Main Page
My Opinions
Current Reading List
Book Reviews
Current Movie List
Titleholder Crap
Barebacking
The San Diego Six
Richard Chatterton Changes
Larry Townsend Keynote

About Me
Return to My Opinions table of contents
 

 

Richard Chatterton

During the early morning hours of January 27th 2003 a friend of mine went out to a beach here in San Diego, reviewed some pictures which were dear to him, put a gun to his head, pulled the trigger and wasted the rest of his life.  I will miss him.

Richard and I wearing our Utilikilts


I knew Richard could be morose at times.  I also knew he had a lot going on and it was understandable that he was depressed at times.  I'd no idea he'd been fighting clinical depression for some many years now nor that he was also on some pretty powerful meds to help him fight that depression.  He was both however.  It was something he didn't see fit to share with me.

I knew Richard primarily from our involvement in Club X here in San Diego.  Richard arrived on the scene here some five or six years ago and, as it typical with many a newbie, threw himself into it with a zeal.  In short order he ran for the Club X board of directors and was elected to his first term in 2000.  That was also my fourth term.  I was the Club President and Richard took on the duties of Secretary.

I wish I could say that his first year on the board was an exemplary one, but it wasn't.  Richard's performance was uneven to say the least.  It wasn't that he couldn't do the job for he surely could.  It was that he wouldn't do it consistently or do it consistently well enough.  He'd do it passably one month and then slack off for the next couple of months.  Then, once I'd lit a fire under his butt, Richard would burst forth in an absolute frenzy of activity and do his job not just well but outstandingly well.  And then it would be back to his usual pattern of slacking off.  It was frustrating for all concerned and Richard was frustrated with himself as well.

The next year, however, was different.  Richard ran for the board again in 2001 and was elected to his second term.  His performance that year was vastly different.  He took on the duties of Vice President of the club and soon he saw those duties expand in a very unofficial way.  It turned out that of the seven board members, five of them were pulling double duty as a result of their also being on the LeatherFest XI staff.  Richard and Jeff were the only two on the board who also weren't up to their eyeballs with LeatherFest.  As the work on LeatherFest increased the amount of energy these folks had left over to do their board duties decreased.  Richard moved in to fill that void.

It was here that he excelled.  Richard began doing all the things that the rest of the board should have done themselves but had not the time nor the energy to do.  In this Richard cut corners.  He violated procedures.  He didn't do things as they should have been done.  He did, however, keep the club alive.  For several months there it was essentially only Richard running club X.  Had he not done that then the club might well have collapsed when LeatherFest collapsed.

When LeatherFest XI did collapse it was Richard who once again stepped into the void.  The directors of LeatherFest XI, Jake & Michelle, were utterly spent.  It was entirely beyond their energies
to do anything about the bill we owed the hotel for the empty rooms we'd promised to fill.  That bill came out to some $27,000.  After a month of fruitless effort by Jake & Michelle, Richard persuaded the board to allow him to take over the negotiations.  Within but a few weeks of this Richard had persuaded the hotel to reduce the debt to $14,000 and then to reduce it to just $6,700.  A quarter of its original amount.  By himself.  In but two or three weeks.

In typical fashion for Richard he had to wade through some truly abusive stuff within Club X in order to see this through however.  At the start of 2002 he was hoping for a year of recharging as he wasn't running for reelection.  That too was not to be as he found he had to face down a woman who had mis-represented her credentials to others for years and who had threatened him when he challenged her about this on behalf of the club.  Richard sheparded through Club X's first Do Not Invite policy.  This became his major preoccupation for most of that year.  By the summer I had joined with him in facing down this threat as this woman was truly a threat to us all.

This effort should not have taken as long as it did nor been as hard as it was.  In the end however, Richard prevailed and the abusive woman was expelled from Club X and her name was placed on the DNI list so she could threaten club members no more.  At least not as a Club X member herself.  I was proud of my efforts here, proud of my having helped Richard in this, and proud of him.

