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Remembering Perry

Yesterday, August 19th, was the one year anniversary of the passing of Perry. Friday, August 22nd, would have been Perry’s 45th birthday. We all still feel the loss of Perry very acutely – and it was a loss. I miss the presence of Perry on the podcast, and I will his presence in my life. I would love to have a conversation with Perry about current events, about crazy stuff in the news, and about our personal lives – but I can’t.

I am glad that Perry left behind his recorded wit and humor on the show, but it is a pale substitute for the man himself. But I am more happy for what he added to my life than I am sad for his loss. I feel lucky to have had Perry as a friend.

Thanks to everyone for sharing in our memories for Perry and for all the support we have received over the last year. It has helped to know that Perry had touched so many fellow skeptics as he did us.

Steve

___________________________________

The SGU received this e-mail yesterday:

Dear Skeptics:

I am new to the SGU and am listening to your podcasts in order.

When I reached podcast # 100, I wandered over to the “About Us” section of your website and was dismayed to learn that Perry DeAngelis passed away last year. Even more ironic, I learned of this on August 19, 2008 – the one year anniversary of his death.

I only knew this funny, warm man from your podcasts and already I miss him. I feel saddened that as I approach podcast #107, I will be hearing Perry’s glib wit and ripostes for the last time.

My belated condolences to you at SGU for the loss of this wonderful friend and skeptical ally.

Sabina – Coral Gables, Florida

How tremendous is it that Perry, a full year after his passing, still has the impact and effect on listeners that he had when he was alive? Although the initial flood of responses and outpourings came in during the first month immediately following Perry’s death, we still receive e-mails like Sabina’s on a regular basis. Sabina’s expressions are very warm and touching, but perhaps even more noteworthy is the fact that new listeners “get” Perry, having no other interaction with him other than to have heard him on the show. Because we at the New England Skeptical Society created a podcast back in 2005, Perry’s essence continues to ring loud and true. It is a touch of immortality that is deserving of someone of Perry’s stature, as it is safe to restate that if it were not for Perry’s personal vision of skeptical activism, The Skeptic’s Guide To The Universe would not be here today. On a very personal note, Perry is a steady part of my everyday thoughts. Having known Perry since 1985, my memories of his close friendship endures forever in the folds of my grey matter. I miss him as much today as I did a year ago and every day in between.

Evan

___________________________________

As the new kid on the SGU, I didn’t just waltz into a group podcast — I joined a group of friends who had known one another for as long as I had been alive. It would have been disastrous had the guys not put so much effort into including me on group e-mails and in-jokes, and chatting away from the podcast in order to get better acquainted. That’s how, with multiple hours of podcasting every week combined with
hundreds of e-mails and long hours staying up late talking, I was able to know Perry so well . . . and that’s how I’ve wound up terribly missing someone without ever having met him.

I think about him a lot, whenever I laugh at a monkeys vs. birds joke, or say something edging toward bleeding heart liberal, or wonder if I’ve been a little too harsh on some scam artist (“What Would Perry
Do?”). He was the best sparring partner a girl could ask for, and I’m proud to have spent a year and a half podcasting, chatting, fighting, learning, and goofing off with him. I’ll wrap it up there, because I know that by this point Perry would be telling me to stop being such an overly emotional little girly girl.

Rebecca

___________________________________

The first time I saw Perry, it was at a live action role-playing event that he was part owner of. He played a high-priest of sorts :-) wearing a huge robe and a golden bundt cake pan hung around his neck like bling only gods would wear. That’s how Perry lived his life, larger than life. Did you know he created a character called Dr. Demo that drove cars in demolition derbys? Do you know anyone that’s ever participated in a demolition derby?…I didn’t think so. What I wouldn’t give to go back and see him do that.

Perry’s absence from the podcast and our lives is still like an open wound. It’s not as ghastly as it was that first week and sometimes it seems to be scabbing over. I’m still surprised though how often it re-opens and bleeds again. I think Dr. Demo would have liked that simile.

