One day last fall, Ted Mann, a Brooklyn restaurateur, got a call from his father. This was unexpected, because Mann, who is forty-two, had never met his father. Given up for adoption at birth, he was raised by a single mother in Bay Ridge, where, at twenty-eight, he opened his first bar. He now owns nine, and was busy with preparations for two new locations—a beer garden in Park Slope and what he calls “the Katz’s Deli of Bay Ridge”—when his dad called.
“Hello, son,” said Ted Nugent, guitarist, gun activist, and star of a reality-TV show, “Runnin’ Wild,” that centers on Nugent chasing people through the woods. Add another line to his résumé: Ted Mann’s father.
This required some explanation. In 1968, Nugent and his girlfriend, both teen-agers, were living in New York. She got pregnant, and they gave the baby boy to Catholic Charities. “We were very young and we were in love/lust,” Nugent told Mann. “More love than lust, but plenty of lust. And, oh boy! There’s just a tsunami of adventure cravings at that age.”
The baby went straight from the hospital to the home of Mary Mann, an Irish Catholic mother of four. Ted Mann felt loved, and saw no need to seek out his parents. His younger sister, however, did. A few years ago, Louisa Savarese, also adopted at birth—Nugent has nine children from several relationships—hired a genealogist to find her parents. “Well, you’ve got a brother,” Nugent told her when she reached him. “Can I look for him?” she asked. Nugent offered his blessing.
“The first thing I thought of when I heard was: hunter,” Mann said the other day at Cebu, his Bay Ridge bistro. He wore brown wingtips and a double-breasted cardigan. He had never held a gun, and didn’t know many of his dad’s songs, so, after the phone call, he went to YouTube. There was his father, ripping into the opening bars of “Kiss My Glock,” shooting rifles with Anthony Bourdain, and telling then Presidential candidate Barack Obama to “suck on one of these”—a pair of machine guns.
The revelations kept coming. Mann was Norwegian. The middle name his parents gave him was Fleetwood. “Some of the time my dad spent with my mom was in a Cadillac Fleetwood,” he explained. “I’ll leave it at that.”
A month later, Mann flew to Texas. He met his sister, in Austin, where they spent two days “laughing and crying and freaking out” before driving to his father’s ranch, in China Spring, near Waco. “There he was, standing on his porch with his big cowboy hat,” Mann said. “I thought I was gonna throw up or jump out of the car and run off his property.”
Mann pulled out his iPhone to look at photos from the trip: Big Ted and Little Ted kneeling before a grill covered with elk steaks; Little Ted aiming a rifle (his girlfriend: “I think you just got sexier”); the contents of Big Ted’s pockets—handgun, ammo, handkerchief—displayed as part of a lesson in “what a man should carry”; father and son, arm in arm, holding a semiautomatic rifle and an Uzi. “I couldn’t believe it,” Mann said. “Here I am, a grown man, and I wanted to make sure I hit the bull’s-eye so I could show my dad I can shoot.” Mann flicked to another photo: a deer carcass hanging from a tree. “He sends me random shots of everything he kills now,” he said.
In April, he joined his dad on a hunting trip in Michigan—his “baptismal bloodletting,” Nugent called it—and, earlier this month, Nugent came to New York. He was in town for a concert, at the Iridium, and several media appearances. Howard Stern told him to bring the kids. (Stern to Mann: “Have you gotten laid more now that Ted Nugent is your dad?”) Nugent also wanted to see his son at work, so they went to Cubana Social, Mann’s Williamsburg restaurant—Nugent wore the neighborhood’s only authentic National Rifle Association cap—for empanadas and chorizo burgers.
“I told him, ‘You’re in charge of the pace,’ ” Nugent said recently, on the phone from his ranch. He was soaking several freshly killed venison steaks in ginger ale, his secret ingredient. “But, in the typical Nugent condition of excess, we have caught up with more meaningful father-son time in the past six months than a lot of fathers and sons probably ever get.” He paused. “I’m sure if Tom Petty found his long-lost son it’d be fun. But not this fun.”