Monday, April 03, 2006

ALEX MAGOCSI 1964-2006

(Alex is the one in the center of this photo, taken at the first Thirsty Ear Festival, 1999)

I just found out over the weekend that Alex Magocsi -- a former co-worker, a fellow music freak and a friend -- died last week.

I had to write his obit today. I'll post that below.

Before that, though, let me share a few personal memories.

I got to know Alex through The New Mexican. We had similar tastes in music. I was a fan of his band Junk, which featured Alex on drums and his girlfriend Sandy on guitar and vocals. I used to catch them playing at weird "underground" venues like "Waggy World" off Baca Street and "The Junkyard," which was the converted mechanic shop off Siler Road, which also served as Alex's residence in those years. Once he hired me to be the bouncer for a Junk show at the Junkyard. I earned a 6-pack of beer and didn't have to crack any skulls the whole night.

In March 1995 I went to South by Southwest with Alex and Sandy. Or at least part of the way. Their old school bus, which I dubbed "The Junk Heap," broke down in Clovis. I ditched them, catching a ride to Lubbock, where I got on a plane. But they showed up a couple of days later and I documented their frustrating efforts to play on the streets for festival- goers.

They finally secured a spot right off Sixth Street, a block or so from where Irma Thomas was doing a free concert. The second Irma stopped, Alex and Sandy started up. The show was a triumph, at least until the Austin cops shut them down. But for the four or five songs they played, they made $200 in tips and cassette-tape sales.

The trip back to Santa Fe was hellish though. The Junk Heap broke down again near some little Texas Podunk, where we stayed for hours until it got fixed.

The next year Alex moved back to Texas for awhile. During that time he started an online magazine called Re:Verb. This was the first place where I was ever published on the Web. Re:Verb ran Terrell's Tune-up in a slightly altered form. (The logo above is my old Re:Verb logo.)

All Alex's friends know that the last five years or so were terrible ones for Alec. He called me one morning three years ago to tell me that his friend Howie Epstein had ODed. It was then that I realized Alex was in bad shape.

I saw him about a year after that. He came into the Capitol news room babbling that Johnny Cash had died as the result of some conspiracy. Alex said and that he'd gotten "too close to the truth" and was scared for his own safety.

I was scared for him too. But not because of any Nashville conspiracy.

Today when writing his obit, I recall telling him, "Dammit Alex straighten up, because I don't want to have to write your damned obit." Actually I'm not sure whether I really told him that or if I just thought of telling him that.

It doesn't matter.

God damn it, Alex.

(Here's a post about Alex in The Dallas Observer blog)

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 4, 2006

Alex Magocsi, local music writer, Web publisher and one-time leader of what he called "Santa Fe's most dysfunctional band" has died.

Magocsi's body was found March 27, which according to a database was his 42nd birthday, in his car in Tesuque on property where he had planned to move this month.

The cause of death has not been determined, Sheriff Greg Solano said Monday.

“The (Office of the Medical Investigator) felt he died of a medical condition brought on by years of drug abuse,” Solano said. The OMI is waiting for toxicology reports before making a final determination, the sheriff said.

There was no evidence Magocsi had abused drugs immediately before he died, Solano said, and no evidence of foul play. He apparently died a few days before his body was found, Solano said.

Tanya Kern, who had agreed to rent a mobile home to Magocsi — and who discovered his body in his 1986 Cadillac on her land — said Monday she was “traumatized” by Magocsi’s death.

“He was trying so hard to start over and get back on his feet,” she said. “He’d been so happy and was so excited about moving here.”

Kern had given Magocsi permission to sleep in his car on her property. Previously, he’d been living in a motel, she said.

Magocsi, a Texas native, was music editor for the weekly Dallas Observer before moving to Santa Fe in the early 1990s. He worked for The New Mexican, first as a dispatcher, later as an assistant editor and columnist for the newspaper’s weekly magazine, Pasatiempo. He was responsible for a column called “Dr. Dis” and a later column called “30-Second Notes.”

