Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chris Haney and Barry Fey - Strange Bedfellows Department


 At first I thought I had nothing to say about either of these deaths, and I certainly didn’t see any valid connection between the two people, but as my feelings have sorted out a little I am starting to see some weird connection-at least in my life.

I was, like a lot of people, devastated by the news that Chris Haney had been killed in a tragic and seemingly pointless shooting at the Denny’s on Alameda and I-25. I have been touched and a little surprised at how many people knew and loved this gentle man. I am surprised because I was ignorant of the man he had become. Because in my heart Chris will always be the little boy I knew; the kid who grew up a block from the house Jill and I and our kids lived in for over 30 years. He and our son Ben became close friends in 7th grade when they were both going to Merrill Middle School. Along with Caleb Braaten (who now owns the ultra-hip Sacred Bones record label in NYC) they were the Three Amigos. My nickname for him was Hanaroonie. For a short time our telephone message at home was Ben and Chris playing guitars and singing a Suicidal Tendencies song. For a few years there they were inseparable, discovering baseball cards, then music, then mild delinquency, then shaky adulthood together. To me, they were just kids. I remember about six months after I started Twist and Shout, a young customer from South High came in and informed me that his friend Chris Haney was going around telling everyone at school that he and Ben and Caleb were going to be taking over and they’d be running the store because I would have to be retiring soon (I think I was 30 at the time). It totally cracked me up then and makes me smile still. It is also emblematic of the person Chris became. I have no doubt that Chris said it with complete conviction and the best of intentions. He had a wide-eyed infectious optimism and internal sweetness that made me always want to root for him. He didn’t change much over the years in my eyes-he got taller and taller and taller, balder and balder (hmmm I’m beginning to see why I relate to him so well), but when I would run into him at Gothic shows or at Twist or just out he seemed like that same goofy, nice kid. He loved music, and he stayed true to his roots and upbringing. He went to the clubs and he worked at the clubs. He was a fixture at the Gothic and seemed to such a natural part of the local scene-the good part of the music biz.

To me, Barry Fey represented the other side of the music business. And by that I don’t necessarily mean the “bad” side, but rather the “adult” side. As a part of the music business myself I have come to understand that in many ways the biz side is bigger than the music side. Barry Fey was that. He wasn’t about the music really, he was about the business getting done and getting done right. He did it too. When I moved to Denver in 1968 it still called itself a cowtown. Barry Fey was one of the major reasons that changed. With the music came relevance to the counterculture, which in many ways has turned into mainstream greatness as a city, which Denver most certainly has. Obviously Fey did not do this himself. He was an awfully big part of it though. Decades of incredible shows at Red Rocks, arenas, theatres, stadia and clubs left an amazing legacy. For me, he was an abstract figure for years, this big guy onstage at countless shows making announcements. Tales of his terrifying temper were famous. When I got into the music business in the 80’s he was sort of on his way out as a promoter, but that was when I started crossing paths with Barry. He would come into the store and talk to me, or I would make him a mix tape for some bus tour he was doing, or he would fish around to see what his memorabilia was worth. I would see him walking in the park occasionally, or eating in a restaurant. One time we went to a party at his house, but for the most part he was still a pretty distant guy. In the last year he did a book signing at the store and he was really trying to be nice. He seemed frail. Then The Colorado Music Hall Of Fame (on whose board I serve) inducted him at a ceremony in Boulder. He seemed even more frail and walked past me like we had never met. All this might lead you to believe I didn’t mourn Fey, but as news of his death (apparently suicide) has sunk in I have felt a diffuse sense of loss. Live music made me who I am in many ways, and Barry Fey made live music happen in Denver for my most important concert going years. Whatever failings and weaknesses he had as a human being don’t really matter because he made a huge difference in all our lives who lived through his era.

So Barry was the adult, and Chris was the kid, and somewhere in between these two very different poles lies me and Twist and Shout and The Gothic and The High Dive and all the weird corners of Denver and You and your friends and family. Hold them tight.

