Street Stories

From near death, dealing drugs and prison to pushing positive

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Brushes with death, years in jail, and a pair of heart operations, but Benny Cardoza is alive to talk about it - and hoping to help others avoid the trouble he didn't. 

Starting as a teenager, he took all the right steps toward becoming a statistic.

"A lot," Cardoza said when asked how many time he came close to dying.

Cardoza's path used to twist as rapidly as the sound he spins as D.J. Benny Bladez.

As he entered his 20's, the 41-year-old wondered if he'd even make it to his 30's.

"I was young. I was an idiot. I was thinking crazy, like I was in a movie. Like I was in Scarface or something," he said.

Cardoza was making a living dealing pot and cocaine when a lifelong heart murmur caught up with him.

Police did the same as he was in the hospital following open-heart surgery.

"Lying in bed as a fugitive, that was the lowest I've ever been in my life," Cardoza recalled.

He ran from the law after leaving the hospital, leading to a second open-heart operation and some straightforward words from a nurse.

"Be honest with me, am I going to make it?" Cardoza asked her. "'Honestly Benny,' she said, 'I don't know.'" 

That crooked past is now part of of Cardoza's future.

"I embrace it. It's part of me, and I want to prove something," he said. "You can be successful, even if you make mistakes. You deserve a second chance."

The guests on his podcast Bladez and Friends discuss their darkest moments. 

One recent subject was Jerry Tillinghast, a notorious mob enforcer and convicted killer who just released a book on his own path.

Since last year, Cardoza has covered everything from bullying to drug addiction on the podcast.

"Now, it's the pills and fentanyl, heroin. People are dying like crazy," he said.

The message to the listener is something he discovered from so many close calls.

"It makes you happy to be alive. That's the whole point of my show. Count your blessings," he said. They see an episode and they think, 'oh my God. Look what they went through. I can do it.'"

In the future, Cardoza hopes to balance all the bad he did with some good.

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with you story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.


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