Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dark and Cleo Lane

The immensely popular and extraordinarily unusual Dark Star has died here in Minnesota; and I, only one of thousands, will miss him greatly.
by Charlie Leck

In recent years, whenever I was flipping through the radio stations here in the Twin Cities, looking for something interesting to which I might listen, I always stopped immediately when I heard the unique and easily identifiable voice of the Darkman. He was like no radio man I’d ever heard. There was not a subject – especially in sports – that he couldn’t go on and on about and sound like he knew completely what he was talking about. His deep, graveled voice was both unique and marvelous. His sense of humor was inimitable (to say the least).

I guess this should be a very brief blog because my national readers won’t know what the heck I’m talking about. However, if you want to find out more about this very profane and bright fellow, who was an unexpected and indefinable celebrity here in Minnesota, read Patrick Ruesse’s column in today’s StarTribune.

A caption in one of the photographs included in the newspaper says it all about Dark…

“Can I fish? I’m the greatest,” he said. “And if I’m not, I can learn.”

I met Dark Star (George Chapple) in person only a couple of times – though I never got to know him. Once was at Canterbury Park (our local racetrack), when he wanted to talk to me about a racehorse we owned (a horse that was a total bust, by the way). The other was on the golf course of a distinguished local country club, where he was putting down some money on his team in a member-guest event. He was easy-going and an easy fellow with whom to chat, too. In any conversation, he was completely in charge and he was always funny – that delightful, quick-witted humor that really goes over big with me.

It was on the radio that I liked him best. Totally irreverent, he could talk himself into a corner and out of it better than anyone of whom I know.

I’ll always be grateful to Dark
And, it was on the radio that he introduced me to Cleo Laine, the jazz vocalist. Dark thought she was “something else.” On his late-night broadcasts he’d often play her mellow, chesty songs that seemed so appropriate in the quiet darkness. I bought a couple of her CDs and played them in my car constantly. Now I have her on my iPod and iPhone and there is no music I enjoy more. Whenever any radio personality surprises me by playing a Cleo Laine rendition of a song, I think of Dark Star.

Radio around here will just never be the same. The Darkman has gone off into the stars and he’ll be searching for a way to place some bets on the final outcome of this weekend’s Memorial Golf Tournament and on tonight’s NBA playoff game.

Thanks, Darkster! That’s all I’ve got to say.

George Chapple was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He lived previously on Long Island. He arrived in Minnesota in 1980 with his parents and lived and died in the same Minnetonka apartment complex they moved into then.


If you want to see the Dark Man and hear his gravel-like voice, here’s a short clip of him on TV…

And, if you want to hear Patrick Ruesse and Dan Barreiro chatting together about Dark Star and telling stories about him, you can listen in here.

If you want to hear Cleo Laine, singing He was Beautiful, one of my favorite of all her songs, you can listen to it below…

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