Yesterday morning, the posts began to appear on Facebook. Many of them read the same, including the one posted on Dave Monroe's own Facebook profile...
"Dave Monroe mourns the death of David Michael Monroe (1966-2015)."
That was how the Milwaukee musician, DJ, cineaste, man about town, all-around savant Monroe would acknowledge someone's passing on Facebook, so it read like an eerie message from beyond. But a fitting one and one many of his friends – including me – would mimic in the following hours in tribute to this most unique of Milwaukeeans.
If I could post nothing more than a silhouette of Dave Monroe, chances are a good chunk of Milwaukeeans would be able to recognize it immediately: the parka, the stack of books jammed under the arm.
Sometimes Dave didn't realize how many friends he had. But in his hour of need, he surely knew. When cancer reared its ugly presence, the Dave Monroe Fan Club was founded on Facebook and there are nearly 500 members. We should all be so lucky.
News of his passing has led to countless tributes, typically in the form of anecdotes – everyone has at least one – flooding social media.
I vividly remember the first time I met Dave. He approached me at UWM – in his green Mod parka, ever-present books under his arm – saying he'd heard I had a massive collection of records by The Jam. He was eager to know exactly what I had, in detail.
He spoke in that rapid-fire delivery, tinged with a nervous edge, that was one of his many trademarks. That must've been 1984, maybe '85, and from that moment on, I was always aware of Dave's presence.
He was in bands – the one with the best name was Schrodinger's Cats; he was a DJ spinning fine obscure records around town; I ran into him often when he was a guard at the Milwaukee Art Museum and then later at the Milwaukee Public Museum. He could be seen at films ranging from obscure, arguably over-long (and surely he'd argue one side or the other) art house fare to the latest Marvel superhero action films.
Here's a great video of Dave doing one of the things he loved best – spinning records (his Soul Hole record spin would've turned 13 next month) – at Luv Unlimited in Bay View:
My last vivid in-person memory of Dave is of running into him unexpectedly at a Vliet Street gelato shop, of all places. Already late, I ran in to grab a last-minute coffee to get me through what promised to be a long school board meeting up the street and I found Dave at a table, with a stack of books. (I'm not sure why, because I'm a bibliophile and reader, but I never dared ask what was in the stack, probably because I expected I'd be humiliated by my inferior knowledge.)
He was headed to a film at The Times Cinema and immediately launched into a mile-a-minute discourse on the movie. You see, Dave was a savant. He was smarter than me and I'll venture to guess he might've been smarter than you.
He had a deep knowledge and understanding of a wide variety of subjects, from music to film to books to subcultures to restaurant deals. Please, do not get him started on Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow."
If, as one friend admitted yesterday on Facebook, Dave sometimes exhausted you, it was because of his passion, his enthusiasm for the things he loved, and because he sometimes misread or over-estimated the interest of his audience.
"His assumption that you cared as much as he did came from this naive optimism; that the other person didn't care about anything as much as Dave cared about one lunch special or 45," says his friend Andy Noble.
It might've also been his unceasingly critical eye. When a former art museum security colleague noted that, tired of listening to patrons says they could make art that was as good as the modern masters, Dave created an elaborate flow chart of potential cutting responses to these comments.
You see, in addition to being a savant, Dave had high expectations. He wanted art and music and film to be meaningful, to be intelligent, to be passionate, to be worthy of discourse and to withstand debate. That is, he wanted it to be like him.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.