One Sunday morning in the fall of 1989, Jason Russo remembers his father banging on his bedroom door.
His father, Carl Russo, wanted to know why the floor of his Ford Bronco was wet, so Jason fed him a little white lie.
He told him that he had gone to the movies the night before with his friend, Mike, and had accidentally left the windows down during the storm. His father bought the story and left to grab his morning coffee and a copy of Newsday.
In reality, the teens — then seniors at Huntington High School — attached a tube to the back of the Bronco with a tow line and headed down the street to the corner of Creek Road and New York Avenue in Halesite. A storm had blown through the area and left the intersection flooded, Russo said.
“We were just goofing around, doing what active kids with new driver’s licenses did,” he said.
He remembers a Newsday photographer snapping a few photos as he and his friend took turns riding the tube up and down the street. But he never thought they’d appear in the next day’s paper.
He had fallen back asleep when his father burst into his bedroom and began whacking him with a rolled-up copy of the day’s Newsday.
“You left the windows down? You left the windows down, huh?” his father yelled as he continued to playfully hit his son on the legs with the day’s edition.
“I didn’t know what he was talking about at first. Then he opened up the paper and pointed at the picture,” Jason Russo said.
There he was, immortalized in print, smiling broadly atop a raft being towed through 3 feet of water by his father’s truck.
The jig was up.
“My parents didn’t approve, of course. But because I made it into Newsday and because it was such a cool picture, I got a pass, I guess,” said Jason Russo, who now lives in Baltimore.
Russo, 17 at the time, said the photo brought him his 15 minutes of fame.
“Everybody I knew, knew about it the next day after it came out in the paper. It was pretty cool for a kid delivering pizzas at the time,” he said.
Junior’s Pizza in Huntington, where Jason worked, even hung doctored copies of the photo to make it appear as if the teen was delivering their pizzas by tube, he said.
The photo hung for several years on the Russos’ refrigerator. And the story of how Jason was outed by Newsday has become part of the family canon and still told at family gatherings, says Jason Russo’s brother, Chris Russo.
“We still laugh about it. It’s a good little story,” Chris said. “And my dad probably thought having to dry out the Bronco for a few days was worth seeing that smile on Jason’s face.”