But his real love was music. He was a drummer who, along with a girlfriend, started a group called Junk.

Magocsi proudly touted Junk as “Santa Fe’s most dysfunctional band.” Junk’s problems keeping a bass player were so comical, Magocsi once created a handbill advertising for a new bassist and listing all the past ones and the reason they left.

He returned to Texas in the mid-1990s. There he created an Internet music-and-pop-culture magazine called Re:Verb. After a short stint in Dallas, he returned to Santa Fe, where he again worked for The New Mexican (until about five years ago) and started a new band, a short-lived country/punk band called Lucy Falcon.

Magocsi moved to New York in 2001 to take care of his ailing father, a friend, Brian Combs, recalled Monday. His father died shortly after his son’s arrival. “He never really got over his father’s death,” Combs said. It was the start of a dark period in Magocsi’s life, one marked by increasing alcohol and drug abuse, friends say.

After returning to Santa Fe, Magocsi befriended Howie Epstein, the former bass player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who died of a drug overdose in 2003.

Magocsi said he and Epstein had started a local band tentatively called The Bottomfeeders. Epstein died before the band ever played in public.

Combs said in recent months, Magocsi had begun reaching out to old friends he hadn’t seen in years.

Kern said her mother, Mansi Kern, had rented a Tesuque house to Magocsi several years ago. “He was excited to be moving back here,” Tanya Kern said.

Kern’s property is on a road called Avenida de la Melodia. “I guess that was appropriate,” Tanya Kern said.

“Like my mother said, ‘Alex died in his favorite place.’"


  1. Anonymous2:15 PM

    RIP, Alex.

    Thanks for the photos, Tink. Nice Obit, Steve.

    I've only known Alex for about three years- met him shortly after his father passed away- and he was a real cool dude. The adjective that I would use to describe Alex would be "giving". Loved those "fests" he threw while living of Don Diego.

  2. Anonymous2:54 PM

    I only knew Alex for a few years in high school, and we were not close. But it always hurts a little to hear about the death of someone you've known.

    Thanks for the information. Goodbye Alex.

    Danny B.

  3. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Alex and I went to St. John's College together back in the early 80's. We hadn't been in touch for years, but we had a lot of laughs and played a lot of music together. He was very mellow and funny, and used to come over and cool me out when I was upset. Hearing about his death is so very sad, even after all this time, and it's sad that his life got so tough. So glad to have known you for just a while, Magocsi, and so sorry we've lost you.


    Pete Fettner
    Temple University

  4. Anonymous8:06 AM

    I was Alex's roommate at St. John's his senior year. Clearly, I had been neglecting our relationship since I just learned of this sad news today, June 25th, two months after it happened. I am thankful that the last time I saw him, he was still feeling happy and optimistic. It saddens me that he allowed his wonderfully imaginitive and agile mind to become warped by drug use. But I know we were all better for having known him, if even briefly.

    His powers of concentration were so strong that he could study in complete content while complete chaos enveloped everyone and everything around him. But whenever a particularly favorite song was played, he'd grab a drum or two and play along.

    Music really could relieve whatever momentary problem was bugging him at the moment. After a particularly horrid seminar, he came back to the room and turned up the Butthole Surfers so loud that he blew one of the speakers! Fortunately, it was still under warranty.

    I also remember asking him how he managed his teenage transition from New York to Texas, thinking it must have been hard, even for a guy as warm and friendly as Alex. He told me that it was his one athletic accomplishment -- and a complete accident -- that eased him into high school life in Texas: During the first few days of school, they played a soccer game in gym class, and someone sent a long lob toward Alex. He stuck his foot out, and volleyed into the goal from 30 yards out! Everyone was so impressed, acceptance was instantaneous.

    Alex was a genius at living very large on very little. I am glad he had so many good friends, and I am sad for our loss. He will be missed. Love you, guy,


    Clinton Pittman
    Birmingham, AL


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