Narducy, Daniel Richard "The Duce" At 11:11 on April 11, 1953, a Chicago original was born. Little Daniel R. aka Rex Narducy came home to 3634 S. Union and the world was never quite the same. His parents made Dan pay his way through a parochial education by stocking shelves at his grandfather's candy store at the corner of Emerald and 36th Streets and mopping up at De La Salle Academy. He was an avid reader, but hard as he tried, Dan couldn't fully vanquish the tedium of school, where the nuns pronounced him possessed for (among other things) his irrepressible roaring laughter, inappropriate attire (what were then only available at Sears as "dungarees"), and for bringing the Who's first album to Music Appreciation class. When it wasn't in use for betting, 3634 Union was also home to Duke's basement, where many a first kiss was had and discussed. Even as a baby, Dan was as one with The Music. His mother kept a radio in his crib because "it always shut him up right away." Dan went to every concert he could, from Elvis at the Stadium, to Jimi Hendrix at the Amphitheater. Dan's jailbreak from Bridgeport followed his high school graduation, and he worked as a driver for Hayes Mechanical and Dodge Chicago, riding the EL at 5 a.m. each weekday from the far-North Side apartment he shared with his childhood sweetheart Sofia. Dan broke out of the nine-to-five and into a wacky Rock 'n' Roll Life working as a Bouncer at La Mere Vipere, Chicago's infamous first punk discotheque which burned to the ground after just a few months of disturbing the neighbors, including the nuns who still live across Halsted Street. Once La Mere was gone but never forgotten, its migrants quickly relocated to several bars and live-music venues from which a vibrant local scene emerged, launching the careers of such bands as the Smashing Pumpkins, Waco Brothers, Nicholas Tremulis, Ministry, B.B. Spin, and Heavy Manners. Dan was never without some stray animal who had followed him home. Feline Pieter had raced the hallways, climbed the curtains, and knocked down objects from every surface of The Rockpile, the house at Racine and Wellington Dan shared with John Molini and Ray Shanahan. Pieter quickly grew fat and happy with Sofia after the landlord's hand was forced by the End of The World Party, which brought in a wild throng straight from Navy Pier, where Cheap Trick had just played Chicagofest, the City's first open-air music and food extravaganza from which a nascent Taste of Chicago sprung. Nothing escaped Dan's observant gaze, whether a hundred-dollar bill in the middle of Clark street in a New Year's Eve snowstorm, or an ad for the Penthouse of the historic apartment hotel at Diversey and Racine (The Nuclear Arms), which ran just days before the Sheriff arrived at the Rockpile. Dan lorded over his domain ("I run it, rule it, own it!") from his Nuke Arms corner studio, leaping up from the couch only to rush to his bedside window to get a straight, clear view to Comiskey Park, where fireworks marked every home run. Dan had been working as a stagehand for JAM Productions for several years when he got the chance to work full-time at the Park West. He kept working other venues' shows while being the P-Dubs' Mr. Everything, serving as stagehand, sound-and-light deputy, DJ, and caterer to the numerous eye-popping headliners that made the early 80's a musical era unto itself. Musicians and stage crews from around the world would arrive at the hall having already heard about Dan's professionalism and patience, which seemingly was tested daily, whether by the Peyton Place comings-and-goings at the club or having to hold up with one hand a PA stack during one Specials show where the crowd's frenetic dancing caused its wheel locks to slip. And the talent often returned the favor, as James Brown did after two sweaty sets, staying afterward to set his hair for a picture with Dan, who had insisted that James play the Park West for a series of unforgettable performances. The Godfather's late-night snapshot with Dan and Gregg, whose work on the sound board made that particular night live forever, can be viewed with others at Dan's website, address to be announced. Things change and people move on, but Dan continued to work shows while Bouncing at Cassidy's and the Wrigleyville Tap, later working full-time on the reconstruction & maintenance of the historic Riviera Theater. Congestive heart failure on Christmas Eve of 2000 only slowed Dan down somewhat until his kidneys failed, forcing him to stop pushing cases around and let the "young pups" do the hard work. He admonished many a novice to "slow down, don't hurt yourself," and insisted that everyone wear gloves, the stagehand's seatbelt. When he wasn't working, Dan played guitar and wrote his own songs, performing them only for "certain people." A rampant sports fan, the only thing that could have brought Dan more joy than the Bears' Super Bowl season and the Mighty Bulls' Six Peat, is the White Sox' current season, which has proven to be the best ever in baseball history. Having finally been set free on Cinco de Mayo, Dan now has a perfect seat for every game. Dan was predeceased by his dog Moses and by his parents Joyce and Leo Narducy ("the Bard of Bridgeport"). He is survived by his niece, Amber Rogers, a sister and brother (Celine, Eugene), his beloved friend Leslie Matlaw, and by numerous professional colleagues who remember him as a devoted kinsman, patient mentor, always-reliable troubleshooter, and raconteur extraordinaire. Upon learning of Dan's passing, his comrade Jolly Roger echoed the Just Guys Association's sentiments with a classic Dan-ism: "it'll all be malfanktin'd now without the Duce." Dan considered 18-hour days and splitting headaches to be small prices to pay; even after 27 years, he still couldn't get over the fact that his life's "work" was listening to live music and getting paid for it. The one thing Dan never did was go out on the Road, no matter how lean times got in the off-seasons. He just wouldn't leave Chicago, even for a brief visit to New Orleans, despite years of nagging. He'd never actually seen one, so a second-line funeral just wouldn't make sense for Dan; instead, his friends are asked to honor him with their stories at a not-exactly-formal Memorial on Thursday, May 12th at 4 p.m., contact [email protected]
Published by Chicago Sun-Times on May 9, 2005.