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I just read the cover article of your most recent issue (“The Last Days of Christopher Savage,” 5/2) and wanted to briefly pass along a couple of thoughts. The article reminded me why I used to read the City Paper so religiously—and why several years ago I stopped cold turkey and didn’t look back until now.
Overall, I thought the article was heart-rending. Regardless of whether his death was drug-related, the story put a very human face on substance abuse without using his death to make a heavy-handed point.
And now for the “but.” I found myself wondering whether the City Paper would have pursued this story if Savage had been a transplant from Senegal, or Jamaica, or Eau Claire, or Colorado Springs. I’m not accusing you of racism. But I am accusing you of being fairly superficial in your determinations. In other words, I don’t think you would have done the story if Mr. Savage hadn’t worn a septum ring and a Turbonegro jacket.
If the same thing had happened to a relatively conventional-looking person, I think you would have yawned and moved on. But because Mr. Savage hung out in Adams Morgan, worked at the Black Cat, and wore punk-rock patches on his clothing, suddenly that seemed to make him more “special” to you than someone else who dies under comparably tragic or mysterious circumstances. If that had happened to me—someone with plenty of punk records in his collection but no tattoos on his neck or rings through his nose or special connections at Asylum—would you have covered it? Even though the story was tragic, I found myself wondering: Why, really, are they writing about this man?
This all brings me back to my original point. The City Paper can and does publish useful and interesting stories, but at the end of the day, your treatment of Mr. Savage (and your overall editorial philosophy) seems to suggest the same elitism, superficiality, and self-righteousness that I always hope that people who consider themselves progressive-minded would reject (and which so many so-called progressives rush to reject in others). I ultimately believe you wrote about Mr. Savage not necessarily because of the all-too-common brand of tragedy that surrounds his death but because he was “one of you.” And to me, that just doesn’t sit well.
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Reader responses from washingtoncitypaper.com
subject: “The Last Days of Christopher Savage” by Jason Cherkis and Arthur Delaney
Why on earth is some homeless junkie dying because he overdosed on someone’s couch considered news? His story changed so often because he was LYING, not because he was suffering ill-effects from his assault. I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened between him and the people he bought the drugs from. Sure hope Shitty Paper bothers to do a follow-up when the toxicology results come back. Somehow I doubt they will when the guy’s blood is full of smack and who knows what else.Another douche and waste of (a lot) of skin is dead….
Comment by David, May 2, 2008, at 3:30 p.m.
Reading through some of the comments…it’s quite clear that most of you didn’t know Chris personally. This 300 lb., tatted up, rough looking guy was the biggest teddy bear I think I have ever met. His life and his death have touched the hearts of an enormous amount of people…some who knew him and some who didn’t. He as many of us are, was haunted by his own personal demons but was intelligent enough and strong enough to want to make a better life for himself and get on the right track. It’s just too ironic that he decided to move to a new state for a fresh start at life and then a few days later his life was tragically taken away. No matter who he was, his life was meaningful and no less important than some guy who makes 6 figures on Wall St. and his story deserves to be told. Those of us in Bakersfield who had taken the time to get to know Chris and what a great guy he was, will miss him greatly. Thank you to the Washington City Paper for taking the time to tell Chris’ story.
Comment by Naughty Angel of the Bakersfield Rollergirls, May 2, 2008, 3:41 p.m.
I WENT TO HIS SERVICES YESTERDAY AND CHRIS WILL BE MISSED. THIS IS A MAN THAT WAS TRYING TO TURN HIS LIFE AROUND AND DO BETTER. WE HAVE ALL MADE MISTAKES IN THE PAST AND THANK THE LORD WE CAN CONTINUE TO TRY TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT. CHRIS WILL NEVER GET THAT CHANCE. ITS NOT THAT HE EVER DID ANYTHING TO ANYONE ELSE QUITE THE CONTRARY BUT ITS WHAT HE DID TO HIMSELF THAT PEOPLE JUDGE. IF ONLY YOU KNEW CHRIS YOU WOULD LOVE HIM AS THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE DID AND YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND WHY THIS ARTICAL WAS WRITEN. I WAS THERE WHEN HE BOUGHT THAT CRASS ALBUM I SHAVED HIS HEAD THE FIRST TIME. THIS WAS MY FRIEND AND I LOVED HIM AS HE LOVED ME. I HAVE NO TATOOS I HAVE FOUR KIDS A WIFE AND A MINIVAN AS WELL AS I AM REPUBLICAN BUT THIS MAN AND I ARE FROM THE SAME TREE JUST DIFFRENT BRANCHES. TAKE WHAT YOU LEARN THIS AND APPLY IT TO YOUR LIFE THAT NO MATTER HOW SOMEONE LOOKS THEIR SOMEONES FRIEND AND TREAT THEM THE WAY YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED. FRIENDS ARE HARD TO FIND VALUE THEM NO MATTER THE DRAMA AND BE THEIR FOR THEM.
Comment by BRAD, May 2, 2008, at 5:25 p.m.