December 22 2012
Las Vegas, Nevada
Three days ago one of my best friends in the world, Greg Verdusco, would have turned 42. We would have grabbed a bite at the Denny’s on Tropicana we used to haunt. We would have taken a trip to Zia Records to look at vinyl and to generally loiter. We would have pontificated about the unlikely good fortune of there being both new KISS and Aerosmith albums out in 2012 (and probably would have bitched about how they just aren’t like the good old days…but loved them anyway). We would have reflected on our trip to see the dream bill of Aerosmith with special guests Cheap Trick. What is it 1976? We would have loved that.
We were like that. We could talk about everything and absolutely nothing for hours upon hours day after day.
Sadly we were robbed of all of that as Greg was called to Heaven four days before his birthday. A monster called cancer came for him and took him so quickly none of us could have possibly prepared for it. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in August, began treatment in September and was gone December 15th. It felt we were still reeling with the initial news before we could prepare for the next installment of bad news.
I met Greg 6 years ago when I found myself in my new home of Las Vegas, Nevada. Greg was following a similar path. He had a very promising music career in Los Angeles that like most of us had been swallowed by an industry folding in on itself. His band, the Slowtime Mondays, had a great run. Greg was one of the most talented songwriters I’ve ever known. He had deals writing for film and television. I was always knocked out by his ability to crank out a contagious melody over a dizzying riff.
We were two lost souls in a new town and we found that we shared a unified taste in music, film and television. The things that bond us all, I suppose. He loved old KISS, worshipped at the alter of Cheap Trick and adored The Replacements, The New York Dolls (especially Thunders), The Wildhearts, The Hellacopters and so much more. Like I said-great taste.
We would waste hours quoting all the dialogue from the work of the thespian, Will Ferrell. Anyone who knew Greg will tell you how effortlessly funny he was. No one could make me laugh like him. We spoke every Sunday morning and went over the best bits from the Saturday Night Live from the night before. If he had chosen a different path he would have made a gifted comedian and could have been a great actor.
But, like for me, Rock N Roll is a bewitching mistress and she stole his heart at a very young age. Looking through his things as I’ve had to do these last days we have found his memberships to KISS and Cheap Trick fan clubs from his boyhood. Like so many of us that path is paved for us by the Beatles and the Stones and KISS and Cheap Trick and so many more. One day he picked up a guitar, albeit backwards (he was a lefty) and he never really ever put it down again.
In the last couple of years he formed the razor sharp garage rock band, The Bloody Villains, and they were filled with so much promise that we were all bubbling with anticipation of where that journey would take him. There is an unfinished album just sitting there that I am determined to see finished in one form or another. To me it would be a crime for his music to remain unheard. Especially the ferocity of The Bloody Villains. Like the MC5 being beaten by the Hellacopters. Just golden stuff. This is my new mission. Bloody Villains 2013.
Greg and I sat and tossed riffs back and forth all the time. I have things recorded on my phone that I will someday sit down and turn into songs hoping only that I can do justice to the legacy of his work.
Greg was so fortunate to have the most amazing woman by his side for 13 years. His Wife, Allison, is the strongest person I know. She has been through an unimaginable war and lost so much yet she is still standing and will continue to do so. I am in awe of her. She has given us all so much strength when it is us who should have been giving her all of ours. We should all be so lucky to have a partner like her. Their’s was a relationship that I was totally envious of. Partners there for one another in better and so much worse. She was there for him right to the end. Hold on to the one you love tight because you never know when you’ll be doing that for the last time. Allison Verdusco is my hero and I love her dearly. I will be here for her for as long as I am alive.
I was one of the very few allowed to see Greg in the last weeks of his life. I was with him in the days before he passed away. The significance of this is not lost on me. I was his closest friend in Las Vegas and he was mine. I am so grateful that I got to see him before he was taken from us. I can’t put into words how difficult it is to see someone you love suffering. It is an unimaginable torture. My torture nothing compared to the agony Greg was enduring. Another person that humbles me by their strength. When you are young and healthy your treatment is aggressive meaning they attack the cancer with everything they’ve got. Unfortunately the body housing the cancer is absolving that attack. For my first visit with Greg we could at least talk. I gave him some cds that I had Ginger Wildheart sign for him as well as a Ginger T-shirt I picked up for him. Ginger was a shared hero of ours and I was happy I got to do that for him.
