Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weirdest fundraiser EVER

Last Sunday I went to a cookout at the Dahmer House.

Yeah, yeah, insert Dahmer cannibalism joke here. That was the point, actually. The house has been owned for some time by musician Chris Butler. Great guy and one of pioneers of the Akron Punk Scene, which I wrote about in my last book, Punk Rock & Trailer Parks, which if you haven't read, you should!  As I've written before, I tried to talk Butler out of buying the place, but him doing so in spite of my warning was an incredible stroke of luck for me, as it afforded me access to a major setting in My Friend Dahmer. I went in with my sketchbook and made numerous reference drawings, ones that helped me recreate a space I hadn't seen since 1978. Without that access, I never could have drawn an accurate version of the house.

Above: a 1950 photo speed on the house from the Akron Beacon Journal. The
Dahmers didn't move here until 1969. This is the living room. The house has been remodeled several times, so it took a little detective work and shaking loose some memories to recall what was where when Jeff lived here. 

Purely as a design object, it's a neat pad. Built in 1950, it's a fab mod abode with a lovely, wooded lot. Even so, this is a house that really should have been torn down in 1991, when Dahmer was caught and confessed his crimes. Only his first victim was murdered here. The rest of his spree took place in Milwaukee, most in his infamous apartment, which was demolished by the city. Now, I don't know what the financial circumstances in 1991 the then owners of this house faced. Very likely, they were just middle-class working folks and would have been bankrupted had they walked away from the place. It's a neat house, and Butler doesn't believe in ghosts, but it will always have its infamy. On the other hand, who better to live here than musicians? Fill the place with musical karma!

The living room today, with the "house copy" of MFD.

So what's the deal with this strange fundraiser, you ask? Butler got involved with the latest pledge drive for legendary college station WRUW, at Cleveland's Case-Western University. Cleveland's designation as the Rock-n-Roll Capital of the World is specious, but one thing it has never lacked is important and influential radio, from Alan Freed to The Mad Daddy to arena-rock inventors WMMS the Buzzard to ground-breaking, commercial-free stations like WRUW and Cleveland State's WCSB, "amateur" radio that ushered in the college rock era. I started listening to college stations in 1980 or so, when the then-all-powerful commercial stations refused to play punk rock. I'm still a fan, and often have WRUW playing as I draw. WRUW relies on listener donations for part of its budget and every year station folk put together various prizes that are auctioned off on air. This year one of those prizes, donated by Butler, was a cookout at the Dahmer House! Butler asked me to attend as a "celebrity" guest and since it was for a great cause and the whole thing was so delightfully weird and indefensibly tasteless, I agreed at once.

Also in attendance, were members of various Rubber City punk bands, musicians I looked on with awe and admiration as a snotty, 18-year-old fanboy from Dahmer High School, when their bands packed the legendary Bank Punk Club back in the Seventies (and folks I've since befriended). So, from my perspective, it was a mash-up of My Friend Dahmer and Punk Rock & Trailer Parks! Now how could I pass that up?

All in all, a very strange afternoon. 

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