On Chuck Perez: A Treasure and a Memory
Though I didn’t know Chuck when he arrived at New Buffalo, I got to know him when he worked at KVNM as the voice, a voice that lulled you into listening to the best of rhythm and blues. Sure, we’re raising money for his cremation, and, like Nellie says, it’s the last loan you’ll ever make to keep Chuck going–this time in memoriam. I’m sure his old friends, like Taylor, Rick, and Bob will speak at the service.
Sara (Thomas) Allen wrote the following: “I remember Chuck as one of the steadfast members of the Old Guard staff during the re-opening of KXRT-FM (now KTAO-FM) in Taos. He was a familiar and unique voice on the air in the early days of the return of FM radio to Taos. He taught me that it was okay to speak slowly and thoughtfully on-the-air instead of the rat-a-tat-tat high-speed delivery of other radio announcers we had all been exposed to in the Cities we had hailed from. At that time we jokingly and lovingly referred to his style as The Chuck Perez School of Broadcasting.– KXRT-FM DJ “Roxanne Rush” aka Sara Thomas aka Sara T. Allen aka Aybabtu Equality Justice. (Editor’s Note: Sara, the engineer, kept KVNM on the air regardless of all other contributors.)
Chuck had a gift and passion for radio, and similarly, let’s be honest, a talent for attracting the ladies. Who could resist those great brown eyes, handsome face, deep voice, the winsome smile, and we always knew he meant well. At the time, he was like his mirror image, the Waspish Brad Hockmeyer–despite the difference in their births and backgrounds. They both had beautiful girlfriends and old Volvos with messy interiors, cans of fix-o-flat rolling round. There the daily radio logs disappeared among the debris in the backseats between the Plaza offices and the fabulous Blueberry Hills’ studios, where a falling down outhouse marked the spot. Oh, yes, Brad and Chuck were naturally at home nowhere in the world except at the turntable in the studio spinning disks.
Ted Dimond and Chuck were on the board of directors for KVNM. He was loyal to the core at a time when office politics, drug-induced mania, and a lack of funds came close to destroying the FM sound in Taos. You could trust the Big Chicano if you pointed him in the direction of his passion. He helped KVNM survive when all we had between us and silence was a wing and, literally, a prayer. Chuck played the primordial rhythm and blues that nourished our souls and kept us connected to life.
Despite the frustrations with his penchant for self-destructive appetites, we all loved Chuck. Who among our generation didn’t face the demons? I just wish I could have seen him one more time.
Lo’ these many years ago, one Saturday night about 8:30 pm, while living at the north end of Blueberry Hill, I was listening to his show. A tune ended and I could hear the turntable going round, and round, and round. So, I got in my car, drove south to the studio, a few minutes away. Sure enough, I was standing there when Chuck returned from an errand—he’d put on a record but miscalculated the time it would take to go and get a six-pack. “Shit, Whaley. Sorry,” he said, eyes full of chagrin.
His error in judgment wasn’t as egregious as the time on Sunday morning when Tom Collins showed up to take over the classical music show and said, “Who left the mother f—-mike on?” which epithet blasted out for our several Sunday morning listeners to hear.
Chuck, in his own way, as we know, was the real thing—and too sensitive in many ways to live in this world of human foibles and systemic exploitation. There but for the grace of God go I, I always think when we adjourn to some discreet space to celebrate the life and times of our friends, the products of our own transiency. Once, we celebrated the solstice and sunrise, now we gather at homecoming services for the departed, whose spirits remain alive in our hearts.
Vaya con Dios, mi amigo.
Very nice, Bill. My fondest memories of Chuck are (perhaps unfortunately) from drunken escapades we shared. I know that it is basically “the recovery community” that has taken charge of celebrating Chuck’s life. So, maybe those kinds of stories are best not told in print.
But, the funniest one for me was the time that right after “She” kicked him out (or so he characterized it), he came over to my place and suggested we get drunk. We were each supposed to do our radio shows that afternoon. I can’t remember who was supposed to be on the air first and who second, but we both went to the trailer drunk as skunks (with lots of additional ammunition in paper bags) and held forth as a dynamic duo for about 6 hours. We got into playing gospel music. I would play a black gospel cut, and Chuck would immediately respond with a bluegrass gospel cut. And on it went – back and forth.
The music was great, but when we started cracking up while reading serious news stories somebody called the office to warn you that we were drunk on the air. You eventually showed up at the trailer. There were open containers of alcoholic beverages all over the place. I remember that you asked us if there was any alcohol in the studio. And we said no. You pretended to believe us and left. Do you remember that?
(Editor’s Note. Vague stirrings of memory but there were many similar stories. How could I complain about my two best DJs. Besides, it wasn’t like KVNM paychecks were in prompt.)
After I quit the radio station – when the hourly wage was reduced (Brad’s era of budget cutting) and it cost me more in gas to commute from Lama than I was getting paid–if the check didn’t bounce–the only DJ left on the station (KVNM) whose taste in music I liked was Chuck.
He had very eclectic taste and could always come up with interesting, tasty sets. [I had been the old R & B guy at the station, by the way. I did my Blues & R&B show every weekend, and worked a lot of R & B and jazz into my regular shifts during the week.] When Chuck finally left the station I just quit listening to it.
It went to more of a “play list” type station with a “format”. We had been allowed to play anything we wanted to play before that. There was no format – just free form.
Since Peggy & I both worked as tutors at San Felipe while Chuck was a house parent there, we may be the only ones around who can attest to how good Chuck was with the kids. He worked in one of the rowdiest ”houses” up there, and did a great job. He related really well with all the kids, and could keep them out of trouble most of the time. You may recall that Rick Santos also worked with Chuck up there during that period of time. He was also a great house parent.
Anyway, it was fun.
Hi Bill-i first came to Taos in 1970 on a Hogfarm school bus with Chuck. We were on our way back from the Holy Man Jam in Boulder. Was a special time. I hope t go to memorial.
Thank you for archiving the old loving freaks.
Thanks for your lovely tribute to our friend Chuck. I am sorry to miss his memorial as I am on grandma duty in Seattle.
Chuck was a brother who lived at New Buffalo when I did. He was then coupled with the lovely Elaine who was a soft-spoken weaver from NYC. He definitely enjoyed the company of beautiful and supportive women. When Chuck was sober, he was the most engaging raconteur one could hope for- a surprise gift living in this tiny off the grid commune. Chuck was a voracious reader who seemed to inhale books just by handling them. In fact, he turned me onto to one of my favorite books of all time– The Once & Future King, about King Arthur and his dream of resolving conflict by making just laws. Imagine that!
On the capital steps this spring, I went to Occupy the Roundhouse. There, I met a man who was a ringer for Chuck. And in fact, could hardly believe he was a total stranger. So, I guess Chuck was on my mind, or he was a phantom presence reminding us to be our true selves. The lineage of Chuck Perez: one of a kind, not from any cookie mold.
We will never forget you.