For the past five months, Dave Dahl has been buying African tribal masks on eBay. He's hung more than 200 of them on the red walls of his Milwaukie home, and he's restoring others in the garage.
He can afford a hobby. Dave's Killer Bread announced Aug. 12 that Georgia baking giant Flowers Foods is buying Dave's for $275 million, fulfilling the Dahl family's four-year effort to sell the company.
Dahl went on leave in 2013 from the company he founded, then cemented his exile when he rammed two Washington County sheriff's patrol cars with his Cadillac Escalade in November 2013.
That incident undercut Dahl's narrative about an ex-felon who had turned his life around, revealing instead a man struggling with bipolar disorder and alcoholism ("Breaking Bread," WW, Jan. 8, 2014).
A judge found Dahl guilty except for insanity last year, a verdict that let him avoid jail.
Dahl, 52, now spends much of his time in solitude. On a Sunday morning, his patio flat-screen TV played John Travolta's Phenomenon on mute, as Dahl smoked Camel Filters and drank Vitaminwater. He talked about the cost of becoming famous, his mental breakdown, and his new dream: killer pizza.
WW: What do you plan to do with your millions?
Dave Dahl: I'm going to be doing things with the money that are going to benefit others. I don't want to be a rock star. I don't want to be the Ozzy Osbourne of bread. I want to be remembered for doing good things. Mostly good things.
Do your dreams involve baking again?
I think so, yeah. There's still needs, there's still opportunities. And in that way I would hopefully be working with Dave's Killer Bread again.
What do you want to bake?
A healthy pizza that's going to taste good. But, of course, that's going be something that I would work with the company on. And I haven't talked to them about that, so they're just going to be reading this for the first time.
If you had a choice, would you take the money, or be back at Dave's Killer Bread?
Well, it's not time to be back at Dave's Killer Bread. It's grown beyond me.
You sold half the company in 2012. Did the money change you?
Yeah. My first money that I had, I was able to put a down payment on this place. It was fine, except I didn't even really want to move out of my apartment. I mean, that was all I really wanted. Material stuff had an effect on me. And it wasn't a good effect.
What caused you to start drinking again?
I was doing all these charity events, and there was always wine there, you can buy a shot or a drink, and I wasn't doing anything anybody else wasn't doing. It got to a point where, starting at about 2011 or so, where I kind of had to drink. It was like, if I didn't drink I was sick, and I couldn't get nothing done.
Was the company trying to control your image during this time?
No. I never really felt that kind of pressure. Things were changing. It was becoming more about the company, and we were aiming towards being more about the company and less about me. And that was difficult for me at first, because that was my whole life. But it was the right way to go. At a certain point it's not about you anymore. It took me a little bit of time to realize that—actually a lot of time.
How bad did it get for you?
As long as I was drinking, I wasn't having mental breakdowns, you know what I'm saying? You're just drinking all the time. I maintained very well on it. And the mental stuff happened because I wasn't medicating. And when the drinking went away, then the energy came back, but it wasn't being directed properly.
So what happened the day of your breakdown?
I was just talking crazy. Just super out there. I walked into the office, and I punched a cardboard cutout of myself, because I had never really liked that thing. I mean, who wants a cardboard cutout of themselves?
Can you remember what happened with the Washington County sheriff's deputies?
Just vaguely. Not that I can say that it matters what I remember. I've talked to many shrinks about this now, I'm pretty careful not to state things that might be a false memory, or wishful thinking.
What went through your mind afterward?
That night when I got to jail, that was the worst possible existence. I just thought that I'd never come out of this mental state. It was something that hurt so bad, that I let down everyone.
What has recovery looked like for you?
I go to something called Dual Diagnosis Anonymous, downtown. And those people, down there, are telling my story. You can go to AA, NA, it's all good, but they don't really get into the mental side of things. And people don't want to admit that they have a mental problem, anyway. These guys down here at DDA are totally facing the fact that they have to address this.
What's with all the African masks?
They're just beautiful. And when I say beautiful, sometimes it looks evil and mean, and it looks harsh, which I like. I like that each one of them is an individual carving. I don't think about me when I think about those. That's a good thing, because that's the way it was when I was creating. Whenever I've been creating and productive and happy, I'm not thinking about me. I'm thinking about what I'm doing.