Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chuck


Soulard is a neighborhood that really deserves a hall of fame. Chuck Auger should have his own star. If you were anywhere near Soulard from 1979 to 1990 you have a personal story about Chuck. He was famous for being up in your face annoying and painfully enthusiastic about everything. He was always scheming.

His plans included everyone. He was a talented musician who seemed convinced we were all going to make the big time.

He had a baritone voice that sounded like his idol Gordon Lightfoot. Chuck was a good solo artist but preferred to play with his partner Monduel. Monduel was old school complete with graying afro and dashiki, a person who seemed to have found inner peace. Monduel was the authority of African percussion in St. Louis.

I’ve only seen him rattled once.

The mother of my old girlfriend Pam called me for a favor. Marcie married the superintendent of the Webster Groves School District and they were looking for someone to head an ethnic music department. It paid well and I thought Monduel would be perfect. It was a chance for me to do something great for a friend. When I brought it up to him he was visibly shaken. “No, no man, I could never have a straight job!” Monduel disappeared into the ether.

Years later I was working the graveyard shift at Harrah’s Casino. I was in the I.T. department. We were the only employees with unrestricted access to everything in the casino. I found Monduel at the dishwasher in the back of one of the restaurants. He was happy as he could be.

We both got off around six or seven in the morning. I’d run into him in the parking lot often. I just wanted to go home to my little suburban family and go to sleep. He’d insist we share a bottle of whiskey in his van. Sometimes I just couldn’t say no.

Chuck was famous for burning his bridges behind him. He had a drug problem that he shared with his girlfriends. He had a spacey, pretty girlfriend named Linda. Last I heard she was trading sex for crack in the projects.

David Classe has been painting the Soulard Mardi Gras posters for years. Probably his most famous depicted a naked man screaming to the sky from the roof of the Preservation Hall against a lightning bolt back drop. That was Chuck.

He had gone on a methamphetamine jag. The cops found him swinging from a flagpole on the roof. He was naked and screaming at the sunrise. He was so proud of the police report he used it for the first page of his press releases.

Chuck found a brief period of respectability as a concert promoter. He threw one show together at the Preservation Hall that featured Monica Reed, The Heaters, Blake Travis and me. He was totally on top of advertising and had the place packed. The last number featured all of us on stage performing Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher. It was wildly successful. Chuck did a few more shows that were all hits before he flaked out and burned his last bridge.

He moved to Nashville where he worked the security shack at the entrance to Willie Nelson’s property. He later spent time hunting nutria rats in the swamps around New Orleans for the bounty on their pelts.

I was living with Stephen Martin when he came back into town for a visit. He left a pelt in a plastic bag on Steve’s bed as a gift. When Steve came home he picked it up, looked at it, screamed and threw it out the window. It really was a giant rat.

I haven’t seen Chuck in years. I hope he’s doing well. I think we could devote a web site entirely to people’s experiences with him.

4 comments:

...Sharon said...

One night at the Oyster Bar, while playing his guitar with great enthusiasm, Chuck leaned back over the bar and his hair caught on fire from the oil lamp. He didn't even notice. I used my bar towel and beer to douse the flames while he continued playing. He never missed a lick.

Last time I saw him, he had become the proud owner of my ol' little red pickup.

Monduel was so cool. He was actually on Mr. Rogers' show demonstrating the conga drums.

Doggie said...

Thanks for the spelling. I couldn't find Monduel's name anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Chuck is doing well and left the drugs behind. His new home is on the outskirts of Branson MO. John Gorski

Dominic said...

Glad to hear that John. Thanks!