Sunday, March 04, 2012

Jeffrey Dahmer redux

Revere High School Blood Drive 1977
Cleveland artist and writer Derf launched his new graphic novel My Friend Dahmer at the William Busta Gallery Friday night. The instantly acclaimed memoir recalls the author's teen friendship with one of the country's most famous serial killers.
Review of My Friend Dahmer by Carlo Wolff for the Chicago Sun Times.

The launch was what you'd expect. An attractive young woman offered wine and nibbles. Derf was signing books. The usual suspects were milling around, chatting, sipping and considering the art.

One gallery was dedicated to items associated with Dahmer: old high school flyers, Derf's casual doodles from more than three decades ago, and some photos. Each was utterly normal and utterly devastating.

Coolin' out Revere-style
Consider a handful of black and white photos taken by Derf's and Dahmer's classmate Bill Henry: Dahmer--a good looking burly kid--hanging out by the pool; Dahmer goofing for the camera by a row of lockers; Dahmer wearing a P&G Industries windbreaker as he grins from behind a thick shock of blonde hair.

Henry was at the opening. I asked him about the photos.

"I just always had my camera," he said. Henry was a shutterbug back in those days at Revere High, constantly taking pix and submitting to the yearbook.

High school yearbooks. Remember the covers?

The display includes Derf's 35-year-old draft of a rejected yearbook cover depicting his rendition of "The Spirit of '76"--with Dahmer as the drummer. It made me swallow hard.

Derf's doodles of "Dahmer's Interpretation of a Telephone Pole," or the darkly ironic depiction of the nascent cannibal as a bag of groceries evoked all those adolescent jokes that seemed so very funny back then. The note explaining that Dahmer was sitting across the table from Derf in the school cafeteria as he sketched took my breath away. The precision of Derf's drawings of then odd-man-out Dahmer made my heart wax tender.

Haunting doesn't cover it.

Revere PowderPuff football, 1977
Dahmer, Derf and Henry attended Revere High School, which services Richfield and Bath, Ohio. Both are mundane Wonder white bread suburbs located midway between Cleveland and Akron. Earlier in my career, I covered the Revere Schools for a local paper. My Mom lives in Richfield, which borders Broadview Heights (where I live) to the South. Hence, Revere High School is close to me.

It's close to you too.

The display will be up at Busta's place through April 21. It was so emotionally wrought, I was unable to properly take in each item amid the other people. After I read the book I will probably return to the gallery at a slow afternoon hour and grieve over the whole terrible beautiful thing.

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Today's photos feature life in and around Revere High School when Derf and Dahmer cruised the halls.

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philbilly said...

"An attractive young woman offered wine and nibbles."

I'm stuck on the image this conjures up, will read post later.

Kirk said...

Once worked with a woman who went to school with Dahmer. She told me he seemed like just another stoner.

I grew up in North Royalton, which borders Broadview Heights, which borders Richfied (where the Cleveland Cavs and all the big rock bands played for some 20 years) which borders Bath, so it's close to me, too. When I think of it that way, I surprised that I've only known ONE person in my life who knew Jeffery Dahmer. Of course, it may not be something people want to brag about.

Big fan of Derf's work. See he's in the Plain Dealer now. The paper has finally let down its hair!

Anonymous said...

I'm awaiting a copy of Derf's "Punk Rock and Trailer Parks". Excerpts I've read lead me to believe We ran in similar circles around the Kent/Akron punk/new wave scene after high school...

Bill said...

Ever wonder what, if given the chance, Dahmer would have ordered for his last meal?

Anonymous said...

Ever wonder what might happen if Mental Hygiene classes were taught in public schools to help people recognize Schizophrenia in its early stages? That'd probably take away time from teaching the proper strategy for taking computer scored achievement tests. No Child Left Behind.


Judy said...

There's a women who was in our 4-H horse group way back when who had lost her son to Dahmer...She never had much to say about it...I can't even imagine the emotional pain...

The Twisted Tine said...

I was reading about Dahmer earlier today, by chance... as part of a food book I'd been reading that looks into the relationship of cannibalism with religion, oral sex and survival.

That sounds like it'd a very interesting to see... I want to check out Derf's book.