NPR Covers Larry Tucker Funeral

NPR’s Michigan Radio outlet has posted text and audio of its report about Larry Tucker’s memorial which aired March 11.

Leah Zeldes, who persisted to get Tucker the veteran’s burial he was entitled to, and Kevin Jacobi of Muehlig Funeral Chapel, part of the Dignity Memorial network which offers free funeral services to homeless veterans, feature in the report.

After the rifle shots rang out and the procession headed back to town, Jacobi says he worries this is happening all over the place: Homeless vets die, and nobody’s there to bury them.

“You know, how many homeless people have a file folder in the backpacks with their DD214 paper in it?”

I tell him I don’t know what that is.

“It’s the honorable discharge paper that you need to be buried in a national cemetery.”

With an estimated 4,200 homeless vets in Michigan, he may be right to be worried.

Photos From Larry Tucker Memorial

Gail Christopherson. Photo by Patrick Record.

Gail Christopherson. Photo by Patrick Record.

A photo gallery of Larry Tucker’s memorial on March 7 has been posted by Patrick Record of the Ann Arbor News.

Responding to a picture of the Groucho Marx nose and hat placed on the casket — symbolizing Larry in character as Uncle Albert, Ro Nagey said, “This was the exactly perfect touch at Larry Tucker’s funeral. Absolutely inspired.”

My favorite shot is the one of Gail Christopherson wearing a beanie as she spoke to Larry’s mourners (above).

[Thanks to Ro Nagey for the story.]

Larry Tucker Funeral on 3/7

I’m copying this item to File 770 (with permission) not just for the news but for its touching story of a friend's persistence.

By Leah Zeldes Smith: The remains of Lawrence Keith Tucker, who died October 8, 2013, will at last be laid to rest on Friday, March 7, 2014.

11 a.m. – Muehlig Funeral Chapel, 403 S. 4th Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104

1 p.m. – Great Lakes National Cemetery, 4200 Bedford Road, Holly, MI 48442

A brief memorial will take place beginning promptly at 11 a.m. at Muehlig Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor, followed by interment with military honors at 1 p.m. at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

Transportation from the funeral home to the cemetery will be provided for anyone who needs it. Please contact me as soon as possible to reserve.

Please pass the word to anyone who might attend.

Larry Tucker. Photo by Mark Olson.

Larry Tucker. Photo by Mark Olson.

If you are in the area, I hope you will try to come to the funeral home, at least. Even if you didn’t know Larry well, science-fiction fandom owes him a lot, and he deserves a good send off.

If you can’t attend, please devote a few minutes to thinking about Larry on Friday. He was a wonderful person, and he deserved better than what fate handed him.

I am very grateful to Kevin Jacobi of Muehlig Funeral Chapel, part of the Dignity Memorial network, which is providing mortuary and transportation services pro bono, and who took on the legal red tape involved in getting Larry’s remains released from the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s office.

As you may know, Larry died as a penniless ward of the state of Michigan. If you die without family or friends to pay your burial expenses, Michigan will cremate your body and put your ashes into a common grave. That had been going to be Larry’s fate, too. It was already a month after Larry’s death that I found this out, thanks to Tom White of WhiteKnight Personal Services, who was Larry’s state guardian till his death, and Jennifer Hawes of St. Joseph Mercy Hospice, where Larry died.

Although it was known that Larry was a U.S. Navy veteran and entitled to burial in a national cemetery, he wasn’t going to be buried there because — as I found out after weeks of phone calls and emails — there is no agency responsible for getting indigent veterans to the cemetery. The government provides free burial for veterans. They don’t provide mortuary services, that is, preparation of the body, a coffin and transport to the cemetery.

I talked to the director of the Washtenaw County Department of Veterans Affairs, who informed me that “Both the State of Michigan and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) have policies regarding the appropriate and honorable burial of Indigent Veterans and the Unclaimed Remains of Veterans” and that “the coordination between the State, the USDVA National Cemetery, and the Medical Examiner’s Office should be seamless….” I talked to the cemetery, to the ME’s office, to several offices of the VA and to U.S. Rep. John Dingell’s office. All of whom also assured me that there were such policies, but none of whom could tell me what those policies were or whose job it was to implement those policies. They all also assured me, however, that it was not theirs.

I reached out to my own friends and, thankfully, Mary Cruickshank-Peed, herself a Navy veteran, found out about Dignity Memorial’s charitable efforts for indigent veterans, and got in touch with Mr. Jacobi. It has taken from then till now to get permission from the courts, the state and the VA to bury Larry.

