Amid uproarious laughter and muffled tears, friends and relatives last night celebrated the life of late Portland icon John Callahan
at Mission Theater near Callahan's longtime home off Northwest 23rd Avenue. The Aug. 10 memorial, “An Evening with John Callahan (well, sort of),” was organized by a group of family members and close friends, including Mark Zusman, WW
editor; Terry Currier, Music Millenium owner; and Terry Robb, the blues guru who helped Callahan produce a 2006 album.
Tom D'Antoni, Oregon Music News
editor, acted as emcee.
The night's line-up consisted of a mixed bag of cartoons, music and personal tributes, infused with the quick wit and irreverence Callahan was famous for. Video homages from Gus Van Sant
and animator Bill Plympton
were juxtaposed with personal stories from childhood friends. Audience members were invited to give impromptu speeches about their encounters with Callahan, whether their relationships lasted decades or short minutes at a stoplight. Testimonials from Callahan's friends, college sweethearts and colleagues painted a portrait of an artist whose passion and humor could not be restricted by the confines of his wheelchair.
Long-time friend, Miriam German, described the first time she met Callahan on Northwest 23rd Avenue. "I heard someone bark behind me," she said. She turned to face Callahan and "began a conversation" that lasted over a decade, she said.
Though the event was free, donations could be made to the John Callahan Memorial Fund. Money will go towards a lasting tribute of the artist. “It could be for a plaque, a street or a bronze statue,” Currier says. “It all depends on how much money we raise.” Donations can be made by check through any Umpqua Bank branch.
Joseph Callahan is hoping a street in Northwest Portland will be renamed for his famous uncle. “When we walk down the street, everybody knew him," Joseph Callahan says. "We can really see what an impact he had on the area.”
John Callahan died on July 24
at the age of 59.