Philly Creative Guide

Here's the Thing

Bill Haley

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton
by Bill Haley, 1 Sep 2009

Bill Haley is President, Interactive of Allied Pixel (www.AlliedPixel.com), an integrated media production firm specializing in the convergence of HD video, web and interactive media. He is also an evangelist for PhillyCreativeGuide.com. He can be reached at [email protected].


I got a call tonight from my brother Dave. "Bill, Wayne is dead."

It's like a punch in the stomach. I want to puke. I have to think about this.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

I am thinking of several things right now.

I am thinking of his brother, who tonight is driving to Virginia to tell their 85-year old mom that she has outlived her son.

I am thinking of his wife Christine, married just two years, who now has to go on alone.

I am thinking of their 11 cats and two dogs, who are going to need a new home.

I am thinking of my brother, who has lost a best friend.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

Wayne's death didn't have to happen. It is terrible and it is sad. I reminds me of the Jorge Luis Borges story about a young woman who died, while the "billboards around Constitution Plaza were advertising some new brand or another of American cigarettes. The fact pained me, for I realized that the wide and ceaseless universe was already slipping away from her and that this slight change was the first of an endless series."

It is trite to say, but the world will not be the same without Wayne Hamilton.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

It is now 3:30 am and I am looking out the window. My daughter Grace, five months old, is in my arms, having a bottle. There is a lone star in the sky. I wonder if it has meaning, or if that is even possible. I wipe a tear from her cheek that has fallen from my own cheek. Wayne would have made a good Dad.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

I'd rather think about his life. Wayne was the proverbial life of the party. He was funny, and smart, and had an amazingly keen insight into life. And he was really talented too. In college he tought himself the guitar. One day he brought his guitar over to my house and we played a little; me poking around on the keyboard while he ran circles around me. He started a band soon after that, and for the next twenty years or so he was always the frontman for one band or another: Floating Dogs, Suffacox, Brother JT and Vibrolux, Overdrive Date Master, Rockula.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

His last band was his best. It was called Steve Phoenix and we used to go see them play at Khyber Pass and the TriTone. I thought the band was good enough, and the guys in the band were interesting enough, that we could do a short documentary. So in the fall of 2001 I went to a garage in Fishtown to watch them practice. And before long I was drawn into their weird/hilarious/disastrous world and my little documentary morphed into a full length independent film starring the boys in the band together with a cast of oddballs, some real, some made up, and an actual plot, sort of.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

We shot that film over two years, 2002 and 2003, and Wayne poured his heart and soul into it. I have never worked with someone who was so natural, and so charismatic, on camera. The other thing about Wayne is that he was just the nicest person you could ever imagine.

In the Spring of 2004 it was the opening film at the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema's local section. It was called Steve Phoenix: The Untold Story.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

The film has never been seen publicly since. I'm not sure why. In my mind, it isn't finished. There are some scenes I want to re-edit, some effects I want to tweak, some color corrections I want to make. I guess the easy explanation is that life got in the way. The death of my mom, taking care of my dad, the birth of my two kids, running a business ... whatever. Days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. The better explanation, and what I have only recently come to understand, is that I just couldn't let go. I wanted it to be perfect. So I have kept it under wraps all this time, knowing that someday, eventually, with more work it would be perfect, or nearly so. And then I would let the world see it.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

Wayne and I had only spoken a few times in the past couple years. He had, understandably, gotten tired of hearing me say "I'm working on it." And in truth, the film had lain dormant for a long time. What Wayne didn't know is that we have spent the past year rebuilding the film from scratch. It will be completed by the end of the year. I didn't want to tell him; I wanted to surprise him with a DVD delivered to his doorstep, the finished film, at long last. I am so very sorry he didn't live to see that. I'm pretty sure he would have liked it a lot.

For everyone else who worked on the film, I promise to see it through. I'm sorry it has taken so long.

And Wayne, though your time on this earth was too short, you touched a lot of lives, especially mine. Thank you.

Gonna miss you buddy.

Life and Times of Wayne Hamilton

You can see a preview of the film, and hear Wayne's music at www.stevephoenixthemovie.com.

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