In being so ardent in his efforts to ensure Club X was protected from such a threat and its members were also protected, Richard demonstrated a determination and a degree of selflessness which was truly admirable.  I also got some idea of just how intent he could be when he had set himself a goal.

Over those months Richard turned to me for advice on many an occasion.  I was flattered by this.  Especially as I had previously been something of a task master to him during his first year on the board.  However, he had changed.  He had evened out.  His performance greatly improved.  Gayle was at the root of this.

Gayle is an awesome woman.  I'd thought that from when I first met her at a Co-Ed Rap group meeting some several years ago.  She was new to the scene then but that didn't last long.  Eventually she and Richard got together and seemed inseparable.  The clicked on a very deep and powerful level.  Richard was a pretty hard pain pig and Gayle was a pretty intense sadist.  It was however, a lot more than that.  They were a joy to behold and I was happy for them both.

As their relationship grew and deepened, Richard seemed to find more of himself and his performance in the rest of the world improved greatly.  It was this Richard which I saw the most of in 2002.  It was also this Richard who was turning to me for advice and for references.  I formally introduced him to Guy Baldwin after Richard had seen him speak at the Leather Leadership Conference in Los Angeles that year.  I was somewhat surprised that the two of them kept up such a communication for Richard was well and truly a hetero man.  Initially, he had many an "issue" about this as he came from a very homophobic family.  In due time, and with solid work on his behalf, he overcame his phobias and began enjoying the company of gay men without regard to their sexuality.  Richard had even been helping to set things up for a private, men only, play party and was looking forward to getting some intense scene play with some of these men at that party.  This was a long way from the skittish and unaware Richard Chatterton I'd first met and who had been deeply afraid of even walking into Wolf's to attend a Club X workshop.

Richard was also a man with an intense need to serve others, to be useful, and to find some sense of family.  I've since learned that his family of origin wasn't worth much to him in his life.  We, the leather community, became the family that mattered to him.  I was glad to be a part of this.

During the years that I knew Richard he transformed himself from a somewhat naive hetero man who was also somewhat fearful of gay men into a far more knowledgeable, experienced, skilled leader who was so at home among leatherfolk that he was able to compete in the International Boot Black competition at the International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago in 2002.  That is no small step.  Richard also transformed himself into one of the more kinky people I've ever met.  And considering that I've been in the scene for over a decade and a half, have come to know some pretty intensely kinky people during those years and have done some pretty intensely kinky stuff myself, that's saying something about Richard.

As 2002 drew to a close there were more changes afoot with Richard.  After about four years his relationship with Gayle came to a close.  That was extremely painful for the two of them.  Richard was also in the process of divorcing his wife, a Japanese woman he married while serving overseas in the Navy, and he was also selling his house.  That was a lot of stuff to happen in the span of just a couple of months.  It was understandable that it could leave him depressed.  That's what I thought and that's what he presented to me.  I figured that he'd work his way out of it once the divorce went through, once the house closed escrow, and once he'd moved into his new apartment.  Time would also help with the ending of his relationship with Gayle.  That and filling his life with all the high tech toys and such that he was always buying.

So that last Monday in January was a surprise to me.  As it was to all of us.  Richard had spent that entire Sunday with his friends.  He'd been to a Super Bowl party with them and even hung out with another of them until the late hours of the night.  All of them knew of his depression but he gave them no clues at all as to how he was feeling that day.  He was just his usual smiling self.  And so it goes.

I think the one hardest affected by all this has been Gayle.  She knew Richard like no other.  The two of them had achieved something truly special and something far more intense than he had achieved with anyone else.  Yet, as the divorce had not gone through by the time Richard pulled that trigger, it was his wife who had all the legal title the state grants in such a situation.  Gayle was the one though who stepped in to pick up the pieces until Richard's wife got herself together enough to do so.

Oh, and then there's also Richard's first wife and his child from that marriage.  Yes, things became rather complicated and messy for everyone.  That didn't make it any easier for us.  Even now, some two weeks out, things are still pretty damn messy.  That is life, I guess.