Bob

___________________________________

I tried to write something for this post but found that I was painting positive words when in my heart I feel very different. So here is my final and most honest try. I don’t understand Perry’s death or for that matter any death. It makes no sense to me. I think the world is less of a place without him. I wrote a poem about Perry not long after he died that summed up my feelings at the time. The only thing I want to ad is that he was very special to me..and I loved him.

10 years ago
A friend lay still, sleeping
while the haze of early morning slowly rested upon him

from a dour brume The visitor came
standing motionless at the door
Barely there, unbodied

Raising its hand
the visitor knocked once
and every room in the house
felt the virulent knell

Now, the knock has just ended
while a friend again lays still
the unquiet morning has looked over him
and found he is not there

Jay

23 comments to Remembering Perry

  • Niobe

    I still remember one week he was sick (it happens), the next he was joining from the hospital, and the subsequent episode was you guys announcing his passing.
    For us “not in the know” with the whole scleroderma situation, that was the most shocking. Almost as shocking as him being married to a Jehovah witness.

    I do hope dearly his widow is coping.

  • Jon Blumenfeld

    I just want to say that though I did not know Perry as well as Steve, Jay, Bob, and Evan, I miss him terribly, and he is the reason I renewed my once-dormant skeptical activism.

  • Sagoober

    It’s amazing how people you’ve never met, that you never even interacted with, can affect your life. I’ve never met any of you, never even left a comment, yet I can’t hear a story about birds without thinking “no matter how cool that bird is, a monkey could still beak-flip him”. Thank you for doing what you do.

  • Just the other day I listened to an SGU episode from December 2006, and it really struck me how much Perry contributed to the show and how different it is without him. He was a smart, funny, opinionated skeptic of some note, and a powerful monkey advocate. I’m sorry I never got the chance to meet him. Seriously. RIP Perry.

  • I went cottaging last weekend with my only other SGU listener friend.

    We’re still both quite sad about Perry not being around.

  • I started listening to SGU a little over a year ago. The first episode I had ever listened to was the episode after Perry had passed away. The podcast played clips from Perry and a lecture he once gave. I remember thinking to myself that the man giving this lecture is brilliant. Putting it into context was difficult and once I finished that episode, I became a fan of SGU. I went back and listened to all the episodes on a long trip to Connecticut and Perry was absolutely wonderful to hear. His memory and work lives on.

  • jgirvine

    It’s funny, I never met him, never spoke to him, but I still feel like I lost a good friend.

    http://cectic.com/041.html

  • irishjazz

    Perry was the vivid outlier, the person most likely to cheerfully disagree with everyone else on the early shows, and an able counterbalance to the piquant Rebecca on the later ones. The virtual friendship from hour in his pre-recorded presence may be an illusion, but the sucker-punch sadness of his loss is very real.

  • Nigel

    I remember bring up the SGU home page and seeing Perry’s picture, and then getting that brick of ice forming in my stomach sensation as I read that he died. I never knew him other than listening to him on the show. I cannot fathom the feeling for those who knew him much more closely.

    Monkey’s Rule!

  • famulus

    Already a year? I started to listen to SGU sometime in Feb ’07, and man, that Perry guy – he could be so blunt, so abrasive, darnit, SO annoying because he could back up his arguments and was so often right.

    It took a while for me to really get that his tone wasn’t abrasiveness for sake of being obnoxious – he generally had a point. It actually requires courage of conviction to call BS on baloney masquerading as “sensitivity” or “politeness” or “fear of disruption”. It’s easy to picture Perry as the kid who says, “yo, Emperor – put on some pants! It’s not a ‘lifestyle’ or ‘fashion’ choice: yer naaaaaaykid!” That perspective (like the Rogues’ collective stance) is important.

    Here’s the point where I could get all schmaltzy about the total stranger whose voice I only know through podcasts, and whose friends I envy for having actually known the guy. I bet he was a great friend. I suspect I’d really like him had I ever really met him. But I don’t pretend to know him or to really have a claim for anything other than respect and admiration for his voice. You guys were lucky, though, and it’s really touching that you appreciate that.

