Hyman Strachman, nicknamed Big Hy, is a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife.. He’s doing so by making bootleg copies of Hollywood movies and sending them to the U.S. troops abroad. He started out by using his desktop computer to copy the movies one tedious disc at a time (“It was moyda,” he explained) but has since moved on to a professional $400 duplicator. While Mr. Strachman admits that what he’s been doing isn’t right (and controversial), I think it’s a wonderful story:
In February, Mr. Strachman duplicated and shipped 1,100 movies. (“A slow month,” he said.) He has not kept an official count but estimates that he topped 80,000 discs a year during his heyday in 2007 and 2008, making his total more than 300,000 since he began in 2004. Postage of about $11 a box, and the blank discs themselves, would suggest a personal outlay of over $30,000.
Born in Brooklyn in 1920 to immigrants from Poland, Mr. Strachman left high school during the Depression to work for his family’s window and shade store in Manhattan. He became a stockbroker on Wall Street — “When there were no computers, you had to use your noodle” — before retiring in the early 1990s.
After Mr. Strachman’s wife of more than half a century, Harriet, died in 2003, he discovered a Web site that collected soldiers’ requests for care packages. He noted a consistent plea for movie DVDs and wound up passing his sleepless nights replicating not only the films, but also a feeling of military comradeship that he had not experienced since his own service in the Pacific during World War II.
My favorite comment from The New York Times story comes via Martin in New York:
My 82yo mother doesn’t know what email is, and here we have a 92yo, 5’5″ Long Islander cranking out DVDs on his professional duplicator. Hilarious!
The story, of course, is not piracy.
This man has discovered a way to make himself valuable again at 92yo and re-connect with an important part of his life; more importantly he’s made himself part of the war effort, something most of us have abdicated.
Shine on, you crazy diamond.
Read the full story here.