your thoughtlessness.

Ohyea
Ohyea

your mother likes this cracker especially when her welfare check runs out and i bring her newports and 40s

AAA
AAA

you must be a useless jungle creature too.

 
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