Feb 16, 2014

On the Scene: Maggie Estep Memorial, Club Helsinki, Hudson NY

In case you couldn't make it, but were interested, here is a nice summary of yesterday's fantastic memorial put together quickly for Maggie Estep. As I've mention, I didn't know her well, but enjoyed every second I spent hanging out with her. She is/was an excellent example of the type of kindred spirit I've met while spending a lot of time in upstate New York. Quality over quantity please. Maggie, you are missed.

Article & images (except the final one) below courtesy of The Register Star, by Arthur Cusano:

HUDSON — Hudson resident Maggie Estep was known for her fearless stage presence, so it was only fitting that her memorial would take place on stage.

Richard Boch
Friends and family gathered Saturday morning at Helsinki Hudson to remember Estep, who died Wednesday at age 50 of a heart attack.

“Maggie Estep was beautiful, standing at the microphone in the early days of slam. She could spit and coo in the same breath,” recalled friend and fellow spoken word artist Richard Boch. “Sometimes it scared me. Other times it made me laugh, along with everyone else. Wit, wisdom and words — she was a Marshall-amped Dorothy Parker, without the gin martini.”

Estep was a well-known spoken word poet who had performed on MTV and HBO and at Lollapalooza and Woodstock 94 festivals. She later found success with such novels as Diary of an Emotional Idiot: A Novel (1997), and the trilogy of Ruby Murphy mysteries, Hex (2003), Gargantuan (2004), and Flamethrower (2006). She moved to Hudson two years ago from Ulster County.

Singer-songwriter Mike Doughty recalled dating Estep briefly before he broke up with her due to his substance abuse issues. He credited her with helping him get sober.

“Maggie saved my life, and she did it by being interesting,” he said before performing the song “Day By Day By”. “I was famous-ish, and yet she had a much better life than I did. Every time I’d bump into her she’d say ‘yeah, I’m corresponding with famous writers and hanging out with the federation of black cowboys.’ I’d say, ‘You don’t have a right to have fun, I’m the one doing drugs.’”

One guest who hadn’t been announced before the event was actor Steve Buscemi, who had worked with Estep directing her music videos for her cover of the Lou Reed song “Vicious.”

Buscemi said he met Estep through his brother, Michael. The actor has worked on movie adaptions of Estep’s Ruby Murphy novels that never came to fruition, but said he hoped to one day get the projects done.

“She was scary looking sometimes, she could be really intense,” Buscemi said. “But underneath, she was just a real sweetheart.”

Buscemi read a post Estep had written about Lou Reed’s death last year in which she fondly recalled Reed swatting her backside, as well as a letter she had recently emailed him in which she talked of working as a realtor in Columbia County in order to pay the bills while she finished working on a novel.

“I mention this in the event that you have any friends looking for county places or to relocate or sell their upstate place,” Estep wrote. “A lot of realtors are kind of creepy, so I guess my angle is that I’m the non-creepy realtor. So keep that in mind and I hope to see you sometime soon.”

Friend Laura Shea of East Chatham recalled her relationship with Estep as she blogged about her farming. Estep was simultaneously friendly and rude, often laughing at Shea or others, but that was okay because Estep was comfortable having people laugh at herself as well, she said.

“She was exquisitely dramatic, she fell deeply and immediately in love and just as quickly could change her mind,” Shea said. “She adored her friends. She was fiercely loyal, and she should not be in the past tense.”

Shea said Estep loved one being better than any other – her pet pit bull Micky. The dog was brought on stage briefly to applause.

Author Rick Moody was unable to attend Saturday’s event but wrote a letter from his residence in Florida entitled “The Word Enthusiasm” that was read by friend Karen Keats.

“The word enthusiasm, they say, comes from Greek [for] possessed by a god, and no better word suggests the unmistakable energy of Maggie,” Moody wrote.

Moody recalled Estep’s humor and love for many things, especially horses. Estep’s parents were traveling horse trainers and fair performers.

“Once I wrote a story with a horse in it, and Maggie, who was always very supportive, wrote to tell me that no horse person would ever use the word snout for a horse,” Moody recalled. “The word was nose.”

John S. Hall
 John S. Hall, a New York poet, author and vocalist for the now defunct band King Missile, read two of Estep’s pieces, “F-ck Me,” and the follow-up, “Stalk Me,” which Hall said came from Estep’s jealousy of Hall having a stalker.

“Don’t stalk Jodie Foster, David Letterman or John S. Hall, don’t go through their trash, their trash is boring — play with MY trash,” Hall recited to laughter.

Stephen Merritt
The final event concluded with a performance by Stephin Merritt, a singer-songwriter best known for his work in the band The Magnetic Fields. He performed one of Estep’s favorite songs, the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love.”

Stephanie Monseu by Judy Sipowicz
Attendees were treated to a fire-breathing show by circus performance artist Stephanie Monseu in the venue’s courtyard as the snow fell outside. Helsinki Hudson owner Mark Schafler said Estep was a familiar face at the venue, and said the space was offered to Estep’s friends at no cost.

“Maggie’s friends are our friends, and one of our mission statements is that we’re a part of the community,” Schafler said. “This is a community event, of both joy and sorrow.”

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