A week after Richard did this to himself we had a service for him.  It was a general one.  Gayle set it up and there was the wife's family over from Japan, and of some of Richard's coworkers.  None of which really knew of Richard's private life and who probably would not want to assimilate such information about him at that service.  So, as the rest of us - his newfound family - filled the church to say our goodbyes, we had to do so in a somewhat muted way.  A way which did say goodbye but in which we had to limit our expressiveness in doing so.

I was asked to speak at that service.  That was tough.  Much tougher than I thought it would be.  The grief and pain in the faces of everyone in the church was something all together different looking into it from the dais.  It was all I could do to make it through my eulogy.  I did though.  Others there told me I did well enough.  I've included, below, the text of what I said that day.

We packed the house at that service.  Standing room only in the church, the balcony, and the hallways.  For a guy who thought himself so alone in the world he sure couldn't count to well.  Tomas and Rick performed a song for us all that was very relevant, "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd.  I'd long thought that song to be a searing one on its own.  Performed in this setting that just made it all the more so.  There was to be another bit of music at that service.  This one was one of Richard's favorite tunes and was off of a new CD.  They'd tested it and had it all cued up.  It didn't work.  At first folks hadn't clued into that.  When they tried playing it again I figured it out.  And then I began to laugh.  This was so typical.  And so perfect.  Pretty soon the whole place was laughing.  We all got it.  We all recognized how fitting that was for that moment.  It was a good way to remember Richard.

A week later we got to hold our remembrance of Richard.  His friends in the leather community gathered at a local bar and had it out.  Gayle set this up, again, and asked folks to submit photos of Richard and tell the story behind those shots.  Phil got a slide presentation going of this and brought along his laptop and projector.  Once the Dessert Auction finally wrapped up, we gathered and went through our memories of Richard.  There was some crying, there was some anger, and there was a lot of laughter.  The man was far from perfect but he touched enough lives and made them better in doing so that he will be missed.  That was what we gathered there to share that night.  Between the photos of him and his pink Harley ("It's not pink - it's fuscia!") his caned and bloodied butt and his doing boots at IML we all shared what we knew of the man and how grateful we were for that.

Hopefully the mess that's left will soon be resolved.  The grieving will continue for some time, as it should.  The anger at him will also continue, as it should.  This was a first for me.  In all my forty some odd years on this planet I've not lost a friend to suicide before.  Richard is the first.  I've also not lost a friend to the Plague in some time now so his death was doubly hard for me.  I know some folks who have far too much experience at handling things such as this.  I don't envy them that experience.

It was a long week for me between the news and that service.  A long week indeed.  Not nearly as long as the one Gayle went through and, to a great extent, is still going through.  We'll be there for each other as this goes on.  If you've any comments about this, have any questions about it, or have found it and would like to be in touch with anyone about it, then drop me a line here.

Thank you,

Madoc Pope


Roadkill's statement about Richard:
Richard Chatterton,  beloved member of the leather tribe and respected leader of the San Diego community,  died early this morning,  Monday January the 27th, 2003, at age 34. He was born June 8, 1968. 

Richard served as an effective and proud ambassador of the leather community to the wider world. He was passionate about educating our own community about safe, sane, consensual, and caring play. He was intelligent, thoughtful,  warm,  loving, and protective of those he cared for.

He served the leather community with the same integrity and pride that he had served his country in the US Navy.
Connectedness - in community,  friendship,  play,  and intimacy - was essential for him. Among his proudest achievements was to be nominated for an upcoming award for community leadership and service at the 2003 Pantheon Of Leather.

He was very proud to have served as Chair of Club X San Diego.  He provided decisive leadership, positive energy, and dedication to the Club following LeatherFest XI. He was proud of  greatly reducing the club's debt, and for establishing policies to protect the club's integrity and the safety of it's members.

As a trailblazer he often felt alone in his service. He was especially a trailblazer in marking new paths between different tribes of the leather community - not only politically and organizationally,  but also in terms of friendships, sensibility,  and inner identity. He was one of the first, if not the very first, heterosexual man to compete in the International Boot Black Competition at International Leather, in Chicago (May of 2002.)   Most recently he raised funds by boot blacking at a fundraiser of San Diego Boys of Leather for PAWS,  a group which provides pets for persons who are ill or on disability.

