On Jan. 21, 1998, the night before his 38th birthday, federal prosecutor Stanley Alpert was walking home in lower Manhattan, when he was kidnapped at gunpoint, triggering a 25-hour hostage ordeal which would range from the horrific to the oddly humorous. Now, Alpert recounts the bizarre events of his kidnapping - from his abduction to his release - in "Live to Tell: The Birthday Party," Saturday, Dec. 19, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Intent on stealing $50,000 from his bank account, Alpert's kidnappers, named Sen, Ren and Lucky, blindfolded him and drove him to Brooklyn, where he was kept in an apartment full of gun-wielding youths and prostitutes. Alpert spent his entire birthday in captivity, as his captors alternated between violent threats, friendly requests for legal advice and offers of celebratory marijuana and sexual favors.
"They're telling me they're gonna kill me, they're gonna kill my father," recounts Alpert. "A couple of hours later, they're smoking pot, having sex with the girls, relaxing and they start talking to me about my birthday and they're my friends…I can't explain it."
Alpert worked to endear himself to his abductors in the hope they would spare his life, all the while blindfolded and memorizing clues that could be used later to capture the criminals. Then, just as Alpert was expecting the men to kill him, the kidnapping took another strange turn. The men dropped him off in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, with $20 for a taxi.
"It was $20 of my own money," says Alpert. "It sounded courteous, but they might have been tricking me. I really didn't know."
Ultimately, Alpert would alert police and the FBI to his whereabouts, setting off a frantic pursuit of the perpetrators.
"Looking back, the post-kidnapping part of my life is really better than the pre-kidnapping part of my life…In so many ways [it] was a wakeup call to me. It made me realize how precious life is."