I carry with me a great deal of guilt as I have been away so much in 2012. I was home for 3 weeks over a 9 month span. When he first told me of his affliction. I, like anyone else, could never accept it as terminal. He was a young man. He was healthy. He was a non smoker, non drinker. It made no sense. This would be just a footnote in the story of Greg. He would beat this and we’d be looking back at it as a battle won. Greg and I were in contact every day. He was the guy I texted whenever something funny entered my brain and vice versa. This happened a lot. Our contact slowed a bit with his treatment which tore him apart. I just can’t imagine how awful it must have been. Awful is too small a word for it. I don’t believe there is a word for it.
That said, we did remain in contact throughout. Greg had chosen to fight this thing alone or at least alone with his Wife at his side. He chose not to see anyone. He was going to beat this and then he would come out of hiding. I finally spoke to him just before I was leaving for the last leg of our ’12 tour in South America. The first bit of our conversation he reiterated the harrowing ordeal he was going through. He was tired, he was sick. He sounded tired but he sounded like Greg. It wasn’t long til we were talking about KISS’ new album Monster and Aerosmith coming with Cheap Trick and the announcement of a new Star Wars trilogy and, of course, Anchorman 2.
In so many ways the tragedy of his loss has been so painful through his absence at his birthday as it will be over the holidays but for me, his friend, it breaks my heart that he never lived to see a new Star Wars trilogy and Anchorman 2. These are things he would have loved so much. Things that we would have shared with the excitement of children. For pop culture nerds like us this was nirvana. For some reason these things fill me with the most sadness. Knowing he will miss these silly little things that we both loved so much.
I so wanted to go back and forth with him about Paul McCartney playing with the Nirvana guys. The kind of thing we would go back and forth on endlessly. So many things have come up since his passing one week ago that I don’t realize it until I have my phone in my hand and I am about to text Greg. It’s times like that when I feel his loss the most. His commentary, his thoughts, his deep, intelligent cynicism and sarcasm, biting but so well thought out and clever. That mixed with his inherent warmth and kindness. His enthusiasm and jubilation for the things we both loved. Music, movies, cool tv shows. The 50s, 60s, the 70s, the 80s. He loved rockabilly. He loved the Ventures. He loved Link Wray. He loved Vinnie Vincent era KISS . He collected vintage clothing and furniture. Greg and Allison’s house is amazing. It’s like stepping into the past. Like me, he collected vinyl and action figures and guitars. The Ramones, The Ramones, The Ramones.
The last night I saw Greg I sat with him for hours. He was alternately either asleep or in miserable pain. We had very little communication and what we did I will keep with me for the rest of my days. As hard as it is to lose him it was just as hard to see him suffer and in the saddest way I am thankful he suffered for only 3 months rather than 3 years. I wouldn’t have wished his suffering on anyone or anything. It was the first time in my life I had to face the truth that when it is your time to go it is truly your time to go.
Greg Verdusco was in so many ways my best friend and he will always be alive inside my heart as well as in the hearts of all that his life touched. He is the strongest person I have ever known. He is with his Father now and I like to believe he is so happy. I look forward to seeing him again someday. We’ll finish writing those damned songs then and I will bring with me the tales of Anchorman 2 and Star Wars episodes 7-9.
Please hold on to those you love and make sure they know exactly how you feel every single day. This life is so small, so short and so fleeting. I wish I could take back all the times I missed his phone call or the times we couldn’t find time for a coffee. I want all of that back now to fill the void left where he used to be.
I love you, Greg, and I miss you every day. Heaven just got a whole lot cooler. I’ll see you again someday. We have so much to catch up on.
Your friend, forever and always, Todd=