Richard will be remembered for his innovative sartorial splendor, his rare expertise in flagging, his passionate erotic play, his enthusiastic optimism, and his wonderful smile.

For years, Richard bravely and discreetly battled an ongoing serious depression. He took his own life. He is survived by his grandmother, brother, a wife, his beloved 9 year old daughter,  and his most beloved Gayle Griffith.   Richard leaves many friends.

We will miss you,  beloved brother. 

My statement at his service:

Welcome.

Ikyoko

Ikyoko’s family

Gayle

His coworkers from Lightspan Partnership

And welcome to those of you in the community who are here and are but some of those Richard has touched in his life.

I myself am one of those people.


Richard touched a lot of people in our community through his tireless dedication. 

He was passionate about our community, about protecting it, insuring its safety, and about having a good time within it.

Only now as more people come forward with their individual accounts of how Richard touched them, are we all beginning to see the true depth of his commitment to our community and all of the good works that he did within it.

I mention this because Richard wasn’t terribly vocal about it himself.  He didn’t boast of his activities he just went out and did the work.

I mention this so that those of you here who are not part of our community will have some idea that Richard was respected.  That he was appreciated.  That his efforts had a positive effect on a great many of us.  That he did make a difference.  That he will be missed.  And that he will be mourned.

In eulogizing Richard I don’t want to make it seem he was perfect.  He wasn’t.  He was human.  Yet I think it more inspiring to see what he was able to do for us all despite his lack of perfection.  And he did do so much.  That is one thing about him which served to inspire me during the years I knew him.

That is one thing about him I will miss.  I am not alone in this.

I wish I could say more about him but I think this is enough for now and for here.

Richard was my friend.  He was a friend to many others.  He was a friend to our community.  We will all miss him.

Thank you.


Among those who spoke at Richard's service, Allyson Brenner shared with us a bit of prose which very well summed up the troubles Richard had.  She has sent this to me so that I could also share it with you:

RICHARD CHATTERTON – AN UNFINISHED PORTRAIT


 The artist had been feverishly painting for over 34 years on a blank canvas that had been in his family for generations.

He painted alongside other artisans in a colony not unlike the Left Bank in the 1920’s.Communing, commiserating, creating - all busily giving form, shape and color to their own masterpieces.

And here, among them, the artist was happy.


The artist stepped back, brush in hand to admire his work… He carefully dipped the bristles on his palette.. first in lemon yellow, then fuchsia pink, and finally lime green, but every color that he applied to the canvas was black!


To the others of us in the world, when we gazed upon it, his canvas was a riotous, marvelous splash of vibrant hues of color.  But for some unfathomable reason, when the artist looked upon his own creation, all he saw was a vast unending blackness.


What he didn’t realize is that the color black is a composite of all the wonderful colors in the universe.

You and I could easily see...

His white innocence,
The yellow lightness of his playfulness,
The pink of his face when he blushed,
The scarlet red of his love,
The golden opportunities,
The silver forged lasting relationships,
The steel gray of his fortitude and courage,
The entertaining orange of his whimsical nature,
The deep purple of his devotion and loyalty,

Yet all he saw was black 

Like Beethoven’s Unfinished Symphony unfortunately we will never see the portrait complete.

And that, my friends, is the world’s greatest loss.

