I can honestly say that I am not a member of that fraternity of sad folks who feel genuine grief over the death of someone they had never met, nor were ever likely to establish a genuine relationship with. Celebrity deaths do not usually trigger any sort of emotional response in me, outside of “well, ain’t that a shame.” There have been two exceptions to this rule. Both involved entertainers who I had seen at the prime of their abilities.
(Note: I changed the video to this one from the original, which, now that I have audio, wasn't that funny. Here is the original, just in case.)
I saw Mitch Hedberg live during my senior year of high school. I found myself going to comedy clubs at a regular basis around that time, for reason I can’t specifically recall. Maybe it was an unconscious attempt to relieve the pressures of 9/11, which started off the school year, and my own, unrelated, depression, which was coming to a head. I was there with a few friends, including whom I met that night and would later date for a few brief moments. She would later live in a dorm room that was, at one point, Lenny Bruce’s old hotel room, if you wish to bring this around full-circle.
Mitch was fantastic. Just as good as the one CD he had out at the time, or any of his specials. He took joke requests and was, generally, totally on the ball. Two years and change later he was dead. I was living upstate at the time, not doing too hot as far as living a reasonable life goes, and it hit me harder than I wanted it to. I had seen the man do his thing, and clearly enjoy doing his thing, and now he was gone forever. The haunting didn’t help…
I had been working at a Jimmy John's franchise in Ithaca, New York. Jimmy John's is a slightly-“classier”-than-Subway sandwich shop, found primarily in college towns. Mitch Hedberg did their radio ads. One night, a few days after his death, I was working the graveyard shift. It must have been a little past one in the morning when the ad came on. I froze. You’d think someone would have bothered taking the ads out of rotation, but I guess a contract is a contract.
That’s the Mitch Hedberg story. Here’s the second one: Gerhardt “Jerry” Fuchs, 34 years old, died in Brooklyn on Sunday. I’m not going to get into the details of his death because I do not feel like I have the right to comment on them. Here is where I found out (there are more links inside to tributes, etc.) What I can say is that Jerry Fuchs was probably one of the greatest drummers I had ever seen live. I saw the latest band he was in, Maserati, open for Mono a few months before I started this blog. Here’s a photo from the show:
Notice something odd? Jerry, the drummer, is right up front with the band. Most bands I see push the drummer right behind the other members, or way in the back. This was a gesture of palpable respect that I appreciated, as someone watching the band, considering his abilities.
When I found out that he had died, I, again, felt pangs of pain. Not because I had lost a “friend” or someone I respected as a person, but simply because the light of a man of extraordinary ability was put out way before its time. It wasn’t drugs or suicide, but a stupid twist of fate that robbed us of him. I doubt I’d have felt anything at all had I not seen him blasting away at those cans like he was truly, genuinely, born to do it.
Well. So long, Jerry.