A drawing of Monty Python by Alyce  Dedicated Idiocy, A personal history of the Penn State Monty Python Society by Alyce Wilson

School Year 1989-1990

Graham Chapman Joins the Choir Invisible

(page 1 of 3)

We were still working at trying to get Graham Chapman to speak at the university, since he was on a college tour. But negotiations started to fall apart and we were told that Graham was too ill to continue with the tour.

Graham Chapman tour packet (Click to enlarge)

None of us knew exactly how ill, until...


Wednesday, October 4, 1989

Oh, god. What a day. It doesn't matter what I did, because most of the day was normal. Sweet heresy. It used to matter that I ran 4.4 miles today and that we did it in 39 minutes. Now, who gives a flying fuck (except for Arthur Dent and whatshername).

I was upstairs in my room, minding my own business and reading Nietzsche. There came a knock on my door. Strange. Few people knock on my door. It was Val from Before the Dawn [Note: Before the Dawn was a weekly radio show I hosted on WPSU]. She wanted to talk about her script. I invited her in, and we talked it out.

We were just about finished, and I was about to go back to studying, when another knock came on the door. Very strange. I opened up to find Maureen standing there, the girl who lives next door.

"I have some bad news for you," she said.

"All right. Out with it."

"Gene Chapman died."

"Gene Chapman?"

"Yes. He's in Monty Python." She pointed to my John Cleese silly walks poster. "Is that him?"

"That's John Cleese." I told her. Then I pointed to my Graham Chapman shrine [Note: I had a number of Graham Chapman posters up, him being my favorite in the group] and asked, "Is it him? Graham Chapman?"

"Yes, that's it." I wavered. "How... when?"

"This afternoon he died of cancer. He was 48."

"Oh, my God."

Val spoke up. "Do you want me to leave?"

"Well, it's not as if it's someone I know," I said. I tried to smile. Maureen left, apologizing for being the bearer of bad news. I finished up with Val, and then she left, too.

I put together my stuff; I knew where I was headed. I wore my heavy coat, put Diamonds and Rust by Joan Baez in the headphones and swept out into the cruel night.

Choking back my sobs, I decided I'd rather walk in the road than encounter all those people on the sidewalk. Somewhere near Shortlidge, I almost got run over by the Campus Loop. Suddenly, there were bright lights in front of me. I stepped onto the curb and gave the finger to the blue metal wind that blew past me.

I started coughing, and it felt good to cough. I wanted to get everything out, everything. I coughed harder and harder until my insides started to come out of my mouth. I spat them in the grass outside White building and again closer to Atherton. I wiped my remains on my wool coat.

Through the window of the GFC [Note: The Grandfather Clock Lounge in Atherton Hall, the University Scholars dorm], I saw a godsend. Kzin [Jon Kilgannon], Eric [Schr9ager] and who knows who else, all sitting in a circle, laughing. I stumbled in, wiped my wet face, and entered the GFC.

The first thing Roger [Christman] said was, "Did you know Mel Blank is dead?" He's always had perfect timing. [Note: This had been a running joke from the summer, where one day every time we ran into somebody new, that person informed us that Mel Blanc had died. And so it became a sort of conversation starter, or a macabre in-joke.]

"Yes," I said. "And someone else is dead, too." I saw the stricken faces. "No one we know personally, but... Graham Chapman died today of cancer."

I saw disbelief registering on Jon Acheson's face. Then I had to leave, coughing a gastric storm again.

When I came back out of the women's restroom, Kzin and Eric were out in the hall. I hugged them, and Eric told me I'd better sit down. He kneeled by my knee and talked to me, and he even started to cheer me up. We started thinking rationally, calling people and trying to think of a proper dedication. Eric wanted to put a huge sign up on the Obelisk or something. Someone suggested the Onionhead. [Note: Also known as the Fighting Red Onionhead or Ode de Capa, an ugly red sculpture that sat on the lawn near the Hetzel Union Building.]

The meeting (for it had been a meeting of The Athertonian) broke up, and some people hung around, like Cathy Nelson and Ben Liblit and some guy named Steve [Note: I'm guessing this was Steve "Attila the Pun" Gradess]. We got the tears and into the black humor stage. Eric and Cathy launched into "We'll All Go Together When We Go," with Roger playing accompaniment on the piano by ear. We got so loud that people in the Zombie lounge across the hall kept telling us to shush. [Note: We called the study lounge across the hall from the GFC the Zombie Lounge, because of the gray, quiet pallor of those who hung out there.]

It's the contents page, man. I've got the stuff. Dave's not here, but Alyce is.Sign away!  Eulogize Graham or celebrate his life    "The Nine"  Graham Chapman Joins the Choir Invisible - page 2 e-mail: alycewilson@lycos.com