Dark Star leaves us, but stories never will

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 2, 2012 - 1:16 PM

Dark Star, the Twin Cities radio personality found dead at home Friday, had a first-name buddy for every task.

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In this file photo from 1988, Dark Star fished the front nine at Interlachen: "Can I fish? I'm the greatest," he said. "And, if I'm not, I can learn." The photo accompanied a story writen by Star Tribune columnist and longtime friend Patrick Reusse.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Steve Randel and I had been invited to view the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto fight at Dark Star's apartment. This was a no-brainer, since the fight would be arriving in HD on Darkman's new 80-inch television and he was picking up the hefty tab for the pay-per-view.

It was agreed during a prelim fight that there was a need for a pizza to be delivered, and Dark made the call. When the pizza arrived 40 minutes later, I sprung to the door to pay for the pie.

"Is that you, Richie?" Dark said.

When this was confirmed, Dark invited Richie to come in and snag a couple of items out of the refrigerator.

Randel and I shook our heads in wonderment. Dark Star had a first-name buddy for every task, including pizza delivery.

Darkman had no family -- not since the death of his beloved mother Phyllis in February 2007. And yet there were numerous messages sent to my cell phone Friday afternoon, all asking the same question:

"Have you talked to Dark? He didn't show up for his 2 to 3 spot on KFAN, and he's not answering the phone."

The worst was confirmed shortly after 3 p.m., when three friends entered his apartment in the Ridgedale area and found Dark deceased in his bedroom.

The real name was George Chapple, and he turned 66 in April, and the assumption was that he had suffered a heart attack.

I take great joy in having been involved in George's transformation into the locally famous "Dark Star."

It was December 1985 and Joe Soucheray and I were hosting "Monday Night Sports Talk" on KSTP-AM. A call was received from a man identifying himself as Dark Star, and he offered this scoop: "Bud Grant is going to resign as the Vikings coach at the end of the season."

Bud had done that two seasons earlier, and there had been no media speculation that he was about to do it again. Yet, in the spirit of that irreverent sports show, we went with it:

"There you have it, folks ... straight from Dark Star. Bud Grant will soon resign for the second time."

It was denied roundly by Grant and his chums in the print media. Then the season ended, Bud resigned again, and the Legend of Dark Star had begun.

A couple of notes: One, George took his alias from Dark Star, the upset winner of the 1953 Kentucky Derby; and two, I later learned the scoop on Bud came from Dark Star drinking with then-Vikings CEO Mike Lynn's brother at the Lafayette Club bar.

Dark had been with Gelco Leasing, and the car business was a great fit for him, but not as great as radio -- particularly late-night radio on WCCO-AM. His real start was midnight to 3 a.m. on the Big Neighbor, and if there was a character made to chat with a nocturnal crowd of listeners, it was Dark Star.

One night, Darkman was interviewing a Republican candidate for mayor in San Francisco, and he asked about the election and how it was going to turn out.

"You know, Dark, the election was two nights ago and I lost," he said, and Darkman said of course he knew that, and it was a shame those descendants of hippies in San Francisco didn't properly appreciate a fine candidate such as him, and everyone left the interview happy ... listeners, guest and the quick-to- adjust host.

His radio career took him from "The Dark Star Show" on KANO-AM in the basement of Dilly's Sports Bar in 1986, to being the creative genius behind "Saturdays with Sauce" on KFAN-FM in 2012, with the long years and full-time shows on WCCO-AM in between.

You can capsulate Darkman's career with two words: Body Solutions.

This was a dietary product that came to somewhat of a questionable end, but it had a run being pitched by personalities on radio stations around the country.

Hundreds of pitchmen, yes, but only one that I know for sure received a standing ovation from employees on a visit to the headquarters in Texas: Mr. Dark Star, Esq.

"They loved me," the Darkman would say, when I asked him to retell the story.

From here, one great legacy in leaving this Earth is to have friends still telling stories about you years later, and we'll be telling stories about Dark Star until we join him again in ...

OK, I'm going to stop before even the Darkman would be embarrassed.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. preusse@startribune.com

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