Oh NO, Mr. Bill
Current mood: shocked
night I was on my way to a friend's place. One of my MySpace
friends called from Canada on my cell phone. I spoke to him a
minute as I was sitting at a red light. It was hard to hear as
there were fire trucks coming down the road, sirens blazing, and they
turned the way that I was traveling. I didn't think much about
it, finished up on the phone and took off when the road was
clear. The further I drove, the more that I knew something was
horribly wrong. There were fire trucks and emergency vehicles
everywhere. As I was just to turn, a cop came screeching up a one
way street and blocked my turn. He stopped his car, so that meant
no one else was getting through. That's when I saw the flames
above a building that turned the night sky to brilliant shades of
I turned and went back the other way.
I was going to go another route that I knew over by the Lava
House. As I turned onto that road, there was yet another fire
truck. These streets are narrow with cars parked on either side
of the road too. I turned around yet again. So I thought I
would go a little more out of the way toward my destination, when yet
another fire truck stopped me. I couldn't get out of
Germantown! LET ME OUT!
I could see the fire
rising above the trees and the roof tops. I kept straining to
catch a glimpse of what was on fire. From my proximity and view
of the orange sky at 11:00 p.m., I knew that it was VERY close to the
Lava House or it was the Lava House burning. If it wasn't the
Lava, then it was too close for comfort, as there is so much stuff in
the place that would burn hot like this. I knew that was one hot
fire since the flames were so large and shooting as they were. It
scared me for those that live there, and for those that have studios
and work spaces rented there as well.
Lava House was a warehouse with art studios, apartments, and work space
for artists, mechanics, and bands had played there, as well as having
cookouts in the summer. It was a great space for get togethers
and other events. Lava stands for Louisville Assembly of Vanguard
Artists, and was owned by Bart's father, Glenn. Bart lived there,
along with several others, one of which was known as Mr. Bill.
had met Mr. Bill only last summer. We had a cookout one night and
we sat around talking for quite awhile. I had heard stories about
this character and was a bit on guard. I really didn't have to
be. Mr. Bill was a good man, albeit a big drinker and a bigger
talker. It was quite apparent that he just loved the company of
us girls, though. Kristin had cut her foot, and he took
painstaking care of it for her. That night as we prepared to go
on about our ways, he really didn't want us to leave and only wanted
our company for awhile longer. I wish now that we had stayed
longer with him. That wasn't the last time I saw Mr. Bill
though. He was always happy to see us.
made it to my friend's place. The local news was just going
off. They told the address of the fire, but I still couldn't tell
where that fire was exactly by the address they gave. I called
Kristin, who had a studio at the Lava House. She wasn't home, and
so I grew more apprehensive that it was the Lava that was
burning. Finally she called me back and told me that what I
feared was indeed true. She said it's burned to the ground, and
it's all over now except for Mr. Bill had gotten burned. Scott
carried him out while Chad sprayed fire extinguishers after fire
extinguisher trying to clear the both of them a way out. Then
there was Stuart filling up buckets of water and pouring them on the
still burning Mr. Bill. He asked Mr. Bill where he wanted Stuart
to pour the water on him. ON MY DICK! Mr. Bill
yelled. Oh, that's our Mr. Bill!
So they got Mr.
Bill out of the building, but he was not well to start with.
These burns caused him to resemble a burnt marshmallow or a hot
dog. Kristin went to the hospital to check on him. Everyone
else was in a state of shock and wondering what, if anything, could be
salvaged and were finally reduced to just watching it all burn to the
ground. Mr. Bill's brother was there with him, and was beside
himself. I can only imagine now that his brother already knew
that Mr. Bill was not going to make it.
Poor Mr. Bill died the
next day around noon. Kristin had gone back to the hospital, and
his family was with him. They had turned off the machines and Mr.
Bill had passed away, but his spirit wasn't gone yet. He had
quite the spirit! It's still around, if I do so venture to
say. I was not as close to him as a lot of people were, but still
yet ... when you know a person like him, you either accept him from the
beginning and love who he was, or you don't accept him PERIOD.
Mr. Bill and Disco
loss of the Lava House and Mr. Bill is a great loss for this
community. Some took the Lava House and maybe Mr. Bill for
granted too, as if they would always be there. Others put a lot
of hard work and love into that place. The building itself was an
old warehouse that was once used to house the city's trolley cars. The
building contained several hundred thousand dollars worth of art and
equipment, including torches, woodworking tools, and supplies for
photography and ceramics. There were also several cars in there,
as well as Mr. Bill's trailer that he lived in. It had
35-foot-high ceilings framed by massive wooden beams.
Mr. Bill was a 65-year-old retired engineer and Navy officer turned
contractor. He did woodworking, cabinet-making, laminated the
veneer on countertops and was "an artist in his own right."
These are some quotes from the local news about him:
Bill "stuck around long enough for us to say goodbye. … He called my
wife 'girlfriend,' " said Aron Conaway. "Bill was a really
gentle, very loving person with a sassy personality. I think he kind of
considered the artists in the LAVA House his kids, really."
Glenn Herre, Bart Herre's father and the owner of the
13,000-square-foot building, said Bill Christie was one of his first
tenants and had lived there for eight to 10 years. "He was around all
the time," said Herre, 57, who lives in the Highlands. "He was always
there to help everybody. He was like everybody's older father." The fire also took a dog that everyone knew. His name was Helvis. Iggy, his buddy, made it out.
Gone, but not forgotten!
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