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Classic Viral Video: 67-year-old Epic Beard Man defends himself on a bus

Both sides of the story of Epic Beard Man, AKA Vietnam Tom, real name Thomas Bruso vs. Michael Lovette.

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It was a mild, sunny winter day in Oakland, California. No one riding the bus that day could have possibly predicted they would bear witness to what would become one of the most viewed viral videos of the year. The events in the bus were recorded by a local resident named Iyanna Washington.

In the video, a bearded 67-year-old man named Thomas Bruso is seen wearing a light blue T-shirt that reads "I AM a Mother F***er" on the back.

Bruso is seated near the rear of the bus, across from a man named Michael Lovette. Exactly how an argument between the pair started is unclear, but reports indicate Bruso announced plans to get his Stacy Adams shoes shined by a “brother,” for his mother's funeral. 

The conversation quickly became heated, with Lovette angrily asking Bruso, "Why's a brother got to spit shine your shoes?" Bruso then tells Lovette that he was referring to a person that "was gonna shine his shoes" and that a brother "could be anyone, he could be a Chinaman!"

After a charged exchange, Bruso says, "you ain't scaring this white boy," and walks away from Lovette to the front of the bus.

Much of their conversation is inaudible, and some riders discourage Lovette from approaching Bruso, while others, including Washington, encourage him to attack, saying "Say it again, Pinky!" When the verbal exchange starts to die down, Lovette begins walking back to his seat, at which point, Bruso yells "I see tough guys like you and I slap the s*** out of them!" Lovette responds "What!?", turns around and walks back toward Bruso, and swings.

Bruso stands and punches Lovette several times, knocking him to the floor. View of the men is lost briefly while Washington moves closer to the commotion; when view resumes, Bruso is shown with Lovette, who is now bleeding from facial injuries, in his grasp. Bruso releases Lovette, exclaiming "I told you not to f*** with me!", and then exits the bus, and is still yelling when the bus makes its next stop. 

After another exchange, Lovette returns to his seat in the rear of the bus. Washington then takes a bag Bruso left behind and carries it to the back of the bus. Washington offers Lovette the use of her recording if he wishes to press charges, but Lovette never acknowledges the offer, instead requesting an ambulance, that, in his adrenalized and potentially concussed state, comes out as "amber lamps," a term that went viral.

This is the original viral video. Somewhere along the way, Bruso came to be called Epic Beard Man.


This is a video of the immediate aftermath.

And here is both men breaking down what happened, each from their perspective.


And this is a follow up on the very hard life that Bruso has led since, bedeviled as it is with homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction.

Bruso is widely referred to as a Vietnam veteran, and acquired the nickname Vietnam Tom, but this is false. He was drafted, and spent a total of three months in the US Army before being discharged. He served no overseas duty. 

The incident inspired the 2012 film Bad Ass, starring Danny Trejo as a fictional character with parallels Bruso. Two sequels also starring Trejo, Bad Asses and Bad Asses on the Bayou, were released in 2014 and 2015.

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