    Finally, I don’t know if there’s any virtue in saying that, from a great distance, I do think he made a difference for me. It’s roguish, I think. I sit in endless administrative meetings (gawd, I haaaaate strategic planning) and I frequently hear this little podcasty voice saying “what a load of crap!” It sounds like Perry, but I’m sure it’s my own crap-callin’ voice, which just happens to sound a lot like him.

    Hurrah for giving one’s crap-callin’ self a voice. Yay, Perry.

  • Geo-Steve

    To Steve, Bob, Rebecca, Jay and Evan,

    I started listening to the podcast last June, I believe a week before your hundredth episode. I was barely familiar with any of you when Perry passed away, but I still remembering the title coming up in iTunes after it finished coming down and for one of the first times in my life my jaw actually dropped, as cliche as that sounds. I had only really known you all for eight hours, but hearing about his passing hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt sick to my stomach and I teared up listening to you recall your memories of him and hearing you say what portion of your goodbyes that you chose to share with all of us. I laughed as the monkey-bird debate clips were played (it was my first time hearing them).

    I remember wondering, “Why is this affecting me so much? Why do I care as much as I do?” As callous as that sounds, that answer was consoling for me, because I knew I cared so much because your message was striking a chord, it was changing the way I thought and Perry was an integral part of that. I felt that, even after just 7 or 8 episodes of your podcast as the sum of my skeptical experience, I was becoming part of the club, part of the community, and losing Perry was such a loss to that tight-knit community it rippled through us all, even the newest members.

    It my hope that the five of you, after you handle this anniversary in your own personal way, remind yourselves of just how important you are to so many people out there. Take pride in it, because you’ve earned it. You’ve become personal celebrities to many of us listeners, yes, but that is because you’re so good at what you do, at teaching us, entertaining us, and, most importantly, making us care about your cause. I never met Perry (or any of you… yet), but he made people care, and in return, all of us cared about him. So I certainly hope that for you this anniversary can be more about celebrating what he accomplished rather than his loss, but no matter how you remember him, know you have created an extended family whether you intended to or not and that you, along with Perry, have made a difference in a lot of lives.

    Steve

  • skepacabra

    Like others expressing their thoughts about Perry on this blog, I never got to meet him in person or interacted with him. In fact, I didn’t even discover the SGU until December after Steve gave a lecture in NYC after Perry had passed. As I kept up with the current episodes, I began listening to every episode from the beginning during my commute to and from work every day and came to view Perry, as well as the rest of the SGU as being a friend. Perry brought a unique quality to the show that can never be recaptured and I always think of him when reading any science news story about monkeys or birds. Perry and the rest of the SGU have impacted my life in profound ways and have inspired me to start my own skeptical blog, Skepacabra. Perry will be missed.

  • [...] Remembering the SGU’s Perry DeAngelis on the 1-year anniversary of his passing: [...]

  • togamonkey

    I’ll always remember the second I realized what had happened. It was 2 AM, and I was getting ready to go to bed, and I clicked to start the podcast (I used to listen to it as I drifted off to sleep and then in the morning I would rewind to the last point I remembered so I didn’t miss anything [a practice I discontinued thereafter]) and as soon as Steve said the words “very sad episode” I whispered to myself “god damn it no…”

    I didn’t sleep very much that night. I think I might have gotten 2 hours. I don’t cry very much but I couldn’t stop that night.

    I’d never met him, communicated with him, or even seen a picture of him. But he was a dear friend to me.

    I hope to someday meet all of you, but until that day comes, know that you have a friend waiting to happen in me.

  • Amichaels

    I’ve been listening to your podcast for almost a year now and still working my way backwards through past episodes. (Which makes listening to the skeptical puzzle quite interesting!) It’s hard to lose such a good friend, so my sympathies go out to you all. Perry’s unique brand of wit and irreverence is missed. I discovered your podcast and the skeptical community after he passed away but I still feel the stirrings of sorrow at the loss of such an awesome guy. So here’s to Perry. May our primate cousins forever dominate those feathered bastards.

  • nrv0us

    I only recently discovered the podcast, and when I did so, I went all the way back to episode 1 to listen to them in order. I did this with the knowledge (obtained from the SGU site, I think) that Perry would pass away in mid-2007, so with every episode that went by I could feel myself inching towards that fateful episode when he would no longer be there.

