Saturday, June 02, 2012

The sun sets on Dark

I was shocked to learn of the passing of Twin Cities media guy George "Dark Star" Chapple, who was found dead in his home on Friday afternoon. Dark was 66 years old. 

The one and only time I met Dark was in January of 1992 (coincidentally, at the same event where I made an arse of myself hitting on a preacher's daughter), the day after Super Bowl XXVI took place at the Metrodome. I remember thinking that he looked like a silver haired Moe Howard. Anyhow, I merely said "Hey, Dark Man!" To which he politely replied "How are ya, sport?" 

As the years passed I would occasionally tune in to Dark's late night WCCO radio talk show, which first aired from Midnight until 3:00 a.m. nightly before he found a long term home in the early 90s, which was the 9:00 pm until 1:00 a.m. time slot. I guess I was always fascinated by Dark's story, since he was a regular guy who worked a "real job" until he caught his big break in the media biz. How he got in to the inner workings of Twin Cities media was the stuff of folklore. In 1985, while unwinding in a tavern after a long day at his office job, Dark overheard an inebriated patron (who happened to be connected to the Vikings brass) saying that Bud Grant would retire as Vikings head coach only one season after reassuming the reins from the disastrous one-year tenure of Les Steckel. From there, Dark called in to AM 1500's Monday Night Sports Talk, hosted by then St Paul Pioneer press scribes Joe Soucheray and Pat Reusse, to break the news. Since there had been no hint of Grant moving on, the phoned in declaration was dismissed as empty speculation. However, Grant did indeed resign after the '85 season, which prompted Soucheray and Reusse to give Dark his props. From there, the sports duo helped get Dark on the payroll at the Pioneer Press as a handicapper, an act of generosity which Dark never forgot.

I recall an interview Dark conducted with a local magazine some years ago where he discussed his career in radio. There was one quote which always stuck with me. "The minute you take (the radio) business more seriously than it takes you, you're finished." Yes, after nearly twenty years in the business at the time, Dark never took any of his success for granted. In fact, when he was let go by WCCO in 2010, Dark was as gracious as he could be saying he "stole every penny" he ever made working in radio. He was the epitome of that old saying where if you make money doing what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.

As I listened to reaction from the likes of Reusse and KFAN colleague Paul Allen, the one thing both mentioned is that Dark had not been feeling all that well lately and made a pledge to see a doctor. In what turned out to be his final TV broadcast of his weekly Sunday night program "The Sports Show" (which he co-hosted with Mike Max, nonagenarian scribe Sid Hartman and Reusse) six days ago, it was obvious Dark was struggling to breathe normally.

I didn't know Dark personally, but given all the stories I've heard from all who knew him, it's pretty obvious that he was a personality that has rarely been seen around these parts.

R.I.P., Dark.


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