Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Storm and the Sunlit Painted Ladies

by F. T. Rea

Severe storms appear, darkening the sky. They blow through town, bending, soaking and breaking what they will. Then they’re gone. Each time the landscape is changed, sometimes a lot. When a storm causes profound change it’s called a “disaster.”

Those of us who are the detached dreamers, the compulsive analyzers, we try to understand the changes wrought by nature’s whim. After all, we know we can never understand the storms, much less the reason(s) for natural disasters.

On January 1, 2006 a man-made disaster shook the part of the world I know best. The news that the Harvey family -- Bryan, 49; Kathy, 39; Stella, 9; and Ruby, 4 -- had been murdered in their home hit this scribe with the fury of a tornado. Because the family was well known, particularly in the part of town which surrounds Virginia Commonwealth University, I was not alone.
The Stella Harvey Memorial Bench in the new garden at William F. Fox Elementary School

The crushing news came to me on the morning of Jan. 2, by telephone, from my daughter. Her memory of Bryan went back to his days in one of the Fan District’s most popular bands in the early 1980s, the Dads. She, like so many young mothers had taken her two children to Kathy’s delightful toy store in Carytown, the World of Mirth, too many times to count.

Today I remember little from our conversation, except that we seemed to be drawing some comfort from one another’s voice at the other end of the telephone line. The connection made the outrage and panic more bearable. We were not alone.

Subsequently, I began pouring my time into making a web site I edit, SLANTblog, into a kiosk for those who cared about the Harveys. The pell-mell pace of the week that followed was surreal. I’m a writer, so I wrote to keep my wits.


From SLANTblog:

Jan. 2: Family Found Murdered

In a quiet Southside neighborhood near the river, as well as Carytown's business district and the greater Richmond pop music scene, the worst of news spread on the first day of 2006 -- a family of four brutally murdered. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports what is known at this writing (the morning of Jan. 2) about the mind-boggling story of the Harveys, parents and two daughters -- as attractive and well-liked a family as one can imagine -- being found dead in their home yesterday afternoon.

"A well-known Richmond couple and their two young daughters were found bound with their throats cut yesterday afternoon in the basement of their South Richmond home. Richmond firefighters made the discovery about 1:45 p.m. after responding to a 911 call reporting a fire at the home of Bryan and Kathryn Harvey at 812 W. 31st St. in the Woodland Heights neighborhood. Investigators said the family members had invited friends for a New Year's Day chili party that was to start about 2 [p.m.]."

Jan. 3: House of Freaks

It was in 1986 at the Jade Elephant that I first saw and heard what became the House of Freaks. At that time I already knew both Bryan Harvey and Johnny Hott, from their previous musical endeavors. SLANT was then a handbill-style periodical, in the midst of fighting the City’s anti-handbill laws. The Jade was one of SLANT's early advertisers, so I ran ads for the bar touting "Bryan and Johnny live at the Jade," or something like that. The name House of Freaks came later.

However, I liked their two-man act right away and went on to do what I could to encourage/support what they were doing. All that existed in a time in which you probably have to be over 40 now to remember. Hell, some of us are pushing 60, these days.

Thinking of those two guys, stubbornly resisting everyone who told them to get a third player -- because a duo can’t be a band! -- takes me back to that rambunctious time on West Grace Street, when it was the main strip for live music and nightlife in Richmond. In the early- to mid-80s the Shockoe Bottom club scene was still in its formative stages.

The Dads, Throttle, Michel’s, Benny’s, Orthotonics, Hard Times, The Bowties, Beex, The Village, Offenders, Megatonz, Chuck Wrenn, The Pass, Death Piggy, Millionaires, R.A.W., Red Cross, Prevaricators, Casablanca, Rockitz, Barriers, Shake & the Drakes, Main Street Grill, Grace Place, New Horizons, Chelf’s, Biograph Theatre, The Insinuations, I Remember Reality Review, Plan 9, Bopcats, Good Humor Band, Single Bullet Theory, Theories of the Old School, Shafer Court, The Pass, Lamour, 1708, The Clubhouse, Domino’s Doghouse, Faded Rose, J.W. Rayle, Toronados, Insect Surfers, Soble's, Gatsby's, X-Dux, Tom and Marty Band, Boys and Girls Grow Up, Cha Cha Palace, The Good Guys, Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe, The Rage, The Jade Elephant, Hababas, The Back Door, Non Dairy Screamers, Color Radio, Floodzone, Joe Sheets, Don' Ax Me... Bitch!, Page Wilson, "Z," Steve Payne, AAE, The Copa, Rick Stanley, Bruce Olsen, 353-ROCK, House of Freaks...

Jan. 3: Harvey Ceremony

The service for the Harvey family at the Unitarian Church tonight seemed to help many of those who attended -- strength in numbers. The mood of the ceremony itself was understated. There was no music. That will come later. And, when it does, I’ll be there, come hell or high water.

Many of the faces in the overflow crowd were familiar, the local arts/music community was well represented. There were tears and hugs aplenty. After the simple ceremony a candlelight vigil was held outdoors, behind the church. Some testified through sobs, most just stood and felt the vibe. I was surprised somewhat that the television crews actually showed restraint -- no bright lights or microphones in peoples’ faces until it was over...

To read the rest of this account click here.
Photo: SLANT


bruceterrell said...

Keep writing about them Terry. Bryan and I were bandmates and friends since high school (Boys From Skateland and others). I try not to wallow in all of this but I appreciate your perspective on their effect on the community and the grace and compassion of your blogs. I think there's always a need for someone to articulate a community's experience with events like these.

F.T. Rea said...


Thanks. You know encouragement means a lot to artists of all stripes.

-- Terry