    Over those 100+ episodes, I came to really appreciate Perry as a skeptic, as a curmudgeon, as a humorist (a vanishing art form!) and an always engaging speaker and thinker. His dynamic with the other Rogues was wonderful, and I could tell that there was always real affection underlying his barbs and snaps (as someone said on the tribute episode — if he didn’t like you then he wouldn’t pay you the compliment of insulting you).

    Anyway, as time passed and I drew ever closer to Perry’s Last Episode, I came to wince with his every absence (“Perry can’t be with us tonight as he’s under the weather”), knowing what it meant, even as you on the podcast didn’t. His very last episode, the second of his episodes in hospital, was especially bittersweet, as Steve introduces the episode by saying “Perry’s still in the hospital, but he’s doing a lot better.” So by the time I got to the tribute episode, I was truly able to join you all in your mourning of his death.

    The immortality of Podcast superstardom is a thin kind of consolation, but how lucky we are to have those hundred episodes, not to mention the hundreds more still to come, all as a result of Perry’s drive and determination with his Project. Long may his influence spread…

  • Mike Foster

    It’s like he passed away yesterday. I was only just starting to realise I was a skeptic about 15 months ago and I listened to the SGU every week, with Perry playing a part in consolidating my interest and enthusiasm. What a dude. Good stuff.

  • Shivierie

    When I discovered SGU, I started listening to different episodes, choosing ones that looked like they discussed items that were interesting to me. Then, in May, I gave in and got every episode. But I knew that Perry was gone. (BTW, I started listening in May, so it wasn’t like I had a waited a long time.) But when I heard the episode with all the memories of Perry, I still teared up. And if I listened to it again, I’m sure I’ll tear up again. But I certainly felt the loss of Perry. This whole month, and last month, I kept repeating to myself “My God, it’s been almost a year since Perry died.” I don’t think that he will ever be forgotten.

    PS: Jay, I like your poem.

  • kelsey

    I listened to the podcasts backwards, in batches of 10 at a time (e.g 100-110, 90-100, etc). So I kinda heard about Perry backwards – first that he was gone, and then got to listen to him.

    Perry was very entertaining and it is a shame he is no longer with us.

    Monkeys forever.

  • davidsverse

    If I could catch a bird I would give it a good beak flip in his honor. (My all time fav Perryism)

    Perry will be missed always and never forgotten.

  • jedischooldropout

    In the earliest podcasts I didn’t like Perry very much, can’t really say why, nor exactly what brought me around. No doubt it began with his stridance and politics, and was turned over by his stridance and humour.
    When I listened to the podcast where Steve announced his passing I was on public transit… and could not contain my tears. Well done Perry. The SGU is less without his voice. I still love it though, but I laugh and cry out in defiance less.
    And thank you Rebecca, when I find myself ignoring credulous thoughts of co-workers (mostly) and others, and not saying at least a little something to nudge them towards clearer thought, I now have a new mantra: “What Would PDA Do?” I never truly knew him, but I can’t imagine that he’d let ignorance pass by unchecked.

  • halincoh

    I started listening to the podcast in the summer of 2006. There are many science driven podcasts out there, of course, and I’ve joined several since 2006, either simply in addition to or because of the SGU. But the SGU remains my only addiction. Rebecca’s comments ring true – the familiar and familial feel of this intelligent and easy going has created a milieu in which we strangers, through listening, through responding to blogs, have been able to join this family as well. The truism of all good science is that disagreement should be welcomed because it may stimulate further good science. Nobody on the podcast enjoyed disagreement better than Perry! Nobody on the podcast argued as uniquely as he. I hope this does not come off as disrespectful, but I’ll say it anyway: The Three Stooges always make me laugh, but I always laughed loudest when Curly Howard, not Curly-Joe, not Shemp, and certain not Joe Besser was amongst the mix. Perry is my Curley Howard. I miss him being present amongst the mix.

  • DLC

    I dunno, I kinda liked Perry from the start.
    He was the kinda guy who’d say things that would make one of the other SGU hosts call out his name in surprise. But no monkey ever beat a Condor in a stand-up fight !

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