Larry Tucker (1948-2013)

Larry Tucker at Contraption Kaizen, May 1991. Photo by Michael P. Kube-McDowell.

Larry Tucker at Contraption Kaizen, May 1991. Photo by Michael P. Kube-McDowell.

By Ro Nagey: Larry Tucker died October 8, 2013. Crippled by strokes and other attacks, his body finally gave up today.

I imagine a lot of the people that are in the Stilyagi Air Corps, the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association (AASFA), the ConFusion sf con and the Science Fiction Oral History Association (SFOHA) might never have met Larry or know his enormous influence on those organisations and fandom in general. Even more likely, you never got to know this incredible clever, funny, involved human being that I was lucky enough to know. If there’s one thing I wish to communicate is the awesome human being he was.

I met Larry Tucker at the very first ConFusion back in 1975. As chairperson, I can tell you that none of us knew what we were doing. It was like having a three-day nervous breakdown. We had great fun and learned a lot – we must have as ConFusion, (the successor to the A2 Relax Icon held in ’74), is celebrating its 40th anniversary in January, 2014.

It was on Friday when Larry and Zita Kutkus came up to me in the programming room and introduced themselves. They were dragging all this video equipment with them. This was the early 70’s. They had a Sony Portapak ½” reel-to-reel video tape deck, a state of the art black-and-white camera, a monitor, a tripod and seemingly miles of cables and cords. They asked to videotape what we were doing.

I don’t remember my answer. I bet I said “no.” I was so over my head in running the con that I didn’t want another ball to juggle. I wish I hadn’t. It was an amazing con in so many ways. I would kill to have a video of that con. We had hoped for perhaps 100 people based on the previous year’s numbers. Over 300 people had shown up by then with more on the way. There’s a fine line between Chaos and Confusion and we were balancing on that thin line.

But that was Larry’s entrance into my world. As a result of being at ConFusion, he joined the Stilyagi and threw himself into fandom at large.

Larry changed my life and he changed fandom. Larry had the most interesting energy about him. He saw bullshit for what it was and could – in a single comment – both capture the bullshit, kill it and make fun of it at the same time. The thing was: most people didn’t notice what he was doing. He had this natural humour about him that shielded him from criticism.

It was such an effortless sense of humour. It was like he was able to see the Universe’s Big Jokes and could share them with us. Whether at Stilyagi meetings or the inevitable meeting after the meeting at the Village Bell – whether at parties at homes or at cons – Larry could spot where he needed to be to keep the Stilyagi and its incredible mixture of diverse people together. It was an art, a dance. And I only realised this much, much later in life.

Larry was the prototypical Gentle Man against which the rest of us were measured.

He worked tirelessly on the cons and in promoting ConFusion at other cons. It was sort of a religion for us back then. Ann Arbor had found this amazing thing called fandom and the even more amazing people that made up the Stilyagi. We were definite evangelists back then.

It really was The Day of Giants.

Larry brought me into his world of video. His mother, Nancy Tucker (later, Nancy Tucker Shaw, ran the AV Center at the University of Michigan School of Education and we had access to the studio and could check out the equipment at will. Larry was my first and very important collaborator. We clicked. We were Yin and Yang. I was the crazy one who dreamed far larger than I had any right to and Larry – while wildly creative – was also incredibly detail oriented and kept our stuff tethered to reality.

One day, we took the ‘portable’ equipment (the batteries alone weighed like 10 pounds each and lasted for 15 minutes or so) and went out onto the Diag at the UM Campus. We did impromptu interviews. There was no plan. We were just weird people doing weird interviews. It evolved: ultimately, the interviews involved me asking people if they had heard the rumour that a black hole had hit the Earth and what their reactions were. Interestingly, only about 10% of the people knew it was a goof. The rest was pure gold.

We had no ‘vision’ when we did the interviews. Larry took the footage and turned it into “The Thing That Ate Gorgonzola University”. There is a priceless interview with a lovely co-ed who got genuinely concerned. “Where did it hit?”. I grabbed a country at random: Japan. “O, no!!!! I am studying intensive Japanese!!!” And off she went to talk to her advisor.

Although a common enough sort of thing today, in 1975 or ’76 when we made this, it was, I humbly suggest, ground breaking.