Written by
Your friend
Allyson Brenner
January 30, 2003


05 February 2004
It's been a year now and things have moved along.  It doesn't seem like it's been just a year but it has been that.  I still think of Richard from time to time.  So to do all of us who knew him.  Recently, a friend of mine, Steph, told me that while she was in a hospital undergoing surgery she "saw" Richard.  This was when she was in particularly dire straights during those surgeries.  They had a wonderful conversation but then Richard had to go.  And she had to stay.
For me, my memories of Richard remain more constant, if not as vivid.  I used to work for SAIC and my office was out at Campus Point, near La Jolla and the University Town Center mall.  The company Richard used to work for, Lightspan Partnership, is located there as well.  I drove by it every day I was a work.  When Richard was still with us we would meet in the parking lot there if he had some Club X thing for me to pick up.  We'd also cross paths in the company cafeteria.  Many's the time over this past year I caught myself driving by the Lightspan building and realized I was unconsciously looking for Richard to come out of it again.
About a year ago I had just found the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"  The film was a wonderful retelling of Ulysses and contained, among other things, quite a few excellent songs.  One of the ones which I found particularly moving was the Bluegrass version of the Gospel hymn "I'll Fly Away" that Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch sang in the film.  It's chorus was something I found almost searing in what it infers.  And that was before I lost Richard.  Afterward, those words - and their thoughts - were all the more painful.

I'll Fly Away
Alison Krauss And Gillian Welch
Words and Music by Alfred E. Brumley

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).


Chorus
I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).


When the shadows of this life have gone,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away)


Chorus
I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).


Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away)


Chorus
I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).

For a while there I was using that last stanza as the "sig line" in my emails.  It was very reflective of the weariness I was experiencing and also the loss I was feeling.  I'm not a terribly effusive individual and I do not wear my heart of my sleeve.  Still though, I do share some things with some folks and expressed some of what I was feeling about all this with an individual I'd "met" via an online discussion WebBoard.  This was the "Baen's Bar" run by Baen Books and the individual in question, Dave Gerecke, was a guy who shared my taste in puns as I shared his taste in jokes.  Given the nature of the Internet, Dave turned out not to be local to me.  In fact, not only was he not local, not only did he not live in the same country, he wasn't even in the same hemisphere!  Dave is an EMT down in Australia and would partake of the online discussions between his emergency runs.

Well, one night when I was feeling particularly morose, I had just exchanged some emails with Dave and then went about my business.  Shortly thereafter I got a phone call.  From Dave.  From Australia. 

I was rather stunned.  Dave had picked up on things.  He'd read what I'd said about Richard.  He'd read what I'd said about myself.  He'd read between the lines of all that and then he'd read my sig line (" Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away...)  Given his line of work and his training, my statements must have set off warning flags all over the place.
Damn, did I feel humbled.
I didn't know this guy.  We'd just shot some good jokes and puns back and forth.  Some personal banter, off the board (not posted on the Baen site) and that was about it.  And this guy was half way 'round the world from me - literally.  Yet what he heard was enough and he reached out to touch me personally.
Even now, a year later, I am still warmed by that.  I am so grateful that I've such folk in my life that it's difficult for me to express how I feel without seeming to over do or cheapen it.  You'd better believe I was thankful and let Dave know it though.  That is, once I got over my shock at just who it was calling!
That also got me to wondering if Richard realized that he too had such folk in his life.  From what happened, I don't think he did or else he'd still be with us.
One of the other ways I've kept Richard's memory with me is by having something of his to cherish that I know he cherished as well.  In this case it's his leather kilt.  Shortly after I'd purchased my Utilikilt at the 2001  Folsom Street Fair, Richard decided he so liked how it looked that he wanted one of his own.  And almost as soon as he got one he then wanted one in leather.  Richard was a "gear queer" if he was anything.  So, he went over to MacLeo's here in San Diego and had them use his Uk as a pattern for a leather version.  In short order Richard was sporting an oh-so-cool leather kilt that put him one over the rest of us.  Typically Richard that was.
After Richard left us, his leather goods remained behind.  I asked Gayle and we both thought it very appropriate for me to now wear his leather kilt.  After a little work by MacLeo (Richard and I were not the same waist size) I now could wear that bit of hide myself.  I like that.  The rig looks good and attracts the attention it's designed to.  And I particularly like that it has a story to it and that tale is a personal one as well.  I make sure to tell that tale every time someone asks me about "my" leather kilt.  Thus I get to share more of Richard with each telling.  I like that.



If you have any questions about this then please drop me a line at the following address:

madoc@madoc.us

 


[Top of Page]

[Back to Main]

This page was last updated on: 05 February 2004