Over the last four decades, he has grown into somewhat of an iconic figure in and around the Greater Northeast, even among folks who recognize him merely for the jars of pickles and assorted condiments he cheerfully peddles at nightclubs, corner bars and fraternal halls throughout the area, and also for the overtly innocuous yet insidiously bawdy humor he typically delivers.
He is The Pickleman — or “Rod Stewart” to many, an homage to his blond rock-star wig. His real name is Steve Slutsky. He’s the man behind the Mayfair-based Zayda’s Pickle Company, founded in 1975. And he fell into some serious trouble last Saturday night in Frankford.
Published reports, which cited unnamed police sources, originally stated only that Slutsky was sitting in his car on Aramingo Avenue near Bermuda Street, in the shadow of the Interstate 95 southbound onramp, at about 10:50 p.m. when two men approached him. One of the men reached into Slutsky’s car, stabbed him in the neck and stole $400 from him. Both assailants fled. At least that’s what the victim first told police.
Patrol cops found him in the car a short time later. Slutsky was rushed to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was listed in good condition.
News about The Pickleman’s predicament percolated publicly in short order thanks largely to social media postings, including a video clip shared from the Philly-centric alternative media website scrapple.tv featuring Slutsky performing a stand-up comedy routine while promoting his pickles on an underground, late night-style talk show segment.
With Slutsky presumably conscious and cognizant following his medical treatment, he reportedly expounded upon or perhaps changed his initial story to police, according to a philly.com report on Tuesday. In a second interview with investigators, Slutsky allegedly said that he was arguing with an acquaintance over a $500 debt when the other guy stabbed him.
The two were inside Slutsky’s car at Aramingo and Bermuda when the other man demanded his money, but Slutsky reportedly refused, prompting the other guy to stab him in the neck with a folding knife. Slutsky then surrendered a portion of the debt and the other guy fled.
Philly.com identified the attacker as Edward Rouda, 38, and reported that police arrested him at his home near Bermuda and Duncan streets, about a block from the site of the stabbing. Indeed, court records show that authorities locked up Rouda on Monday, charging him with attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery and witness intimidation. Rouda had allegedly demanded that Slutsky withhold information from authorities.
Slutsky’s prognosis is not known. Privacy laws prohibit medical people and authorities from discussing patient conditions publicly. Those seeking more information about The Pickleman might look up a May 22, 1996, profile published by the Daily News. In it, Slutsky described himself as a divorced father of two. At the time, his influences included Rodney Dangerfield, Billy Crystal, Howie Mandel, Robins Williams, Jerry Lewis and Jonathan Winters. His favorite comedy prop was his custom tricycle fitted with a toilet seat. ••