I don’t take credit for this. Yes, it was I doing the interview but it was Larry who had to lug this monstrously heavy equipment around on a hot summer’s day. It was he who figured out the camera angles. It was Larry who took the footage and made it what it became. I knew nothing about video work back then. Hell, no one did.

Larry made it all happen.

I had a party at my house for the Stilyagi to celebrate a lunar eclipse. I called it “Big Bird Eats Moon”. It started in the afternoon. It was definitely an early 70’s party. One-third of us were drinking copious quantities of beer, one-third were tripping on LSD and nearly everyone was smoking.

Larry was there to videotape it. Artist Randy Bathurst and SMoF Ross Pavlac were hilarious. They were stone-cold sober and were only drinking soda. At one point, Randy picked up one of my black kittens (I had two: Buddha and The Bitch) and put it halfway into his mouth. Ross and Randy – two very, um, large men – got into a belly bump contest.

Larry recorded all of this. He did this as only he could. When people needed to feel the presence of the camera, he was obvious in taping them. At other times, he would retreat to the background and capture intimate moments. Larry Tucker had chops. In a better Universe, he would have gone to New York or Los Angeles and been famous for his incredible skills.

Again, we assembled it – with some additional studio footage involving Jerry Steele – into the “Big Bird Eats Moon” video.

We didn’t do it for any other reason than we had a blast making them.

I studied Engineering at UM and wore a train engineer’s cap for giggles. During one taping, Larry took my hat and added a pair of “Groucho” glasses (sans moustache) that I had laying around and “Uncle Albert” was born. This was Larry’s great alter-ego and he appeared in print, audio and video fanzines. To the best of my knowledge, he deserves credit for producing the first video fanzine. He produced Uncle Albert’s Video Fanzine and the cassette-taped Uncle Albert’s Electric Talking Fanzine.

His opus magnum was FAANS. It was filmed at various Midwest conventions and featured an all-star cast of fans and pros.

He also made the only known tapes of Cosmos & Chaos shows: an improvisational comedy juggling act consisting of author and fan Stephen Leigh and myself.

Larry also was a true “key” member of ConFusion. He could be counted on to pick up slack and to take on odd jobs with no advanced notice. He never complained … well, at least not to me.

Before leaving Ann Arbor for work in Cleveland, author Lloyd Biggle (our Pro GoH at the A2 Relax Icon and a Stilyagi supporter) came up with the idea for the Science Fiction Oral History Association. Larry was so on top of it from the beginning. SFOHA was dedicated to recording the history of sf and fandom. Both Larry and his mother, Nancy, helped make SFOHA a success from the very start.

Larry chaired or co-chaired three ConFusions from ’78-’80: “Confusion ?”, “E/c2 Confusion (aka Mass Confusion)” and “Confusion 6 and/or 7”. and remained a fixture on the ConCom for some time. He was the Toastmaster in 1982 at “Confusion 11” and again in ’98 at “ConFusion of the Winnebagos”. He was Fan Guest of Honor in 1988 at “Ambulatory ConFusion”.

Larry was always passionate about the Stilyagi Air Corps and ConFusion. Very passionate. There were more than a few times when his passion rubbed people the wrong way. I know this first hand as I received more than a few phone calls after I had moved to Cleveland from Stilyagis that were having issues with how Larry wanted to do things. That’s the thing about passion: it carries a price and Larry paid it in full.

Larry attended every ConFusion, no matter what. Even after his stroke, Kathy Becker made sure Larry attended in 2012.

And Larry was passionate about life and love. He had a few serious relationships over the years: Zita Kutkus, Leah Zeldes, Debbie Rigdon and, of course, his only wife: Misti Anslin. Larry and Misti were married from 1996–2001.

Given his last name, it was only natural that the joke was started that Larry was Bob Tucker’s son. Both had fun with this.

Nancy had been equally important in the first decades of ConFusion and SFOHA. They shared a loving and healthy relationship. The loss of his mother, Nancy Tucker Shaw, in 2000, was a huge loss for Larry.

Larry was a wonderful, funny creative person. Although I didn’t know enough at the time, looking back, I think he had depressive issues when I first met him – not crippling but I think it was a undertone that, tragically, became a major chord later in his life. He was diagnosed, much later, with depression and atypical bipolar disorder. The meds he was on apparently never worked, according to his ex-wife, Misti. His condition grew worse over the years.

