2001-04-09 9:50 p.m.
Today was a very good day until just a few hours ago. Now I am very sad, very bummed and very mad. I just found out about the death of a friend. And I suppose this is the first friend I have ever had die of a drug overdose.
I'm sure if I looked back in my diary entries (or if you did) you would find references to Hondo. He began at my place of work the summer after I began there. When I met him he wore cutoffs and high top sneakers with no socks. He had long blond curly unkempt hair and a "pussy tickler" tuft of blond hari on his lower lip. He had a dirty inside-out t-shirt and tattoos up and down his legs and arms. And this was the day he was there for the job interview! Okay, maybe not, but he probably was dressed just like that when he was hired because that is how he dressed every day I knew him.
Hondo was his name. I think Mike was his "real" first name but I haven't a clue as to his last name. He was Hondo on the radio, Hondo to us. My first impression was not particularly positive, with my whitebread conservative past, but every impression after that was positive. I loved Hondo because my age never registered to him at all. One day he was proud of himself for having taken his mother to a Cure concert for her birthday or Mother's Day or somesuch. I marveled that someone's mother would be a fan of the Cure. I asked her age and it was somewhere within a year or two of MY age. But, to Hondo, I was his contemporary and he never made me feel old.
He, on the other hand, made me feel very young. He was always smiling, always joking and always VERY loud. He would have conversations outside of our studio doors that would make us have to quit recording our shows and stop and join in the conversation. Hondo had no "filter" in his head. He never edited what he said in order to not offend. And he never offended on purpose, but he might have offended someone who didn't like some of the colorful language he used.
I remember listening to some of his breaks on a rock station he worked for. He played a song by Better than Ezra and I remember the break saying something to the effect of "Yeah, I used to go out with a girl who had dated a guy named Ezra and she said, I swear to God, that I was better than Ezra, swear to God." He was born to be on the radio. He had a rough, raspy voice and said things on the radio that really made you sit up and take notice.
We would laugh about Hondo and his "Jeff Spicoli" life. If you don't remember who Jeff Spicoli was, he was Sean Penn's character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The dope-smoking, addled student. Hondo had a bigger build and wasn't quite so addled, but in the happy-go-lucky, order-a-pizza-in-class attitude, Hondo had it all over Spicoli.
One of our company Christmas parties that year, the fancier, stuffier one, was out at the One World Theater. They gave us each two drink tickets in an effort to keep us sober. I remember thinking that two would be plenty for me that night. Somehow, more and more drink tickets made it into our hands and I was totally wasted before the night was over. Hondo was dressed for the party in, yes, cutoffs and t-shirt (he might not have been that is still how I picture it) and he also had his hair in pigtails. No, not the ponytail that so many men wear as a sign of anti-establishment-ness, but in pigtails. As the night was winding down, Hondo, who I'm not sure even owned a car and probably didn't have a driver's license, needed a ride back to town. I drove him home. I remember thinking as I pulled out of the place, "There is the highway patrol stopping traffic to let me pull out onto the highway. I have no taillight, I am drunk, I have a man in pigtails in the passenger seat who, no doubt, has drugs somewhere on his person. We could be in big trouble." We weren't and I safely got him somewhere that night. He didn't have a key to his own home so I had to take him to a friend's.
Part of Hondo's charm and zest for life came from his drug usage. I'm certain he smoked dope, upon ocassion, in his studio. Yes, I believe I even smoked it with him (not in the studio Mr. FCC investigator) upon ocassion. When we had Hondo's going away party, I surprised him and surprised everyone by giving him so dope for his trip. I have a picture of his face as he discovered what my gft was. Yes, he was surprised. Yes, everyone I worked with was surprised. In fact, that is why I did it, for that shock value. It's a long story how I even had any dope (no, it isn't a part of my life), but it really made an impression that night. I remember telling Hondo to please not get arrested with my dope on his drive to Arizona for the new job. He hugged me and said, in that raspy loud voice, "Baby, if it wasn't your dope it would be my own dope."
My mind is playing one of those tribute reels that they play at the Oscars or Grammys when one of the great ones dies. I see Hondo coming into the front lobby, leaning back at Flamingo Cantina when we went to see the DeFrockers, all splayed out on an office chair in the show prep area.
I am so mad at him for dying. Someone that full of life is not supposed to die--ever!! We don't have all the details yet and I hope and pray it was an overdose while he was enjoying himself and having fun and not an intentional overdose and suicide. I can't imagine that he would commit suicide. I know he knew we all thought the world of him and loved him. Drew, Hondo's closest friend in Austin, came in and broke the news tonight to me while I was working and then apologized since it certainly did put a damper on the rest of the shows for the night. I've sat in a control room crying my eyes out before and been able to be perky on the air so I did that same thing tonight to finish all of my work. The word tonight was that Hondo OD'ed on ectasy and cocaine. I'm sure we'll all know more tomorrow.
I haven't seen or talked to Hondo in months so it really isn't as if he is much more "gone" to me than he was before, but I know he will never be back with us. I hoped and expected that he would be back with us working again one of these days when he got tired of being on the "real" radio in Arizona.
Hondo is the stuff of radio legends. I know he will be laughed over, cried over and pondered over at our offices for days, weeks, months, to come. He was one of those guys that you think is so incredibly cool you want to just be close to him to have some rub off. And he had no qualms about you being close to him. I wonder if we all took too many pieces of him. But I will treasure my piece of him. I will remember Hondo.