-Paul Epstein



9 comments:

Kindra H. said...

this was beautifully written. thank you...i think i may just read it again... :-)

Shamrocker said...

That's wonderfully written and touching, may they rest peacefully.

Paul H. said...

Wow, Paul, awesome tribute to two pretty cool people..

Tyler C. said...

Very well written, Paul. Thank you for your thoughts

drew Carder said...

That's awesome Paul! I've been thinking all week about how strangely tied Chris and Barry were and the odd and terrible circumstances behind their deaths. I met barry in 1991 when Katie Plumley, her sister, myself, and I think sarah (cant remember for sure if she was there. too many head traumas) were in a bad accident on the way to see U2 at Fiddlers. We were all taken to the hospital, being minors, with bruises scratches and concusion. Barry showed up and personally refunded the price of our tickets and gave us a future voucher. I never before had cared much for the man and the way he corpritized and bloated the ticket prices in this town and always kind of saw him as a shyster who profited off the blood sweat and tears of musicians. my view was destroyed by this kind hearted, genuinely concerned parental figure that came to us out of the kindness of his heart (it did make for a good publicity photo op, but that seemed far from his mind.
And what can I say about Haney. i've known him since the first grade. He has become as big and as important, in some ways, as Barry fey ever was.
Thanks for the article, and thanks for not lumping me in with the three amigo huligans. I was generally the fourth, but I have a reputation to maintain.
Drew

Helskel said...

Good words, Paul. thanks

Sarah Parrish said...

Paul always knows just what to say. Thank god for Paul! I honestly have him to thank for my sanity. Drew - I remember the accident. I was driving the car behind you, following you guys. We then followed your ambulances to the hospital, and you guys were chilling, but staying put, so me and (I don't remember who) jerkily caught the rest of the U2 show. As you said - head trauma. I had no idea Barry Fey reimbursed your tickets! Great story. Crazy Denver. And Drew, you had 2 reputations to uphold around our household. First there was Andy, who Ben was not allowed to hang with due to him being a "bad influence". Then "Drew" came along, who was clearly more upstanding. So that would technically make you the fourth AND fifth amigo. Ah - you guys were like a pile of puppies - all squirmy and moshy and rough and tumble and crazy in love with each other.

david vandenberg said...

Mr. Epstein, Paul if I may,

Chris will be remembered by my boys forever & I myself as a parent & grandparent i send my heart to Lydia & the Haney Family.Chris was both a friend & coworker with my boys & my family is reaching out to our friends worldwide in support of Lydia & the Haney family with an auction May 17th thru May 19th, of our photo art.Please take a moment and go to Facebook then Please view my wall.
I implore you to do so. davidvandenberg
I would like to speak to you futher after doing so.
@ Shamrocker Thanks to Mike for approval on the Spirit photo. God Bless.
Our friends have responded with comments and their Blessings to conduit this auction. The outpouring of love & compassion has overwhelmed me.
As for Barry Fey business man 1st human 2nd, nature of the beast. I experienced both sides of Barry Fey.

david vandenberg said...

Mr. Epstein, Paul if I may,

Chris will be remembered by my boys forever & I myself as a parent & grandparent i send my heart to Lydia & the Haney Family.Chris was both a friend & coworker with my boys & my family is reaching out to our friends worldwide in support of Lydia & the Haney family with an auction May 17th thru May 19th, of our photo art.Please take a moment and go to Facebook then Please view my wall.
I implore you to do so. davidvandenberg
I would like to speak to you futher after doing so.
@ Shamrocker Thanks to Mike for approval on the Spirit photo. God Bless.
Our friends have responded with comments and their Blessings to conduit this auction. The outpouring of love & compassion has overwhelmed me.
As for Barry Fey business man 1st human 2nd, nature of the beast. I experienced both sides of Barry Fey.