The American healthcare system is barbaric and the social safety net is virtually non-existent. Over the years, Larry’s circumstances – crushing poverty due to inability to work – meant that he had to get rid of all the great creative work he had created.

He was homeless for a while. He finally found a place to live: a room in a low-rent motel in exchange for cleaning rooms and doing maintenance.

In 2011, he suffered a massive stroke. He never bounced back. In fact, it was a downhill trip from there. He had some incredible support from a small-group of friends who visited him regularly long after he was capable of communication. These were saints.

And now, Larry is gone.

I love you, Larry. I will miss you with all my heart and soul. You were one of a kind and we won’t likely see your kind again.

I celebrate his life when it was good and he was free to be and curse the Universe for when it went horribly wrong.

Help Restore His Work!

If you have any of Larry’s work: here’s a chance to help keep Larry’s brilliance alive! So much of his work has been lost.

If you have any of his fanzines – whether in print, on cassette tape and on video…if you have any of his videos: “Big Bird Eats Moon”, “The Thing That Ate Gorgonzola University”, “FAANS” or any of the “Cosmos and Chaos” tapes, please consider either putting them in digital form or send them to me and I will. So much of his work has been lost.

If necessary, contact me privately and I will help you get it to the right place.

Copies of Uncle Albert’s Are Surfacing

Two fans have already responded to Leah Zeldes’ plea to help preserve copies of Larry Tucker’s audio and video fanzines. Mike Griffin and Jim Meadows have volunteered to let copies be dubbed from their cassettes of a couple issues of Uncle Albert’s Electric Talking Fanzine. More are needed to fill in a set.

Meadows says he has been making good use of his copies as a fanhistorical resource all along —  

I work as a reporter at a public radio station in Illinois (WILL at the University of Illinois in Urbana). A few years ago, when Bob Tucker died, I did a feature story on his death, noting his status as a local author (the Bloomington-Normal area, where he lived for many years, is just one county over from us). I also attempted to sketch in Bob’s reputation in the sf fan community, and used an excerpt of Tucker giving a convention speech that appeared in Larry Tucker’s cassette zine. Much later, maybe a couple of years, I got an email from a son of Bob Tucker (maybe David Tucker?) asking about that speech. I dubbed off the speech and emailed it to him, and he expressed thanks for being able to hear his father’s voice again.

Send Cards and Letters to Larry Tucker

Larry Tucker, the long-time Michigan fan who has been in a nursing home since he suffered a serious stroke two years ago, was hospitalized at the beginning of April for colon surgery. Reports immediately after the surgery were favorable. He was expected to be returned to his nursing home after a week recovering in the hospital.

Tucker chaired the 1978-1980 ConFusions in Ann Arbor. He is best known for creating Uncle Albert’s Electric Talking Fanzine (on cassette) and a similarly named video edition. He was a fannish video pioneer, as Leah Zeldes explained to readers of “The Clubhouse” on the Amazing Stories blog  —

Larry, an avid and talented video buff at a time when video meant U-matic tape, chronicled most of the early cons, as well as making a variety of other fannish videos, notably “Big Bird Eats Moon,” which chronicled a Stilyagi lunar eclipse party as told by a cultural anthropologist; “The Thing That Ate Gorgonzola State University,” real-life interviews with students about the news that the earth was being eaten by a black hole; and the full-length feature “FAANs,” starring just about every well-known Midwestern fan of the period: the ultimate sf con as a parody of “Jaws.”

These days Katherine Becker of Ann Arbor’s Stilyagi Air Corps visits Tucker and keeps up his connection with fandom. She relayed news of his surgery to Leah Zeldes, who in turn would like to encourage people to drop Larry a line at his permanent address:

Regency at Whitmore Lake
8633 North Main St
Whitmore Lake, MI 48189

Leah says –

I don’t think he can read — the stroke he had two years ago was pretty devastating — but Katherine will read the mail to him when she visits, and post them on his wall. It would be nice if he got a bunch of cards and letters, not just now but on an ongoing basis.

Leah would also like to locate more copies of Larry’s videos so they can be digitized and preserved. She obtained a copy of “FAANs” and has someone working on it, but says his other tapes are in an unknown state. If anyone has copies of “The Thing That Ate Gargonzola State University,” “Big Bird Eats Moon,” “Uncle Albert’s Electric Talking Fanzine” (audio tape) or “Uncle Albert’s Video Fanzine,” send a note to File 770 – mikeglyer [at] cs [dot] com – and I will put you in touch with her.